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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 February, 2004, 15:20 GMT
Monte Cassino anniversary: Your memories
Monte Cassino

It is 60 years since the British general, Harold Alexander gave the order to flatten the 1,400-year-old Benedictine monastery of Monte Cassino in Italy.

US Flying Fortresses flew in to carry out the act on 15 February 1944, dropping hundreds of tons of explosives.

The battle for Monte Cassino, which had begun in January, went on to be one of the hardest-fought of World War II, eventually leaving a quarter of a million people dead or wounded.

What are your memories of the Battle of Monte Cassino? Send us your comments using the postform. You can also send us your pictures to yourpics@bbc.co.uk


This debate is now closed. The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we received:

My late grandfather, William Paisley from Port Talbot in Wales, served at Monte Cassino but the details are sketchy as he was an intensely private man. From what my father has told me, he was involved in several key campaigns in the first four years of the war, from the retreat from Dunkirk, to the campaign in North Africa and finally across to Italy and the battle for Monte Cassino. It was there that his luck finally ran out (or maybe not as I would not be here now!) and his war was ended by a shrapnel injury to his leg. Apparently, he hardly ever spoke about his war experiences, and all we have now are a couple of faded photos of him, one in uniform and another with fellow soldiers. They looked like a hardy bunch!
Huw, London, UK

My grandfather was at Monte Cassino and he said there was so much courage on both sides
Lee, Hebburn, England
My grandfather was at Monte Cassino and he said there was so much courage on both sides. He particularly admired the courage of the Polish units and the discipline of Kesselring's German paras, who defied the odds for so long.
Lee, Hebburn, England

In 1969 while a junior officer in the US Navy I had the honour to have as a Polish language instructor a Mr Jan Truskolaski who fought at Monte Casino. As I recall, we heard that he was awarded Poland's second highest decoration for valour in that fight. A quiet, gentle man no more than about 5 feet in height, his courage obviously was gigantic.
Steven Myers, Bedford, PA USA

I would like to thank all the brave soldiers from many countries who fought and died to make us free and alive. I was born in Rome in 1944 just after they drove the nazis away.
Israel Ohrner, Rome, Italy

I worked in Italy a couple of years ago as a Tour Manager. En route from Rome to Sorrento we used to make a stop at Monte Cassino. One of my guests told me that her brother had fought at Monte Cassino and subsequently married a young German woman who worked for the German forces in Italy. It's like most things, if you look hard enough, you'll find a silver lining.
Christian Torres, London, UK

My grand-father, Henry George Leignel, was a French Legionnaire posted in Morocco. He died in Monte Cassino in a booby trapped building. That is all the information I ever heard from my mother. I want to salute his memory and that of all the ones who died in this, and all battles to free their countries from invasion.
Karima Homman Ludiye, Seattle, Washington

My elder brother served in the South African Forces through the North African campaign, and Italy right on into Germany. He was in the forefront of the Monte Cassino debacle, and said it was pure hell and a totally unnecessary waste of young lives.
Capt Bill Teague, Vancouver

My grandfather was at Monte Cassino with the Intelligence Corp and was later wounded in Northern Italy. His memories are of the terrible loss of life on both sides and of the selfless bravery of the Gurkha and Indian troops with which he served.
Neil, Dubai

He also remembered with great fondness the Gurkha troops who added greatly to the moral of the troops
Joe Wilkinson, Whitehaven, Cumbria
My father was at Monti Cassino with the 8th army. He is now 83. The one memory of this front that stayed with him was that to him the worst job in the world was to direct traffic as the traffic wardens were picked off on a daily basis. He also remembered with great fondness the Gurkha troops who added greatly to the moral of the troops they were posted alongside.
Joe Wilkinson, Whitehaven, Cumbria

My Great Uncle fought at Cassino. He described he Polish army as being heroic maniacs. Having read more about the subject I only now come to understand what he meant. I wonder why this isn't the subject of more media attention, unlike Operation Overload or Market Garden. I imagine the bad press for the American Commander Clarke would be a factor.
Robert Leather, Manchester, UK

In the cemeteries ...on the crosses...the valiant Poles wrote: My soul belongs to God forever
My heart to Poland forever
And my body forever to the ground on Monte Cassino.
John Naradzay, Washington DC

My dad signed up, too early so he lied about his age. He used to tell me about his travels, not the bad bits. He was very proud to have served in the British Army. He was a Desert Rat and often spoke of his experiences in the desert and at Mont Cassino. Also how he helped look after the horses at Schönbrunn castle I have a photo of him in front of the castle. I am glad he came home safe. He may have been scarred somewhat mentally by his experiences but he did not show it. All he suffered from physically was a bad case of malaria. Thank God! Regards.
Maureen Pinwill, Jersey

Monte Cassino was a very bloody fight for the Polish Army
Jan Jeremicz, Alkmaar Netherlands
My father fought there. They came all the way from Siberia They were held prison by the Soviet-Union until general Wladislaw Anders got permission to put a Polish army together out of these POW. They stayed a while in Palestrina for training and to improve their physical condition. Monte Cassino was a very bloody fight for the Polish Army but they were determined to win this battle. In the heat of the battle there was little or no time to care about the wounded. My father was always very sad about the fact that so many fine men died. He also suffered for many years afterwards with flashbacks and nightmares.
Jan Jeremicz, Alkmaar Netherlands

Like Jan Jeremicz's father, my stepfather fought (and was severely wounded) with the Polish Army at Monte Cassino after release from a two year spell in a Siberian concentration camp and a time in the Middle East. The horror of his experiences -including at one point being left for dead) always haunted him. Afterwards he was exiled to the UK where for the rest of his life he struggled to make a living. Nobody cared about the sacrifices he had made -including the loss of his Polish wife and children - and for many years he was treated with derision because he couldn't speak English. For him no glory!
James Calhoun, Rotterdam, Netherlands

Although I was not at the battle, I would like to send my compliments to the soldiers who fought hard in Monte Cassino, especially the members of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force. Thank you all.
Samuel Nobre, São Paulo, Brazil

Monte Cassino and the entire Italian campaign proved again the profound strategic errors of Winston Churchill. It was he, after all, who called Italy the "soft underbelly of the Axis." Tell that to the men of Salerno and Monte Cassino!
Peter C. Kohler, Washington DC USA

My Great Uncle, Warrant Officer Martin Durkin, Green Howards is remembered on the Cassino Memorial, his body never found. My Gran always told me that he was killed along with around 10 other soldiers by a booby trap hanging from a lemon tree. He is mentioned in an official book and praised for bravely returning through mined cactus fields in total darkness to collect a radio which had been left behind, that was vital for that night's mission.
Nick, North East England

In the sixties my father showed me the battle field of Monte Cassino
Franz L Kessler, Houston, TX

In the sixties my father showed me the battle field of Monte Cassino. He had been fighting on the Monte Mayo, as regiment commander on the German side of the line. They suffered tremendous losses and psycho-terror originating mainly from highly precise ship artillery, guided by observer drones. At one time they retreated to a cave. Then followed the attack 'by the Moroccans, climbing up the mountains in sandals.' Running out of ammunition my Dad gave orders (ignoring Hitler's order to hold the line) to withdrew northwards over the last open mountain path. He saved his men, but lost his grade.
Franz L Kessler, Houston, TX

Don't forget the Moroccans either, who performed well utilising their goats in this mountainous terrain. Thanks to Franz Kessler for mentioning them! And well done to Franz Kessler's father for saving his men from dying for a futile struggle.
M. Dwyer, Netherlands

I once knew the guy who provided the field intelligence that ultimately influenced Alexander's controversial decision. For better or for worse, he has had to live with the outcome for the remainder of his troubled life. For legal reasons I'm not prepared to go into any further detail other than to say that he was in a position of authority during my younger years. It was only after the passage of time that I came to appreciate that some of the hardest people amongst us are only human. Many of them face the unenviable daily struggle with their demons such that we mere mortals would dread to possess.
Patrick S, Guildford, UK

I can't help but thinking of this story whenever I see the eyes of a kid in a war zone
Lucio Cerrito, Chicago, US. and Cassino, Italy

My mom was an 11 year old girl in 1944 and was injured during one of the bombings. Civilians from the Liri valley lived for several months on the mountains during that winter. She was hit in the face as shrapnel went through one side of her cheek and came out the other side. German soldiers took her and carried her to a hospital in Rome. Many years later, she kept a sense of profound thankful for the allied sacrifice and liberation of Cassino, and appreciation for that gesture that probably saved her life. I can't help but thinking of this story whenever I see the eyes of a kid in a war zone.
Lucio Cerrito, Chicago, US. and Cassino, Italy

My father, a South African, who died some years ago, spoke more often of the battle at Monte Cassino than any other war memory (most of them he kept to himself like so many soldiers). I gather he was one of many South Africans fighting with the British Army. Interestingly, I note in the reports on this site that many nationalities are mentioned, but no the S Africans. Does anyone have any light to shed on their contribution?
Geoff Orchison, Canberra, Australia

I'm sure this is a not so veiled attempt at a comparison between Iraq and Monte Cassino. What is even more blatant is the fact that the author of the subject made a point to mention that it was US forces that dropped the bomb. Will the anti-American media in the UK ever end?
TLB, USA

To TLB, USA: Doesn't the topic header on this page mention that it was a British general who ordered the attack? The "anti-American" bias that you speak of is fantasy. WW2 was allies vs. axis - the fact that American planes dropped the bombs is irrelevant.
Richard, Wellington, New Zealand

To TLB in the USA, Why does everything have to be about you? It is the 60th anniversary of Monte Cassino. Perhaps you should read the comments from Vikaram V, of Chennai, India and get some perspective.
Yve Kosugi, Ft. St. John BC, Canada

There are shades of WW1 and the trench warfare mentality about parts of the battle
David, Qatar/UK

I also am not an ex-soldier, but I have been to Monte Cassino after reading the history of the battle. The bombing of the monastery is a small issue. The real issue is that the generals couldn't work out or couldn't bring the right resources to bear to win this battle "easily". There are shades of WW1 and the trench warfare mentality about parts of the battle. The monastery has been beautifully rebuilt, the lives of the people who died there on both sides never will, and that's the point.
David, Qatar/UK

My Gramps fought in this battle and was shot here. The bullet entered his shoulder and passed out down his back. He lived for many years after this but never spoke about the battle apart from to tell his loving grandchildren, who were fascinated by the scar, how one evening he got shot because he was profiled against a cow! When I read these articles and stories I realise just how brave a man my darling Gramps was.
Julie, UK

I am a WWII buff and it is motivating to read these stories of courage
Vikram V, Chennai, India

I am a WWII buff and it is motivating to read these stories of courage. One point that does disappoint me is that contribution of Indian soldiers in WWII is largely ignored. They were there at Monte Cassino too. They were there in Africa, in France, in Italy and in Burma. Moreover, they were the world's largest volunteer army in WWII at more than 2 million soldiers. Well, at least I remember...
Vikram V, Chennai, India

I am not a veteran of Monte Cassino - but the Poles have suffered so much there that we have a song about the Monte Cassino bloodbath. The song's title is "Red poppy flowers on Monte Cassino". Since these flowers grew in abundance there and they were red - some said it was because of the Polish blood spilled in the battle for Monte Cassino monastery.
Martin Kwasnik, New York, USA & Radom, Poland

My father fought at Cassino with the 14th Hampshires
Eric Driscoll, Derby, UK

My father fought at Cassino with the 14th Hampshires. He never spoke of his experiences but suffered for many years afterwards with flashbacks and nightmares. At the end of the war he ended up near Graz where he met and later married my mother. In the post war years on his trips to Austria he became firm friends with a fellow soldier; albeit from the opposing side. They reminisced many times over their common experiences. We can only hope that future generations will have happy memories to share.
Eric Driscoll, Derby, UK

My polish grandfather fought in that battle, he never went into detail all I know is he earned the cross of valour medal and Monte Cassino cross which are rare medals and displayed in our living room.
Nick, Wales




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