Peter FitzSimons brings to life the story of the battle of Le Hamel the Allied triumph masterminded by Australian commander Sir John Monash, whose strategies became the blueprint for modern warfare
The Battle of Le Hamel on 4 July 1918 was an Allied triumph, and strategically very important in the closing stages of WWI. A largely Australian force, commanded by the brilliant Sir John Monash, fought what has been described as the first modern battle where infantry, tanks, artillery and planes operated together as a coordinated force.
Monash planned every detail meticulously, with nothing left to chance. Integrated use of tanks, planes, infantry, wireless (and even carrier pigeons!) was the basis, and it went on from there, down to the details: everyone used the same maps, with updated versions delivered by motorbike despatch riders to senior commanders, including Monash. Each infantry battalion was allocated to a tank group, and they advanced together. Supplies and ammunition were dropped as needed from planes. The losses were relatively few. In the words of Monash: 'A perfected modern battle plan is like nothing so much as a score for an orchestral composition, where the various arms and units are the instruments, and the tasks they perform are their respective musical phrases.'
Monash planned for the battle to last for 90 minutes - in the end it went for 93. What happened in those minutes changed for the rest of the war the way the British fought battles, and the tactics and strategies used by the Allies.
Peter FitzSimons brings this Allied triumph to life, and tells this magnificent story as it should be told.
Reviewed by Robert at Angus & Robertson:
Peter FitzSimons has done it again, taking events in Australian history that are half-known vignettes and bringing them into focus and colour. Monash's Masterpiece is an immensely readable history of the decisive Battle of Le Hamel, particularly the role played by Australian General John Monash's brilliant strategy and planning.
Most Australians have no idea of the impact of our nation's involvement on the Great War, and this book shows that we did so much more than provide mere 'cannon fodder'. The exemplary leadership and innovation that Monash brought to his battle plans not only shortened the war, but continue to influence modern strategic thinking. The General saw his forces as an orchestra that had to play the same tune, requiring consistent information and identical maps, effective communication, unhindered backup and supplies, united under a singular conductor.
A century on from Le Hamel, and apart from ADFA students who study Monash, Australians are yet to embrace this magnificent story. Monash's Masterpiece will change that. This is a vivid read of a short engagement (93 minutes) that remains the epitome of precision. Readers who enjoyed his First World War trilogy - Gallipoli, Fromelles and Pozieres, and Victory at Villers-Bretonneux, will welcome this book, and can rest assured that FitzSimons has brought these events to life by mastering the details and getting to the grit.