Peter Stanley

Men of Mont St Quentin

Mont St Quentin

The St Quentin Mont would have been another regular location if not for the historical event that went down at the place. During the First World War, a battle fought on the Western Front was what caused the popularity of Mont St Quentin.  It was as part of the Allied Army’s Hundred Days Offensive to cross the Somme River on 31st August night.

By doing this, the Australian corps involved broke German border lines at two places: Peronne and Mont St Quentin. After-which they seized then held the pivotal height of the Mont. This breakthrough by the Australians has been described as the greatest military achievement of the war.

Peter Stanley considers this famous French battlefield as one unforgettably linked with the Australian men that fought in it. Not just them, it is connected to their families and in fact, all of Australia. The book tells a story about the families of the Men of Nine Platoon and the men themselves. No doubt, that was the first time a group of Australians have their stories told.

This would have been possible however if not for Garry Roberts, the father of one of the dead corps members who became so grieved due to his son, Frank’s death. He collected all accounts of what happened during the military operation on Mont St Quentin – during which his son passed. His collections provided a headway to aid the understanding of what happened to Frank and his comrades and by extension, how the families they left behind coped with their loss and how they survived after the war. 

Talking of the Roberts, they have had a great life even two weeks before the greatest tragedy befall them. At that time, the Australians had captured Mont St Quentin with almost equal numbers of casualties as their German enemies. This had been celebrated to be a great achievement. And just like many other great achievements at the battle fronts, it came with a cost as well. 

The story plainly tells the experience of some Australians who entered the war without telling all about the war. Neither does its end show the eventual capture of the Mont while the beginning had started as a study of the battle. Quite ironic. Is it not? 

Rather than all that, the book was rather focused on how the war went; strangely. And what effects were apparent upon the end of the war. Unlike the other wars fought by Australians, this did not involve slogging, mud and futile attacks; rather, it was remarkably a battle of quick decisions that warranted rapid movements. 

To understand how this whole battle went down, it is important to get an inside knowledge. And for this to happen, Peter made the men of Platoon Nine his case study. In this Platoon is Frank, Garry Robert’s son. When the battle was just moments from knitting victory, Frank met his end. He was said to have died from a bullet lodged in his chest. 

He was buried alongside ten other members of the Nine Platoon. Days later, the message of his death reached his family. Then, his father’s commendable restlessness led to the truth behind the death of his son and the other 10.