1918—Amiens to Hindenburg Line

1918—Amiens to Hindenburg Line book cover
Table of contents

This publication is a part of the series; Australians on the Western Front 1916-1918. It highlights a mighty battle which began in France at 4.20 am on 8 August 1918. Australia, Britain and Canada advanced side by side astride the Somme River. They broke through the German defences and forced the enemy into withdrawal. 

Department of Veterans' Affairs
Publisher
Australia
ISBN
978 1 877007 33 0
Series
Australians on the Western Front
Edition
Reprinted 2010

Australians on the Western Front – 1918

A mighty battle began in France at 4.20 am on 8 August 1918.

A mighty battle began in France at 4.20 am on 8 August 1918. For the Australians taking part it was possibly the climax to years of bitter combat at Gallipoli and then on the Western Front. That day three Army Corps—the British 3rd Corps, the Australian Corps and the Canadian Corps—with the Australians at the spearhead, advanced side by side astride the Somme River 20 kilometres east

Less than five months earlier it had been the Germans who were attacking. They had driven back the British forces on the Somme and in Flanders, and threatened the vital railway and communication centres of Amiens and Hazebrouck. But in the end, the British line held. In that time Australians fought important actions at Dernancourt, Hébuterne, Villers-Bretonneux and Hazebrouck. Germany had gambled on being able to inflict a crippling blow on the allies before the build-up of the American forces on the Western Front, but its army became over-extended and had failed.

On 1 June 1918 Lieutenant General John Monash took up command of the Australian Corps from General Sir William Birdwood. It was intended that he would have under him five Australian Divisions; but for the moment four were with him on the Somme and the other, the 1st Australian Division, was in Flanders. On 4 July Monash mounted an attack against the German line at Le Hamel. Using a composite division-strength Australian force, with four companies of Americans attached and with heavy artillery and tank support, he struck a limited but decisive blow which signalled that the enemy had not only been held but was now being forced back. Monash established his reputation as an outstanding corps commander at Le Hamel, and confirmed it in the larger battles that followed.

John Monash was born in Melbourne in 1865, the son of Jewish migrants from Prussia. An outstanding scholar, he became a leading civil engineer involved in many important Melbourne projects. He was also a prominent militia officer. Although not a regular soldier, when the war began he was a brigade commander with broad artillery, staff and field experience. As an engineer, he had worked on big projects; he understood the need for detailed organisation, recognised the importance of initiative and morale, embraced technology and developed a confidence in his own judgement.

Monash joined the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) at the beginning of the war, and in 1915 led the 4th Australian Brigade on Gallipoli; he was given command of the 3rd Australian Division the following year. In 1917 his division fought in the battles of Messines and in the Third Battle of Ypres. He impressed the British commander-in-chief, Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, with his high intelligence and ability to develop and communicate plans. He was an ideal choice for the Australian Corps. In operations he showed that he could bear stress and make quick and clear decisions. This inspired confidence at all levels, and respect even among his few critics.

After the battle of Hamel the British felt that Amiens was secure, and they began planning for an offensive of their own. On 8 August this became the battle sometimes called the Battle of Amiens. The idea was for General Sir Henry Rawlinson's Fourth Army, which included the Australian Corps, to attack on a 20-kilometre front; the French First Army would carry the line on the south. For this enterprise the battle-hardened Canadian Corps was secretly brought down from Arras to take part, and the 1st Australian Division came from Flanders to rejoin the four Australian divisions already on the Somme.

In the days before the great battle there was a heavy build-up of troops. Men moved into new frontline positions or into billets in surrounding villages. Meanwhile the matériel of war was gathered in valleys and concealed in woods. Time was allowed for the men to look over the new Mark V tanks and get familiar with them; hundreds would go into action, with more than 150 to accompany the Australian divisions. Vital to the whole operation was the crushing volume of artillery fire that was about to descend on the enemy.

The guns and howitzers allocated to assist the Australian Corps were to provide a creeping barrage—a curtain of fire behind which the infantry would advance—while others bombarded the enemy's artillery positions to neutralise their guns. Supporting the Australians were more than 550 artillery pieces ranging from two 12-inch railway-mounted howitzers and twenty 9.2-inch howitzers of the heavy artillery, through the range of medium artillery, to the more numerous and familiar 4.5-inch howitzers and the 18-pounders of the field artillery. In this attack there would be no preliminary bombardment. Surprise and firepower would be the keys.

The day before the battle, Monash sent a message to all of his troops. It said, in part:

For the first time in the history of our Corps, all five Australian Divisions will to-morrow engage in the largest and most important battle operation ever undertaken by the Corps. Because of the completeness of our plans and dispositions, of the magnitude of the operations, of the number of troops employed, and of the depth to which we intend to over-run the enemy's positions, this battle will be one of the most memorable of the whole war. The work to be done to-morrow will perhaps make heavy demands upon the endurance and the staying powers of many of you; but I am confident that, in spite of excitement, fatigue, and physical strain, every man will carry on to the utmost of his powers until his goal is won; for the sake of AUSTRALIA, the empire and our cause.

Meanwhile the divisions moved into place. Included among their number were some men who had been in action since the Gallipoli days. Sergeant Dave Roberts MM of the 17th Battalion was one. He had become a hardened soldier, having fought all the way through, taken part in major battles, been twice wounded and been decorated for bravery. Roberts had many lucky escapes and, knowing that his good fortune could not last forever, he considered his chances in the forthcoming attack. He wrote in his diary:

I am just about sick of this game now. I've been at it too long ... God grant it may be a great success and I pull through alright. In his pocket he stuck a note that said: To the finder. In the event of my being killed in this hop over will you kindly send all of my personal (sic) to my mother.

Roberts did survive the day, declaring it 'a glorious victory', but the following day, while resting in a captured village, he was killed by an enemy shell. He was twenty-one.

Corporal Edgar Morrow of the 28th Battalion described the hours leading up to the battle:

After a day of drizzly rain, we had moved up to the front line. A broad white tape was stretched along the ground ... and we stayed on that, lying flat on the ground without removing any equipment. As the time approached I found myself trembling with nervous excitement and the cold. There was a strange silence over all the line. Not a gun was firing. My teeth began to chatter and I clamped them on my unlighted pipe. Word passed along that there was half a minute to go.

The battle began in thick fog. The artillery fire opened with a mighty crash; many of the enemy batteries and machine-gun positions which had been plotted before the battle were quickly put out of action. The advance was on a wide front and the objectives were set within the range of the artillery. Among the Australians, the 2nd and 3rd Divisions, side by side, began to lead the way to 'the green line'; the 4th and 5th Divisions were behind, ready to leap-frog through and go on to the final objective.

Private John Smith of the 31st Battalion, later to die of pneumonia in October, wrote to his mother:

Our battalion hopped the top on the 8th at 4.20 in the morning. It was very foggy and we could hardly see twenty yards on account of the smoke of the barrage. The row the guns kicked up was terrific and the whole earth was shaking. As soon as our guns started Fritz started his but his gunfire was nothing compared to ours. We were accompanied by tanks—evidently Fritz was taken by surprise and we swept forward in great style.

The early fog concealed the Australian advance, but also created some problems in finding directions and cooperating with aircraft. It was difficult to locate the enemy and to get through any wire entanglements and across broken ground. However, the advance pushed on, closely following the artillery barrage for protection. At some places invisible machine-guns rattled in the mist.

The 2nd Division had passed through the village of Warfusée-Abancourt and, with the 3rd, was near the first objective when the fog began to lift 'like a curtain'. On one part of the battlefield it disclosed a scene that Charles Bean said could never be forgotten by anyone who saw it:

At 8 o'clock ... like elephants accompanying an Oriental army, were processions of the tanks, sixty machines in all ... many having the colours of their infantry painted on their sides or on plaques hanging by chains from their fronts. Further back in the gully about forty other tanks, which had already taken part in the first phase, were assembling to follow and assist in the second. Behind these ... came battery after battery of field and horse artillery, chains jingling, horses' heads and manes tossing. A great shout went up as some of the field batteries ... arrived at a gallop and in a few minutes their guns were banging, to the delight of the troops. In the opposite direction moved a few lame tanks, and, along the roads droves of prisoners moved wide-eyed through the throng, astonishment evident on their faces. The attacking troops were in grand spirit—the casualties were obviously few.

The 4th and 5th Divisions took over the advance, following the tanks which were now moving freely ahead and seeking out enemy strong-points. As the troops reached the extent of the field artillery's range, the guns needed to be brought up closer. Meanwhile, surviving German artillery posed the most serious threat to the tanks. Captain Daniel Aarons of the 16th Battalion wrote:

The most thrilling thing I saw was our artillery galloping into action, unhitching the guns and the drivers galloping the horses away again and almost within a few seconds ... the guns were in action. I saw quite a few instances of very brave action on the part of the Fritz guns, where they stuck to them to the last ditch and fired point blank at our troops. The same thing was done by their machine guns.

By afternoon the main objectives were taken. British cavalry was soon able to charge across the cleared ground and armoured cars ran up the main roads. To the south the Canadians and French had also done well. Only on the Australians' left was there a hold-up. Across the river, the British troops had been unable to capture the Chipilly spur, and fire from the high ground was still cutting in to the Australians' flank.

It was clear that a great victory had been won. For an enterprise on such a scale the casualties were considered low: about 2000 were Australians. The enemy had been forced back a great distance. Indeed it was as far as heavily equipped infantrymen could hope to advance in one day while under fire. The total ground gained was almost as much in area as that captured, at enormous loss, by the British army in the entire 140 days of the 1916 Somme campaign. On the enemy's side, General Erich Ludendorff declared that this was 'Der Schwarze Tag'—Germany's 'Black Day'.

Following up on their success, over the following days the Australians made attacks to the south around Lihons. Here, the 1st Division was in stiff action and there were heavy casualties. Monash was also allowed to extend his front to the north across the Somme River. The river had made a poor boundary and now, by working on both sides, his left flank was more secure. He had the 13th Brigade with the American 131st Regiment attack the Etinehem peninsula to remove any threat from there. Meanwhile, on the corps' main front, the 10th Brigade made a push on Proyart.

There was a proud interlude for Monash on 12 August when the King visited his headquarters at Bertangles and invested him with a knighthood. The day before, at a brief conference held outside Villers-Bretonneux, he had received personal congratulations from Sir Douglas Haig, Sir Henry Rawlinson, the French Prime Minister, Georges Clémenceau, and the allied commander, Marshal Ferdinand Foch.

After further advances, with declining numbers of tanks, more ground was taken. Then the Fourth Army was briefly stationary. Reflecting on the big battle and subsequent advances, a machine-gun officer of the 2nd Division, Lieutenant William Carne, recorded the feeling within his company when it was sent off for a well-earned rest:

After eleven days of memorable line duty, everyone felt weary—for even victories become exhausting—and glad of a respite; one which was sweetened by the knowledge of participation in what was probably the greatest most successful blow of the A.I.F.

By 18 August the 3rd Pioneer Battalion had rebuilt a bridge across the Somme River at Chipilly that had been destroyed by the withdrawing Germans. There had been two bridges, and it was a simple but clever idea to re-use a surviving longer span to bridge the shorter gap. The army could only move as fast as supplies, guns and ammunition could be brought forward, and now there was easier access across the river.

Once the Canadian Corps was withdrawn, the Australian Corps had to hold a wide frontage until the French took over a section of the line during the third week of August. While preparing to continue his advance, Monash had to consider that as he approached the town of Péronne the Somme River was no longer parallel to his approach, but took a southern turn across his front, forming a virtual moat before the town and its fortified hill called Mont St Quentin. With autumn approaching he knew that there might only be eight or nine weeks left of what he called 'campaigning weather' before the offensive was halted by the wet and cold, just as had happened at the end of 1916 and 1917.

The British army was now striking heavy blows against the enemy. Adding weight and further direction to the recent successes of the Fourth Army, the Third Army began attacks to the north from Albert. Monash observed that in the present actions there was no longer enough time for the long and thorough preparation needed for big

set-piece battles. 'All commanders ... became opportunists ... hitting whenever and wherever an opportunity offered, and the means were ready at hand', he wrote.

On 23 August the Australian Corps was moving once more. A corps command is a flexible thing, combining a number of divisions, although not necessarily always the same ones. For a while Monash also took on board the 32nd British Division. It and the 1st Australian Division were strangers to each other, but they were going into battle side by side. Monash added tanks and aircraft and all of the artillery that he could get from within his divisions' resources to add the greatest weight of supporting firepower:

That was a principle which I always regarded as fundamental, and one from which I never permitted any exception to be made, although the pressure upon me to rest a substantial portion of these ancillary services was always very great.

The new attack, called the battle of Chuignes, was conducted in three stages. The Australians were on the left with the widest frontage and the British division was on the right. In the first stage the infantry would be protected by heavy artillery fire and the accompanying tanks. In the second phase the gains would be consolidated and further ground taken. Finally the reserve brigade was to seize more territory near the river. The action was another success. The Australians took ground up to a line extending from Herleville to the western edge of Cappy in a bend in the Somme River. The 3rd Division was able to follow this up over on the other side of the Somme, taking Bray.

During the advance beside Arcy Wood, not far from Chuignes, Australian troops came across a heavy artillery emplacement which had been destroyed by the Germans as they left. It contained a massive 38-cm gun that had been firing on Amiens since June. A fortnight earlier, on 8 August, the Australians had captured another large railway-mounted gun, but the Arcy Wood gun was even bigger. The guns have their own story. There were plans to send both of them to Australia as war trophies. The 28-cm 'Amiens' railway gun eventually made it, and its barrel is still displayed at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, but the Arcy Wood gun was too big to move. It remained on site after the war and became a local attraction, but it was broken down and taken off as scrap metal by German occupation troops during World War II.

On 26 August Monash brought the 2nd and 5th Divisions back into action. The front line, standing from north to south, was now held by the 3rd, 2nd and 5th Divisions and the British 32nd. The Australians were maintaining an aggressive attitude, sending out patrols while Monash used all the artillery that he could get, still looking for any German weaknesses to exploit. Whenever enemy positions were found to be lightly held, they were taken. By 28 August the Germans, wet from the rain and dispirited, were retiring across the Somme and digging in around Péronne, leaving machine-gunners, renowned for their stubborn fighting, to cover the move.

Péronne was a hard city to reach. For centuries it had been protected by the Somme River and its wide marshes and tributaries, and defended by ancient ramparts. Even for the modern soldier the river and marshes would be difficult to cross, and what bridges there were could be easily destroyed. The Australians' best approach was from the north, crossing the river there, rather than making a frontal attack. However, the key to taking the town and the ground beyond was the fortified hill of Mont St Quentin. The Chief of Staff of the Fourth Army, Sir Archibald Montgomery, noted:

The position of Mont St Quentin was an extremely strong one, and its slopes, covered with thick belts of wire and intersected with the remains of the old trench systems, afforded great possibilities for a stout and prolonged defence. From the ruins of the village on the west slopes of the hill, the country for a considerable distance lay exposed to the enemy's observation and fire.

It was vital that Mont St Quentin be captured quickly. In the race against the oncoming winter the Germans could not be allowed to consolidate there. Poor roads, battle damage and mechanical break-downs had delayed the tanks, bridges had been destroyed, and there was little heavy artillery yet in place—but Monash was not going to wait.

The attack began on 31 August. The task of capturing Mont St Quentin was given to the 2nd Division, while the 5th Division had the job of taking Péronne. The 3rd Division across the Somme held ground above the bend in the river, protecting the few possible crossing places for the brigades moving up to make their attacks. The enemy tried to prevent the crossings with heavy machine-gun and artillery fire; 'shells falling in the river threw up great spouts of water'. The 2nd Division's under-strength 5th Brigade and machine-gunners fought towards the hill, while the 6th and 7th Brigades followed in readiness.

The movement into position was exhausting. The historian of the 17th Battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Keith Mackenzie, later recalled the issuing of orders for the assault:

The company commanders were called in at once, and while the attack orders were being read, one of these officers fell sound asleep, an incident that gave some indication of the condition of all ranks. (Later) the welcome issue of rum helped to invigorate the tired troops. Then began the move to the jumping-off position.

Supported by the artillery, but without a creeping barrage, and despite murderous fire from machine-guns, the advance on the hill began well. Moving over cratered and rubble-strewn ground, through belts of rusty wire, and among old trenches, the brigade's central battalion got through the village near the crest. Then the Germans counter-attacked, forcing the Australians back below the line of the roadway where, despite heavy casualties, they held on into the night. Meanwhile the 5th Division was finding crossings over the river.

The 2nd Division's 6th Brigade now advanced and by the next day it had taken the summit of the bitterlycontested hill in raw hand-to-hand fighting. This allowed the 7th Brigade to eventually relieve the exhausted 5th. In Péronne the 5th Division got a grip on the town and, after more close fighting, it consolidated. To the north the 3rd Division had taken more ground.

Lieutenant Harold Williams of the 5th Division later recalled:

Word came through that the 54th Battalion had gained a foothold in the town of Péronne. Small parties were rushed across footbridges raked with machine-gun fire, in which many men were killed, but the few who lived to reach the bridgehead attacked the German machinegunners and cleared the way for other parties to cross the footbridges. Once a hold was gained on part of the town, it was exploited to the utmost, and the Germans were rooted out of cellars and other cover.

By 3 September, holding on to a great victory, Monash was able to say:

[The] execution furnishes the finest example in the war of spirited and successful Infantry action conducted by three whole Divisions operating simultaneously side by side.

The British army was now moving forward all along the Western Front, but the taking of Mont St Quentin stood out as a notable success, largely due to the work of bold, well-trained and experienced infantrymen. Charles Bean, the Australian official historian, said 'The capture of Mont St Quentin and Péronne is held by many Australian soldiers to be the most brilliant achievement of the A.I.F.'

For the fighting between 31 August and 2 September, culminating in the capture of Péronne and the adjoining Mont St Quentin, eight Victoria Crosses were awarded to the AIF, the greatest number for any single Australian operation. The awards to Private Robert Mactier of the 23rd Battalion and Corporal Alexander Buckley of the 54th Battalion were made posthumously.

Robert Mactier had enlisted in March 1917 and arrived in France in November. Less than a year later, in the early part of the assault at Mont St Quentin, armed with a revolver and grenades ('bombs'), he attacked a series of enemy machine-gun positions. He captured three of them and was attempting to get a fourth when another gun, firing at close range, killed him. One writer said that he exemplified his battalion's motto: Forward Undeterred.

Lieutenant Harold Williams was badly wounded in the final stage of the battle and was roughly evacuated for treatment at a casualty clearing station at Daours, a village from where a month earlier he had joined the battle of Amiens. His account of this time recalls another consequence of battle. It also shows his admiration for the nurses attending the wounded and provides a brief insight into their conditions:

That these women worked their long hours among such surroundings without collapsing spoke volumes for their will-power and sense of duty. The place reeked with the odours of blood, antiseptic dressings, and unwashed bodies. The nurses saw the war stripped of even the excitement of an attack. They saw soldiers in their most pitiful state—wounded, blood-stained, dirty, reeking of blood and filth. [T]he strain was such that it was almost incredible that a woman could stand it and retain her sanity.

After the fall of Péronne, the Germans facing Rawlinson's Fourth Army had little option but to stage a stubborn fighting withdrawal to their main Hindenburg Line, a seemingly impenetrable zone of deep trenches, concrete fortifications, tunnels and barbed wire. With its outposts, and its support and reserve systems, the line was several kilometres deep in some places. More than a year earlier, further north near Bullecourt, the Australians had suffered 10,000 casualties in two battles against this notorious stretch of the Western Front.

It was important that the Australians press on hard after the enemy so they could not get their defences organised. Meanwhile more bridges had to be built quickly over the Somme River to keep the army moving. The battleweary diggers, heavily-burdened, dirty, and dwindling in numbers, advanced in pursuit of the retreating Germans, making good use of the few squadrons of light horse that they had with them. There were infantry battalions with only 150 riflemen; a strong battalion might have 350.

Sapper Ronald Chatto of the 7th Field Company, Australian Engineers, later recalled the work of his company during this period:

The bridging work was greater than at any other time during the war—the carrying out of the work almost on top of the enemy under direct shell and machine-gun fire, was a great trial of the calibre of every Officer, NCO, Sapper or Driver engaged in any way in the stupendous tasks set.

The depleted Australian divisions continued to rotate and the 1st and 4th now took over. Monash agreed that the men of his other divisions, who had been in action since 27 August, 'were so tired from want of sleep and physical strain that many of them could be seen by the roadside, fast asleep'. By 10 September the Australians were only a few kilometres from the forward outposts of the main enemy line. There the Germans were occupying trenches that had once belonged to the British but had been lost in the enemy advance back in March.

A week later, on 18 September, in the rain, the two divisions were in heavy action once more and advanced beyond the villages of Le Verguier, Villeret and Hargicourt. In this important action, known as the battle of the outpost line, each division advanced on a two brigade frontage, fighting across old British trenches, and carrying their lines well forward to finally overlook the main enemy defences.

The attacking battalions were protected by a good creeping barrage and once again a lot of smoke shells were fired. This time Monash used twice as many machine-guns, drawing the extras from the 3rd and 5th Divisions. 'This gave me a total of 256 Vickers Machine Guns on a frontage now reduced to 7,000 yards', he wrote. In the absence of enough tanks he used deception; he had some dummy tanks made up from canvas, hessian and timber. On the morning of the attack these were dragged to positions where the enemy would see them and believe that they were part of a much stronger assaulting force.

These actions on the Australian front were not isolated successes. The allies were pressing forward. To the south the Americans, now engaged in big battles, as well as the French, made major advances. The German forces were falling apart, and as the British, Americans, French and Belgians assaulted their lines a lot of territory was being given up. Still the Hindenburg Line stood as a major and imposing obstacle.

The Australians' 1st and 4th Divisions contained brigades that had been fighting since the legendary landing at Gallipoli in April 1915. Now, although physically near the end of their tether, and with few riflemen available in their battalions, the two divisions had brought the advance right up to confront the Hindenburg Line. But these divisions were not fit enough for any further fighting and needed to be rested and reinforced before the winter. It was time for them to be relieved and go back to the rear areas. On the right, the 46th Division of the British 9th Corps took over from the 4th Division. Meanwhile some more of the Americans were moving into the Fourth Army's operational sphere, arriving by 22 September.

After the 1st Division had been relieved and the troops were resting, Lance Corporal Morgan of the 2nd Battalion recalled in his diary his feelings of finally being well away from the front line:

Far from the maddening sound of thundering guns and all the consequent horrors of war, one has that sense of unreality, feeling as though in a dream from which will come some awakening, to hear the god of war screaming for more sacrifices, carnage, and slaughter.

Monash was still anxious to maintain the momentum of the recent fighting and deliver a blow that would break through the enemy's final defensive zone. He had to let the infantry battalions from the two exhausted divisions go, but he held on to their artillery and the machine-gun companies. Reviewing his situation he found that the remaining 3rd and 5th Divisions still required some rest, and the 2nd Division was not fully recovered from its efforts at Mont St Quentin.

The reinforcement crisis had become critical. Less than half the number needed were coming from Australia. The AIF was still dependent on voluntary enlistments after the Prime Minister's proposals in 1916 and 1917 to introduce conscription had been defeated in referendums at home. Already the recruiting standards had been lowered; by 1918 the minimum required height had fallen to just 5 feet, and the age range had been extended to 18–45 years. Those who now joined up were almost exclusively directed towards the infantry, where the casualties had been heaviest.

Ever since March the AIF's losses—killed and wounded—on the Western Front were exceeding the number of enlistments. The only positive month was October, when there was a peak in recruitment following the news of the Australians' achievements at Péronne and Mont St Quentin. The worst month had been August, when the dead alone matched the number of men signing up. There was little doubt that the Australian Corps would have to shed one or two divisions if the war went on much longer.

Troubled by his declining troop numbers, Monash soon felt another blow when the Prime Minister, William 'Billy' Hughes, insisted that the longest serving troops, those who had been fighting for the past four years, should be sent to Australia for six-months leave. It was a decent gesture to men who had not seen home since they had embarked, but it meant that battalions were going to be even lower in strength. The first fortunate drafts were sent off, and the war ended before they had to come back.

Sometime in the following weeks a member of the 2nd Battalion's transport section, Private Alfred Aston, who had joined up in August 1914, became part of a group selected to go home. He recalled:

It didn't take me long to make up my mind to accept the invitation. Later, the boys came round, and I started to dispose of my goods. One wanted my spurs, another my leggings, more my spare blankets, and so on. Altogether, there were about 800 men in the party, and during the day General Birdwood came along to wish us 'Good-bye' knocking about among us for a couple of hours. We pulled out of Bray ... for our long [train] trip through France and Italy. We returned along the same line on which we travelled from Marseilles in 1916.

The Australian Corps had been trying to maintain its brigades at four battalions, although the British army was already operating on three. Earlier in the year, in late April, due to low numbers it had been necessary to disband three Australian battalions: the 36th, 47th and 52nd. It was a painful process for men devoted to their units. Now, less than six months later, the order came to disband one battalion in each of eight more brigades on 23 September. Only the four original brigades, those that had made the landing at Gallipoli in April 1915, had been exempted.

The order caused great anguish. Over the recent years, men had seen comrades die for their mates and the battalion. For many the unit had come to be all that mattered to them. In the 15th Brigade the 60th Battalion accepted the order; it was evidence of Brigadier General 'Pompey' Elliott's influence over his troops. But in other brigades trouble quickly arose, and the men refused to budge. This was a 'strike', not a mutiny. The men were not refusing to go into action—they just wanted to fight in their old battalions. Monash finally defused the issue by deferring the matter for a further fortnight. He knew that after the forthcoming battles the battalions would be too weak to resist; they would have no other option.

The problem of low troop numbers was partly solved when Monash was offered the use of the Second American Corps under Major General George Read, consisting of the 27th and 30th US Divisions and totalling 50,000 men. He would be able to use them to lead the attack on the Hindenburg Line. The corps would be under its own commanders, but Monash would have operational command. The 3rd and the 5th Australian Divisions would take part too; their role would be to follow up and leap-frog through to capture the final objective. The 2nd Division would be in reserve.

Monash was confident about the forthcoming battle, which was set for 29 September. His sector was now relocated a bit to the north. The Americans took over as the two retiring Australian divisions departed, and the remaining three moved to take up the support and reserve roles. Monash observed that in the following few days, between 25–29 September, for the first time since the AIF had arrived in France, there were no Australian battalions holding any part of the front line on the Western Front.

The main Hindenburg Line facing the American– Australian Corps had some difficult physical features. An old and important steep-walled canal running parallel to the front line had been incorporated into the German defences. However, in front of the Americans this canal passed into a long tunnel dating from Napoleonic times. It provided deep, virtually bombproof shelter. To the south, where the British 46th Division was, the canal was open and formed an effective moat across which tanks could not pass. Monash's task was to break through above the tunnel, using it as a 6-kilometre-wide bridge. There he could use tanks, but the German defences were particularly strong, with numerous machine-gun posts, solid emplacements and thick fields of barbed wire. There were concrete blockhouses, fortified buildings and ruins, and underground tunnels. At the same time the 46th Division would attack across the open canal and the 32nd Division from the same corps would then follow through.

The American troops impressed the Australians with their enthusiasm and fitness. Their two large divisions were drawn from the National Guard, which had strong state connections as well as a tradition of volunteerism. However, they were short of officers and the troops lacked battle experience. To overcome this, Monash arranged that a 200-strong Australian mission be distributed among them to provide advice. Almost every unit down to company level had an Australian officer or senior NCO attached. The mission was headed by Major General Ewen Sinclair-Maclagan from the 4th Australian Division, who would also be personal adviser to General Read.

The impending battle would include many elements already familiar to the men of the battle-wise Australian units: it would be a trench to trench attack between two roughly parallel lines; and the infantry would be supported by a dense artillery barrage, including smoke shells, and by tanks. The diggers had already done similar work at Messines and Broodseinde in 1917 and, more recently, at the battles of Hamel as well as on 8 August. The Americans had to learn quickly. In particular, they would have to contain their enthusiasm in the assault and understand the need to 'mop up' as they went and not simply by-pass strong positions.

The situation facing the Fourth Army for the forthcoming battle was a difficult one: in addition to the canal obstacle, the British 3rd Corps had earlier failed to capture a stretch of the proposed starting line for the 27th US Division. To secure this ground in time, General Rawlinson ordered a preliminary attack by the Americans and set this for 27 September. Meanwhile Monash was preparing his plan for the 29th, presuming that this part of the line would be taken by then.

To Monash's dismay the Americans' attack, like the British one before it, failed with heavy casualties. Too late for the plans to be changed, there was no option but to go ahead on schedule. The American division would have to capture this ground, on which small surviving parties and many unrecovered wounded still lay, as an initial stage of their main attack. However, because of the wounded, there could be no creeping barrage laid in front of them, at least until they reached the main starting line. Monash gave them some more tanks to help in the attack, but these made little difference.

With the British and Americans massing their forces, the enemy was already alert to a likely attack. This time there was no chance of surprise. Instead, an intense and prolonged artillery bombardment was commenced on the night of 26 September. For the first time the gunners fired 'mustard gas', inflicting this horror on the enemy for twelve hours. The gas shells were followed by shrapnel and high explosive, a lot of which was directed on to the Germans' gun positions and roads. Other fire was concentrated on their defences, including the barbed wire, to create breaches for the infantry to get through.

The American divisions were to attack on a front several kilometres wide; it was divided between the 27th Division in the north and the 30th to the south. They were to fight their way across the tunnel and go on to a line about a kilometre beyond. The 3rd and 5th Australian Divisions would follow them and by 11 am were to pass through and advance to the final objective, the enemy's so-called 'Beaurevoir' reserve line.

The dawn attack commenced at 5.55 am. It was not too long before Monash received the news that the adjoining British troops, the 46th Division on the right, had crossed the canal and captured Bellenglise. While this division was not a highly rated one, it had done particularly well, assisted by thorough planning and the power of the supporting artillery. Monash admitted that the British attack was 'a great success [and] there can be no doubt that [it] ... materially assisted me in the situation in which I was placed later on the same day'. The first reports of the Americans' progress were also good.

Lieutenant Percy Lucas was with the 32nd Battalion. He later wrote:

At 7 am the battalion moved to its jumping-off position—the front line looking down on Bellicourt. On the way forward we passed through our own 18-pounder batteries, firing in the open, with their horse-teams standing by. An artillery colonel alongside one of the batteries told me that everything appeared to be going all right with the Americans ... and as we moved on he said, 'Don't worry about the guns. There are plenty of guns and ammunition'.

By late morning the picture was changing. The Australians were reporting hold-ups in front of them. Bad news was coming in and beginning to multiply. The situation was confused. Again, just as two days earlier, the Americans had failed to mop up as they went forward. While the troops advanced bravely, in their enthusiasm they were by-passing strong points and machine-gun posts from which the Germans, once passed over, would re-emerge. The Australians coming along behind without any creeping barrage soon ran into trouble.

The situation was worse to the north, where the 27th US Division had been unable to fight forward in time to join its barrage on the main starting line. The tanks with them had soon hit strife, with many knocked out by artillery fire, while others ran into an old British minefield. Looking at the situation, by mid afternoon, Monash later recalled:

My troops were ... astride of the Hindenburg main line, one division wholly on the east and the other Division mainly on the west of it. The southern end of the tunnel was in my possession, the northern end was not.

Monash's plans were being shot apart. An outstanding commander, he had also been well served by an essential ingredient for most great generals: good luck. Now, it seemed to be deserting him. He could not provide more artillery support in advance of the Australians because he was not sure how far the Americans had reached and did not want to fire onto them. It was not just the problem of failing to mop up; the Germans were also making strong counter-attacks.

Through the night there were attempts to draw the Americans back where they might be reorganised into a fresh attack next day. It was particularly important to get the front line moving forward on the left. With failure a possibility, it was now that the Australians benefited from the success of the British on the right. The divisions there had forced the Germans back and now threatened to outflank them.

Lieutenant Percy Lucas wrote:

What [had] promised before the attack, to be a brilliant success, seemed, after noon as if it could result in a huge disaster. Things certainly looked black. Then, by the evening, some sort of a line had been established, and, although the position was still obscure on the left flank, a feeling began to grow that the attack was being handled with confidence.

Next day the fighting continued after a night of drenching rain. The Australians now drove their attack to the north-east to try to help the 27th US Division. It was not possible to properly coordinate any useful artillery support for the Australians and Americans now fighting side by side. So much of the work fell back onto the infantrymen's tactics of fire and movement, and their training with Lewis guns, grenades, rifles and bayonets. Monash agreed that now, 'it was, in a peculiar degree, a private soldier's battle'. Meanwhile casualties mounted on both sides. After the war, in his summary, Rawlinson's Chief of Staff, Sir Archibald Montgomery, wrote:

The Australian troops engaged surmounted the difficulties which met them from the start with their usual determination and individual initiative in the face of unexpected situations.

Finally on the third day, 1 October, the Germans fell back. By midday there had been progress on the left and, although things had not gone as well as planned, by nightfall the operation was considered over if not complete. The remnants of the American divisions which had suffered heavily were relieved and in the following days the 2nd Australian Division took over from the exhausted 3rd and 5th Divisions. The Australian frontage was reduced, with the British taking some of it, while further south the French also extended their line.

Two and a half years earlier, in 1916, the 2nd Division had been the first Australian division to land in France. Now it was the last one still fighting. In front of it stood the Beaurevoir line, the last part of the Hindenburg Line's reserve system. At 6.05 am on 3 October, two of the division's thin brigades attacked with tanks, under an artillery barrage. The British were advancing at the same time. The Australians quickly ran into machinegun fire and wire entanglements, and the tanks could do little to help. But the fighting went on. By 11 am the 5th Brigade had taken its objectives and by noon, after heavy action with bombs and bayonets, the 7th Brigade was also successful.

Lieutenant Joe Maxwell of the 18th Battalion was one of the toughest, most experienced and most courageous officers in the AIF. For his bravery that day he was awarded the Victoria Cross to add to his chest of decorations. After the war he would write that at the time he still thought the end of the war 'was yet far off'. Maxwell confided his concerns:

[T]he strain was beginning to tell. We began to reflect that it was merely a matter of time when we would all be killed off. A man who was wounded was damned lucky to be out of it. Out of the nearly three hundred who left Australia in B Company not half a dozen remained. Personally at this juncture I was utterly sick of the war and with everything associated with it.

Following the success of the two other brigades, the 6th Brigade now moved forward. On the 4th there was further action and by nightfall the Australians were successfully holding on to a new section of front line.

Now, after having brought the line to this point, the 2nd Division was due to be relieved and go to a safe rear area. The Americans, having been blooded and rested, and under their own command, could take over. However, Monash was driving his men hard and had decided on one more attack to advance the line a bit more. He ordered an assault by the 6th Brigade for the next day, 5 October, on the village of Montbrehain. The men received the news with dread.

This brigade, effectively the last one still standing, was seriously under-strength and battle-worn. Only two battalions were fit enough for the job—the 21st and the 24th—so the division's pioneer battalion had to be thrown in as well. Only a few tanks were available. The battle began at 6.05 am. Once more the infantry, with the pioneers alongside on the right, advanced under artillery support into heavy machine-gun fire. Like the Australians, the Germans were making up for their low numbers with lots of machine-guns. The advance went on, sometimes with fighting from building to building, and a strong counter-attack was driven off. By night time the action had ended in success. At last the Australians could hand over to the 30th US Division, and Monash could pass his command to General Read. The 2nd Division finally moved into reserve, although the Australians' artillery stayed on a bit longer, advancing with the Americans.

Beyond Montbrehain, and with the Hindenburg Line behind them, there was only open ground ahead of the allies. Now all along the Western Front steady advances were driving the Germans into increasingly disorganised withdrawals. But the Australian infantrymen were not going to be needed again. The Australian Corps had fought its last battle.

Beyond Montbrehain, and with the Hindenburg Line behind them, there was only open ground ahead of the allies. Now all along the Western Front steady advances were driving the Germans into increasingly disorganised withdrawals. But the Australian infantrymen were not going to be needed again. The Australian Corps had fought its last battle.

The 1st and 4th Australian Divisions were moving back to the front line, but had not taken their positions there when the war ended with an armistice on 11 November 1918. The AIF finished its service on the high note of repeated recent successes, but it was a tired and depleted force. For many men who had been fighting far from home with a declining hope of survival, the sudden announcement of peace was as bewildering as it was welcome.

The 1st and 4th Australian Divisions were moving back to the front line, but had not taken their positions there when the war ended with an armistice on 11 November 1918. The AIF finished its service on the high note of repeated recent successes, but it was a tired and depleted force. For many men who had been fighting far from home with a declining hope of survival, the sudden announcement of peace was as bewildering as it was welcome.

Once the war was over there was some expectation that the Australians might be sent to Germany as a part of an army of occupation, but they were not needed. Instead they were held in different parts of France and Belgium until they could be moved to England. There they would join ships to go home. It was at these times that many diggers witnessed the plight of the French civilians who had recently been liberated from occupied areas of France.

The 1st Battalion chronicled this period, remembering:

Destitute as they were, the inhabitants of invaded France were pathetically anxious to welcome their 'deliverers'. As the Battalion with band playing marched through a village, the inhabitants would turn out en masse to see the troops go by. Nuns curtseyed and smiled, veterans of 1870 raised their caps, and the women commented on the active Australians.

The 1st and 4th Divisions stayed around Le Cateau until the first week of December, then moved to Belgium. The other three divisions were in billets in the Abbeville area until the 2nd and 5th joined the other two in Belgium around Charleroi during April 1919. All the time the divisions were being reduced by the departure of drafts for England.

As they waited impatiently for their turn to go, the men were occupied with education schemes to help them resettle at home, and with sport and travel. Many of them got to visit Paris and Brussels, and groups even went to see the battlefields of Waterloo. Some accepted invitations to visit French and Belgian families. There were a number among them who remained and settled in France or Britain, while in England more than a hundred even volunteered for a short military expedition to North Russia, where two of them were awarded the Victoria Cross. But the majority just wanted to get aboard a ship to take them back to Australia.

Billy Hughes wanted the men repatriated as soon as possible. This was done on the basis of the first to have come over would be the first to go home. At the time of the armistice there were 95,000 Australians in France and a further 60,000 in Britain. The authorities were faced with the difficulty of getting so many men home when there was too little shipping available. There were also among them men who had married while they were overseas, so there was the added task of transporting about 12,000 war brides and children. Eventually there would be about 200 voyages by about 150 ships. Within nine months the great bulk of the AIF had sailed, although the last major voyage did not take place until December 1919. There were a few others who did not leave for home until 1920.

Meanwhile, Australia, like Canada and other dominions, through its efforts on the battlefields, had won the right of representation at the Peace Conference conducted at the Palace of Versailles near Paris. Although Australia remained in the shadow of the major powers, including Great Britain, Billy Hughes was determined that his country's voice be heard. A number of matters concerned him, including trade, security and war reparations from Germany. He particularly argued over the control of former German New Guinea; eventually Australia accepted it as a mandated territory of the League of Nations in 1921. Hughes remained at the Peace Conference until it ended. The Treaty of Versailles was signed in the famous Hall of Mirrors on 28 June 1919, formally bringing an end to the war. Australia was one of the signatories. From amid the sorrow and suffering of the war, Australia emerged as a proud, more confident nation with a place on the international stage.

In the meantime, while the men boarded their transports for Australia, the battalions were slowly disbanded as each draft went off. However, a veteran later recalled:

We can truthfully say that our joy at setting our faces towards home was not unmingled with a pang of regret to be leaving forever the Battalion that had been our home for so long.

For some, the wait in France and Belgium gave them the chance to go back to the old battlefields and find mates' burial places. At least one battalion had its carpenters make up painted stout wooden crosses to place over the graves of its men. In one small but touching arrangement the 27th Battalion purchased a camera and had one of its soldiers go around to photograph dozens of its burial sites. On a grander scale, there were plans for each division to have a monument erected at a selected location along the Western Front.

The 1st Australian Division placed its divisional monument at Pozières; the 3rd chose the heights above the Somme River; the 4th's was to overlook the Hindenburg Line; while the 5th Division's was built on the old buttes in Polygon Wood, near Zonnebeke in Belgium. These memorials were designed by Major- General Sir JJ Talbot Hobbs who, besides having commanded the 5th Division, had been a Perth architect in civilian life. Each monument was an imposing stone obelisk with a large bronze plaque bearing the division's name and listing its main battles on the Western Front. Only the 2nd Division departed from this arrangement. Instead, it added to the funds provided by the government and had a more elaborate memorial, consisting of a bronze figure of a digger bayoneting the German eagle, erected on Mont St Quentin.

The 2nd Australian Division Memorial was unveiled in 1925 in the presence of Marshal Foch. The sculptor was C Web Gilbert. It stood proudly alongside the Péronne to Bapaume Road until World War II, when the Germans, obviously unimpressed with its depiction, had the bronze sculpture destroyed. Many years later, in 1971, another bronze digger, sculptured in a more reflective pose by

At Ypres, where so many Australians had died during 1917, the Menin Gate Memorial, commemorating the British Empire's missing from the fighting in Belgium, was dedicated in 1927. On the walls under its great arch are listed the names of those with no known grave. Not every name could fit, and tens of thousands more are listed elsewhere as well; but all of the Australians' names are there, more than 6000 of them. In a continuing tradition, the Last Post is still sounded every night at the Menin Gate.

There was also the question of a national memorial to carry the names of those Australians with no known grave who had died in France. Hobbs inspected a site near Villers-Bretonneux. It stood on high ground to the north of the town, at a place earlier held by the Australians during the German advance in 1918 and close to where the 15th Brigade had made its famous counterattack on 24–25 April.

The site was eventually accepted and it was arranged that there be a public competition for a suitable design for the monument. One of the key requirements was that the 11,000 names of the 'missing' be easily accessible. The winner of the competition was William Lucas of Melbourne, and his design, finally approved in 1929, was described as 'striking and dignified'. Meanwhile the British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens, already famous for some major war memorial designs including London's Cenotaph, had completed the entrance to the adjoining war cemetery.

Sir Talbot Hobbs, along with many other ex-servicemen, became increasingly frustrated by the delay in building the national memorial, and this only deepened as the effects of the Great Depression took a grip on the Australian economy. The Lucas design was unaffordable. Finally, in the mid-1930s the government announced that it would build something less ambitious and handed the project to the Imperial War Graves Commission. Edwin Lutyens was asked to produce the eventual design, and work began in 1937, long after other nations had constructed their monuments. He produced a worthy design, and the memorial was finally dedicated on 22 July 1938. It was too late for Sir Talbot Hobbs to see it; he died on board the ship that was carrying him to the ceremony.

Work on establishing war cemeteries in France and Belgium had progressed better. Even before the war ended, the hundreds of thousands of graves of men from the British Empire became the responsibility of a special organisation called the Imperial War Graves Commission; it changed its name in 1960 to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. In the following years large war cemeteries were constructed on land given by the French and Belgian governments. Many men lie in these large garden-like settings, while others are in neat smaller ones, or even in sections of local cemeteries. The gathering in of isolated graves from the now quiet battlefields took some years, and the erection of standard headstones over each soldier's resting place extended into the 1930s. On each of the Australians' grave stones is engraved the 'Rising Sun' badge similar to the one each man had worn on his slouch hat.

In the decades following the war, the men and women who had served and returned had a strong presence in the Australian community. Some bore physical and emotional scars from their experiences; they, and their families, often suffered years of torment. Others reestablished themselves, obtaining jobs and settling into domestic life and careers. Among them were some who reached great prominence, and even some who became the military leaders of World War II. A lot of men just wanted to forget; others couldn't.

Many veterans—then called 'returned soldiers'—sought to retain the solidarity and mateship of wartime. They formed clubs and associations, of which the Returned Soldiers and Sailors Imperial League of Australia (now known more simply as 'the RSL') was the largest and most enduring. Anzac Day, first commemorated in 1916 to mark the anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915, became an important annual occasion for all veterans. By 1925 huge Anzac Day marches were taking place in all of Australia's main cities. Smaller places had their own observances. Most states marked the day with a public holiday, and within a few years they all did.

Sixty thousand Australians died during the war, 46,000 of them on the Western Front. Today the men of the AIF remain in the nation's consciousness. War memorials, sometimes consisting of a stone obelisk or a marble figure of a digger and a roll of names, still give them a physical presence in innumerable communities. The stories of those who served in places from Gallipoli and Palestine to France and Belgium are still told. They continue to be acknowledged, along with all those who have served in Australia's wars, on Anzac Day. Increasingly, Australians visit the former battlefields; something that was difficult and extremely expensive for earlier generations.

On the former Western Front the divisional monuments still stand and are well maintained. In recent decades there have been more memorials erected. These include one at Le Hamel, as well as imposing bronze figures sculptured by Peter Corlett at Fromelles and at Bullecourt. A series of information plaques has also been installed at most significant locations.

Ninety years later, there are no longer any surviving diggers of World War I. Memorials, ceremonies and rituals recall them and their deeds, and across France and Belgium, and on other battlefields, the graves of those who died continue to be cared for with pride and dignity. It remains as Charles Bean had written:

The Old Force passed down the road to History. The dust of its march settled. The sound of its arms died. Upon a hundred battlefields the broken trees stretched their lean arms over sixty thousand of its graves.

Australians on the Western Front 1918

Infantry units

Division Brigade Battalions
1st Division 1 Bde 1–4 Battalions
(Glasgow)) 2 Bde 5–8 Battalions
  3 Bde 9–12 Battalions



2nd Division 5 Bde 17–20 Battalions
(Rosenthal)) 6 Bde 21–24 Battalions
  7 Bde 25–28 Battalions



3rd Division 9 Bde 33–36 Battalions
(Gellibrand)) 10 Bde 37–40 Battalions
  11 Bde 41–44 Battalions



4th Division 4 Bde 13–16 Battalions
(Holmes — killed 2 July)
(Sinclair Maclagan)
12 Bde 45–48 Battalions
  13 Bde 49–52 Battalions



5th Division 8 Bde 29–32 Battalions
(Hobbs) 14 Bde 53–56 Battalions
  15 Bde 57–60 Battalions



Australian Victoria Cross Awards
AUGUST–NOVEMBER 1918

Lieutenant AE Gaby
  east of Villers-Bretonneux, 8 August 1918, posthumous

Private RM Beatham
  near Rosières, 9 August, 1918, posthumous

Sergeant PC Statton
  near Proyart, 12 August 1918

Lieutenant WD Joynt
  Herleville Wood, 23 August 1918

Lieutenant LD McCarthy
  near Madame Wood, 23 August 1918

Lance-Corporal BS Gordon
  east of Bray, 26–27 August 1918

Private G Cartwright
  near Péronne, 31 August 1918

Private WM Currey
  Péronne, 1 September 1918

Sergeant AD Lowerson
  Mont St Quentin, 1 September 1918

Private R Mactier
  Mont St Quentin, 1 September 1918, posthumous

Lieutenant ET Towner
  Mont St Quentin, 1 September 1918

Corporal AH Buckley
  Péronne, 1 September 1918, posthumous

Corporal AC Hall
  Péronne, 1–2 September 1918

Corporal LC Weathers
  near Péronne, 2 September 1918, posthumous

Sergeant MV Buckley
  near Le Verguier, 18 September 1918

Private JP Woods
  near Le Verguier, 18 September 1918

Major BA Wark
  near Bellicourt, 29 September & 1 October 1918

Private J Ryan
  near Bellicourt, 30 September 1918

Lieutenant J Maxwell
  near Estrées, 3 October 1918

Lieutenant GM Ingram
  Montbrehain, 5 October 1918

Row of armed soldiers standing.

Lieutenant Rupert Downes MC addresses his platoon from the 29th Battalion before moving into the attack during the Battle of Amiens, 8 August 1918. Heavily armed, the platoon is low in numbers. AWM E02790

Field with 3 dead bodies in the foreground and a line of soldiers walking pass in the background

Australian infantry sections advance in artillery formation past German dead near Warfusée-Abancourt, 8 August 1918. AWM E02842

Soldiers gathered in a group with some men standing on a tank.

Some of the 5th Australian Brigade with a tank outside Warfusée-Abancourt during the great advance on the Somme, 8 August 1918. AWM E04922

Painting of soldiers walking along horse drawn carts

8th August 1918, by Septimus Power, 1930, oil on canvas, 153.5 x 235.5 cm. AWM ART12208

Soldiers sitting and standing in a dirt field.

Stretcher bearers of the 8th Australian Field Ambulance take a break behind the main advance near Warfusée-Abancourt, 8 August 1918. AWM E02843

A tank moving along a grassfield.

A British Mark V ‘male’ tank, armed with 6-pounder guns, knocked out by enemy fire near Bayonvillers, 8 August 1918. The recently introduced Mark Vs were a significant improvement on earlier British tanks. AWM E03891

Soldiers on a field around a tank.

Sections of infantrymen from the Australian 5th Brigade, with a British Mark V tank, wait behind the slope of a hill after reaching the first objective in the Battle of Amiens, 8 August 1918. AWM E04923

Soldiers inspecting dead bodies on a battlefield

Australians bury fallen German soldiers after the Battle of Amiens, 8 August 1918. AWM A01925

Soldiers standing by a wooden cart.

Men of the 58th Battalion with a prisoner and an abandoned German wagon in Bayonvillers, one of the villages captured in the advance, 8 August 1918. AWM E02784

Troops walking up a hill with smoke spots on the hill.

Still under fire, German prisoners taken in the Australians’ advance are hurried past Susan Wood near Morcourt, 8 August 1918. The smoke is from burning enemy ammunition. AWM E03017

Troops standing next to a large gun.

Australians pose with a German 6-inch gun captured in the offensive near Morcourt on 8 August 1918. AWM E02891

Soldiers huddled together in a trench.

Men of the 8th Australian Brigade, one wearing a captured German helmet, rest on the day’s final objective not far from Harbonnières, 8 August 1918. AWM E02789

A cannon on a train with soldiers gathering around.

The Australians advanced beyond the line of German artillery and even captured a large 28 cm railway gun near Harbonnières. The huge trophy was brought to Australia after the war and the camouflaged barrel of the ‘Amiens gun’ is on display at the Australian War Memorial. AWM A00006

Four men walking down in the middle of a town on a dirt road.

Stretcher bearers of the 53rd Battalion move through the damaged streets of Harbonnières, 9 August 1918. On the previous day, a small Australian flag was flown from the roof of the church to mark the success of the advance. AWM E02845

Battlefield with soldiers walking towards dead bodies

Infantrymen from the 1st Australian Division, moving up to enter the fighting, pass by Germans killed in the previous day’s action, 9 August 1918. AWM E02878

A man standing in the entrance of a dwelling.

Brigadier General HE ‘Pompey’ Elliott stands at the door of a captured German Divisional Headquarters near Harbonnières, 9 August 1918. AWM E02855

Soldiers marching with guns slung over their shoulders.

Troops of the 1st Division pass through the 15th Brigade near Harbonnières to take over the newly captured front lines on the night before the attack on Lihons, 9 August 1918. General Elliott had been wounded by a sniper’s bullet that morning. AWM E02847

Soldiers gathered together in a trench.

Near Lihons, men of the 6th Battalion rest in a trench captured in the morning’s operations, 10 August 1918. The trenches in the area mostly dated from the earlier 1916 Somme fighting. AWM E02866

Soldiers lying and sitting inside a battle trench.

Some of the 1st Division rest alongside German casualties in a captured trench after heavy fighting near Lihons, 10 August 1918. AWM E03122

Soldiers in a trench.

1st Division troops smoke cigars taken from an enemy dugout during the advance towards Lihons, 10 August 1918. AWM E02887

A man lying inside a trench.

One of the German machine-gunners, renowned for their courageous defence, lies dead a few days after the fighting near Lihons. AWM E02900

Rows of soldiers stand to attention in front of a large building.

King George V arrives at the Australian Corps’ Headquarters at the Chateau of Bertangles, 12 August 1918. Lieutenant General Sir John Monash was knighted on the Chateau’s steps. AWM E03895

Two officers shake hands while other men stand by.

King George V speaks to Sir John Monash following the general’s investiture as a Knight Commander of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath KCB at the Chateau of Bertangles, 12 August 1918. AWM E02839

Soldiers standing next military artillary.

German artillery, mortars and machine-guns captured in recent operations and assembled as proud trophies at the Australian Corps’ Headquarters at Bertangles, 12 August 1918. AWM E02860

A train carrying a large gun with several men on board.

One of the British 12-inch railway-mounted heavy guns near Proyart that supported the Australians on the Somme during the August offensive. AWM E03826

A row of men standing bridge with one section fallen inot the river.

A group of Australians, including Major General John Gellibrand, commanding the 3rd Australian Division, stands on a bridge newly built by the 3rd Pioneer Battalion across the Somme at Chipilly to replace one that had been destroyed by the retreating Germans, 17 August 1918. The pioneers had the new bridge operating in six days. AWM E03909

Men standing on an embankment procession of horse drawn at the top of the embankment.

Limbers of the 12th Brigade of Australian Field Artillery bring ammunition to one of their Howitzer batteries in action at Morcourt Gully, 14 August 1918. AWM E02931

A row of men standing bridge with one section fallen inot the river.

A group of Australians, including Major General John Gellibrand, commanding the 3rd Australian Division, stands on a bridge newly built by the 3rd Pioneer Battalion across the Somme at Chipilly to replace one that had been destroyed by the retreating Germans, 17 August 1918. The pioneers had the new bridge operating in six days. AWM E03909

A man lying face down in long grass.

A German sniper, killed during the Australians’ advance on the northern side of the Somme River, lies dead beside the Calvaire crossroads above Bray, August 1918. AWM E03061

Troops moving a bag into a hole in bushland.

An Australian soldier stands guard over German prisoners who are burying their dead after the fighting near Bray, 22 August 1918. It is likely that they were re-interred in the German war cemetery later built beside the village. AWM E03041

Four men pushing a large gun on a cart

Gunners of the 7th Brigade, Australian Field Artillery, position one of their guns near Gressaire Wood, ready to support the attack by the 9th Infantry Brigade near Bray, 22 August 1918. AWM E02959

Soldiers loading a body onto a stretcher at a grave site.

German prisoners help to bury Australian dead in a cemetery near Etinehem following the fighting near Bray, 22 August 1918. AWM E03839

A scattered row of men walking up a dirt road.

Troops of the 3rd Australian Brigade move up to support the battalions already engaged in the Battle of Chuignes, 23 August 1918. AWM E03051

A portrait of a uniformed soldier.

Lieutenant Lawrence McCarthy, 16th Battalion, was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery and leadership on 23 August 1918. He captured almost 500 metres of trench near Madame Wood in one of the most effective feats of individual fighting in the history of the AIF. AWM P02939.036

A little dog inside the barrel a big gun with soldiers gathered around.

Australians pose a regimental mascot in the barrel of a large 38 cm gun captured after being abandoned by the Germans in Arcy Wood, near Chuignes, on 23 August 1918. AWM E03211

A group of people sitting on the barrel of a huge abandoned gun.

Several years after the war, an Australian, Sir Arthur Rickard, and an accompanying party visit the huge gun known as ‘Big Bertha’ that was used to bombard Amiens and was captured in Arcy Wood during August 1918. The gun remained on site until World War II. AWM P03757.002

Soldiers in bushland with one soldier aiming a gun to the distance

The Australians continued to harass the enemy. Here, Lewis gunners provide covering fire for a fighting patrol from the 9th Battalion near Cappy, 25 August 1918. AWM E03109

Men sitting around sleeping bags and luggage.

Men of a 3rd Australian Division transport unit prepare to leave Gressaire Wood, near Bray, as the division moves towards Péronne, 28 August 1918. AWM E03070

Soldiers sitting together in a trench.

Some of the 25th Battalion’s headquarters rest during the advance towards Péronne, 29 August 1918. Major Harold Page DSO is looking towards the camera. AWM E03133

Soldiers sitting on the back of a transport truck.

Men of the 6th Australian Field Ambulance move up at Cappy to treat the casualties anticipated in the forthcoming attack on Péronne and Mont St Quentin, 29 August 1918. AWM E03130

Soldiers and horses standing on an embankment.

Officers of the 12th Battery, Australian Field Artillery, in the foreground, look over positions for their guns before the attack on Mont St Quentin, 31 August 1918. AWM E03206

Soldiers walking in bush land

Men of the 56th Battalion move up to make a crossing over the Somme near Clery during the advance on Péronne, 31 August 1918. AWM E03201

Soldiers in a trench.

Gathered around a wounded man, members of the 28th Battalion prepare for the attack on Mont St Quentin, 31 August 1918. AWM E03205

Soldiers pushing a cart besides a railway track.

Medical details of the 22nd Battalion move along a German light railway near Clery, 31 August 1918. They are about to take part in the attack on Mont St Quentin. AWM E03179

Soldiers gathered inside a trench.

Officers of the 21st Battalion gather around a map before the 6th Brigade’s renewed attack on Mont St Quentin, 1 September 1918. AWM E03181

Soldiers walking up a dirt road.

Under fire, Captain James Sullivan MC MM of the 21st Battalion leads his men along the roadway near the crest of Mont St Quentin, 1 September 1918. This officer was killed at Montbrehain a month later. AWM E03126

Armed soldiers sitting in a trench.

Lieutenant Albert Sedgwick and some of his platoon of the 24th Battalion await the lifting of the artillery barrage just before the final attack on Mont St Quentin, 1 September 1918. They have two Lewis light machine guns; greater firepower partly made up for the declining number of men. AWM E03142

Armed soldiers sitting in a trench.

While a supporting artillery barrage sweeps the summit of Mont St Quentin, part of the 24th Battalion waits ready to take part in the 6th Brigade’s successful attack, 1 September 1918. AWM E03138

Painting of soldiers in the battlefield with the foreground shooting guns and smoke rising in the horizon

Capture of Mont St Quentin, by Fred Leist, 1920, oil on canvas, 122.3 x 245 cm. AWM ART02929

Armed soldiers walking along a trench.

Members of the 6th Brigade move through old trenches, remnants of the war’s earlier years, to attack the crest of Mont St Quentin, 1 September 1918. Some carry round pouches containing magazines for the Lewis guns. AWM E03139

Soldiers walking towards a wall

A platoon of the 21st Battalion advances towards the village on the slopes of Mont St Quentin during the heavy fighting that resulted in the capture of the hill, 1 September 1918. AWM E03104

Soldiers carry a stretcher while one man holds up a flag with a plus.

Stretcher bearers bring in one of the Australians badly wounded during the 6th Brigade’s attack on Mont St Quentin, 1 September 1918. AWM E03105

A uniformed soldier standing next to a woman holding a handbag.

Portrait of Private Alexander Buckley, 54th Battalion, with his fiancé, taken after his enlistment in 1916. Buckley was killed in action near Peronne on 1 September 1918, and was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery during the attack. AWM P01421.001

A portrait of a uniformed soldier.

Private Robert Mactier of the 23rd Battalion was killed at Mont St Quentin on 1 September 1918; he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his series of brave assaults on German machine-gun posts. AWM P02939.041.

Graves of service offiers

Hem-Monacu, France. The grave of 6939 private Robert Mactier vc (1890-1918), 23rd battalion aif. Private Mactier.

Soldiers sitting down drinking tea in front of artillery shells.

Men of an Australian field artillery battery near Clery, 2 September 1918. They had been providing part of the bombardment during the attack on Mont St Quentin. AWM E03145

Soldiers sit on building rubble on the side of a road
An Australian Lewis gun in position at Péronne, 2 September 1918 AWM E03183
Soldiers gathered on a brick street infront of a building.

The main street in Péronne, which the Australians named ‘Roo de Kanga’ following the town’s capture on 2 September 1918. A modern signboard still bears the name today. AWM E03512

Soldiers sitting in a car with ruined buildings around.

Not long after the 5th Division’s capture of Péronne, some of the headquarters’ staff arrive in the ruined town by motor car, 2 September 1918. AWM E03216

Men lying dead in a fenced field.

Australians killed in an avenue through the barbed-wire during the attack near Anvil Wood, Péronne lie on the field the following day, 2 September 1918. German machine guns covered these gaps with deadly fire. AWM E03149

Dead soldiers lying in a trench

German troops who were killed defending Péronne in the bitter fighting that followed the 14th Australian Brigade’s advance, September 1918. AWM E03150

Men performing repairs to a wooden bridge.

Keeping communications open and transport moving after the capture of Péronne, Australian engineers build a crossing over the Somme River near Clery, 2 September 1918. AWM E03143

Soldiers lying down in a big field.

Troops outside Péronne watch as the artillery puts down a heavy smoke screen to cover the ongoing Australian advance beyond the town, 5 September 1918. AWM E03190

Soldiers sitting in rubble of damaged building.

Close behind the capture of Péronne, the 2nd Division’s Comforts Fund store was established nearby at Cappy, 5 September 1918. AWM E03221

Naked men bathing in a river.

Australians bathe in the Somme River near Cappy following the capture of Péronne, 5 September 1918. AWM E03225

Machinery with ruined buildings.

Some of the 5th Division’s pioneers look over the ruined bridge and water mill at the southern edge of Péronne, 5 September 1918. Beyond the town the Germans were falling back towards the Hindenburg Line. AWM E03215

Soldiers unload artillary rounds from a truck.

Australians unload 18-pounder artillery rounds near the village of Tincourt, as they pursue the Germans withdrawing from Péronne to the Hindenburg Line, 8 September 1918. AWM E03323

A ruined castle with men gathered near the doorway.

The Australian Prime Minister, William ‘Billy’ Hughes, inspects the recently captured town of Péronne, 14 September 1918. He is at the historic citadel which today houses a modern war museum, the Historial de la Grande Guerre. AWM E03302

A row of men walking up a dirt road.

General Sir John Monash (second from right, with cane and pipe in hand) accompanies the Australian Prime Minister, Billy Hughes (in dark coat), over some of the recent battlefields, 14 September 1918. Hughes had been in Europe since mid-1918, and did not return home until after the 1919 Peace Conference. AWM E03851

Soldiers sitting on an embankment with three soldiers standing in the background.

Officers and men of the 48th Battalion reconnoitre towards Le Verguier in readiness for the major attack to be launched on 18 September 1918. AWM E03257

Male soldiers carrying a dummy tank.

The dummies were used during an attack by Australian troops on the Western Front to give a false impression about the number of tanks being used. AWM E04934

Why was a camouflage pattern used on a dummy tank?

Painting of soliders fighing on the on the battlefield.

Breaking the Hindenburg Line, by Will Longstaff, 1918, oil on canvas, 127 x 234 cm. AWM ART03023

Soldiers gathered in a grassfield.

Men of the 48th Battalion, resting on the first objective near Le Verguier, watch as the 45th Battalion moves on to the final objective, 18 September 1918. AWM E03258

Soldiers firing their guns in to the distance of a grassfield.

Members of the 45th Battalion, having gained their objective in the front of the Hindenburg Outpost Line, fire on withdrawing Germans, 18 September 1918. AWM E03260

A row of soldiers walk past dead bodies in grassland.

German prisoners bringing in wounded across the battlefield pass by men killed in the attack near Jeancourt, 18 September 1918. AWM E03256

A man lying dead inside a trench with artillery scattered around.

A German machine-gunner lies dead in a trench near Hargicourt, the pile of empty cartridges beside him evidence of his determined defence, 19 September 1918. AWM E03351

Trucks and horse drawn carts travelling along a dirt road.

Australian troops move through the village of Hargicourt on 20 September 1918, two days after its capture by the 1st Division. AWM E03790

Soldiers walking across an empty field.

Pioneers from the 4th Australian Division move up past Le Verguier to face the German defences of the Hindenburg Line, 20 September 1918. AWM E03358

A group of men playing football in a grassfield

Teams from the 59th Battalion have a game of Rugby at Barleux, behind Péronne, 20 September 1918. The battalion would soon move back up to the front line. AWM E03353

Soldiers with full backpacks walk along a dirt road.

Their battles over, a small group from the 1st Australian Division moves back near Tincourt, heading towards the rest areas, 26 September 1918. The division would not be required to fight again. AWM E03510

A group soldiers walking along a dirt road with men mounted on horses.

American troops move through Templeux-le-Guerard, 28 September 1918. With two depleted Australian divisions, they would shortly make the attack on the Hindenburg Line. AWM E03398

A line of tanks in a grassfield with soldiers walking around.

Tanks move forward into action as American and Australian divisions begin their attack on the Hindenburg Line, 29 September 1918. They carry strong wooden frames that will help them cross trenches. AWM H12514

Australian troops sitting in a trench.

A group from the 38th Battalion, supporting the 27th US Division in the attack on the Hindenburg Line, pause after being held up by heavy enemy machine gun fire, 29 September 1918. AWM E03478; photographer George Hubert Wilkins

An injured solider is assisted by other soldiers to walk.

One of the American casualties in the attack on the Hindenburg Line receives assistance from some Australians, 30 September 1918. AWM E03384

A dead soldier lying in a hole beside a machine gun.

A German machine-gunner killed at his post in a position crossed by the 27th US Division and the 3rd Australian Division during the attack on the Hindenburg Line, 30 September 1918. AWM E03791

An aerial photograph of a battle line.

View from an Australian Flying Corps aircraft showing the St Quentin canal and the tunnel above, which the American and Australian divisions crossed in their attack on the Hindenburg Line, September 1918. AWM P01431.003

Soldiers stand around a man lying on a stretcher in front of a tunnel entrance.

American and Australian troops with German prisoners and casualties rest at one of the entrances to the Mont St Quentin tunnel, in part of the recently captured Hindenburg Line, 1 October 1918. AWM E03476

Soldiers laying plank of wood on a dirt path.

Australian engineers lay planks of wood to allow an ambulance wagon to pass over a corduroy track blown up by German mines near Bellicourt, 1 October 1918. AWM E03631

Soldiers laying plank of wood on a dirt path.

Australian engineers lay planks of wood to allow an ambulance wagon to pass over a corduroy track blown up by German mines near Bellicourt, 1 October 1918. AWM E03631

Soldiers with cups in the hand stand in a hole of a broken brick wall.

Close behind the battle, Australian and British troops enjoy a cup of coffee at an improvised YMCA stall at Hargicourt, 1 October 1918. AWM E03401

A black and white portrait of Major Blair Wark.

Having already received the Distinguished Service Order for his actions in the attack at Polygon Wood in 1917, Major Blair Wark, 32nd Battalion, was awarded the Victoria Cross for ‘most conspicuous bravery, initiative and control’ on 29 September – 1 October 1918 between Bellicourt and Joncourt. AWM P01046.001

Portrait of an Australian world war one solider wearing medals.

Lieutenant Joe Maxwell, 18th Battalion, who already held the Military Cross and Bar and the Distinguished Conduct Medal, was awarded the Victoria Cross in one of the Australians’ final actions of the war. AWM P03390.001; photographers C and B Macfarlane.

Tanks sit in  on a grass field.

British tanks, used in support of the American attack a few days earlier, stand abandoned in an old British minefield near Ronssoy, 3 October 1918, having blundered into the mines. AWM E04939

Dead bodies lay at a grave site with crosses on top of their bodies and a cloth covering their heads.

The 27th US Division suffered appalling losses in their attacks on the Hindenburg Line. A large American cemetery was established afterwards here at Bony. AWM E04942C

A line of troops sitting on a horse and carriage are moving down a dirt road

Limbers of the 6th Brigade, Australian Field Artillery, bring up ammunition to the guns near Bellicourt, 4 October 1918. AWM E03497

A mass of soldiers outside a big building.

General Sir William Birdwood addresses troops assembled in Bray ready to commence their journey to Australia, 8 October 1918. These men were selected from those who had been serving since 1914. AWM P00520.015

Soldiers queuing to board a ship

Australians who had been serving overseas since 1914 prepare to embark from England for six month’s leave, 23 October 1918. AWM D00096

Soldiers stand to attention while being inspected by officers.

Major General JJ Talbot Hobbs inspects men of his 5th Division near Huppy, 29 October 1918. The division moved to rest areas after taking part in the attack on the Hindenburg Line; they would not have to fight again. AWM E03643

Local people dressed in traditional clothing stand in front of ruined buildings with a flag flying.

The French flag flies defiantly over the ruins of a house in Warfusée-Abancourt, 14 November 1918. French families began moving back into their devastated villages once the war was over. AWM E03679

A man crouches over a grave to lay a wreath.

In the winter of 1919, a comrade bends over the grave of Sergeant Robert Knill, who was killed near Péronne on 2 September 1918. The 27th Battalion had many of its soldiers’ graves photographed shortly after the war ended. AWM J00023; photographer Glen Roy Barrington

A married couple with the man dressed in a military uniform and the woman is dressed in a wedding dress.

An Australian soldier and his English war bride. Corporal James Matthews of the 7th Battalion AIF was one of thousands of Australians who married in Britain during the war. He and his wife came to Australia in early 1919. AWM P04219.001

Soldiers  walking down a dirt road of a town.

Australian officers and men of the 29th quota from the 3rd Australian Division march to a French railway station on the first stage of their journey home, 9 April 1919. AWM E05158

Soldiers standing on a train station with a railway carriage.

Australians of the 2nd Division wait with their kits at a train station in Belgium before embarking for Australia, February 1919. The sergeant in the foreground smoking a pipe has an Anzac ‘A’ on his colour patch denoting Gallipoli service. AWM E04350

A row of women dressed in uniform holding papers.

Among the small number of Australians to enter Germany at the end of the war were nurses from No. 3 Australian General Hospital. Here a group sight-sees in Koblenz before returning to their hospital at Eustaichen, April 1919. AWM E05239

Military officers and gentlemen stand in a group talking.

Emile Devreux, the Mayor of Charleroi, thanks Lieutenant General Sir JJ Talbot Hobbs on behalf of the people of the municipality for the part the Australians had played in the liberation of Belgium, 14 May 1919. Hobbs took over the Australian Corps from Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig after the war ended. AWM E05229

Soldiers with guns slung over their shoulder are marching past dignitaries.

The Prince of Wales and Sir Douglas Haig right take the salute of an AIF contingent in front of Australia House, London, on the first post-war Anzac Day, 25 April 1919. AWM H16106

A ship docked with soldiers filling the deck.

Troops eagerly crowd the sides as the transport Plassy draws into Port Adelaide, 28 April 1919. It had left Liverpool, England, six weeks earlier to bring men home from the war. AWM P03639.001

A  grass field with six wooden crosses sticking out from the ground.

In May 1919, as the troops are heading home to Australia, the slopes of Mont St Quentin lie marked with graves of some of the Australian dead. These bodies would later be gathered into war cemeteries. AWM E05286

A big crowd of people waiting at a dock look into the distance.

Australian soldiers billeted in and around Charleroi, Belgium, eat at a café run by the YMCA, 1919. AWM H01167

A ship with a mass of troops on the deck.

Members of the Australian Flying Corps line the deck of the troopship Kaiser-I-Hind on their return to Australia in June 1919. (AWM H13879)

Soldiers sit in a room at table with food and drinks in front of them.

Family and friends anxiously await the arrival of cars carrying returned men, including some wounded, at the Anzac Buffet in Hyde Park, Sydney, June 1919. AWM H11576

A large family of people are standing in front of a welcome home sign and Australian flag.

Welcome Home! Warrant Officer Alfred Cook is greeted by family in Adelaide after more than four years away; he returned on the Persic in early 1919. Cook served with the light horse and was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. AWM P05328.001

A photograph of a family standing next to a uniformed soldier.

Family gather with Lieutenant John Hamilton on his return in late 1919. Hamilton served with the 3rd Battalion AIF, and as a private on Gallipoli had been awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery at Lone Pine. AWM P02349.001

People walking along a street.

Australian soldiers crowd around outside the AIF and War Chest Club in Horseferry Road, London, in 1919. AIF Administrative Headquarters was located here, along with the Australian War Records Section, and further along the street were facilities for soldiers arriving or departing on leave. AWM D00796

Rows of soldiers stand to attention outside of a large church entrance with civilians looking on.

Several months after the end of the war, a guard of honour formed of members of the Australian Graves Detachment parades outside the Amiens cathedral, 3 August 1919. At this ceremony, General Sir William Birdwood presented an Australian flag to the cathedral and gave the city a 15-inch German gun captured by the Australians at Proyart in August 1918. AWM E05455

A decoration of wreaths on chairs in front of a large pillar inside a church.

In the ancient Amiens cathedral, plaques were erected to commemorate the allies who fought on the Somme. This memorial to the Australians reads: To the glory of God and to the memory of the soldiers of the Australian Imperial Force who valiantly participated in the victorious defence of Amiens from March to August 1918, and gave their lives for the cause of justice, liberty and humanity. AWM P00735.023

Eight women in nurses uniform.

A group of Australian army nurses on the troopship Osterley returning to Australia in late 1919. AWM D00988

Soldiers in uniforms march through a main street.

The last quota of the 1st Division Artillery leave the town of Chatelineau in Belgium to begin their journey home to Australia, 26 November 1919. AWM H15345

Women and young children gathered on the deck of a ship.

On board a ‘family ship’, the Borda, bound for Australia, December 1919. More than 10,000 Australian soldiers had married in Britain, and many returned accompanied by wives and young children. AWM D00935

People disembarking from a large ship.

Australian soldiers and their British wives go ashore on leave at Cape Town, South Africa, during the voyage to Australia, December 1919. AWM D00936

A large memorial in the middle of a ruined village.

By 1919, the battlefield of Pozières was quiet, with barely a trace of the old village, and the 1st Australian Division’s memorial was under construction, with German prisoners providing some of the labour. AWM E05682

A monument with statue of soldier pointing a gun down on to an eagle.

In 1925, the memorial of the 2nd Australian Division was dedicated on the slopes of Mont St Quentin, France. The sculpture of an Australian bayoneting the German eagle was destroyed by the Germans fifteen years later, during World War II. AWM P02205.011; photographer E Souillard

Statue of a soldier.

Public and private war memorials were being built around Australia during the war; many more followed in the 1920s, until hardly an Australian community was without one. Often they were obelisks, or a digger figure such as this one at the North Sydney Tramway Depot. AWM H16629

A white tower with flags at the bottom and people gathered underneath.

Twenty years after the war, King George VI addresses a crowd assembled for the opening of the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux, 22 July 1938. On the walls of the memorial are engraved the names of 10,771 Australian soldiers who went 'missing in action' on the Western Front in France, and who have no known grave. Listed are men from all sixty battalions of the AIF and the units which supported them, drawn from every city, town and rural district in Australia. AWM H17455

Rows of men marching with hats held to their hearts.

Anzac Day in Melbourne, 1946. Thousands of veterans, of both world wars, passed down St Kilda Road on their way to the Shrine of Remembrance. Here, some of the banners identify men of the old 5th Australian Division. AWM 127205

Copyright