It was a typical Italian town, around 25,000 inhabitants. Cassino existed as far back as the fourth century. It was known as Casinum. But Cassino’s claim to fame rests on the great mountain which rears its head up behind the town and bears its name.
It was on Monte Cassino in the sixth century that the Monk Benedict founded the Benedictine Order and set in motion one of the great civilizing movements of history.
Monte Cassino is 1,700 feet high, and growing out of its base at the northern end of the town there is a miniature of it. A rocky knoll, “The Rocca Janicula”, crowned with the remains of a medieval castle. Better known to us as “Bloody Castle Hill”.
During the bloody, furious and bitter battles (of which there were four). The same question kept cropping up. “Were the Ted’s using the monastery as an observation post”?
To the infantry it was the all-seeing eye; any movements by day or night brought down a terrible barrage of shells, mortars and machine gun fire. The monastery commanded all approaches and an observer could watch all and every move. Even in the moonlight, and pick out the shapes of hills four miles away.
Was the monastery bombed unnecessarily? A very confusing statement made after the war by the U.S. General Mark Clark. He stated, “The monastery should not have been bombed”. Very strange considering that he gave the order for the bombing to take place!
Today the monastery once again sits proudly on the mountain top. But with a difference. It watches over four large cemeteries; British, Commonwealth, Polish and USA.
They were the proud “D Day Dodgers” who gave their all, our comrades are in safe keeping.
The last battle for Cassino ended on 17th May 1944. Casualties from all sides were put at 105,000. Hundreds were never brought out of the rubble that once was Cassino.
“When you walk through Peaceful lanes so green
Remember us and think what might have been”
Those who were there could never forget.