Improvised surrender flag used by German soldiers at Mont St Quentin

Place Europe: France, Picardie, Somme, Mont St Quentin
Accession Number RELAWM00988
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Flag
Physical description Cotton, Wood
Location Main Bld: First World War Gallery: Western Front 1918: Mont St Quentin
Maker Unknown
Place made France: Picardie, Somme, Mont St Quentin, Germany
Date made 1918
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

Discoloured white triangle of cotton tied by the fly end to a roughly hewn stick. The edges of the fabric are not hemmed and there are a number of holes and tears.

History / Summary

This improvised flag was used by a group of German soldiers on Mont St Quentin to indicate that they were willing to surrender to the attacking Australians.

The capturing of Mont St Quentin was part of the Allied counter offensives in the late summer of 1918. Sometimes regarded as the finest achievement of the AIF, the Battle for Mont St Quentin began on the night of 31 August when 2 Australian Division crossed the Somme River and attacked Mont St Quentin at 5 am from the northwest. It was a difficult position as it was an uphill fight for the troops, across very open ground where they were vulnerable to attack from the German-held heights above.

By 7 am on 1 September the troops had gained the village of Mont St Quentin and the slope and summit of the hill, by working in small groups. The five German divisions dispersed, and the Allied troops had broken through lines to Péronne by 8.20 am.

However, the Germans quickly regrouped and launched a counter-attack, and the rest of the day saw fierce fighting and heavy losses. The outnumbered Australians were pushed back off the summit of Mont St Quentin. Relief battalions were sent, and with their reinforcement, all the areas were retaken by the Australians, but at the cost of 3,000 casualties.

British Commander General Lord Rawlinson remarked that he thought this feat by the Australian troops under Lieutenant General Sir John Monash's command was the greatest of the war.