Monte Cassino 75 by Sheila Edwards



Monte Cassino 75

After seven months in the planning, the day finally arrived for the commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Monte Cassino and the Italian Campaign. Many members of the Association had travelled to Staffordshire to participate in the event which was held at the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas. In total there were 35 Veterans who made the trip, which was amazing.

Those participating in the commemoration had strict instructions to arrive at the venue by 9.00am for a rehearsal. The Standard Bearers were taken through their paces by the Parade Marshall John Grimes. Invited guests began to arrive at 10.00am and after registering enjoyed a welcome hot drink which was much appreciated on what was a very overcast and “cool” day. Whilst invited guests were given Silver wrist bands, Standard Bearers, blue bands, the guests of honour – our Veterans, Gold wristbands. At the front of the building a long stream of people could be seen queuing up to get into the venue.

At 11:00 the Parade formed up, headed by The Black Watch Association Pipe Band and then the Union flag which was followed by numerous Standards which looked amazing. Our Association was represented with Joe Correa carrying our National Standard and Malcolm Cufflin carrying a Branch Standard. Following the standards, the parade of Veterans was led by Mr. Terry Whittles, The National Chairman of the Royal British Legion and Mr. David Whimpenney, The Chairman of the National Memorial Arboretum, the invited guests then followed on. This amazing parade arrived at the marquee and everyone was seated ready for the Ceremony to commence at 11:30. Veterans were the VIPs on the days and once in the marquee, were seated in front of the invited guests such as the Lord Lieutenant of Staffordshire and numerous other dignitaries.

The parade headed by The Black Watch Association Pipe Band photo by Betty Correa

The ceremony was superbly led by Flight Lieutenant Mandeep Kaur, Sikh Chaplin to the Armed Forces. There were readings from service personnel past and present including our Patron Colonel David Blum. The music was played by The Band of the Prince of Wales’ Division, Lance Corporal Chamandeep Singh of 22nd Signal Regiment sang unaccompanied; a beautiful song entitled “Bury me out at Cassino.” Towards the end of the ceremony Petty Officer Matt Hicks played the banjo to accompany himself singing “The Ballad of the D Day Dodgers.” It was lovely to hear the voices of the veterans helping him with the vocals! Afterwards Matt spoke to me and said that as soon as he heard the Veterans joining in, he sang softer so that the Veterans voices shone through. The Exhortation was said by Mr. Terry Whittles, The National Chairman of the Royal British Legion which was followed by the last post and two minutes silence. The National Anthem was then sung before the Standards departed.

Everyone then headed back to the venue for lunch. During the lunch period Robin and I circulated to try to meet as many of our members as possible. Those wearing the Association tie were easily spotted! I managed to meet up with Fred Mason, Jim Shepherd, John Dennett, Jack Andrew, our President Bryan Woolnough and our Patron Colonel David Blum. But within excess of 350 people attending it was a bit like looking for needles in a haystack! But we did our best. There were several large screens around the venue and the RBL – with a little help from the Imperial War Museum and our Association, used them to show pictures from the Italian Campaign. Both Bryan and Colonel Blum were interviewed live for Sky TV. In fact, Bryan became quite a celebrity on the day as a number of people asked him to sign the forward in the programme and he also had his photograph printed in the Sunday Telegraph the following day.

In the afternoon, there were two Wreath Laying Ceremonies scheduled, the first at 14:30 took place at the Polish Forces War Memorial and ours was planned for 15:10. It was quite a distance to walk to the Memorials, so the British Legion had planned transport for the Veterans in the form of golf buggies. So shortly after 14:00 the Veterans started to get themselves ready by boarding the buggies that were used to ferry them to the different memorials. Once the ceremony at the Polish War Memorial was completed, the Standards marched down to our Memorial – followed by a procession of buggies.
Our Wreath Laying act of Remembrance was conducted by The Very Revd. Nicholas Frayling, Dean Emeritus of Chichester who is an honorary member of the Association. During the short service the Exhortation was said by our Patron, Colonel David Blum O.B.E. The Last Post and Reveille was played by Antonio. Wreaths were laid by our President Bryan Woolnough M.B.E, Mr. Terry Whittle, on behalf of the R.B.L. and Mr. David Whimpenney, on behalf of the National Memorial Arboretum. After the Blessing and the Standards had marched off; guests were invited to lay their personal wreaths.

It had been a very emotional day and in the words of one of our members Keith Green “The ceremony delivered the respect that the day commanded. The readings were touching and the singing uplifting, it must have brought a mixture of both happy and sad memories to the Veterans.”

Photo Above, ISA President Bryan Woolnough M.B.E, picture from Sky News ©.
I think that the commemoration on 11th May raised the profile of the Italian Campaign. Sky News gave good coverage on the day, Bryan was pictured preparing to lay the wreath at our memorial in the Sunday Telegraph and the Staffordshire Express & Star had an article on the front page of their 13th May edition. On 18th May, Veteran Fred Mason featured in the Radio 4 programme PM, talking about the Campaign. In the words of The Secretary of State for International Dialogue, Republic of Poland, “The Italy Campaign of World War 2 is often described as “The Forgotten” campaign. I hope that the event today will help ensure that the world never forgets.”

Photo Above, ISA President Bryan Woolnough M.B.E, picture from Sky News ©.

I think that the commemoration on 11th May raised the profile of the Italian Campaign. Sky News gave good coverage on the day, Bryan was pictured preparing to lay the wreath at our memorial in the Sunday Telegraph and the Staffordshire Express & Star had an article on the front page of their 13th May edition. On 18th May, Veteran Fred Mason featured in the Radio 4 programme PM, talking about the Campaign. In the words of The Secretary of State for International Dialogue, Republic of Poland, “The Italy Campaign of World War 2 is often described as “The Forgotten” campaign. I hope that the event today will help ensure that the world never forgets.”

Last Post Trumpeter Antonio with The Very Reverend Nicholas Frayling
with Colonel David Blum O.B.E. photo by Betty Correa
The Very Reverend Nicholas Frayling with Colonel David Blum O.B.E. photo by Betty Correaphoto by Betty Correa
photo by Betty Correa
Patron of The Italy Star Association Colonel David Blum O.B.E. photo by Betty Correa
National Standard Bearer Joe Correa photo by Betty Correa
The ISA National Memorial photo by Betty Correa
Mr John Dennett photo by Betty Correa
Mrs Freda Cross, Robin Hollamby (National Vice- Chairman), Sheila Edwards (National Secretary) & Joe Correa (National Standard Bearer) photo by Betty Correa
Mr Jeremey Cross, Mrs. Betty Correa, Mrs Vanessa Hollamby, Mrs. Freda Cross, Robin Hollamby (National Vice- Chairman), Sheila Edwards (National Secretary) & Joe Correa (National Standard Bearer)

It was a privilege to serve on the steering committee with members of the Royal British Legion to plan this event. I would like to thank everyone from the Association, who attended on the day, our amazing veterans who travelled to the N.M.A and to Our Patron, Our President, Standard Bearers – Joe and Malcolm and the Very Revd. Nicholas Fraying, for giving freely of their time to participate in the event.
Sheila Edwards – National Secretary

11 Comments

  1. Frank de Planta

    Sheila.

    I was out in Cassino this week with Brigadier Richard Carter and his HQ 11 Signal Brigade troops. He attended the event and spoke. He told me that he was deeply moved by the ceremony.

    I missed out because I was in Cassino on that very day with a group of civilians – most of whom were related to someone who served there.

    Regards

    Frank

    Reply
  2. Alexandra Duncan

    My second great uncle Thomas George Jenkins died in the battle of Monte Cassino.
    May he never be forgotten.

    Reply
  3. Frank de Planta

    Alexandra.

    He did indeed. He was a gunner in 74 Medium Regiment Royal Artillery and was killed on 9 May 44.

    I am in Cassino CWGC cemetery this afternoon and will take a photo of his headstone and put a poppy on his grave. If you would like that photo, please get me through http://www.cassinobattlefields.co.uk and I will happily send you the photo.

    Regards

    Frank

    Reply
  4. Elizabeth

    We have just found out my husbands father, Pawel Gmir, fought with the Polish Army at the Battle of Monte Cassino, and was awarded cross no 15305. In his service record wich we are still trying to translate he also fought at Ancona and Bolonia. He did survive the war and ended up in Yorkshire and died in 1982 just 6 month after retiring.

    Reply
  5. Frank de Planta

    Elizabeth.

    If you or your husband, or both for that matter, would like to see and understand the Battle of Monte Cassino, I will be guiding a group there on 14-17 May 20. Part of the event covers the role of the Poles during the Fourth Battle when they were up on the ridges behind the monastery.

    Their story is impressive and I take my hat off to any Pole who fought at Cassino. It was brutal.

    You can get hold of me through http://www.cassinobattlefields.co.uk

    Regards

    Frank

    Reply
  6. elizabeth gmir

    Hi Frank
    that would be super, but until we retire will not be possible as I work in a school. Thank you for your comment

    regards
    Liz

    Reply
  7. Frank de Planta

    Elizabeth.

    I go at all times of the year, including during the school holidays, so do get in touch if you are interested.

    Regards

    Frank

    Reply
  8. Alan Brooks

    Hi,

    My Grandfather, Vic, was in the City of London Yeomanry (Rough Riders) before the war and was attached you the RHA during the war in the 1st Army.
    He was at Salerno and Monte Casino and I was wondering where the best place would be to find his war records? I have searched in line but they do not recognise his name and I don’t have his service number.
    Any help would be much appreciated.
    Many thanks.

    Alan Brooks (Curton)

    Reply
  9. Frank de Planta

    Alan.

    If you have not tried it, go to http://www.gov.uk and type in ‘Obtaining a Service Record’. Complete the requirement and that will get you his Service Record.

    Regards

    Frank

    Reply
  10. Brian Gibson

    Always remember my dad talking about monte cassino always wanted to go back but never got the chance.he was awarded the Italy star

    Reply
  11. Frank de Planta

    Brian.

    What Regiment did your father serve in?

    Regards

    Frank

    Reply

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