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Monte Cassino

Discussion in 'North Africa and the Mediterranean' started by denny, Nov 11, 2015.

  1. denny

    denny Member

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    I realize this is a "popular" topic...but a search brings up so much info it is difficult to find specific answers.
    If The German Army were not in The Abbey, why couldn't the allies get up the hill.?
    Were The Germans speaking literally.....that they actually were NOT IN the building, but they were everywhere else (going up the hill) that surrounded it.?
    Thank You
    Thought I had corrected my title. Do not know how to do it now.
    For due respect to all involved, I should have spelled Cassino with a double "s"... not one.
    sorry about that
     
  2. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    See attached photo.

    Granted this is a modern image, it gives some idea on just how steep the ground is. German troops were not in the Abby itself, but a bit below it. Observers could call down devastating artillery fire upon any attack.
     

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  3. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    weather and terrain--horrible.....even mules couldn't make it in some areas, so the men had to hand carry everything...Germans held the high ground..could see and blast everything with arty, as Belasar states.....here's a pic from Monte Cassino Ten Armies in Hell...caption is "' why both sides wanted Monte Cassino....taken from outside the abbey''......look at Castle Hill, below the abbey...also attached is the front view ..and there was Hangman's Hill that had to be taken...and point 593 seen in the diagram......and below Castle Hill, was the fortified town of Cassino...the pics speak for themselves......sorry for my scanning failures...front view and diagram not from book
     

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  4. denny

    denny Member

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    OK...so this speaks to my main question
    I am not arguing the wisdom of bombing The Abbey, it may or may not have improved the war for the allies.
    But.....so much is always made of the fact that ....."The Germans were not in The Abbey". Was that just a matter of semantics then.?
     
  5. BFBSM

    BFBSM Member

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    Denny,

    The Germans were not using the Abbey as an observation post, base nor any other military function. No semantics there.

    They were using Monte Cassino - the Mount Cassino - with outposts, observation posts etc. for the fight. As soon as the Abbey was destroyed in the bombings, which were requested by General Freyberg, they started to use the ruins as a base of operations and placed soldiers throughout it, for cover etc.

    Mark
     
  6. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WWII Veteran

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    Denny

    For the record, as a member of the British 78 Div, I spent some miserable months in the Cassino area and wrote about it here:

    http://www.ww2f.com/topic/52091-monte-cassino-need-some-historical-accuracy/?hl=%2Bcassino+%2Bgoldstein#entry573345

    If one sneezed, this would call up a barrage of shelling, ample proof that German observers were present in the Monastry area.

    I was finally to witness the bombing that put paid to this and, along with all who were present, was very grateful to see the destruction of this observation point.

    Ron
     
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  7. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    thank you Ron, and SALUTE for Veteran's Day.....as seen in the front view pic, it looks like suicide to assault the area, and the Rapido debacle
     
  8. ozjohn39

    ozjohn39 Member

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    Maybe a stupid idea, but why could the Abbey not have been by-passed, and allowed to "whither on the vine" as Big Mac would have put it?

    A few dozen 25 pounders could have kept their heads down until the war had left them behind.
     
  9. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    the Germans still could've called arty, etc on the Allies going by....high ground was critical and the Germans had it
     
  10. ozjohn39

    ozjohn39 Member

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    Yes, I am not familiar with the surrounding terrain, but as the allies and German front line moved ever northward the spotters would have become ever more irrelevant. The range of a large calibre artillery is about 15 to 20,000 yards, and any target in the Cassino area would soon be out of range.

    JMO
     
  11. ozjohn39

    ozjohn39 Member

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    Why am i getting a 3 digit number at the start of every post?
    619
     
  12. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    Not sure about your 'numbers' but at least they are now at the end. :)

    Movement in Italy was often measured in yards so as an observation post there is no telling how long it could be effective. Also their targets would be supply lines which do not do well subject to direct fire.
     
  13. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    You could not have bypassed the Monte Cassino massif with a 25 Pdr regiment or even a divisional artillery group. Its a bloody big ridge 4,000 m x3,000m overlooking the Liri Valley to the South and the Rapido valley to the East. The top is a series of valleys and ridges that divide its surface into something like a series of amphitheaters with the Southern and Western sides offering really good views to the lines of approach from the East and North.

    The Monastery draws the eye and is sited on the South East Corner, but its the ridge which is important.

    The Allies were constrained by the size and level of mechanization of their armies which restricted the 5th Army to Route 6 through the Liri Valley or Route 7 along the Coast. Some of the Allied Commanders thought differently. Their idea of "mobility" and "manoeuvre" was based on using light infantry trained in mountain warfare to bypass the obstacles blocking the valleys. Tuker GOC 4th Indian Division and Juin the Commander of the French Expeditionary Force had particularly good mountain trained troops. They argued that Cassino was the strongest part of the Gustav line abnd it was better cracked through the mountains to the North via Atina or - as we eventually the case via the Arunci range to the South.

    The Allies did use a lot of smoke . In may there was a continuous smokescreen covering the build of of the 8th Army in the Liri valley. This was a major effort and took whole companies of pioneers to operate the smoke generators.
     
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  14. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    great post Sheldrake....I really enjoy reading the concise with mucho information posts like that........plus, just not practical.....that would've taken mucho rounds almost ''continuously'' ....impossible....the Germans had more than a few strong points in the mountains...you're an arty man Shel, right?? it's not as easy to pinpoint the target in hilly terrain....many of the rounds will not be effective because just a few meters of elevation or deflection off, means the rounds will land far off the target if the terrain is sloped, as opposed to fairly flat terrain....even after target is ''zeroed'' in
    and the Germans wouldn't have let arty just pound away at them...they would've struck back with their own, especially if it was endangering their positions
     
  15. toki2

    toki2 Active Member

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    I am lucky enough to have a typed first hand account of the conditions that the Allies were under in the fourth and last Battle of Cassino. It was included in the official war diary and written by an officer of the 1st Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers which was my father-in-law's battalion. I have tried to download a copy but no success - I have nearly finished typing it up so will post soon.
     
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  16. toki2

    toki2 Active Member

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    I could have condensed the account but I think it should be read in it's entirety. I will check the 'official' diary later and see how many casualities, dead. wounded etc. were incurred.

    Report on the activities of 1st Bn The Royal Fusiliers in the operations starting 9 May in the crossing of the River Gari and subsequent advance.
    The battalion moved into a concentration area about midnight on the 9th May. At dawn when the usual morning mist cleared it was seen how the monastery overlooked the whole area. No movement was possible by day amongst our troops and across the river 800 yards away the Germans were ominously quiet. Their defences were well camouflaged not visible even to some patient officers who crawled for two hours to get to a vantage point overlooking the enemy ground.
    By night, however, there was a scene of feverish preparation. Routes had to be recce’d and dumps of ammunition and material for crossing to be made. At times the silent preparation was unavoidably noisy and it seemed incredible that the Hun did not shell the area. Probably the effective patrolling by the Ghurkas kept away his recce parties.
    A rum issue was made in the evening of the 11th May and at 2100 hrs covering parties and working parties started from the concentration area to complete the preparation. Still there was no sign that the enemy knew of his approaching doom.
    The plan was for the assault crossing to be by two companys each with a crossing place. The remainder of the battalion were to cross according to flight tables, each boatload carefully calculated.
    At 2345 hrs a thick mist suddenly formed over the river area reducing visibility to two yards. Some confusion was inevitable but promptly at this zero hour the two assaulting companys pushed off in their frail craft. On the right were D company commanded by Major H. L. Canty of West Dulwich.
    Through the mist whistled the bullets from many machine guns which had now located the crossing place. The mist though had become an asset so that the enemy fire was indiscriminate bursts at intervals across the river.
    At once the Cockney humour became apparent and ‘Traversing Spandau Joe’ was christened.
    In two and a half hours the whole battalion was across despite the opposition and appalling visibility certainly much worse than any London fog!
    The success of the crossing was largely due to the excellent ‘Beach’ organisation in which Capt. now Major Debenham played a prominent part.
    The Commanding Officer with his recce party went forward into the mist and actually followed the enemy’s wire around a strong MG position before returning! But a battalion advance into the unknown and the unseen was impossible.
    Fortunately the water meadows were intersected by irrigation ditches which were to prove the units salvation. Into these the whole battalion dug and settled.
    The mist cleared and the sun shone brilliantly at 0900hrs on 12th May. Complete concealment was impossible and then followed hours of enemy fire from snipers, MG’s, Mortars and artillery.
    Most troublesome were the MG’s and snipers in position on the rise which formed the horseshoe. In this horseshoe we lay pinned down.
    At battalion HQ were three wireless set masts, a veritable shooting gallery which the Hun could not hit in two days but there were very many near misses and not far away was the battalions ammunition dump over-flowing from the ditch.
    Our R.A. liaiason officer Mahor Charles D.S.O. and the Commanding Officer Lt. Col. T. A. Buchanan M.C. had many witty exchanges and occasionally crawled along to each others hole on a business and social visit.
    Patrols tried to get forward but were completely dominated by fire. We replied by an artillery shoot which quietened but did not silence the enemy.
    At night there was patrolling on both sides again in a thick mist. In fact many people moved around in the night bringing stores across the river and feeling the luxury of being able to move one’s body from it’s cramped position of twelve hours. The falling shells were ignored but one killed Capt. C Frith who gallantly led the supplying party.
    All this time our casualities were growing. Apart from the excellent work of our own M.O. and his capable Sgt Eagles there was an attached section of an Indian Field Ambulance and they under the guidance of a Czech doctor Capt. Mowschenson worked splendidly. The Stretcher bearer’s work in collecting the wounded by day and evacuating them by night deserves the greatest praise.
    On the 13th again the mist cleared to make way for more brilliant sunshine. We shaved in a huddled position, ate our bully and drank the sweet river water with which we had filled our bottles during the night.
    About midday the Ghurkas attacked S.ANGELO and to coincide we made yet another effort to get forward. B Company gallantly attacked one MG post but were caught in fierce cross fire and the battalion lost a fine officer when the company commander Major Simpson of Kelso was killed. But the attack went on, all the officers in the company were casualities and the R.A. F.O.O. led the assault.
    They arrived on the objective at the same time as the Ghurkas closed in from the left and the Hampshire front the right.
    Just previously we of battalion HQ had been watching the attack when there was a burst of MG fire. Major Charles, the adjutant and Intelligence Officer had some stones thrown in their faces but a bullet hit the C.O. on the top part of the left shoulder. Half an hour later he was on top of the Hun Horseshoe organising his battalion and then he had to be evacuated.
    Now it was possible to see the cunningly planned defences which had so dominated the position. The crawl trench escape routes accounted for the small number of prisoners but it was some comfort to see how our shelling must have worried them.
    Suddenly during this period of reorganisation five enemy planes flashed out of the sun, swooped down, dropped their loads and away again before anybody could recover from their surprise. They missed us but not our friends the Ghurkas who suffered casualities.
    Another incident concerns a Ghurka and the accurate shooting of a Sherman tank, good to watch from a distance but most uncomfortable for Major Canty and some of his company who were resting on the other side of the house.
    It appears that a Ghurka riding on the front of a supporting tank coming from S. ANGELO after their successful onslaught was carried away in more senses than one and seeing figures round the house ordered some six rounds, all direct hits, onto this building! Fortunately no one was hurt.
    After a recce by Major Charles and the tank commander Major Gary it was decided to push both troops and tanks down the lane which the tanks could just negotiate.
    This advance was made without opposition and we were in position by 2100hrs digging in with the tanks protecting our flanks. B company formed a shield round BHQ about 300yards behind the forward companies. A few shells fell in the battalion area but no casualities or damage was done.
    Next morning A company under the command of Major Adams M.C. gained their objective not without casualities and opposition from some houses 600 yards away with MG posted there.
    In this advance Major Adams showed great courage and his leadership undoubtedly made the advance a success. Ina personal recce made with his servant they suddenly found themselves face to face with a half dozen Germans. Fire was opened immediately Major Adams killing two with the Schmeisser he always carried. His servant was killed.
    Major Adams now had control of the situation and quickly regrouping his platoons personally lead the assault onto the house closely supported by tanks. It was an instant success inflicting heavy casualties and capturing 26 prisoners.
    C and D companies combined under Major Canty moved to A company’s left to complete the line. Positions were consolidated and later the rations jeeps anti tank guns and carriers were brought up to BHQ area.
    Also all the L.O.B’s and some reinforcements came to swell the ranks sadly depleted by this time.
    At 1700hrs the 2nd/c Major Williams arrived and took over the command from Major Charles D.S.O. who too had lead us at short notice under difficult circumstances to our final objective with his unswerving dash and enthusiasm.
    Soon after his arrival Major Williams established His Tactical HQ in a farm house partly used by B Company.
    Next morning the 15th we awakened wondering what the next move would be, feeling better for a sleep and a hot breakfast and tea.
    We heard that 21 Bde was moving up on our left and consequently rumours about being relieved were wish fulfilment thoughts.
    However we found ourselves being shelled nd mortared throughout the day especially A company position which was visciuosly mortared in the morning causing several casualties whilst others were happy in having narrow escapes.
    During the morning the I.O. with an 18 set and two signallers contacted FFR HQ as they were about to make an advance on their front which would take them over before us and destroy an enemy post which was strongly held. This post was the object of a recce early in the morning by B company personnel who got close enough to study the position but unluckily whilst escaping away were observed and a burst of fire killed one fellow.
    The I.O. kept Major Williams informed as to progress and this ultimate result which was success, positions consolidated with few casualities. Three Germans were seen running from the strong post and speedily dealt with.
    This party returned to find the the battalion had received orders to move to VITTIGLIO that afternoon which was done without incident but for two or three shells aimed at the Bailey Bridge over the River GARI fell in the battalion area.
    Thus having completed OUR job of forcing the crossing of the River GARI and breaking his defence line, we rested.
     
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  17. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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    I a few possible suggestions.


    1) your beer is resting on your numerical pad
    2) Satan is trying to force you to type the number of the beast
    3) You use capital letters to open brackets
    4) Your are trying to memorize your new credit card digit but the technology changes every 20mn
    5) You are learinig how to count
    6) You started celebrating News-years eve with a six pack
    7) Someone is trying to make you believe you are crazy and types the digits while you are getting a beer
    8)Your imaginary friend is taking control
    9)a mod is editing your postings
    10) it is not true in this dimension
     
  18. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    Thank you for this. There is a lot here that would not be in the battalion war diary. I often visit the San Angelo area and I'd like to know exactly where this action took place.
     
  19. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    Skipper! Your not supposed to tell them about number 9!
     
  20. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    that's not that long....I'd say just about right...thanks
    Sheldrake can you take some pictures when you are there?? from the German view?
     

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