Between 31 August and 2 September 1918, Australia’s Second Division attacked and captured the German stronghold of Mont St. Quentin, the key to the strategic town of Péronne on the Somme river.
|Australian Troops Attacking Up Mont St. Quentin|
At 5 a.m. on 1 September 1918 shells from British and Australian guns began pounding German trenches on the lower slopes as two understrength AIF battalions — the 17th and 20th — dashed forward toward Mont St. Quentin. Behind them came the men of the 18th and 19th Battalions. To make up for their lack of numbers the soldiers had been urged by their officers to "yell like a lot of bushrangers"! To the Germans the attack came as a complete surprise. Many quickly surrendered and pushed to the rear, leaving, in many cases, their machine guns on the ground. One German officer reported that it "had all happened like lightning and before we had fired a shot we were taken unawares".
|Digger Statue atop Mont St. Quentin|
The attackers soon pushed right to the top of Mont St. Quentin while others went forward on the flat fields below securing the flanks. It was all a swift and sudden success. Back at Fourth Army Headquarters General Sir Henry Rawlinson was rising for the day. "As I was dressing…Archie [Chief of Staff Sir Archibald Montgomery] rang me to say the Australians had captured Mont St. Quentin. It is indeed a magnificent performance."
For his courage and leadership during the battle Sergeant Albert Lowerson, 21st Battalion, was awarded the Victoria Cross. It was a costly action — twenty-three men of the battalion lost their lives that day. Today the Second Australian Division’s Memorial stands at Mont St. Quentin, the scene of one of the division’s greatest victories.
Source: Australian Government Website