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Saturday 26 April 2014

The Typewriter ANZACs: Australian War Correspondent Cuckolded by Hemingway – Noel Monks (Part VII)

While Australian journalist Noel Monks was showing his usual grace under fire in northern France in late August 1944, big brave Papa Hem was inviting himself to tippy-toe into the bed of Monk's wife in the safety of the Ritz Hotel in Paris!
A young Mary Welsh
Six months later, Hemingway hid in a toilet in the same hotel and fired gun shots at a photograph of Monks, yet couldn't face the man himself!
This exceedingly dangerous and childish Valentine's Day 1945 outburst with a pair of German machine pistols given to Hemingway that day by General Charles T. "Buck" Lanham is described in Carlos Baker's definitive biography, Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story (1969)
Equally childish and bitter was the spelling and content of this letter to Lanham. From Ernest Hemingway: Selected Letters 1917-1961, edited by Carlos Baker (1981)
‘You threw a sprat into the sea and caught yourself a whale’ wrote the spurned Monks to Minnesota Mary.
Australian war correspondent Noel Monks while covering the Korean War in 1952. He was married to Mary Welsh and away covering World War II when Ernest Hemingway decided Welsh would be his fourth wife.
Australian journalist Noel Stephen Monks covered wars in Abyssinia (Ethiopia), Spain, France, England, Italy, Egypt, Papua New Guinea, Korea and Malaysia, among many other strive-torn places. But a behind-the-lines move by Ernest Hemingway on Monks' wife Mary Welsh, while Monks was covering the fighting in northern France in late August 1944, brought out the very worst of his writing. Almost six months later, Monks wrote to Welsh on February 8, 1945:
I don’t know whether to congratulate you or be sorry for you. I’m sure you must be one of the most envied women in the world. You threw a sprat into the sea and caught yourself a whale. I knew of course there was someone who had caused you to ‘lose confidence’ in our marriage. A woman doesn’t ordinarily gouge the eyes out of her husband just because he’s dumb. I thought the pip-speak general had turned up again, or the film unit guy who was waiting to ‘jump into your arms with spring-like rapture’ soon as you hit France, or the queer-looking guy whose picture you carry around in your wallet and whose face I have never been able to place. Or pimpley-faced Foot... Or Clark again. But Mister Hemingway ... All these horrible weeks I’ve been matching myself against these guys and reckoning that you’d soon tire of them. The sentimental streak in me was dying hard, Mary. Well - it's dead now. I know I could never compete against Mister Hemingway. I couldn’t even match his beard ... We were two people in love with life and each other when we saw the lights go out. Now when they come up again, we will be hating each other, and life for me at least will be as meaningless as the promise you made to love and honour me forever. You will hate me just for being your husband and I will hate you for letting yourself become one of Hemingway’s characters. Maybe I’ll find some woman who’ll love me for being just myself - and not the husband of the woman the great Hemingway loves. I’m at least entitled to that break. I’ve been thinking of a remark you made to me at the Savoy one night: “I want to walk in here and have everyone look at me.” You’re welcome, Madam.
Mary Welsh (April 5, 1908-November 26, 1986) was an American journalist born in Walker, Minnesota, the daughter of a lumberjack. Welsh began working at the Chicago Daily News. A career move came during a vacation to London, when Welsh started a new job at the Daily Express. The position brought her assignments in Paris during the years preceding World War II. After the fall of France in 1940, Welsh returned to London to cover the events of the War.
Welsh married Monks in the Chelsea Town Hall in London on Sunday, January 1, 1939, after a nine-month courtship. It was a second marriage for both. In 1929, Welsh had married Lawrence Miller Cook, a drama student from Ohio. They were divorced two years later. In January 1927, Monks married Sheila Monica Monks in Hobart. They were divorced in Melbourne in 1933.
For some reason, much of Monks' early life has been shrouded in misinformation and deliberate deception. Contrary to popular belief, he was not born in Tasmania in 1906. He was born in Prahran, Melbourne, in 1904, but his family moved to Tasmania when he was still young and he was educated at St Virgil's Catholic College in Hobart. Monks started his journalist career with the Hobart Mercury in the Apple Isle (One of his brothers, Dick Monks, worked as a journalist in Adelaide; another brother, Cyril Monks, was a public servant in Tasmania and Victoria).
A handy swimmer and yachtsman in his young days, by April 1926 Monks was working for a newspaper called the Morning Post in Williamstown in outer Melbourne. Monks and his first wife had a son, who also later became a journalist, with the Melbourne Herald. The couple were divorced in September 1933, on the grounds of desertion. By then Monks was working for the Melbourne Sun News-Pictorial.
Monks assists with the burial of New York Times war correspondent Byron Darnton, at the military cemetery at Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, on October 29, 1942. Darnton was killed by accident by a US aircraft when travelling in a lugger off Pongani. All the pall-bearers were war correspondents. From left, Dean Schedler (Associated Press of America); Pat Robinson (International News Service); Monks; Lewis B. Sebring Jr (New York Herald Tribune); E.R. Noderer (Chicago Daily Tribune); the famous Australian author George Johnson (Melbourne Argus). Monks, third left, can be seen below at the funeral:
Two years later Monks was on his way to journalistic fame in London, where he joined the Daily Express. He was inspired by the courage of Philip Pembroke Stephens (1903–1937), foreign correspondent for the Daily Express and later the Daily Telegraph.
Philip Pembroke Stephens
Stephens had been expelled from Germany in June 1934 for his critical reporting of Nazism and his campaigning in support of the German Jews. In 1937, reporting from Shanghai on the Japanese invasion of China, he was shot and killed by a Japanese bullet.
Monks' first assignment as a foreign correspondent was succeeding Stephens at the Express and working alongside him during the Italian conquest of Abyssinia (the second Italo-Ethiopian War of October 1935-May 1936). There in the Ogaden desert Monks first encountered war’s victims - pulped and torn bodies. Despite this experience, tight control over journalists’ movements meant he saw very little of the action in East Africa.
In a forward position in Korea, Christmas Day, 1953.
During the next 20 years, however, Monks covered so much death and destruction he eventually grew sick and tired of it, and just wanted to be at home with his family. A strict Catholic and a teetotaller until he saw the results of the bombing of a Spanish town in 1937, Monks was described as genial and open-handed, and by Welsh as "big and bulky ... prematurely gray, and with [a] ruddy complexion".
From We Saw Spain Die: Foreign Correspondents in the Spanish Civil War, by Paul Preston (2008)
The destruction of the Basque town changed the course of Monks’ life and confirmed him in his career as a war correspondent, one of the longest serving Australians in that field. He covered many conflicts and helped establish the international reputation of Australian journalists as first-rank war correspondents.
In Spain Monks had initially had sympathy for Franco, but that had eroded by the time Monks was booted at very short notice by the Nationalists for attempting to defy censorship and tell the world about atrocities committed by the Right as well as the Left. In April 1937, Monks made his first real mark on journalism by being one of the first journalists to report on the bombing of Guernica.
Until 1953 he was present “wherever there was a battle”, somebody at his journalistic best when describing the action in short, punchy sentences, such as his descriptions of the effects the bombing in Spain or later with the RAF in the Second War World. His style was rough hewn - he was not a "great writer, in the classic tradition of some other war correspondents, though he was described as ‘a magnificent reporter’." A 1960 Daily Mail obituary pointed out that Monks had retained his Australian accent throughout his life and called everybody "cobber". 
Monks was working for the London Evening Standard when he married Welsh, but then joined the Daily Mail later in 1939. He stayed with the Mail throughout the rest of his journalism career.
Monks and Welsh lived in a tiny house on Upper Cheyne Row, London. They did not immediately attempt to have children; Mary was discouraged by a doctor, fearing complications because of a medical condition. As time passed, however, Mary did express a desire for a family, but any attempts toward pregnancy failed. In a letter to her parents, Mary wrote, “I know that children keep a marriage alive and vital, and I’ve wanted some ever since [Noel and I] were married. Even though we haven’t been successful so far, I haven’t given up hope.” The impending war also deterred the couple from pursuing a family. And when the war arrived, it brought an end to the marriage.
With Monks working in Cairo, word reached Welsh that he was seeing a woman there. She moped for two days but then shrugged, content to wait for the end of the war to resume normal married life. Meanwhile, though she never acknowledged it directly, she was not faithful to Monks anymore than he was to her. Her friends knew this about her: “She was full of laughs and full of lovers,” said a colleague. “She was very little, very attractive ... It was a marvelous period for her, perhaps the best time in her life. If the chase was on, it was the guy’s chase.”
From Kenneth S.Lynn's Hemingway (1987)
When the jig with Hemingway was up, Welsh wrote to her parents: “I suppose I ought to have an attack of conscience about it. But I feel neither mistaken nor  wicked nor foolish, and I have no attacks of conscience. And that is that.”
Monks received the news less casually than Welsh had delivered it. Over the northern winter and spring of 1944-45 he sent Welsh multiple letters expressing his anger at her behaviour. Monks wrote poignantly, and the notes are revealing.
Hemingway met Welsh in London in early May 1944 through writer Irwin Shaw. Struck, as most men were, by Welsh's tight suit and sly smile, Shaw took her to lunch. The restaurant was crowded and too warm for Welsh’s wool jacket, so she removed it, much to Shaw’s delight. Welsh never wore a bra. As Shaw pointed out, their small table would be attracting male visitors, thanks to Welsh’s bright yellow sweater.  On his way out of the restaurant, Hemingway paused at Shaw's and Welsh’s table, as other friends had done throughout their meal. He asked Shaw to introduce his companion and quickly proceeded to invite her to dine the next day. They went on to praise each other’s spouses: Hemingway had met Monks during the Spanish Civil War, and Welsh knew Martha Gellhorn in the journalism community.
On August 26, 1944, Welsh was working in Paris when she returned to the Ritz Hotel from the Champs Elysées and Nôtre Dame to find Hemingway waiting for her in his room. Amid the general glee at the liberation of Paris, the pair that night began their extra marital affair.
Monks and Welsh were divorced in a 10-minute session in Chicago on August 31, 1945. In March 1946 she married Hemingway in Cuba.
How It Was, by Mary Welsh Hemingway (1977)
Monks died in London on June 18, 1960, aged 56. He left a son and three daughters, the daughters having been born in London, Hong Kong and Singapore (the last in 1952).

1 comment:

pfg powell said...

I came across this site while looking up information on Noel Monks (who otherwise just gets a namecheck from Hemingway's biographers and they say very little else) including the dates of his marriage to and divorce from Mary Welsh.

I'm on a project whose title should tell you my view on 'Papa' Hemingway - The Hemingway Enigma: How did a middling writer achieve such global literary fame? ( I don’t, as many still seem to, worship at the Hemingway shrine.

The point of this comment - and I hope it comes to your attention - is first, to congratulate you on the amount of material you have gathered, not least the many stats of cuttings. I know he can sometimes be frustrating and you have done a comprehensive job.

Secondly - and I am sure you are very busy, so I have few expectations - if you were to take a look at the website and anything occurred to you, I would be very pleased to hear it. Everything can always be improved and you might spot something that is eluding me.

Finally, I spent my working life as a hack, first as a reporter (for six years) then as a sub and for the final 28 years of my 'career' I worked for the Daily Mail (though as a perpetual 'casual'). I mention that because Monks was also a Mailman.

Perhaps I might hear from you,

Patrick Powell

PS If you spot the email '' I should explain that I have several addresses for different purposes and that one began life as my 'spam' email. The trouble was that my blogs, including are now registered under that Google email and I've tried every way but can't change it.