Topic: BatzWF - Westn Front
Mont St Quentin
France, 31 August - 2 September 1918
Mont St Quentin, the heights which overlook the ancient town of Péronne on the Somme River from the north at a distance of three kilometres, on 31 August - 2 September 1918 became the scene of a famous action involving the Australian Corps under Lieut. General Sir John Monash. Advancing on the town from the west-his divisions astride the river, but mainly on the south bank - Monash decided on an attempt to surprise the German defence by transferring his weight to the far bank and capturing the crucial heights from the north-west and west. After stiff fighting on 29-30 August to seize hills which dominated the river crossings and the planned approach route, the 5th Brigade of the 2nd Division was moved into position ready to storm the heights at 5 a.m. on the 31st. Due to losses in this brigade, like all the others at this time, the two assaulting battalions and the two following in the second wave had only about 300 men each-a dangerously small number for such a difficult assault.
Under cover of an artillery bombardment, the attack began on time with the infantry advancing while yelling wildly to disguise their thin numbers. Immediately they began encountering crowds of bewildered enemy troops who surrendered without resistance, though they were members of a division, the 2nd Guard - which was one of the best in the German Army. As the Australians reached and crossed the summit, pressing the attack among the support and reserve troops located here, masses more Germans were sent fleeing down the slopes. Although the mountain was thus captured, the small size of the assault force meant that Australian possession of the prize was still only slender. When the 2nd Guard Division mounted a counter-attack, the battalions of the 5th Brigade were pushed back out of Mont St Quentin village and over the crest, but they hung on just below the summit.
The next day the 6th Brigade (then part of the 3rd Australian Division) was pushed through the 5th and retook the summit at its second attempt. This development was followed up by the 14th Brigade of the 5th Division, which had also been brought around onto this side and now captured the woods north of Péronne. When a short lived panic swept the German defenders, this brigade crossed the moat and captured the main part of the town. The Australian gains were consolidated further on 2 September, when the 2nd Division's 7th Brigade pushed beyond the mountain and the 15th Brigade (5th Division) took the rest of Péronne. The whole of' this brilliant operation had cost the Australian divisions slightly more than 3,000 casualties but had accounted for 2,600 enemy prisoners and dealt - as the Official History observes 'a stunning blow to five German divisions'. 'To many minds the battle was the crowning achievement of the AIF, if not of the entire war.’
Extracted from the book produced by Chris Coulthard-Clark, Where Australians Fought - The Encyclopaedia of Australia's Battles, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1998, pp. 157-158.
Additional References cited by Chris Coulthard-Clark:
C.E.W. Bean (1937) The Australian Imperial Force in France during the Main German Offensive, 1918, Sydney: Angus & Robertson.
Citation: Mont St Quentin, France, August 31 to September 2, 1918