Art Australian history History Painting

History Painting: ‘8th August, 1918’ by Harold Septimus Power, 1930.

Following the launch and the initial success of the German Spring Offensive in March 1918, there was talk that the First World War would likely drag on into 1919. Though over the course of the next few months the Allies would regain the advantage ultimately as a result of Germany overreaching and exhausting its manpower and reserves. Under the direction of new supreme commander General Foch, the Allies would begin a new major offensive in early August. The opening phase of this new offensive began on 8th August 1918 in the Amiens sector. For four successive days the Allies would continually push the Germans back with overwhelming numbers of troops, tanks and aircraft onwards to victory. In short, the decisive victory at the Battle of Amiens would ultimately bring about the end of the war.

The image depicted here above in this history painting shows a part of the allied push on the first day of the battle, a day that became known to the Germans as ‘der Schwartze Tag’ (the blackest day). Australia’s official war artist, Harold Septimus Power, brilliantly captured the mood and movement of Australian forces, supported by horse drawn artillery and two British tanks across a desolate landscape. Interestingly, the first day of the advance of over 12 kilometres (7 miles) was unprecedented with movement of allied forces. The 8th August is also particularly remembered as a triumph for Australian and Canadian troops, who smashed German defences south of the Somme River, which thereafter led to the Battle of Amiens to expand rapidly southwards towards Montdidier.

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Photo credit: The painting entitled ‘8th August 1918’ is courtesy of the Australian War Memorial. It is used here under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 license.

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