Categorized | Fabian_Garry, International

Monash recalled at Australian shrine

By Garry Fabian

Garry Fabian

Garry Fabian

MELBOURNE, Australia — For over six decades I have been involved in a wide range of organizations in both the Jewish and general community as a volunteer.  Recently I added a new interest to the range.  I have become a volunteer guide at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne.

It is important to understand that the Shrine is not a memorial to Wars, but a place for remembrance of sacrifice, of mateship and commitment to the tenets of freedom and democracy and the heavy human cost in defending these.

The role of a guide is to take visiting groups of all ages around the complex, to explain the various exhibits that span wars and conflicts Victorians have been involved in that range from wars in the 19th, 20th and 21st century, as well as current peace keeping operations.

There are programs for school groups of all ages, each tailored to explain and illustrate the role of men and equipment, to interactively relate the story of conditions on battle fields, the equipment used and other details.

Among the extensive features the role of animals in war is one strand that always draws great interest from primary school children, providing them with an element that is often overlooked in narratives of war.

There are six key elements the guides explain to visitors

The Purpose of the Shrine; Ray of Light Ceremony; External Features of the Shrine; The Shrine Reserve; The Spirit of Anzac and commemoration through learning.

The very heart of the Shrine is The Sanctuary, where on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month (The end of World War One) a ray of light travels across a memorial tablet that carries the inscription  Greater Love Hath no Man, and the Last Post is played.

These are repeated on the hour, making it a very solemn ceremony for all that visit the Shrine.

Some 900,000 visitors come to the Shrine over a 12 month period

The role of a guide is to inform, to educate and to assist in keeping the memory of those who served the cause of freedom and liberty.

You may ask, what is the Jewish connection?  It is a very strong one. Not only were Jewish servicemen and women statistically numerically over represented in relation to the general community, but through Sir John Monash.   Monash was Jewish and very involved in the Jewish Community of Australia. His eminent leadership on the battlefields during 1914-1918 devising new tactics were ground breaking. While the British High Command of the day, used soldiers as cannon fodder without great regard, Monash’s concern was with the troops, and his use of tanks to shield advancing men reduced casualties.

Monash who had “three strikes” against him in the eyes of the High Command. He was a Citizen Soldier; a “colonial” and he was Jewish. Monash was knighted by King George V in the field for his brilliant strategy that hastened the end of the war in 1918.

In these days of rising anti-Semitism, it is important to demonstrate that Jews have been part of the mainstream of our society for centuries.

After the end of the war in 1918 there was strong opposition in Melbourne to build memorials, as the public did not want to be reminded to the extensive losses of Australian personnel during the war.  Monash was instrumental in the Shrine being created, with construction commencing in 1928. While he did not see its completion in 1934, (he died in 1931) The Shrine is a lasting legacy to his work and commitment, not only in war time, but in peacetime as well.

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Fabian is an author and freelance writer based in Melbourne, Australia.  You may comment to him at [email protected], or post your comment on this website, provided that the rules below are observed.

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