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Trip to Monte Cassino with Paul - March 2014

Description:

Myself and Paul have been talking for years about visiting Monte Cassino in Lazio, Mid Italy, the scene of the divisive battle of WWII in Italy. And finally we managed to organise ourselves and under a perfect Mediterranean sky spent a wonderful 3 days in the region. During trip to Cassino, we used the excellent book "Monte Cassino" by Matthew Parker as a historical reference and guide. The sad fact about Cassino is that the Italians were really a bit part in this battle, having already changed sides before Monte Cassino from being part of the Axis powers to tacitly supporting the Allies, the battle is not a celebration or victory by the Italian forces but more a series of battles between the real powers in the war - Germany and the allies, that just happened to be fought in Italy. Amazingly many different countries soldiers fought and sadly died here as part of the allied forces including the English, Kiwis, Canadians, Indians, Moroccans, Americans and Poles. Today (2014) having just passed 70 years since the final victory in Cassino, the Italians take little interest in what happened here. However for me and Paul, arriving on the train into Cassino is a defining moment in understanding why this, of all battles during WW2 was something else. The monastery which sat atop of Mont Cassino (now splendidly re-built into what it was before the war), is an all seeing eye; not too distant from the town or main road routes, and the most prominent landmark overlooking the town. For the Germans as a defending force 70 years ago, this was a perfect vantage point and for the allies, a very difficult place to defeat on their quest North and something that must have struck fear into the hearts of every soldier that had to fight there [JRA April 2014]