Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Philip Masel (1908–1972)

by David Mossenson

This article was published:

Philip Masel (1908-1972), businessman, writer and army officer, was born on 25 May 1908 in Perth, fourth child of Russian-born parents Esor Masel, merchant, and his first wife Leah, née Cohen (d.1919), both of whom were Jewish. Esor had emigrated to South Australia in 1887 and hawked shoelaces before moving to Western Australia. In 1925 the family established Worth's store, a menswear business in Perth. Philip was educated at Highgate State School and Christian Brothers' College, Perth. Although he wanted to become a professional writer, he joined Worth's as its advertising manager. He adopted the maxim that marketing was 'not a life-and-death battle, but an honest expression of the desire to gain the purchaser's goodwill and permanent patronage—even at the cost of losing an occasional sale'.

Active in the Jewish community, Masel co-edited (from 1929) the Westralian Judean. The monthly newspaper covered community events, and attracted articles and short stories from around Australia. Using his own name—and the pseudonyms 'P.M.' and 'Philm'—Masel contributed articles to the Judean, as well as to the Bulletin and Smith's Weekly. At the Synagogue, Perth, on 28 July 1931 he married Marian Mendelson, a 21-year-old concert singer. During the early 1930s he competed in Jewish debating teams, served as an adjudicator for the Debating League of Western Australia and co-authored The Art of Debating (Melbourne, 1934). In 1935 he published the handbook, Improve Your Salesmanship (Melbourne). A keen actor in local Jewish theatre, he wrote an unpublished play, 'Cloth Model', and a novel, In a Glass Prison (London, 1937), and worked as drama critic for the National Theatre News. The Masels were in London in 1937-38 on a working holiday; Philip wrote articles and scripts for the British Broadcasting Corporation, while Marian studied under Mark Raphael.

In 1938 Masel joined the Citizen Military Forces. He was commissioned in the Australian Imperial Force on 20 July 1940. Posted to the 2nd/28th Battalion, he was mentioned in dispatches for his work at Tobruk, Libya, in 1941, and commended for gallantry in action around El Alamein, Egypt, in 1942. In the following year he was promoted temporary major while serving as an instructor (1943-44) at the Land Headquarters Tactical School, Beenleigh, Queensland. Rejoining his old unit in May 1945, he participated in operations in British North Borneo. As 'Peter Mike', he had also acted as a war correspondent for the West Australian. Masel continued to serve with the C.M.F., commanding the 11th-44th Battalion in 1951-54 and the 13th Brigade (Royal West Australian Regiment) in 1959-61. He wrote the history of his battalion, The Second 28th (1961), and in 1963 was transferred to the Retired List with the rank of brigadier.

Masel published The Story of the Perth Hebrew Congregation (1946) and contributed regularly to the anti-Zionist journal, Australian Jewish Outlook. With Harold Boas and others, he helped to found (1952) the Liberal Jewish Group in Perth which established the Temple David Congregation; Masel recorded its progress in two pamphlets, The First Decade (1962) and The Second Decade (1972). In 1953 he was appointed O.B.E. He was president (1951) of Perth Legacy, a long-time member of the Australian Jewish Historical Society, a trustee (1956-66) of the Western Australian branch of the Boy Scouts' Association, chairman of the ceremonial committee for the 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games, and a member (1962-67) of the Western Australian division of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme. In addition, he served (1962-67) on the Australian Broadcasting Commission's talks advisory committee for Western Australia. When his elder brother Samuel died in 1966, Philip became general manager of Worth's Stores. He was appointed a commissioner of the A.B.C. in 1967 and a member of the Western Australian Arts Advisory Board in 1970.

Correct in his appearance, bearing and address, Masel had a highly developed sense of duty and responsibility. Loyalty and public service were the hallmarks of his life. Returning from a holiday in England, he died of coronary thrombosis on 26 February 1972 in the Arcadia, off Vancouver, and was buried at sea. His wife and daughter survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • D. Mossenson, Hebrew, Israelite, Jew (Perth, 1990)
  • Daily News (Perth), 6 Mar 1967
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 29, 30 May 1967, 5 June 1970
  • West Australian, 20, 28, 29 Feb 1972
  • Canberra Times, 28 Feb 1972
  • Jewish Week (Perth), Mar 1972
  • private information.

Citation details

David Mossenson, 'Masel, Philip (1908–1972)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 22 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (Melbourne University Press), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Philip Masel (1908-1972), by unknown photographer

Philip Masel (1908-1972), by unknown photographer

Australian War Memorial, 029819 [with V. R. Northwood and C. H. B. Norman (on left)]

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Philm

25 May, 1908
Perth, Western Australia, Australia


26 February, 1972 (aged 63)
at sea

Cultural Heritage

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Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

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