Military History

This week in History | Week 36

By The Cove August 31, 2020

Week 36 | 31 August - 06 September


31 August 1918 | Battle of Mont St Quentin begins

The end of August found German troops at their last stronghold at Mont St Quentin - overlooking the Somme River and the town of Péronne. Mont St Quentin stood out in the surrounding country, making it a perfect observation point and a vital strategic area to control. This area was key to the German defence of the Somme line. As it was such an important area, Lieutenant General Sir John Monash was keen to capture it and thus possess a valuable position. (AWM)

Australians of the 2nd Division crossed to the north bank of the Somme River on the evening of 30 August. At 5 am on 31 August 1918, supported by artillery, two significantly undermanned Australian battalions charged up Mont St Quentin. The Germans quickly surrendered and the Australians continued to the main German trench-line. The Australians were unable to hold their gains on Mont St Quentin and German reserves regained the crest.

The Australians held on just below the summit until next morning when Australian reinforcements recaptured the summit. The same day, 1 September 1918, saw Australian forces break into Péronne and take most of the town. The next day it completely fell into Australian hands. On those three days, without tanks or protective barrage, the Australians, at a cost of 3,000 casualties, dealt a stunning blow to five German divisions and caused a general German withdrawal eastwards to the Hindenburg Line. The taking of Mont St Quentin and Péronne is regarded as among the finest Australian feats on the Western Front and the intensity of the action is evident from the fact that eight Victoria Crosses were awarded to Australians between 31 August and 2 September 1918.




02 September 1945 | The Japanese formally surrender

The war ended when the Japanese signed the 'Japanese Instrument of Surrender'. The ceremony aboard the deck of the Missouri lasted 23 minutes and was broadcast throughout the world. The instrument was first signed by the Japanese foreign minister Mamoru Shigemitsu "By Command and on behalf of the Emperor of Japan and the Japanese Government". General Yoshijirō Umezu, Chief of the Army General Staff, then signed the document "By Command and on behalf of the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters"

After the Japanese signed the document, U.S. General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, the Commander in the Southwest Pacific and Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, accepted the surrender on behalf of the Allied Powers and signed in his capacity as Supreme Commander.

General Sir Thomas Blamey represented Australia at the ceremony.


03 September 1939 | Britain, France, Australia, and New Zealand declare war on Germany

The German invasion of Poland led to the declaration of war against Germany by the United Kingdom and France and began the Second World War.


04 September 1943 | 9th Division land at Lae, New Guinea

Australian forces conducted an amphibious landing to the east of Lae and then the subsequent advance on the town during the Salamaua–Lae campaign of World War II. Part of Operation Postern, which was undertaken to capture the Japanese base at Lae, the landing was undertaken between 4 and 6 September 1943 by Australian troops from the 9th Division, supported by US naval forces. This was the first major amphibious operation undertaken by the Australian Army since the failed Gallipoli Campaign.





The Cove

The home of the Australian Profession of Arms.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.

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