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Monte Cassino - Need some historical accuracy

Discussion in 'WWII General' started by MSP, Feb 4, 2014.

  1. MSP

    MSP New Member

    Jan 11, 2014
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    I'm doing a writing project for my third year of University and I've decided to go with an account of a (fictional) soldier fighting at Monte Cassino. I wanted to follow him from basic training to the field of combat, so I was wondering a few things, for historical accuracy:

    - Was there any British units involved in all four battles at Cassino? Not the 8th Army as a whole, but certain regiments?

    - Was it possible to be conscripted into the British army as late as November 1943, and then deployed to the field to join up with a unit, or did all the low ranking soldiers at Cassino already have experience from Salerno, Sicily and North Africa?

    - If the latter is true and some soldiers were deployed only just before the battle of Monte Cassino, how did they travel from Britain to Italy? Were they put on a ship or were they flown in? And where to?

    - In between each battle, where were the British units stationed? Were they dug in somewhere, or were they holed up in the town of Cassino? Or somewhere else? And where were they before the crossing of the Garigliano?

    - Did they draft in criminals into the British army, as an alternative to prison?

    - If soldiers had a relative who were fighting else

    - British units tend to have provincial or regional titles, such as the Yorks And Lancashire Regiment, or the 50th Northumberland Division. But were they only made up of people from those areas. For example, would there be no-one from Southern England in the Yorks And Lancashire Regiment?

    - Did soldiers train with their units from the start, or did they go through basic training with random other soldiers and then assigned to their respective units later on?

    I know some of these may be hugely obvious, but if you have any answers to those questions, it would be much appreciated.
  2. sonofacameron

    sonofacameron Member

    Nov 30, 2009
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    British soldiers could and were from all sorts of areas. My father was a yorkshire-man (English) who served and fought with a Scottish regiment from 1940 to 1946.
    2nd battalion The Queens Own Cameron Highlanders were re-formed in December 1942, (the original 2nd batt were captured at Tobruk in June) and sailed for Egypt December 43 and sailed to Italy February 44 and its 1st battle was at Cassino, where they lost 250 casualties in a month of bitter fighting.
  3. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WWII Veteran

    Feb 15, 2007
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    If you wish to put a bit of flesh on the bones of Africa/Sicily/Italy it might be worth spending a little time on the ww2talk site.

    I started my overseas service in North Africa, moved on to Sicily, then Italy (including a miserable month at Cassino)

    Start off here: http://ww2talk.com/forums/topic/35439-rons-memories-of-the-49th-laa-rgt-ra/

    Good luck with your project !

  4. MSP

    MSP New Member

    Jan 11, 2014
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    Thanks for the clarification. Do you know if he was drafted, and if so, was he randomly assigned his unit? And do you also know if he did his basic training with The Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders, or if he was assigned to them afterwards?

    Just had a read through - some really interesting stuff in there and it's great to hear about it from someone who was there, I suppose it doesn't get more reliable of a source for information than that! You mention how you were eventually hospitalised for your living conditions, I hear that Cassino was notorious for soldiers being dug out in the mud, was it common for soldiers to be in those same positions for weeks on end?

    Cheers for the support!
  5. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WWII Veteran

    Feb 15, 2007
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    Cassino was most noted for the fact that we we were just stuck there, unable to move and subject to lousy weather conditions and almost constant attrition from a fully prepared and well concealed enemy.

    I remember once being bemused when I was on sentry duty in a violent electric storm and was unable to distinguish between lightning and incoming enemy fire.

    Because I was a wireless op and therefore responsible for maintaining communication 24/7 I was spared the "extra" jobs that my unit found themselves detailed for, which included smoke laying and stretcher bearing so I suppose I should consider myself lucky.

    My weeks away in "dock" was also, in effect, a lucky break despite it's morale sapping effect.

    I look back at Cassino with no joy whatsover and nothing but loathing.

    von Poop likes this.
  6. minden1759

    minden1759 Member

    Jan 7, 2012
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    OK, here goes. The British Regiments at Cassino, if you count this as the attack on the whole of the Gustav Line were, off the top of my head:

    First Battle.

    1 Green Howards
    1 Yorks & Lancs
    1 King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry

    2 Wiltshire Regiment
    2 Cameronians
    xx Royal Irish Rifles - I think

    2 Northhamptonshire Regiment
    6 Seaforths Highlanders
    2 Royal Scots Fusiliers

    6 Grenadier Guards
    3 Coldstream Guards
    xx Welsh Guards - I think

    10 Royal Berkshire Regiment
    1 London Scottish
    1 London Irish Rifles

    2/5 Queens
    2/6 Queens
    2/7 Queens

    7 Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry
    Two others whom I cannot recall

    Second Battle

    1/4 Essex Regiment
    2 Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders
    1 Royal Sussex Regiment

    Third Battle

    As per Second Battle including

    2 Lancashire Fusiliers
    6 Royal West Kent Regiment - or may be 5 RWK
    6 Black Watch

    Fourth Battle

    1/6 East Surrey Regiment
    2 Bedfordshire & Hertfordshire Regiment
    2 Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry

    2/4 Hampshire Regiment

    1 Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders
    1 Royal Fusiliers

    5 Northamptonshire Regiment

    and a few more that I cannot immediately recall.


  7. Owen

    Owen O

    May 14, 2006
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    ignore this post.
  8. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WWII Veteran

    Feb 15, 2007
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    Just as well you mentioned your list was a tad incomplete .......

    For a minute I thought my own unit, the 49th LAA Rgt, wasn't there (in the 3rd Battle) and that I had just imagined it !

    Will supply the full 78 Div lformat tomorrow when I am at my PC

    ( by iPad )

    Have just added this on ww2talk:

    Have also picked this,
    Compliments of Wikipedia: (my mob was in 38 Brigade)

    Order of battle from 1942 composed from units of Force 110.[2]
    11th Infantry Brigade[edit]
    Main article: 11th Infantry Brigade (United Kingdom)
    2nd Battalion The Lancashire Fusiliers
    1st Battalion The East Surrey Regiment
    5th Battalion The Northamptonshire Regiment
    36th Infantry Brigade[edit]
    Main article: 36th Infantry Brigade
    5th Battalion The Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment)
    6th Battalion Royal West Kent Regiment
    8th Battalion The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders
    7th battalion Royal West Kent Regiment
    1st Infantry Brigade (Guards) (until March 1943)[edit]
    Main article: 1st Infantry Brigade (Guards)
    3rd Battalion Grenadier Guards
    2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards
    2nd Battalion The Hampshire Regiment

    38th (Irish) Infantry Brigade (from March 1943)[edit]
    Main article: 38th (Irish) Infantry Brigade
    6th Battalion, The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (until August 1944)
    2nd Battalion, The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (from August 1944)
    1st Battalion, The Royal Irish Fusiliers (Princess Victoria's)
    2nd Battalion, The London Irish Rifles (Territorial Army)
    Support units[edit]
    56th Reconnaissance Regiment, Royal Armoured Corps
    1st Battalion, Princess Louise's Kensington Regiment (Machine gun battalion)
    Royal Artillery
    17th Field Regiment
    132nd Field Regiment (Welsh)
    138th (City of London) Field Regiment
    64th (Queen's Own Royal Glasgow Yeomanry) Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery
    49th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment (until November 1944)
    Royal Engineers
    214th Field Company
    237th Field Company
    256th Field Company
    281st Field Park Company
    Royal Army Medical Corps
    11th Field Ambulance
    152nd Field Ambulance
    217th Field Ambulance
    47th Field Ambulance

    If you want a little more background on the activities of 78 Div, have a look here:
    4jonboy and White Flight like this.
  9. HarryWR

    HarryWR recruit

    Jun 27, 2010
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    Good luck with your project, as writing as a fictional soldier will not be easy, my Father was in Cassino and also North Africa in the Buffs 5th battalion, assigned to the 36th Infantry Brigade. I have a brief list of places visited, but no war diaries. Most people that were unlucky enough to be involved with the Cassino campaign are reluctant to talk about it, as it was a terrible place to be.

    The National Archives at Kew do hold an extensive collection of war diaries, and you are allowed to photograph them, so this may be of help to you.

    There is also a film on youtube called, "The Battle for Monte Cassino", it is all actual footage and gives a very good idea as to what was involved in this conflict, you can download this film.

    I have a copy of a magazine that was issued to the 36th infantry brigade ( printed in Austria ) called Hopps and Haggis, the center pages give a brief list of the places and some killed in action, I have this in as a pdf if you wanted a copy, but is bigger than the 500kb allowed on this site so would have to be an email.


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