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  • You are here:ICE

Chrimeswatch: Pressing ahead to the future

Lord Mair’s Presidential Address in November served as a prelude not only to his Presidential Year, but to the Institution’s bicentenary celebrations.

ICE portraits Chrimes 109

ICE portraits Chrimes 109

Mike Chrimes

Part of ICE 200 will be celebrating 200 years of civil engineering achievements through which members have transformed society, but a major thrust will be looking forward, encouraging young people to become civil engineers, and talking about what civil engineering will look like in the future.

Building on past president Tim Broyd’s digital theme, Lord Mair, spoke much about the transformational potential of sensors, the project cost savings they offer, and the benefits that can ensue from having structures that can “speak” to us about their behaviour and condition.

How Marc Brunel could have benefited from such technology when driving the world’s first shield-driven tunnel, a perfect illustration of how much the profession has moved on over the last two centuries to the tunnelling success of Crossrail.

The enthusiasm that Lord Mair’s vision can generate will make 2018 an exciting year for the ICE. Regions are geared up and staff inspired to make it a year to remember.

The celebrations are likely to overshadow further consideration of the First World War, so

I thought I would take this opportunity to remind members of one ICE member who made an important contribution – Sir John Monash who lived between 1865 and 1931.

Monash, born in Melbourne of Prussian – Jewish parentage, was elected to the ICE in 1893. By December 1906, he had transferred to the grade of Fellow, based on his work in the State of Victoria’s public works and as a consultant and contractor pioneering the use of reinforced concrete.

Monash’s civil engineering career was in parallel with a rising career in the Australian army reserves, culminating in his appointment as a colonel in the 13th Infantry Brigade by 1913. Over the previous 30 years, he had served in the artillery and the intelligence corps, improving mapping techniques and drafting “100 hints for company commanders”.

On the outbreak of war, Monash acted as chief censor. He distinguished himself as a fighting general throughout the war and on 8 August 1918, he played a leading role in the breakout that heralded the collapse of the German military capability.

On 12 August 1918 he was knighted in the field, recognition by the politicians of his contribution to victory. His national esteem was recorded by a crowd of 250,000 attending his funeral more than a decade later. For many of his troops, he had won the war.

It is a moot point whether his civil engineering experience as a manager and innovator made him a great military leader, or the organisational discipline of the military enabled him to achieve success as a businessman.

He had the qualities of an open mind and inspirational leadership that enabled him to succeed in both spheres.

While one hopes that the generation of engineers taking the ICE forward into its next century will not have to face the challenge of global conflict, the qualities that enabled Monash to succeed a century ago will be just as important in the world of climate change and digital transformation.

  • Mike Chrimes is an engineering historian

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