Final thoughts on Monte Cassino

Discussion in 'Veteran Accounts' started by Ron Goldstein, Feb 12, 2014.

  1. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Me neither - it's quite good.

    Account takes place with NZ troops in the city but before Hangman's Hill was (known to be) in Allied hands at a time when smoke was being laid between the town and the lower slopes of the massif. I could probably look for more clues and figure out the date when I get home.

    The author mentions Hell's Fire Corner, which I originally took as an alternative name for Shit Corner, but then he talks about accelerating to cross the Rapido, reaching an intersection with an MP traffic director soon after and turning left at the barracks to enter the town. I know the road layout has changed, but do you think he's coming in on the Caruso Road from Caira and then cutting across to enter town on the Parallel Road or coming in from the Parallel Road and then cutting across and turning left onto the Caruso Road - both are possibilities, I think.

    As an aside, I never thought I'd type this, but I'm interesting in learning more about the Mule supply routes - is there a publication on such things? Or diaries for the units involved?
     
  2. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

  3. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

  4. minden1759

    minden1759 Senior Member

    James.

    Email me a reminder and I will send you info on mule operations. A few years ago, I had the daughter of a Mule Transport Company Commander in one of my groups and she gave me loads of info.

    Regards

    Frank
     
    Charley Fortnum likes this.
  5. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    My father, CQMS Edmund O'Sullivan supplied E Coy 2 LIR, who were near pt 771 on Monte Castellone for over 3 weeks during April 1944. He would recall the first time:

    “I was taken with my supplies to San Michele and here I was allocated about 30 mules which I loaded with tools, food and water and some of the men’s kit. Following immediately behind the company in pitch darkness, we climbed down the hill and came to a mysterious cavern which I was told was called the inferno. From here we continued towards the town of Cassino and crossed the Rapido by a stone bridge. When we were in the middle, a salvo of shells landed on the road. At this point, we had difficulty controlling the mules and the drivers.”“We set off again, slowly following the overladen soldiers. After getting so close to Monte Cassino that we felt we were almost under the monastery’s walls, we started climbing a precipitous path to Monte Castellone. We had to take particular care as the nervous muleteers were attempting to ditch their loads. I finally arrived at the top with about half a dozen mules. Loads were spread along the track behind us. The whole thing was a tactical mistake. The companies should have moved in first and the mule trains followed after they settled.”

    “E Company’s position was the summit of Monte Castellone, and like the monastery hill, a foothill of Monte Cairo. It was located on a salient behind Monte Cassino that had been taken by French and American troops at tremendous cost. Slit trenches could not be dug in the rock, so sangars were built from the vast amount of rubble. The place stank. Holes could not be excavated and excrement was thrown everywhere. Each sangar had a large food tin as a latrine. Major Davies set the men to work to clear up the sordid mess after they had salvaged the abandoned mule loads.”

    “I had to leave as dawn was breaking. If I was not back in the village of Caira, the battalion headquarters, before sunrise, I would have to walk across the wide valley in full daylight. I made my way from there back to the mule point at San Michele in a jeep. As soon as I arrived, I had to start preparing for the next trip. Daylight disclosed the full panorama of the vast battlefield. The valley of the Rapido was covered in smoke punctured by shell bursts. Monte Cairo dominated the landscape. The next evening’s journey was carried out more efficiently and a small escort accompanied us. Taking a different route, we avoided the stone bridge and the muleteers were not so panic-stricken. We arrived at the summit and discovered that nearly all the earlier loads had been rescued intact. As dawn approached, we seized the opportunity to get some sleep. We had barely settled in our blankets after a hard night’s work when we were heavily bombarded by shells. When the shelling ceased, I went around checking casualties. I sent them to the field hospital. Finally, I went down to where our two officers were still deep in their massive dugout. They enquired: ‘Anyone hurt?’ They were safe, but the truth was that the dugout was too large to offer protection from shell bursts and they were lucky that none had exploded there.”
     
  6. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Thanks for that, Richard - an interesting read.

    I've come across another old magazine article. This one is penned by Brig. E.D. Smith (ex 2/7 GR). It's bit of a cut-up of his two other Cassino-focused publications: Even the Brave Falter & The Battle for Cassino, but it stands alone and is worth the read:

    (1976) War Monthly, Issue No.29

    There's also a video here that has been on Youtube before but in awful quality:

    The Indian Army in Italy (it's a bit sketchy in places, but there's a lot of archival video and a few veteran interviews of interest):

    Great Battles: Monte Cassino (Aired: June 2005) [You may need to disable ad-blockers - I did]
     
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2017
  7. Dave H

    Dave H Junior Member

    Hi all,

    I'm looking to do a Battlefield visit to Monte Cassino later this year with some guys from work.
    Just started a bit of research and already see its a huge battle.

    Would anyone have a suggested Itinerary of a few places in particular to visit?
    Hoping to visit the area for around 4 days.
     
  8. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    You might want to open up a new thread on this to ensure that your request remains clear..

    At the risk of sounding pompous..it might be a bit of "how long is a piece of string" type question..

    Up front, you might want to highlight if you have any priorities including:
    - any specific individuals?
    - battalions/brigades/divisions etc?
    - national focus?
    - infantry/armour etc?
    - chronology/period focus?
    - overview/specific battlefield focus?
    - walking or driving?
    - individual remembrance?
    ++

    Some members run battlefield tours, eg Frank above, so you might also want to plug into that type of visit.

    This thread will provide a lot of thoughts and tips no doubt.. so be prepared.

    best wishes
     
  9. minden1759

    minden1759 Senior Member

    Dave.

    I have started a conversation with you. Look out for it.

    Regards

    Frank
     
  10. Stuart Avery

    Stuart Avery In my wagon & not a muleteer.

    Charley,
    one has four war diaries of these [splendid Indian Mule Companies];) that served in the Italian Campaign. 2,12,17 & 26. They was attached to the First British Infantry Division 36 Brigade Florence to Monte Grande. I'm not 100% sure, but I think they served with 78 Division & 4 Indian Infantry Division at Cassino? I would have to read some more.. If you want them, then do say so? I'm glad that you are interested in learning more about the Mule supply routes & the Muleteers.

    Regards,
    Stu.
     
  11. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    4th Indian? Mules? I'm visibly excited!

    What I really want is the actual routes taken when supplying tge front lines at Cassino, but so far I've drawn blanks.

    (Seriously, please send).
     
  12. ozzy16

    ozzy16 Patron Patron

    Found this in the WD 2nd batt Lancs fusiliers during April 1944 during their time at Cassino, (Jan 44-Aug 44)
    hope it helps,
    Graham. 2lf1.jpg 2lf2.jpg
     
  13. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    843225 is right up and around the back to the north-west of the monastery, around where the Cavendish Road approaches Snakeshead.
    That's very interesting (saved for later).
     
  14. minden1759

    minden1759 Senior Member

    James.

    Send me an email and I will send you the mule routes used by 359 Mule Tpt Coy RASC.

    Regards

    Frank
     
  15. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    I already have the (extremely terse) diary from you for that company. Do you have a map or something?
     
  16. minden1759

    minden1759 Senior Member

    Yes, I plotted the whole story with help from the OC's daughter.

    F
     
  17. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    While we're on the topic of routes and roads (thanks for the email), I found this Polish sketch which is useful. The name Roorkee Road has only just become familiar to me (named after a city in the Haridwar District of Uttarakhand, India).

    Routes Cassino.jpeg
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2019
  18. minden1759

    minden1759 Senior Member

    James.

    It is Roorkee rather than Koorkee.

    Roorkee was where 4 Inf Div were stationed before the war.

    Route Roorkee was the reserve route from Caira up to the top of Snakeshead in case Cavendish Road was closed.

    Regards

    Frank
     
  19. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Typo now fixed. Have just been reading about the CRE responsible for improving these routes.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2019
  20. minden1759

    minden1759 Senior Member

    James.

    If you were not aware, CRE named Cavendish Road after the street in Bournemouth that his father lived in at the time.

    Regards

    Frank
     

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