Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Research continued from the BBC WW2 site. Topic No.1 CASSINO

Hi everyone.

Quite a lot of questions were left un-answered when the BBC site went 'ARCHIVE'.

Please feel free to leave your query here by clicking on the POST A COMMENT link below and give details of your research item. One or more of the team will try to answer your question or put you on the right track and others , of course, are free to join in and thereby make a 'thread'.


Blogger Ron Goldstein said...

I don't usually comment on one of my own postings but I feel that had the BBC site still been open, I would certainly have made my feelings known there.

This morning I was round at my friend Lew Fox's house, where I was paying my weekly visit to help him brush up his computer skills.

He had a particular problem on his computer that needed a solution from the company that had sold him the system and I found myself chatting on the phone with a computer expert.

We went into a mode that allowed the expert to operate Lew's computer by remote control and he was interested to see that Lew's screen saver showed Lew visiting a cemetery.

I pointed out that the photo displayed was Lew re-visiting the CWGC Cemetery at Cassino and mentioned that he and I had served in the same unit.

The conversation then went something like this:

Expert: Where did you say that was?
Ron: Cassino
Expert: Where's that?
Ron: May I ask how old you are?
Expert: Thirty-nine
Ron: Are you seriously telling me that you've never heard of Cassino?
Expert: No, where is it
Ron: Italy.... and tell me, did you not have any relatives who served in WW2?
Expert: Yes, one in the Navy and one in the RAF, but they have both since passed away.

I got the expert to promise me that he would look up "Cassino" on GOOGLE after he had put the computer problem to rights and Lew and I simply stared at each other.

Please tell me that some people have heard of Cassino, or am I asking too much


Wednesday, 01 February, 2006  
Blogger Peter G said...

He could do no better than going here The Battle of Montecassino

This is the official Italian site. There is a large photographic archive with many previously unpublished photographs which you can access either from the site or directly from here.

Wednesday, 01 February, 2006  
Blogger Steve Wright said...

Ron, your concern about lack of knowledge reminds me of a Living History event I attended a few years ago.

A large area had been 'dressed' to represent the Oosterbeek Perimeter defensive zone near Arnhem. The area was occupied by British Airborne re-enactors and their personal kit, radios, containers, jeeps, bikes etc.

I was doing some interpretation of what the public could see and surprised several people by telling them that everything in the area would have been carried to Holland by glider. They had no idea that gliders were used during the War.

The Glider Pilot Regiment 1942-1945

Wednesday, 01 February, 2006  
Blogger Ron Goldstein said...

On thinking back I suppose I shouldn't have been all that shocked.
I was born in 1923, when I was at an age when I started to think, say ten years old,in 1933 the First World War had been over for fifteen years and yet I can not remember a single thing about it other than seeing gangs of limbless street entertainers in the streets of the West End of London.
Should I now wonder that this man of thirty-nine, who was born 21 years after WW2 finished does not know of Cassino?
I hope my maths sre right, if not you'll have to make allowances...I think I took my tablets today :)


Wednesday, 01 February, 2006  
Blogger Peter G said...

You are quite right, Ron. We are cocooned in our own times. Just as he was born 21 years after WW2, you were born 21 years after the end of the Boer War.

And 1926 was the 60th anniversary of the end of the Crimean War, with many veterans in their 80s still around. If only they had had the Internet, what stories they could have told!

Puts it all in perspective, doesn't it? :)

Wednesday, 01 February, 2006  
Blogger Tomcann said...

cPeter - that is a fantastic account of the damage done to the surrouding villages to MonteCassino, unfortunately it only shows the damage - in the main - to buildings which were extensive - an abiding memory of both Pontecorvo and Arce were the Tank killing grounds where the North Irish Horse and the 51st RTR lost some 28 Tanks in less than 15 minutes with more that 65 dead and as many more wounded. The kind of stuff that people like our recent friend Mahler did not see. Further up the Liri valley was Frosinone where a fair old Tank battle was held with unfortunate results for many Tank crews as they bumped into the first showing of the Panther Tank with it's 19 foot long 75mm special gun for which we had an answer in the 17 pounder - unhappily they were all destroyed at Arce and area.

Thursday, 02 February, 2006  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Peter - and fellow moderators -
good to see Steve Wright jumping in with a comment - he is quite an expert on the Ahrnem and general Airborne activities - welcome Steve !

Thursday, 02 February, 2006  
Blogger Peter G said...


Good to see you bring us squarely back to the main purpose of this blog from a wandering digression.

I particularly selected that Italian official site because we seldom see what havoc was wrought on the civilian population.

Also, as the site explains in Italian, commenting on one of the photos, the men had all left the area either to join the partisan bands, or in the army, or rounded up and sent to slave labour in Germany, leaving only only women, children, old men, and priests stuck there.

Another aspect glossed over in many accounts is that all who could reach it had taken refuge in the Abbey and were bombed to death, several hundred died this way believing in the sanctuary of the Abbey.

The total civilian population killed during the battles was over 10,000. British army casualties were less than half of this, 4,056. (But to put this in perspective the total British troops killed during the Italian campaign (1943-45) was 89,436; Canadians: 25,889; Indian: 19,373; American: 119,279).

A very nasty episode in the seemingly endless agony of Montecassino, hushed up at the time and rarely alluded to by military historians, was the appalling behaviour of General Alphonse Juin's Algerian and Moroccan colonial troops after the battle, when he let them run wild. They committed countless rapes in an orgy of 'revenge', with some unfortunate women subjected to repeated assaults.

There are some linguistic howlers in the English translation. Hebrews (a literal translation of the Italian ebrei) for Jews, Polishes for Poles, English for British, Commanders for Commander.

Thursday, 02 February, 2006  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Peter -
The civilian casualties at Cassino were known to all particularly the many who flocked to the Monastery thinking that they would be safe. Tragically the fears of Freyberg and Tuker along with the idiotic advice from US Gen "Hap" Armold were enough to seal their fate.
The performence of Juin's troops was a disgrace - even more embarrassing was the fact that they were operating under the 8th Army flag. This was intolerable and they were transported to the US sector in short order on the basis that most of their equipment was of US origin and so they would be better echeloned there - the Americans didn't mind - nor seemed to notice their behaviour, but they never did come back to the 8th Army.Finally disappearing into the South of France. I recall we had to push them over to the other side of the Secco River when we were going up the Liri Valley. To say they were ill disciplined was the understatement to beat all. Having said that - had they suceeded in gaining the ground around Alitri - the other three battles would never have taken place - nor the Monastery bombed !
Unfortunately it was a mountain too far even for their mountain troops and the rest is History.
Just another fog of war.

Thursday, 02 February, 2006  
Blogger Steve Wright said...

Tom, thanks for the welcome and Peter, yes you're right, I apologise and won't take a blog off topic again.

Thursday, 02 February, 2006  
Blogger Peter G said...


Welcome to the Blog! Alas, how easy it is to misunderstand words!

When I referred to being 'off topic' I was jokingly referring to myself, most certainly not to you. The thought never occurred to me for a moment.

Fancy joining us? Fully, I mean. If so email me at petergyATyahoo.com We need you aboard.


Thursday, 02 February, 2006  
Blogger Tomcann said...

While much has been written and understood about the four battles at Montecassino and the bombing of the Monastery, and the appalling loss of life both military and civilian.
There has not been too much discussion regarding what happened after the war had moved on to the Liri Valley and subsequent liberation of the Eternal City of Rome.
In the midst of all this horror of war, there was a tremendous
aura of peace surrounding the Monastery as there should be of course. This was exemplified by the words and actions of the Abbot of the Benedictines of the time, when he refused all offers of assistance offered by Gen Sir Harold Alexander through his two emissaries which I have tried to
show through my article which first appeared in the BBc war series last year.
Should you be interested in this article then please click here -
A3785376 The Abbey at Montecassino

Monday, 06 February, 2006  
Blogger Peter G said...

You will find Tom's article on the Abbey of Montecassino here.

Tuesday, 07 February, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ron! may i leave you a message: just for the heck of it!! i finally mastered sending a comment. Peter was about to have a stroke i guess

The reason was my definition of words is diff from the BRITISH.: f.i, a button is ROUND!! and when i click on"log in etc" the site becomes dark and does NOT light up as i was told. The pitfalls of adiff computer?- i have mini MAC- and not being British!! LIVE and LEARN! But i hope you all will bear with me.

Friday, 10 February, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My mother was a survivor of this battle at the age of eight yrs in Pontecorvo. Her town was reduced to rubble, the people lived in the fields and prayed there was enough food to recieve from farmers. This area was the german front and many died taking the abbey. If you see the base of the mountain you'd say how can anyone climb it let alone attack and take it over.

Monday, 26 November, 2012  

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