Thursday, June 13, 2024

Second World War veteran, 100, marks anniversary of battle that turned the tide in Italian campaign

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Gen Sir Patrick Sanders, the UK chief of the general staff, will lead representatives from all three British Armed Services, including more than100 serving members of the Royal Tank Regiment, The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, and the Honourable Artillery Company, who will also provide the guard of honour.

Thousands of troops from Britain and the Commonwealth, including from Canada, India, New Zealand and South Africa, fought and died in the campaign to wrest control of the mountain stronghold from German troops determined to stop the Allied advance to Rome, 85 miles to the north.

The Allies’ progress through Italy had ground to a halt at that point and Monte Cassino was critical in the Germans’ efforts to hold the defensive Gustav line. It had to be taken if the Nazis were to be defeated and forced out of Italy.

Monte Cassino was finally seized from the Nazis after five months of bloody fighting. On May 18 1944, British and Polish troops raised their flags over the ruins of Monte Cassino – paving the way for the liberation of Rome.

‘We were not D-Day dodgers’

Just two weeks later, the victory was overtaken by the D-Day landings.

Mr Hearn escaped injury at Monte Cassino but is angry that those who fought in Italy came to be dubbed ‘D-Day Dodgers’ because they were not part of the Normandy campaign.

“I did not dodge anything, I was following orders,” he said.

In Italy, the Battle of Monte Cassino, also known as the Battle for Rome, is widely recognised as one of the most decisive Second World War battles.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella visited Cassino on Saturday to attend a separate commemoration organised by the Polish government to remember its troops who lost their lives in the battle.

A total of 4,271 British and Commonwealth soldiers are buried at the Cassino War Cemetery, 289 of them unidentified.

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