Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales
Pte. Petersen’s statement of the Battle of Mont St Quentin, 9 February 1919
MLMSS 1536/Box 3/5
Battle of Mont St Quentin.
Pte Petersens Statement
of the battle.
Battle of Mont St Quentin
Statement made by Private Petersen of the 19th Battalion, 5th Brigade, A.I.F. to Private F.J. Brewer, who took same down in shorthand (original notes attached). Private Petersen, who was present at the battle made this statement on the 9th February, 1919, on the "City of York”, on which transport, narrator and recorder, were returning to Australia. He stated:-
"My Battalion had been resting near Fuse, and afterwards had been carrying on skirmishing with the retreating Huns for several days before Mont St Quentin was taken. The Huns were fighting rearguard actions. We encountered strong machine gun fire some being mounting in trees.
"We withdrew* and then crossed the Somme, and were told beforehand that we were to take Mont St Quentin,
"We marched straight on and crossed near several bridges under shell fire marched up past Clery, and were then told to go straight on for the job.”
"Suddenly Fritz sent up three flares, and we saw the flames of several machine guns firing, and on the way saw diggers
*At this time the 18th Battalion was operating somewhere near Bazincourt Wood, or Mericourt Wood. See map 3, Appendix 1.
throwing bombs into German Machine Gun Posts.
"We had to crawl and pick our way through barbed-wire. I found the railway line, the best track to follow, but even here the enemy kept his machine guns sweeping the road.
"We had no tanks (on 31st Aug), and no barrage. In the daylight we found ourselves well up to our objective.
"The 5th Brigade has, in my opinion, only 1000 strong (taking into consideration the previous fighting since 8th August 1918), and I estimate we took double* our own strength prisoners. The Fritzes who opposed us were volunteers to keep the Aussies from Capturing Peronne.
"The 5th Brigade was mixed up, (18th being in supports), swung to the left, and there left an opening for a successful attack by Fritz, but he neglected it+
"What I think is that we had been forcing him to retire, and he had practically completed organizing himself in a position of defence in this very strong position. Seeing none of our tanks coming up, and he retreating, he expected he would have much more time to prepare for attack.
"But we got over in the dark, and rushed on him. They ran away at
the first onslaught, but when they saw our numbers in the morning they organized a counter-attack from behind Mont St Quentin, and drove us back. Fritz also put down a strong barrage, on our support lines, 5.9’s being strongly in evidence. Previous to this, he put down behind us, when we advanced, and behind our line, and actually on our hopping off line, a barrage of heavy shells, 12 inch, and 8 inch falling in scores, sending up water and dirt like waterspouts.
"The element of surprize outwitted him (the enemy). I do not think the Heads* expected us to do as much as we did. It was a soldiers’ battle, daring, bluff, and determination, resulting in the success of a grand adventure. The 20th and 17th got across Mount St Quentin but had to withdraw later. We held on all day and the next night, coming out next day after the 6th Brigade came through us. Fritz counter-attacked in hundreds, and we played our machine guns, and stokes mortars, and bombs until we were running short of ammunition Fritz used two anti-tank guns against us, and also ‘potato mashers’
"There was little organisation amongst us; but it was the initiative of the men that fixed the result+
*of the British Army
[Transcribed by June Pettit for the State Library of New South Wales]