One of the Finest Australian Feats of Arms
The tiny village of Mont-Saint-Quentin sits on a hillside overlooking the town of Péronne. During their occupation of the town from 1914, the Germans turned the mount into an exceptional observation point and strategic position. Incorporated into the strong lines of German defence it became a well defended, impregnable fortress, which was not taken in battle until September 1918. Between the 29th August and the 2nd September 1918, several thousand men of the 2nd Australian Division attacked this position, which formed the key to the liberation of Péronne. They were well aware of the importance of the attack; Corporal Philip Starr of the 21st Battalion wrote, ‘It would certainly have meant the withdrawal of the force threatening Péronne ... had we failed’. Mont-Saint-Quentin was finally captured and held securely in Australian hands by the 2nd September 1918. This feat is often regarded as one of the finest achievements of the AIF during the Great War.
2nd Australian Division Memorial
It was here that the 2nd Australian Division chose to erect a memorial to their memory in 1925. The initial memorial depicted an Australian soldier bayonetting a German eagle, but this statue was taken down by the Germans during the Second World War. A new statue of a less aggressive looking Australian Digger replaced the original statue in 1971. On the sides of the pedestal, which was not destroyed by the Germans, bronze plaques depict Australian artillery going into action and infantry bombing their way down a trench. These were created by Australian artist Miss May Butler-George.
The Battle of Mont Saint Quentin, during which 3000 soldiers were made casualty, is recalled and remembered through an interpretative walking trail, created by the Historial, Museum of the Great War with the support of the Australian Embassy and the town of Péronne. Six small monuments positioned at different stages of the battle provide information about the important moments of the assault. Visitors can also discover three new exhibition halls in the castle courtyard of the Historial. These halls explain Australian military involvement in the Somme during the war, especially during the Battle of Mont-Saint-Quentin, and include an animated relief map detailing the battle.