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Matilda the Musical Venue: It was expected that the shock would provoke the Germans into giving up the Gustav Line and falling back north of the Eternal City.

The first phase of the operation the First Battle of Cassino comprised an attack across the Gari south of Cassino by the US 36th Division, which was savagely repulsed.

Then a longer thrust into the mountains north of Cassino by the US 34th Division, and a heroic attack by the North African troops of the French Expeditionary Corps on the high ground further north.

There was almost no resistance. However, Lucas was warned by Clark not to 'stick your neck out' in a dash for Rome. Instead, Lucas chose to hold a narrow beachhead in which to laboriously build up men and material.

He could not seize Rome and secure his logistic base. Once the Germans had decided against withdrawal, he was committed to defending his beachhead against reserves rushed to Italy from all over Europe.

The fighting at Anzio took on characteristics grimly reminiscent of World War One. It was soon evident that far from Anzio helping the Allies breach the Gustav Line, attacks on the Gustav line would have to be launched to take the pressure off Anzio.

The tail had begun to wag the dog. The First Battle of Cassino dragged on until mid-February. An eyewitness who saw survivors of the 34th Division descending from the mountains wrote:.

The men were so tired that it was a living death. They had come from such a depth of weariness that I wondered if they would quite be able to make the return to the lives and thoughts they had known.

The second battle began on 15 February, with the controversial destruction of the monastery by heavy and medium bombers.

On the one hand, it seems likely that there were no Germans in the monastery at the time. However, they were to defend its ruins tenaciously.

Furthermore, the nearest Allied troops were too far away to take advantage of the shock of the bombing. On the other hand, however, most combatants had come to hate the building so much that they simply wanted the all-seeing eye poked out.

John Ellis rightly judges the attack that followed to be one of the low points of Allied generalship in the war. He castigates 'a wilful failure at the highest level to take due account of the terrible problems involved in mounting a concerted attack across such appalling terrain [which] were still being grossly underestimated a full month later'.

British and Indian troops attacked the high ground, while New Zealanders bludgeoned their way into Cassino itself. While there were some gains, the German grip was not shaken.

The third battle began on 15 March, with yet more bombing. Despite the prodigious courage of British, Indian and New Zealand troops, the German parachutists holding the town and the high ground still hung on.

It was not until May that the Allies at last brought their full might to bear on Cassino. They did it by moving much of the 8th Army from the Adriatic coast, while 5th Army shifted its weight to reinforce the Anzio beachhead, now under the command of Major General Lucian Truscott.

The new offensive, Operation Diadem, smashed through the neck of the Liri valley by sheer weight, and the Polish Corps took Monte Cassino.

Between the Liri and the sea, the French Corps made rapid progress through the Aurunci Mountains, and by the third week in May the Germans were in full retreat.

Clark had a number of options for the breakout from Anzio, and was eventually ordered by Alexander to thrust into the German line of retreat.

Although this manoeuvre would not have bagged all the defenders of Cassino, it would have captured most of them and much of their equipment.

In the event, however, Clark chose instead to strike for Rome, guaranteeing himself a place in the history books but letting the Germans escape.

The distinguished American military historian Carlo D'Este called his decision 'as military stupid as it was insubordinate.

Perhaps Clark was too ambitious, or Alexander too gentlemanly. Or perhaps, the whole sorry episode simply underlines, yet again, the difficulties inherent in coalition warfare.

The Hollow Victory by John Ellis. This is not only the best single book on the subject but a model of how military history ought to be written.

The Monastery by Fred Majdalaney. He fought there as an infantry officer and wrote this at the end of the war. He was the commander of the German corps that defended Cassino for much of the fighting.

He gives a moving description of his own wartime service there. The Fortress by Raleigh Trevelyan. For a personal view of Anzio, this can scarcely be bettered.

A perceptive private soldier's war. Richard Holmes is professor of military and security studies at Cranfield University.

His books include The Little Field Marshal: He enlisted into the Territorial Army in and rose to the rank of brigadier. He was the first reservist to hold the post of Director of Reserve Forces and Cadets in the Ministry of Defence, until he retired in This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets CSS enabled.

While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience.

Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets CSS if you are able to do so. This page has been archived and is no longer updated.

Find out more about page archiving. An eyewitness who saw survivors of the 34th Division descending from the mountains wrote: Find out more Books Cassino: Fatal Decision by Carlo D'Este.

This is the best account of Anzio. Naples '44 by Norman Lewis. For some of the moral conundrums of the Italian campaign.

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Some historians suggest this failure to capitalize on initial success could be put down to Clark's lack of experience. However, it is more likely that he just had too much to do, being responsible for both the Cassino and Anzio offensives.

VI Corps under heavy threat at Anzio, Freyberg was under equal pressure to launch a relieving action at Cassino. Once again, therefore, the battle commenced without the attackers being fully prepared.

This was evidenced in the writing of Maj. Howard Kippenberger , commander of New Zealand 2nd Division, after the war,.

Poor Dimoline Brigadier Dimoline , acting commander of 4th Indian Division was having a dreadful time getting his division into position.

I never really appreciated the difficulties until I went over the ground after the war. Freyberg's plan was a continuation of the first battle: Success would pinch out Cassino town and open up the Liri valley.

Freyberg had informed his superiors that he believed, given the circumstances, there was no better than a 50 per cent chance of success for the offensive.

Increasingly, the opinions of certain Allied officers were fixed on the great abbey of Monte Cassino: The British press and C. Sulzberger of The New York Times frequently and convincingly and in often manufactured detail wrote of German observation posts and artillery positions inside the abbey.

Eaker accompanied by Lieutenant General Jacob L. II Corps also flew over the monastery several times, reporting to Fifth Army G-2 he had seen no evidence that the Germans were in the abbey.

When informed of others' claims of having seen enemy troops there, he stated: Major General Kippenberger of the New Zealand Corps HQ held it was their view the monastery was probably being used as the Germans' main vantage point for artillery spotting, since it was so perfectly situated for it no army could refrain.

There is no clear evidence it was, but he went on to write that from a military point of view it was immaterial:.

If not occupied today, it might be tomorrow and it did not appear it would be difficult for the enemy to bring reserves into it during an attack or for troops to take shelter there if driven from positions outside.

It was impossible to ask troops to storm a hill surmounted by an intact building such as this, capable of sheltering several hundred infantry in perfect security from shellfire and ready at the critical moment to emerge and counter-attack.

Undamaged it was a perfect shelter but with its narrow windows and level profiles an unsatisfactory fighting position.

Smashed by bombing it was a jagged heap of broken masonry and debris open to effective fire from guns, mortars and strafing planes as well as being a death trap if bombed again.

On the whole I thought it would be more useful to the Germans if we left it unbombed. Major General Francis Tuker , whose 4th Indian Division would have the task of attacking Monastery Hill, had made his own appreciation of the situation.

In the absence of detailed intelligence at Fifth Army HQ, he had found a book dated in a Naples bookshop giving details of the construction of the abbey.

In his memorandum to Freyberg he concluded that regardless of whether the monastery was currently occupied by the Germans, it should be demolished to prevent its effective occupation.

He also pointed out that with foot 45 m high walls made of masonry at least 10 feet 3 m thick, there was no practical means for field engineers to deal with the place and that bombing with "blockbuster" bombs would be the only solution since 1, pound bombs would be "next to useless".

On 11 February , the acting commander of 4th Indian Division, Brigadier Harry Dimoline , requested a bombing raid. Tuker reiterated again his case from a hospital bed in Caserta, where he was suffering a severe attack of a recurrent tropical fever.

Freyberg transmitted his request on 12 February. The request, however, was greatly expanded by air force planners and probably supported by Ira Eaker and Jacob Devers, who sought to use the opportunity to showcase the abilities of U.

Army air power to support ground operations. Clark of Fifth Army and his chief of staff Major General Alfred Gruenther remained unconvinced of the "military necessity".

When handing over the U. Butler, deputy commander of U. All the fire has been from the slopes of the hill below the wall". In all they dropped 1, tons of high explosives and incendiary bombs on the abbey, reducing the entire top of Monte Cassino to a smoking mass of rubble.

Between bomb runs, the II Corps artillery pounded the mountain. Eaker and Devers watched; Juin was heard to remark " That same afternoon and the next day an aggressive follow-up of artillery and a raid by 59 fighter bombers wreaked further destruction.

The German positions on Point above and behind the monastery were untouched. Damningly, the air raid had not been coordinated with ground commands and an immediate infantry follow-up failed to materialize.

Its timing had been driven by the Air Force regarding it as a separate operation, considering the weather and requirements on other fronts and theaters without reference to ground forces.

Many of the troops had only taken over their positions from U. II Corps two days previously and besides the difficulties in the mountains, preparations in the valley had also been held up by difficulties in supplying the newly installed troops with sufficient material for a full-scale assault because of incessantly foul weather, flooding and waterlogged ground.

As a result, Indian troops on the Snake's Head were taken by surprise, [38] while the New Zealand Corps was two days away from being ready to launch their main assault.

It is certain from every investigation that followed since the event that the only people killed in the monastery by the bombing were Italian civilians seeking refuge in the abbey.

However, given the imprecision of bombing in those days it was estimated that only 10 per cent of the bombs from the heavy bombers, bombing from high altitude, hit the monastery bombs did fall elsewhere and killed German and Allied troops alike, although that would have been unintended.

Clark was doing paperwork at his desk. On the day after the bombing at first light, most of the civilians still alive fled the ruins.

Only about 40 people remained: After artillery barrages, renewed bombing and attacks on the ridge by 4th Indian Division, the monks decided to leave their ruined home with the others who could move at The old abbot was leading the group down the mule path toward the Liri valley, reciting the rosary.

After they arrived at a German first-aid station, some of the badly wounded who had been carried by the monks were taken away in a military ambulance.

After meeting with a German officer, the monks were driven to the monastery of Sant'Anselmo. After 3 April, he was not seen anymore. It is now known that the Germans had an agreement not to use the abbey for military purposes.

The assault failed, with the company sustaining 50 per cent casualties. The following night the Royal Sussex Regiment was ordered to attack in battalion strength.

There was a calamitous start. Artillery could not be used in direct support targeting point because of the proximity and risk of shelling friendly troops.

It was planned therefore to shell point which had been providing supporting fire to the defenders of point The topography of the land meant that shells fired at had to pass very low over Snakeshead ridge and in the event some fell among the gathering assault companies.

After reorganising, the attack went in at midnight. The fighting was brutal and often hand to hand, but the determined defence held and the Royal Sussex battalion was beaten off, once again sustaining over 50 per cent casualties.

Over the two nights, the Royal Sussex Regiment lost 12 out of 15 officers and out of men who took part in the attack. On the night of 17 February the main assault took place.

This latter was across appalling terrain, but it was hoped that the Gurkhas , from the Himalayas and so expert in mountain terrain, would succeed.

This proved a faint hope. Once again the fighting was brutal, but no progress was made and casualties heavy. It became clear that the attack had failed and on 18 February Brigadier Dimoline and Freyberg called off the attacks on Monastery Hill.

The intention was to take a perimeter that would allow engineers to build a causeway for armoured support. Their isolation and lack of both armoured support and anti-tank guns made for a hopeless situation, however, when an armoured counter-attack by two tanks came in the afternoon on 18 February.

It had been very close. The Germans had been very alarmed by the capture of the station and from a conversation on record between Kesselring and Tenth Army commander Gen.

For the third battle, it was decided that whilst the winter weather persisted, fording the Garigliano river downstream of Cassino town was an unattractive option after the unhappy experiences in the first two battles.

The "right hook" in the mountains had also been a costly failure and it was decided to launch twin attacks from the north along the Rapido valley: The idea was to clear the path through the bottleneck between these two features to allow access towards the station on the south and so to the Liri valley.

British 78th Infantry Division , which had arrived in late February and placed under the command of New Zealand Corps, would then cross the Rapido downstream of Cassino and start the push to Rome.

None of the Allied commanders were very happy with the plan, but it was hoped that an unprecedented preliminary bombing by heavy bombers would prove the trump.

Three clear days of good weather were required and for twenty one successive days the assault was postponed as the troops waited in the freezing wet positions for a favourable weather forecast.

Matters were not helped by the loss of Major General Kippenberger, commanding 2 New Zealand Division, wounded by an anti-personnel mine and losing both his feet.

He was replaced by Brigadier Graham Parkinson; a German counter-attack at Anzio had failed and been called off.

The third battle began 15 March. After a bombardment of tons of 1,pound bombs with delayed action fuses, [51] starting at The bombing was not concentrated — only 50 per cent landed a mile or less from the target point and 8 per cent within 1, yards but between it and the shelling about half the paratroopers in the town had been killed.

Nevertheless success was there for the New Zealanders' taking, but by the time a follow-up assault on the left had been ordered that evening it was too late: Torrents of rain flooded bomb craters, turned rubble into a morass and blotted out communications, the radio sets being incapable of surviving the constant immersion.

The dark rain clouds also blotted out the moonlight, hindering the task of clearing routes through the ruins. On the right, the New Zealanders had captured Castle Hill and point and as planned, elements of Indian 4th Infantry Division, now commanded by Major General Alexander Galloway , had passed through to attack point and thence to point , Hangman's Hill.

However, the Germans were still able to reinforce their troops in the town and were proving adept at slipping snipers back into parts of the town that had supposedly been cleared.

However, a surprise and fiercely pressed counter-attack from the monastery on Castle Hill by the German 1st Parachute Division completely disrupted any possibility of an assault on the monastery from the Castle and Hangman's Hill whilst the tanks, lacking infantry support, were all knocked out by mid-afternoon.

On 20 March Freyberg committed elements of 78th Infantry Division to the battle; firstly to provide a greater troop presence in the town so that cleared areas would not be reinfiltrated by the Germans and secondly to reinforce Castle Hill to allow troops to be released to close off the two routes between Castle Hill and Points and being used by the Germans to reinforce the defenders in the town.

However, the defenders were resolute and the attack on Point to block the German reinforcement route had narrowly failed whilst in the town Allied gains were measured only house by house.

On 23 March Alexander met with his commanders. A range of opinions were expressed as to the possibility of victory but it was evident that the New Zealand and Indian Divisions were exhausted.

Freyberg was convinced that the attack could not continue and he called it off. The next three days were spent stabilizing the front, extracting the isolated Gurkhas from Hangman's Hill and the detachment from New Zealand 24 Battalion which had held Point in similar isolation.

The Allied line was reorganised with the exhausted 4th Indian Division and 2nd New Zealand Division withdrawn and replaced respectively in the mountains by the British 78th Division and in the town by British 1st Guards Brigade.

The German defenders too had paid a heavy price. General Sir Harold Alexander 's strategy in Italy was to "force the enemy to commit the maximum number of divisions in Italy at the time the cross-channel invasion [of Normandy] is launched".

With the arrival of the spring weather, ground conditions were improved and it would be possible to deploy large formations and armour effectively.

The plan for Operation Diadem was that U. II Corps on the left would attack up the coast along the line of Route 7 towards Rome. The French Corps to their right would attack from the bridgehead across the Garigliano originally created by British X Corps in the first battle in January into the Aurunci Mountains which formed a barrier between the coastal plain and the Liri Valley.

It was hoped that being a much larger force than their 4th Indian Division predecessors they would be able to saturate the German defences which would as a result be unable to give supporting fire to each other's positions.

Improved weather, ground conditions and supply would also be important factors. Once again, the pinching manoeuvres by the Polish and British Corps were key to the overall success.

Canadian I Corps would be held in reserve ready to exploit the expected breakthrough. Once the German 10th Army had been defeated, U. The large troop movements required for this took two months to execute.

They had to be carried out in small units to maintain secrecy and surprise. This was planned to keep German reserves held back from the Gustav Line.

Westerplatte is a common venue for remembrance ceremonies, usually held on 1 September, relating to World War II.

The Battle of Westerplatte has been the subject of two Polish films: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Historical Dictionary of Poland, — Free City in the Balkans: Reconstructing a Divided Society in Bosnia.

Fox 21 February Encyclopedia of the United Nations and International Agreements: Museum of the Second World War.

Weinberg 1 March Hitler's Foreign Policy — Poland and Preventive War with Germany, ". Zaloga 19 August The birth of Blitzkrieg.

The Nazi-Soviet Invasions of The German Invasion of Poland, Zabecki 1 May World War II in Europe: A Complete Operational History.

Kurier PKP in Polish. Chronology of the War At Sea — Pictorial History of the War Volume 1. Virtue and Company Ltd. Battle of the Baltic: Mechanisms of creation and functioning of places of memory in years — ] PDF in Polish.

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