Royal British Legion Monte Cassino & Anzio Tour May 2018

Royal British Legion Monte Cassino & Anzio Tour.
Monday 14th to Sunday 20th May 2018.

A few of the North of Scotland Branch Members; Chairman Mr Alex Munro Scottish Horse veteran of the Italian campaign, Secretary Ian Leslie, Member Alastair MacDonald son in-law of our late President Major Jack Doig, Jennifer Doig daughter of our late President. One of the our reasons for one more return visit, was our late President Major J Doig and his family wish was to present his Officer’s No1 Scottish Horse Uniform to the WW11 Anzio Beachhead Museum. This was carried out by son in-law Alastair MacDonald and daughter Jennifer Doig to the President of the Museum Patrizio Colantuono at the museum.

The tour was organized by Remembrance Travel, the travel arm of The Royal British Legion Looking after the party: Leading Tour Guide Peter McLelland, Arena Travel Tour Manageress Lyn Cornish, Joseph Falzon a Trustee of the Royal British Legion and his good lady, Piper Cpl Andy Parsons, Photographer & Reporter Karl Adam, Manageress Nicola Rowland Smith representative of the Royal British Legion Fund Raising towards the tour and a Doctor. All excellent at their own duties

12 veterans and each veteran was allowed two carers to travel free courtesy of The Royal British Legion Remembrance Travel.

It was so good meeting up with Giuliana and all our many Italian friends we have made over the past visits to Anzio Italy. Giuliana was a huge help to Leading Tour Guide Peter McLelland in organizing the days visit to Anzio, as she always has been to the North of Scotland Branch in the past
The tour included: Day 1= Heathrow to Rome to Cassino, accommodation Hotel Forum Palace Cassino, Day 2 = visit to Beach-Head Anzio War Museum, lunch in Anzio, visit to the harbour and service wreath laying, Service and wreath laying Beach–Head War Cemetery & Anzio War Cemetery. Day 3 = Monte Trocchio via the river Garogliano, Minurno War Cemetery, Cassino Rail Station, Day 4= Cassino War Cemetery service and wreath laying, Cassino Town Castle Hill, Hairpin View Point, Monte Cassino Abbey, View of the Polish Cemetery, Day 5 = Return to UK via Rome / Heathrow Airport.

Chairman Alex Munro was interviewed by the press several times during our visit.

Alex after his basic training he became a proud Signaller/Driver. Alex and 7 other Scots were posted to 65th Field Regt R.A. who was in West Wickham, Kent. This was a London TA Regt from Lea Green Eltham. 8 Scots with our Scottish accents were sent to a regiment with all London accents. We all had names Alex, Bill, John, Ross etc but after a week we were all called JOCK.

Alex on one occasion being inter viewed he proudly wore his tartan trews: Scottish soldier Alex Munro stood in the baking sunshine at Monte Cassino, in Italy and cast his mind back more than 70 years. Alex Munro served as an Observation Post Signaller. Before he found himself in the tumult of Monte Cassino, he had seen service at El Alamein then Tunis and Salerno. What he remembers of the Cassino battle after 70years. When you’re as young as I was back then you don’t look at life the same way as you do when you’re older. But for the five years I was in army, I remember the good times more than the bad times. There were plenty of bad times here when the war was on. When you were out of action you completely forgot what you had done the week before and where you were the week before.

He has been accompanied to Monte Cassino by his good friend Ian Leslie. It was Ian who elaborated for the Herald’s Newspapers benefit on the role played by Alex Munro.
“As an OP Signaller, Alex was almost at the front –line, relaying messages back to the gun posts about where the Germans were, so that the gun posts could fire on the enemy” he said.
He was in a slit- trench with his radio and battery, rifle, his greatcoat and spade. It was a highly responsible position, definitely, usually the Germans found out where he was and he had to make a quick move and find another slit-trench or dig another one and start again The battle lasted from January until the Allied outbreak in late May and early June. He would be out 24hrs in the post then 24hrs rest – 24hrs on and off like that all the time.

He remembers crossing the Garigliano River once, in the dead of night. There was a rope across and pulled themselves across it, probably the work of the Royal Engineers and they hung onto the rope. The current of the river meant you were well down the river before you reached the other side. You didn’t know where you were going and of course you did not know what was on the other side waiting for you.

During the later part of the Cassino campaign Alex was hospitalised with Malaria and spent two weeks in a hospital in Naples and ten days convalescent in Sorrento. By this time the landings at Anzio had taken place, I was taken to Torre Anunzatta boarded a landing craft bound for Anzio. My Regt was not there and I was posted to 80th Med Regt R.A. (Scottish Horse). On arrival the first chap I met asked me my name, I said Alex. From then on I never heard that name Jock and I could understand them and vice versa and have been a very proud Scottish Horse soldier since.

After Anzio Alex and his regiment were involved in later battles in Florence and the north east Italy. Eventually he came home to Glasgow on leave. He was due to return to duty to the Far East so it was thought. But the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 1945 brought the war to an end

After the war was a very good businessman and opened a grocer’s shop in Glasgow. He was also a first class golfer and frequently took parties of golfers on trips aboard. A shoulder injury suffered in a fall on ice a few years ago, meant an end to golf, but remains a keen bowler He’s a very active man at 96.

Nichola Rowland Smith, head of Travel Royal British Legion said; hundreds of people helped to raise funds for the tour by supporting amateur rugby players to take on rugby legends, including former Welsh Captain Colin Charvis. In matches staged by Remembrance travel on the playing fields of London’s Honourable Artillery Company. Nichola mention The Battles of Monte Cassino and Anzio in Italy seems to be less well known in the nation’s history, to other battles such as D Day, yet it was another pivotal pointing bringing to an end to the Second World War. We have a wonderful opportunity to take back those who fought in Monte Cassino and Anzio for them to pay their respects to fallen comrades.

Monte Cassinio and Anzio veterans of the Royal British Legion say: Fought in despicable conditions on exposed hilltops and slopes, coming under heavy artillery fire, knee deep in mud and snow.

North Scotland Secretary, Ian Leslie