5th Oct 1918: 6th Bgde launches final AIF attack on Western Front at Montbrehain

Lieutenant-General Monash received orders from General Rawlinson to retain control of the battle front for one more day until relief by the American II Corps. The 22nd and 23rd Battalions remained in their positions guarding the right flank while the 21st, 24th and the 2nd Pioneers, assisted by twelve tanks would attack and seize Montbrehain. For the Pioneers this would be the first time that they would attack as infantry. In front of the Pioneers the Germans had set up a line of machine guns manned by about 100 men along the railway embankment, but Lieut Wilkinson of the 6th Machine Gun Company managed to outflank them, pouring fire into their positions killing or wounding dozens and the rest simply melted away. This action allowed the right of the line to reach its objectives without further trouble, though operations on the IX Corps front on the right had failed. On the left the 24th Battalion had met strong opposition from posts in the hedges, houses and trenches on the western side of the village plus from the enemy barrage being directed into their positions. Company Sgt. Major Cumming was killed trying to lead a charge and then recently commissioned Lieut. Ingram along with Lieut Pollington (Military Cross) led a rushed attack from both flanks Lieut. Ingram VCkilling or capturing forty and taking six machine-guns. Lieut Ingram (photograph left)Victoria Cross then with the assistance of a tank captured 63 prisoners from one dugout before bursting into the back of a house where he rushed the cellar stairs capturing another thirty prisoners. The left company of the 24th Battalion had been caught by heavy fire from the village, and its Company Commander Capt. Fletcher killed by a field gun firing at the tank which had come up to support the attack. As the two centre companies attacked through the village their progress was often impeded by French civilians emerging from houses and cellars gratefully greeting their liberators. By noon the northern edge of Montbrehain had been taken. To the north the British 25th Division had captured Beaurevoir. Although taking its objectives including 400 prisoners, victory came at a high price with 30 officers and 400 men becoming casualties, a consequence of a limited attacking into a salient somewhat reminiscent of the costly attacks at Mouquet Farm two years previous. In this the last attack by the AIF on the Western Front ten officers and 110 other ranks had been killed, including some of the best leaders in the 6th Brigade, and many of the best NCO’s that had served with the AIF.

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