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22 Battalion

CHAPTER 10 — Cassino

page 265


From a stalemate in the east, at Orsogna, the battalion went to a stalemate in the west, at Cassino.1 As the Sangro area differed from the desert, so Cassino differed from the Sangro. The memory of that chaotic heap of dusty, stinking rubble burned itself into the nerves and minds of New Zealanders as no other place did in the war. Here some men glimpsed what they felt could be the setting for future wars. As Doug Froggatt2 writes: ‘Just gaunt walls pitted with shell fire and surrounded everywhere by heaps of masonry and stone and over all a pall of fine choking dust and the smells of stagnation and death. Great gaping bomb craters each part-filled with water. Everyone in Cassino got as far below ground as possible and most platoons were well below shell-penetrating depth. Stand to at dawn and dusk was the regular thing and then men crawled up top and stood to arms. Of course there were always some poor blighters on watch throughout the day but even these contrived to be well hidden away.’

For several days they had travelled, over from the Sangro to bare olive and oak groves round a little town a few miles south of Cassino, Piedimonte d'Alife, where they arrived one morning. One man continues the story:

Some of the usual stops and starts on the way. Cold … but page 266 fine. (Getting out of the lorries at some of the stops after daylight and stamping and jumping round to try and get warm—especially the feet—looking up and down the road and up at the bold looking hills—winter over the countryside—everything calm and rigid looking—the hills and the leafless trees beside the road and in the fields standing out black and clearly defined against the clear watery sky—a faint layer of smoke haze girdling a hill—hands in your pockets—cold on your cheeks, an icy feeling at the tip of your nose.) At Alife, mornings raw but fine: leave to Pompeii3 and see bodies of men and a dog in the positions they were in when overwhelmed by the eruption. On the way back someone says ‘There's the Isle of Capri’, so we move to the back of the truck and look round the edge of the canopy for a shoofti. Some training among the olive trees—heard the sound of gunfire away to the north.

Then to Mignano—a night trip and cold as hell, greatcoats on and blankets round us—boots on the steel tray—feet numb and sore with cold—out of the trucks first thing in the morning at destination—onto ground hard as iron—no white frost—but ground frozen hard—no mud until ground thawed.

At Mignano: a group of jokers gathered in a circle and looking at a man in the centre—then up would go his arm and all faces would follow it skyward—looking towards heaven—then all down together and stares at the ground: two-up: a common sight. And those Mignano echoes—some of them had a ringing metallic sound —rising or falling in tone as they reached across the valley. It also had a noise something like wind blowing through a wooden barrel.

How the echo from the U.S. guns used to crash around the various mountain sides. A gun would fire and one echo would bang against the nearest face and then move up the different crags and gullies— almost dying away and then coming on more loudly again as it reached another steep face. And while this was going on, other echoes would be doing the same thing—all at different times—on other mountain sides—getting further away as you listened—just page 267 like waves breaking on rocks. Sometimes you wouldn't hear the gun at all—but an echo would come surging up the various mountain sides. I thought that this echo effect had a tendency to make a shellburst sound louder in the hills of Italy than in the flat desert.

Clear days—windy days—and nearly always cold days when rain, driven by a bitter wind, pelted down, and turned the area into mud and water (we got to work one day and metalled a track into our area for vehicles using, I think, rubble from the village). It nearly always seemed to be cold and windy—and we were in bivvies. And at night the wind rushed and flapped round the sides of your bivvy—cold and draughty….

It was a calm and sunny morning however when we were returning from a route march and saw the bombers making for Cassino and then saw the masses of brown and black smoke billowing up from the Monastery—then heard the trembling rumble of the bombs. (From a distance bombing sounds very like that rumble which comes at the beginning of an earthquake, and we had an earthquake while at Mignano.)

Our area at Mignano4 lay in a valley between the rugged hills to the NE and ‘Million Dollar Hill’. (It was called that, they said, because it had cost a million dollars to capture. Some of the jokers climbed to the top of it and when they came back said that it had plenty of signs of a slogging match having passed over it, it was very rocky.) After one storm it was mantled in snow down to the foot. As a landmark it completely dominated our area and every time you looked around—there it was. It seemed to have something threatening about it—there were more around like it—and Jerry held some of them.

But it wasn't all bad. Sometimes on a clear evening (it would be page 268 nearly dusk in our valley) the sun shining from behind Million Dollar Hill would strike the barren rocky hillsides on the other side of our valley—heather or some such thing growing from between the rocks. And the hills (or mountains) would take on the most vivid hues I have ever seen—pinks, blues, mauves and reds. (Like you read about in books—but I had never noticed that hills did that until then—nor have I really noticed it since. But these colours were vivid.)

And we used to go for route marches along the road through the area occupied by the tanks (and we used to go to Mobile Cinema shows in that area too).

Yes—and on a route march too—or you may be going on trucks somewhere—you would often pass through another unit's area. And maybe you would see some one from that unit whom you knew—maybe you had seen him often—but maybe you had heard in letters from home that he had come over in one of the latest reinforcements but you didn't know to what unit he had gone. Then suddenly you would spot him. And you would yell out something—say— ‘How's things at Bush Valley?’—or— ‘Have you been to any dances at Waikikamukau Hall lately?’ (some question like that). Then up would go his head and he would search frantically with a surprised questioning-eager look. But it was hard for him to spot you—in the mass of other jokers or looking out from under the canopy of the back of a truck. And the last you saw of him he would still be looking seriously in the direction of the road. And you could imagine him a few seconds later turning away and scratching his head and wondering who the hell that was— ‘Must be somebody local’—and thinking the same thoughts again—say that night or next day.

And then the day some of us did a lot of tearing around over there near the foot of Million Dollar Hill for the movie cameras5 — maybe we would get our pictures on the newsreel showing us attacking Cassino—this ‘attack’ we did quite a few times before the real one. And in that area one day some of us tried out the relative merits of the Piat and Bazooka on the walls of a ruined casa. And wasn't it here that one day some Messerschmitts or Focke Wulfs went tearing past and disturbed a ‘shoofti plane’ going about his leisurely business, and he darted down into a gully—smartly.

And then once again out would go officers (jeep, overcoat and map case) to another conference. Then a fresh story of how the attack was going to be carried out. Then rain again—and that was that.

Twenty-second (Motor) Battalion was to speed forward and
Black and white photograph of a camp

‘Bivvies’ at Burg el Arab

Black and white photograph of a shoreline

Going ashore at Taranto

Black and white photograph of an aerial view

Aerial view of the crossroads to Castelfrentano and Guardiagrele in the Sangro River area, January 1944

Black and white photograph of army officers

Brigadier Inglis chats with members of 2 Company at Salarola

Black and white photograph of soldiers

8 Platoon, 1 Company, just out of Cassino

Black and white photograph of soldiers

12 Platoon

Black and white photograph of landforms

Snow-capped Monte Cairo and the Monastery guard the junction of the Liri and Rapido valleys. Cassino lies at the foot of the hill at the head of Route 6, with Monte Trocchio in the centre of the picture

Black and white photograph of a castle

The courtyard of the castle at Vicalvi, June 1944

Black and white photograph of landforms

Point 361—the battalion's final objective in the advance to Florence

Black and white photograph of troops

12 Platoon before the move to the Adriatic

Black and white photograph of soldiers on army vehicles

I. F. Thompson receives a wireless message, Rimini, September 1944

page 269 exploit in the breach once the break-through came. But no break-through came. Days of waiting grew into weeks, and the battalion was nicknamed (for a little while) ‘AMGOT’ (Allied Military Government of Occupied Territory). Officers and men studied superb aerial photographs taken from all heights down to as low as 200 feet. They studied these photographs, built models, demolished them, then built them from memory.
Black and white map of a town


page 270

Men were lectured on the positions of all standing landmarks and tasks allotted to each platoon. They hoped men would get to know the general layout of a heap of rubble which once housed 24,000 Italians. The fresh rubble converted ‘mousetraps into bastions of defence,’ the Germans said, so very truly.

Other New Zealand battalions had fought bitterly and bloodily in the ruins: their stories, and stories of the defence, came back to the waiting battalion. By now three-quarters of the town was captured, a foothold won on Monastery Hill, and a bridgehead gained across the Rapido River. New Zealand infantry, battling around where Route 6 led through the town, won the Botanical Gardens and reached the threshold of what was left of the Hotel des Roses and the Continental Hotel, two of the last remaining keypoints of the town's defences. These two hotels were near the end of the town where Route 6—that broken road a man would never forget—making a sharp turn, led to the entrance of the prized Liri valley. Soon, before this brilliant German defence, flesh and blood reached the limit of endurance. Two days before 22 Battalion came into Cassino the attack was given up for the time being; positions so far won would be held in the ruins. The road to Rome stayed closed. The battalion would go in, not a victorious force on the hunt, but merely in a holding role.

And all this time—the battalion had been waiting its turn for more than a month—orders and moves had been changed and changed again. ‘The battalion's going in.’ ‘Ready in an hour.’ ‘Ready in half an hour.’ ‘Cancelled.’ ‘Going in tomorrow.’ ‘Keep ready to move.’ ‘Prepare to move.’ ‘Cancelled….’ Day after day. Nerves wore down. The suspense preyed on men's minds.

We sat down in the mortar truck—canopy down against the cold—and lit the old primus to make the usual billy of steaming coffee. (‘When she's boiled and you've put the coffee grains in, put her back on until she bubbles up again—that's what makes it.’) Everything was cold and bleak looking—the weather and the outlook. We seemed to have come to a dead end. Everything had looked so bright when we arrived in Italy. (Strike through Pescara, then across to Rome, then a powerful drive up the peninsula to the southern borders of the Reich—a German sergeant taken prisoner at about the time we crossed the Sangro had the cheek to say that we would fight many more battles before we would get past Italy—it page 271 was in the paper.) Now all that had gone. Bleak cold—mud and rain—wind and snow—nothing but slogging. And old Tedeschi [Italian for ‘Germans’, often abbreviated to ‘Ted’] never gave an inch—if he was forced off some place and thought there was a chance to get it back—back he would come—as though it was the last ditch. Shelling, mortaring and spandaus going brrrrp brrrrp. (How many times during our days in the battalion did we hear that latter sound?) (‘Aw well, I suppose she'll come right in the spring’— ‘The bloody tanks can't get off the roads, that's the— trouble’) ….

‘Highway Six: that last strip into Cassino,’ says a 22 Battalion company commander.6 ‘Transport, moving only at night, would turn into a sideroad. There you would debus with your weapons, some ammo and a couple of blankets, and make your way into Cassino on foot as the transport turned, ready to go back. That was the Mad Mile, a most unhappy stretch, a dead road in the daylight, no movement except at night, for the enemy had that road exactly taped, down to the last yard. Every now and then there'd be a burst of mortars, especially on places where bridges had been over small creeks or depressions. We moved very swiftly along the Mad Mile, I can tell you, always in single file, always well spaced, and the outstanding impression was the smell of death—sweet, sickly—a terrific stench there. The trees were blasted and broken on the sides of the road, and big craters were everywhere, most of them filled with rainwater. A ditch, handy to the side of the road, gave urgent cover. The Mad Mile was not only covered directly down the road but also to the left: spandaus somewhere over towards the Continental Hotel.’

A member of the battalion, who takes his religion seriously, writes: ‘This was a moment lived … [on the fringe of the town before 3 and 4 Companies went into position]. It was a Communion Service held in the barren room of an Italian house. Outside the mortars were falling with heavy thuds. Inside about twenty men were kneeling in their battle-dress uniforms. The Chaplain had no robes save his own stained and dirty uniform. For a Chalice he used a dirty, chipped tumbler and for a Paten to hold the bread, he had a shallow, cracked enamel dish.

page 272

‘Many of those men were attending their last Communion on earth. The service was stripped bare of every possible external, but all those who attended it felt they were near to the heart of reality. It takes a war sometimes to reveal the truth to us.’

Battalion Headquarters and 3 and 4 Companies moved up Route 6 to take over from New Zealand infantry on Saturday night, 25 March. The night was dark; fine rain falling made observation difficult. As the men approached the town, the fire became more intense. Flares threw a bright light for a few minutes then died away—smoke drifted across the road—shells crashed around or screamed overhead—tracers whipped by, seeming to drift in the air when seen at a distance (‘Jerry was firing straight down the road, tapping out tunes with his damned machine gun’)—occasionally a close one sent every man flat on the ground.

Near its destination the head of the column halted for some reason; in the darkness this was not noticed until actual contact was made with the man in front. This action, telescoping down the line, left the men anything but dispersed. At that moment an enemy mortar bomb landed and exploded in the centre of the group, killing two and wounding fifteen. Immediately the battalion moved forward again, while the stretcher-bearers began evacuating the wounded to the RAP. Sergeant Cassidy, of the carrier platoon, who attended to his mates and helped them along to the RAP, notes: ‘Among those the bomb collected were our platoon officer Des Orton7 (throat), my driver C. G. Nikolaison,8 Max Rogers9 (hindquarters), Dave Patton (hand), and myself (leg and chin). Poor old Nick, as we called Nikolaison, was killed, together with G. S. Bygrave.’10 ‘Harry McIvor11 was very good and helped us all a great deal despite continuous shellfire,’ writes another casualty, Private Jarmey.12 Corporal Kirschberg13 ‘was quite silly for a while from blast. page 273 Private H. McIvor helped me back to the underground RAP, and hence I was sent back as far as Wellington last stop.’ Des Orton (his platoon had gone to ground and remained there) recovered his senses and struggled to his feet with a typical remark: ‘Come on you b—s—let's get cracking. There's no future in lying around here!’

After this unsettling experience Battalion Headquarters and 4 Company Headquarters were set up in the crypt of a ruined church; 3 Company Headquarters was about 200 yards further west in a roofless church—just large pillars surrounded by four bare walls, ‘a great place for sunbathing!’ A knocked-out German tank lay nearby, its dead crew, later buried, scattered outside it.

‘A number of priestly garments all beautifully embroidered lay amongst the ruins and some of these were salvaged, shaken out and used to wrap tommy and bren guns to keep the all-penetrating dust out of the mechanism. There was also a statue of a child with outstretched arm in one corner of the Church and just before first light on our first morning in the town I sneaked round the corner and walked into the outstretched arm —God what a fright….’

Each headquarters smelt abominably—German bodies were found later under the rubble. Walkie-talkie sets and field telephones buzzed incessantly as they kept contact with Battalion Headquarters and each platoon. Living mostly in low cellars, men developed what they called the ‘Cassino Crouch’.

Men coming in were guided to their positions by their opposite numbers in 21 and 24 Battalions (‘like sending a blind man into a boxing ring to fight’). The battalion, in a holding role, was to defend a slice of desolation about 350 yards by 300 yards; the most advanced positions were within 200 yards of enemy strongpoints. In the night the enemy briskly shelled the battalion's new positions, but nobody was injured.

Dawn found everyone burrowed under cover in the rubble and ruins. ‘The Monastery looked most formidable as one looked up with your head thrown right back enough to put a crick in one's neck.’

Four Company (its anti-tank men acting now as infantry) settled down in about the centre of Cassino in what they nicknamed the ‘Timber Yard’. ‘We had quite a bit of fun getting page 274 to our final destination under “Bunty” Cowper, our 2 i.c., who was delighted at the chance of leading us in.’ As they crept along in single file towards the Timber Yard, Jerry fired multi-green flares: ‘our training all went by the wayside, for instead of standing dead still trying to look like a tree stump we imitated startled rabbits.’ Men dived for cover in all directions. Cliff Hatchard,14 making a rapid reconnaissance in heavily hobnailed boots, trod on several hands. One victim took two days to coax a glove off his badly-skinned hand. The darting men drew heavy mortar fire for about an hour, but 4 Company's only casualty was Fred McRae,15 with a splinter in his big toe, ‘but a homer.’

The Timber Yard consisted (like most of Cassino) of a fair depth of rubble and scattered chunks of 12 by 12 inch timber, varying in length from five to fifteen feet. These pieces of timber made most useful shelters. Men with the utmost caution reinforced their burrows and hide-outs by lifting broken beams and making shallow slit trenches a foot to two feet deep. Some went further. Sergeant Valintine16 and Stewart Nairn,17 for example, gouged out a small dugout at the bottom of a large bomb crater. They dug with hands and odd utensils, for they had lost their shovels on the way in, thanks to those notoriously alarming airbursts. At night they salvaged heavy timber and placed it across the dugout, which was 6 ft. long, 3 ft. wide and 3 ft. deep. They packed three feet of wet clay on top and covered the wet floor with a gas cape.

Most of the platoons, well down in the cellars, debris and rubble, passed most of the time in the darkness or semi-darkness, or in artificial light from lanterns or battery lights. ‘This state of affairs was much preferable to being in amongst the stuff that was flying about up top.’ Battalion Headquarters was always lit up in the Crypt. Some men didn't see a German all the time they were there. But snipers definitely were about; it was never safe for a man to show himself at a window frame. page 275 Often the air was murky with smoke as well as dust. ‘Smoke bombs came over with a soft wooosh, and something detached itself and plopped down.’ Holes in the broken walls provided lookouts, sometimes masked by muddy blankets. ‘One automatically listened to the discharge of the missiles from the nebelwerfers, paused and heard their arrival. Every day, with a charmed life, it seemed, our friend the shufti plane came lazily overhead. By day the scene was one of rocks and ruins. There was noise but the only movement came from the stretcher-bearers of the Indian forces. At night the interchange of shells above our heads seemed more perceptible and bright flashes of light came from those which struck the hillside around the monastery. Broken tiles slithered and clattered incessantly and now and then, with a great thud, a shell would burrow into the ground as if seeking entrance to our shelter in the ruins. Towards dawn the enemy could be heard talking and laughing and apparently chopping wood. In the rubble I found a tourist guide to Italy, so I read the chapter on Cassino.’

Shelling and mortaring continued without casualties during the battalion's first day (26 March) in Cassino. Our heavy guns shelled the Hotel des Roses. From the severely damaged building enemy stretcher-bearers carried out wounded. Probably the building was still occupied after the shelling because the stretcher-bearers returned and did not come out again. This happened frequently. In the night Captain Baird18 and his RAP party arrived to take charge of the RAP at Battalion Headquarters.

One hardship, the men in forward positions soon found, was that the enemy was too close to allow lights, or small fires to warm up food and keep out the chill. The usual method of making a cup of coffee and milk was to tip a little of the precious water from water bottles into the mess tin and, with the aid of broken-up methylated spirits tablets called ‘META’, heat the water and add the coffee and milk. Someone improved on this ‘with a really brilliant idea, painstakingly collecting perfectly dry sticks, lighting a fire that did not smoke in the least, pouring tins of stew, potatoes and carrots into a half-kerosene-tin, and heating it up. While bringing our share to us, one came over, and, although the concoction was full of grit … it was “à page 276 la Savoy!” ‘This experiment seems almost unique: very few fires, no matter how small, were lit deliberately in Cassino.

Early on 27 March enemy tanks were heard moving on Route 6 by the Baron's Palace, voices drifted across from near the Hotel des Roses, and at dusk two effective ‘stonks’ were brought down to stop a tank moving by the Continental Hotel. This day twelve casualties, none of them fatal and all of them among the luckless 4 Company, came from the explosion of one shell. Most of these men, dead tired, had had a trying night, and except for those on picket were trying to snatch some sleep. Until dawn they had been on carrying tasks, and the same job was to be repeated that night.

A Troop had carried out casualties. At that time the German artillery had made the Bailey bridge spanning the river just out of Cassino quite impassable for all traffic, even jeeps. The wounded had to be carried out about a mile and a half to a corner where the ambulances took over. The troop was lined up and paired off, two men to a stretcher. Just before the trek out began at midnight, stretcher-bearers were told that some stretchers held wounded, some dead. Bob McCarthy19 and McKinnon20 ‘bent over to lift up our stretcher case, took a good look at our burden who was completely covered by a blanket, and saw him lying deathly still—a corpse. Neither of us said anything. On our journey our “case” didn't move or murmur, so firmly convinced he was a “dead ‘un” we gave him a ride that was anything but gentle. Approaching the demolished bridge we ran into a really good mortar stonk. We just dumped our stretcher and flattened out, not giving much thought for our case: he was dead anyhow. Imagine our surprise and horror as we lay there to see the head of our “corpse” pop from under the blanket and say quite calmly: “Don't worry about me boys, run and find yourselves some cover.” Needless to say we sheepishly got up to assure our friend it was quite O. K. and we'd give him a much better ride for the rest of the trip.’ The wounded and dead delivered, A Troop loaded up with water and rations for the return journey, which again was anything but quiet.

page 277

These were the men who now were trying to sleep in the cellar of a shell of a building. Outside was a Sherman tank, engaged in observation-post work for the artillery, and the Germans had been trying to get it with ‘Terelle Bill’, a big gun sited up Terelle way. A minor annoyance had been bugs, but most of these had now been killed with some German chlorine tablets found in the cellar. About two feet of the top of the cellar wall facing the enemy was above the ground, and this is where the heavy shell struck. Part of the building fell, the cellar filled with dust, ‘and poor old Jerry was abused in no small way while we were dragging ourselves outside,’ wrote Brian Leach.21 ‘Sick of living like a rat in the cellar,’ Small22 ‘had gone up into the sun, come what may. Boy, it sure came!’ He was helped into cover, where someone said ‘Give him water.’ Up went Small's water bottle and he almost choked to death: it was full of rum, a legacy from a jar procured in Taranto. The two most severely wounded were Wally Nicholls23 (feet) and Sid Tsukigawa24 (elbow). The latter, ‘our outstanding soldier, returned to the Battalion,’ notes a comrade, ‘but could never bend his elbow more than halfway. Fortunately he was T. T., so it was an inconvenience only when firing a tommygun.’

Among the others wounded were the troop commander, Earl Cross, and Corporal Faull25 and Paul Potiki.26 In the confusion Cross and Forbes McHardy27 got their boots mixed, each putting on a pair for the same feet. ‘Had anyone been standing at the time,’ says McKinnon, ‘he would have been cut to page 278 ribbons. Those unhurt in the troop did a great job in helping those of us who had copped it. They were all great chaps and I'm one that can truly say that I'm proud to have belonged to the 22nd Battalion.’

Another casualty, Corporal Grace, was helped by Frank Kerrigan28 (‘calm and unruffled as usual’) to the RAP, where Kerrigan noticed ‘Colonel Tom Campbell doing the rounds and looking 20 years older than his years—worry and lack of sleep were telling their tale—my sympathy went out to him.’ The wounded were carried out that night, the road was shelled as usual, and Leach, a stretcher case, reports: ‘The two carrying me said if the shells came any closer they would put me down as I would be quite safe being so close to the ground while they ran for cover. I told them I would be quite OK, but felt far from happy. However the shelling ended as quickly as it started.’

Next day (28 March) anti-personnel mines were laid in front of 15 Platoon, and a patrol (one of the very few patrols in Cassino at this time) from B Troop 4 Company contacted the Buffs on the left flank. ‘Lofty’ Veale, to his horror, saw a mortar shell come through the window of his broken room, hit the wall—and fail to explode. But a fragment of flying stone gave him a painful black eye.

A tank moving by the Continental Hotel brought down two prompt ‘stonks’: the artillery, now expert in ‘stonks’, could blanket any chosen area within a matter of four minutes. At breakfast time 3 Company saw to its surprise a fairly large party of civilians making their way towards the Hotel des Roses on Route 6 leading out of the town; on the brigade front another party, about thirty men and women, were seen later on. A warning shot brought a most unusual ‘white flag’ when a woman bent down, removed an undergarment, and waved it vigorously. At dusk a party of twenty enemy moving from the Hotel des Roses to the Continental was shot up by D Troop 4 Company and the artillery.

At odd times outposts glimpsed enemy stretcher-bearers who seemed to be replacing tired and hungry front-line soldiers with fresh ones. Some thought bulky greatcoats concealed belts of ammunition. Although a sharp watch was kept on these stret- page 279 cher-bearers, and some soldiers urged action (‘I was dying to pull the trigger’), it is doubtful if they were fired on. It is also doubtful whether they were abusing the Red Cross.

Heavy concentrations of enemy artillery and mortar fire on 29 March drew counter-shoots. D Troop fired on and brought casualties to an enemy party by the Hotel des Roses. That night, when Battalion Headquarters marched out (1 and 2 Companies of the battalion relieved the others in Cassino the next night), misfortune visited the carrying parties going back down Route 6.

By now carrying parties29 were growing wise to the ways of Route 6. After dark they brought up food, water, ammunition and sometimes letters from home—a weird destination for letters from quiet suburban homes and country farms on the other side of the world.30 ‘The last straight, only about 400 to 500 yards, seemed like a mile or so when one walked it for the first time, and every little noise seemed almost to wake the dead.’ The carrying parties dumped their loads at Battalion Headquarters and took back any wounded, empty water tins, bags, and so on. Their destination, Battalion Headquarters, was underground and had a small, sandbagged entrance which unfortunately faced towards the enemy. One carrying party reached this narrow entrance, found it awkward to get through because of the bulky packs, and was hovering on the threshold ‘when Jerry let fly with a few mortars and we were literally blown through the hole by a near miss.

‘“Gee! That one was close!”

‘“Everyone OK?”

‘We were OK, but it was close.’

Carrying parties began recognising the systematic way the German went about shelling Route 6 and the town: first the station, then the bridge, the church, and so on. Listening for a circuit of his shelling, men picked times to get going on to the next ‘safe’ area, and waited there until it was time to move again. Their inspiration was camp—and bed. And perhaps page 280 something more: one man, for instance, volunteered for a carrying-party trip one night just to take a particular friend a bottle of whisky. Every night a ballot was taken among B Echelon men for eight to fourteen carriers.

This night (29–30 March) some men had drawn a third turn before others had drawn a second at carrying supplies into Cassino, and some of those picked for the third round objected to going in. Sergeant Butler, who had made two or three trips, said he would go in place of one of the others.

‘While awaiting to embuss I looked around at the various carrying parties who were preparing to go up in three-tonners to a rendezvous [approximately a mile] from Cassino,’ writes Orsler. ‘They were being sent on their way by their mates who had perhaps been in the carrying party of the previous night and who really knew that it was the worst part of the Cassino undertaking. There were many grim faces, but still the occasional wit who just had to bleat like a lamb as he climbed aboard the three-tonners which did resemble a NZ sheeptruck.

‘The road was very busy this night; we passed some 15–20 trucks loaded with metal waiting to run in and dump their loads into the holes and rivers where shelling had ruined the bridges. The moon was getting brighter each night. This night a few clouds gave us cover but sometimes a clear moon would catch us in the open with no cover. Snipers were also busy. We arrived safely at the church after a jittery trip.’ The moon was still bright for the trip back. The carriers left in lots of three. Orsler was among the last three. ‘Picking our chance we made the dash over the open 100 yards or so in full view of Jerry to a heap of rubble, once a building, which gave us cover to get our wind. Then off to the bridge which we had to bypass because the engineers were pulling down its remains. In the hurry I ran onto the bridge and saw a chap (one of our 4 Company mechanics) dead across the steel frame. Hurrying back off the bridge and around the side, I soon caught up with the other two, and we were told to get going fast as Sergeant Bill Butler had been wounded and Jerry was giving the place hell, and it looked like IT.’

By this first Bailey bridge Jensen31 was killed and Sergeant Butler wounded in the arm. Engineers working on the bridge page 281 sent their RAP man to fix up Butler and provided a stretcher. Barney Beckett32 took the front of the stretcher, two engineers took the rear. ‘We got a fair way along the road,’ writes Beckett, ‘and were just about to put the stretcher in a jeep when a shell appeared to land right beside the stretcher. The jeep beat a hasty retreat. Butler and the two engineers appeared to be dead, and I was pretty well knocked about. Then Sergeant Franklin33 turned up, fixed a field dressing on me, carried me over to a derelict tank, hunted back the jeep, and took me to the A.D.S. Those engineers were very good chaps and had no need to help us as there should have been our own chaps about. I am also very grateful to Sergeant Franklin.’

Just after he had heard that Butler was wounded, Orsler and his two companions were ‘literally blasted off the raised road … and after finding all of us, still able to say “OK get going”, we [moved] off again to make a dive for cover a second time about 100–150 yards further along. After this we lost no time in getting out of range but Jerry seemed to follow us for a long way up that road that night.’

The three men reached the RAP outside Cassino to find, to their astonishment, that nobody else had arrived, ‘so we had grim feelings for the others. About 20 minutes later we drank cocoa and biscuits. During this time the first stretcher cases arrived…. Things were grim. To think that Bill Butler had to get a double wound and then afterwards [be] killed was a bit too much and it kind of knocked all of us. We had cursed our luck on the way out, but now were counting our lucky stars that we were there at all. Well that was how things turned out.’

Back in Cassino strong shelling began early in the afternoon of 30 March, and later increased in intensity, ‘so much so that we felt something brewing.’

That night the enemy attacked the railway station but was driven off by 26 Battalion. Shells bursting within five to ten yards of 22 Battalion's positions started sudden storms of dust from the rubble. Men's heads now were becoming quite sore through long wearing of steel helmets. Suddenly Stewart Nairn page 282 found himself ‘lying flat on my back on the floor of the dugout half covered in clay and splintered wood. Through a gaping hole in what had been the roof of our dugout I could see the sky in a haze of dust. Looking towards the end of the dugout I could see “Fudge” Valintine gazing at me with a look of amazement and pain. He was clasping his right heel in one hand and he uttered after a pause: “Jesus Ker-ist. I'm hit. How are you?” He said the words very slowly and it really sounded rather funny.’ They waited five hours, until dark, before reporting to the doctor. ‘In that period we smoked three and a half packets of cigarettes: Lucky Strikes: 20s.’ The wounded safely made the trip out that night, by-passing ‘the first Bailey Bridge, on which many soldiers had been killed, without any difficulty, although our hearts were in our mouths expecting one to land on the decking, which was well taped, at any moment.’

For the carrying party coming forward up Route 6 earlier that evening, the story was different. ‘Towards evening I saw our clerk “Kai” Thomson34 coming down the road with the good news that I would have to be in the carrying party again that night.’ Douglas ('Slim’) Calman35 accepted with mixed feelings. ‘Something told me that I may not be back so unconsciously I packed up my gear and left it in the truck…. Before moving off Bob Knox produced a bottle of rum, and I certainly needed Dutch courage right then. We got cracking.’ After debussing, each man was loaded up. ‘Hell! What a load: a large carry-all on each back and a two-gallon tin of water in each hand.’ All was very quiet as the party set off along Route 6 heading towards Cassino. After a while, moving along a built-up road lined on each side with the remains of trees, they gradually approached what looked like a heavy mist. Later they discovered this was smoke from canisters and shells which were being fired by our artillery. Each man just followed the man in front and hoped he knew where he was going. It was very still. An occasional burst of machine-gun fire could be heard. Many a man ‘was a bit dry in the mouth.’

Just as they reached the bridge into the town, the hush was page 283 broken by a terrific bombardment which landed on the left-hand side of the road. Luckily the carrying party was on the right, but most of the men were knocked off their feet. ‘I found myself flat on my back, cast like a sheep, as I had a valise full of rations on my back,’ Calman continues. ‘“Snow” Absolom36 came to the rescue and in the darkness we heard a voice. It was Major Milne37 who was fairly badly wounded. “Snow” assisted both of us to the RAP … no praise is too great for those medical blokes when a man is in need.’

One and 2 Companies took over. ‘As we climbed into the trucks, the rum issues came to light, thereby disproving the story that the cooks had swiped it during our days of waiting. Everyone was tense with the knowledge of the dangers ahead on Route 6. The trucks drove a little too far and we were very smartly debussed to confront a lone donkey, half-obscured by mist. Then began the journey as it has been described: past an occasional form on a stretcher, sometimes ours, sometimes one of the enemy; past the burnt-out tank, off the road into the sticky clay where the Bailey bridge lay whole but tilted to one side. A brief halt by the church. And all the time the sound of artillery, the whistle of bullets overhead, the chatter of spandaus and the sickly-sweet smell of the dead around us. To the left, up the main “street”, skirting the top half of a dead priest, into the ruins of a once smart villa.’

‘I passed one of our company laid out on a stretcher,’ wrote Geoff Knuckey.38 ‘They had left him as he had passed on and God bless him and all the others who died on that stretch of road.’ While being evacuated in a three-tonner Milne ‘looked back just as a star shell burst over and lit up Cassino, and there it was, framed in the truck's canopy, like a mouthfull of broken teeth, my last and unforgettable glimpse of the war.’

The two companies spent, with only two casualties, the first week of April in a quieter Cassino. The tension still remained of running the gauntlet on Route 6 ‘living like a louse in the stinking rubble’, and in watching out for enemy parties prowling page 284 in the ruins after dark. As Brian Leach summed up: ‘I don't know which I would have sooner done: carried rations in or sentry duty: both were rather nerve wracking.’ ‘I had a hard-shot private in my company,’ writes Knox, ‘who had broken every law in the army. One night he arrived in the carrying party with a note stating that he had volunteered for the job. In my eyes he rehabilitated himself although he was afterwards just as bad a soldier. Hell! He still visits me.’

‘The interminable rustling of those damn gas-capes at night as the picquet just relieved, tried to settle down,’ writes Bob Grant.39 ‘Everything outside “moved”, there were all sorts of “noises” outside too, but still that ghastly rustling went on until one felt like screaming.’ He goes on to describe a night on picket:

Wakened from fitful sleep to full consciousness, stiff and cold from lying on unyielding ground, to face that weird half-light called night-time in Cassino, the uncanny silence seemed like a cloak. The noise, to me, was preferable. It had substance, was solid and somehow comforting. The silence was wholly sinister.

Vague recumbent figures behind one, stirring in restless sleep, seemed to make a terrific din, and, straining to see or hear any outside movement, one felt like yelling ‘Quiet! damn you! Stop breathing! Someone's sneaking up on us! That bloody tree stump is moving That pile of rubble is a Jerry patrol! Quiet’!

Whew! It's OK. That is a tree stump, and that pile of rubble is a pile of rubble. But I could have sworn…. I should be relieved soon. What's the time? Hell! my watch must have stopped. I've been here more than 20 minutes. No! it's going. Twenty minutes….

That's a Jerry peering over what's left of that wall on the skyline! If it is, he can see me! I could pick him off easily, only mustn't give our positions away. No. It's only a piece of broken masonry.

A staccato, snarling burst of Spandau imprints every cold, single round on one's spine. Ugh! Then in the distance comes that comforting sound of a Vickers ‘pop-pop-popping’ away, on a fixed line. Good old M.G. One relaxes, and the mind wanders to more pleasant things. Hope Sam's making out alright with 25. Not a bad mob that. Of course 22 is just…. That damned stump is at it again! Relax feller. It's still a stump. I wish my vision wasn’ so restricted. A bit monotonous. Where was I? Oh, yes, 22 is just the best. About time that lupin was sown for green crop at home. Wonder how the garden is…. There are some figures out there. I can see and hear them, coming this way! Better call Scotty—he's awake anyway, and after a good look says: ‘She's right, Bob. It's the Old Man page 285 coming over. I'll wake the boys for Stand To!’ Cheers! The night's over. Nothing to worry over now. But I was afraid earlier. Afraid of an awful silence.

Yet, despite the intense strain of sudden shells, or silence, or mortars and snipers (‘I'll never forget the face of one of our platoon commanders bringing his men out of Cassino: a dead, expressionless face, and crouching behind them cradling a tommy gun and weaving backwards and forwards like an animal, the strain had been so great’), despite short rations and water, despite smoke, dust, and next to no sleep for a week (‘too noisy in the daytime, too scared—semi-isolated as we were—in the night’), the men still produced a grim Cassino brand of humour.

One of our tanks was stranded and abandoned in the main entrance to the convent next door to the ruined church. From the ruins men walked through a doorway and there, suddenly poking a man in the face, was the muzzle of the gun. When a few men of the Coldstream Guards (their boots muffled in sacking) arrived to get the run of the ropes two days before their unit relieved the battalion, the New Zealanders politely stood aside to allow a Guardsman through the doorway. Just at that moment a 22 Battalion man, fooling around inside the tank, traversed the gun right on to the Guardsman, ‘who froze before our eyes.’

But at least one laugh could have been enjoyed by the Guardsmen. When four relieving Guards officers came in, ‘the leader towering about the 6' 7? mark, the other three in the vicinity of 6' 5?, Lt. Monaghan started to show them the layout and advised me [Private Lee40] to be alert as they were so big they must hit something. A few seconds later there was a huge crash and I went to investigate and found the lieutenant picking himself up from a heap of tins. The Guards' changeover was perfect.’

While guiding in a relief party, one 22 Battalion private ‘couldn't resist putting on the “old dig” act. The young officer in charge had an outsize bedroll on his back. I told him and his party to follow me closely—where the challenge points were —to run when I ran—and that I had to judge exactly the page 286 period between Jerry's precision stonks! I admit that I ran most of the way, but was a little ashamed when on arrival the officer dropped his burden and collapsed on it, perspiration literally running off him.’

Sid Meads41 (1 Company) relates how on the last day ‘everyone was feeling happy huddled in a low cellar just in front of the two hotels when Lee Bridgeman42 picks up our officer's (Gordon Stuckey43) Verey pistol. Pulls the trigger and swish— out pops a flare and it ricochets round the cellar and burns out. Smoke everywhere. Coughing cursing men. One, Arthur Aldridge,44 thought it was a 36 grenade and held up a gas-cape to protect himself with. Smoke billows out and then the Jerry hate starts and carries on for an hour or more. Bridgeman a very subdued man and needless to say all we others too.’

Haddon Donald wanted to know why a group of his men hadn't shaved for four days. A safety razor with one rusty blade was unearthed, and eight men used it. ‘A quick dash out with a Jerry helmet for water from a nearby shellhole, some Lifebuoy soap, and agony upon agony. O.C. very gratified.’

Knox found a silver chalice in Cassino about the time the battalion pulled out, and offered it to the 2 Company man who came out of Cassino and down Route 6 in the fastest time. They left in single file, about ten yards apart. Knox, leaving last, was the only man to catch up with the man in front of him; he won the Cassino Handicap, plus cup.

The battalion had seen the last of Cassino town itself, but was to stay near Cassino for the rest of April. The men came out to a countryside in spring: wild flowers were out in the fields, and buds bursting on the vines; the fields never looked so green. The battalion moved four miles to the south of its old position in Cassino town. On the way back the lorries were very exposed in places where the road was raised by embankments, and there were patches of fog too. Then the battalion entered lightly wooded country.

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Its new front, 3000 yards long and fairly quiet, lay on the eastern bank of the Gari River, into which the Rapido flows. Here patrols were active, some of them soon moving across the river and cautiously feeling into enemy territory. This work (the battalion's casualties for April were 4 dead and 11 wounded) drew a compliment from the Brigade Commander, Brigadier Inglis, when 22 Battalion finally left its river line.

The new position was a beautiful place: ‘that beautiful green of the new barley, and a fair amount of clumps of bushes so you could move carefully by day. There was just the odd shelling and mortaring, otherwise pleasant enough. We were still in full view of the monastery, its ruins still watched us, wherever you went you always had the impression that the monastery was watching you.’ By night it was an uncanny place: ‘mist swirling around and bullfrogs croaking—just the setting for a Hollywood mystery picture. Dry area. Niente vino.’ Here, no matter how damp or dismal or dangerous the night, Forbes McHardy always arrived after midnight ‘with a big billy of tea for his men: it was terribly appreciated.’

The battalion was not far from the hamlet of Zuparelli, which was little more than a group of houses in one block. Civilians still lived round Zuparelli, but when the French Moroccan Goums took over on the left flank the Italians immediately sent their women away.

‘Number One Company, in reserve in Zuparelli, grew very fond of an old patriarch there: alert and erect when you saw him from behind, but when you faced him he was about 80,’ recalls a battalion officer. ‘He had a son, about 50, just the boy about the place. The old man was very intrigued by the boys' false teeth and was keen to get a set. In vain we tried to get him to be more careful about occasional shells—throughout the Italian campaign, Italians seemed to think shelling was meant exclusively for soldiers, not civilians. So one night old grandad collected it. Now this family's wheat, tomatoes and so on were all locked away jealously in the attic. Old grandad had not allowed his wife or son the keys. When grandpa died, much to the amazement of the boys, decrepit old grandma (who we thought had really had it), then came to light and, rejuvenated, took over office—and the keys. The son, aged 50, was still the boy about the place.’

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Men of 2 and 3 Companies stood-to by night in prepared positions and lived in buildings by day. In the fortnight they were there the battalion's mortars fired over 2000 rounds. The first casualties came on the fifth day (14 April), when a platoon commander, Lieutenant Revell,45 and three other ranks exploded a booby trap. Revell was hit by several pieces of shrapnel, and Sergeant Bradbury,46 hit in the neck by a piece as big as a pea, was amused later to find himself listed as wounded. The place contained many sorts of booby traps, which the companies neutralised ‘and replaced with ones of our own. These were mostly “Silent Sentries”: flares fixed to a steel rod and spring-loaded, so that when a tripwire attached was fouled, up went the flare, lighting up the surrounding countryside. These were used as a warning of approaching enemy patrols. Another type used was a primed hand-grenade placed in a milk tin, or round tobacco-tin, and a long fine wire attached. When this wire was tripped, the grenade was pulled from the tin and exploded.’

Two Company's position had been attacked three times before by strong enemy patrols, which apparently had crossed the river by some subtle method. The patrols kept dry and left no tracks. Knox decided to move forward all positions right to the water's edge, and a capable soldier, Sergeant McClymont,47 took up a position in a heap of rubble by the water. He kept in touch with Company Headquarters by phone.48 The next night (15 April) McClymont asked to be allowed to take a patrol along the riverbank towards where he had heard Germans. The sergeant organised his patrol and set off bravely to his death. His patrol and a German party met head on. The leaders opened fire at point-blank range: both McClymont and the German died instantly. A badly shaken patrol reported back to Company Headquarters, where Knox organised a new patrol page 289 ‘and one of these young lads who had been in McClymont's patrol offered, despite his shaken condition, to lead me to the spot where McClymont had fallen. This he did very well. We found both bodies and brought the sergeant's body home. I recommended this guide for a decoration but I don't think anything came of it.’

Only a few weeks before his death Jim McClymont had written this poem:

Rain falling dismally
Every tree drips mournfully
Like the sad ghosts of happier bygone years.
Why can't man live peacefully?
Why must he war eternally?
Lord, grant that the years to come may be
Unmarred by strife and pain
That she at last may share with me
Sunshine as well as rain.

Doug Froggatt, the signaller, writes: ‘3 Company in this position had a listening post down near the river. This consisted of a hole dug in the side of the road and suitably camouflaged. A telephone wire was run to the post and as soon as possible after dusk each evening two men would go there, connect a telephone and sit out the night in silence and in sweat. I can well remember giving vent to considerable profanity when, after the patrol had gone to the listening post and no contact had been made by phone, one of us signallers was detailed to go and see if the line had not been cut by shellfire. Wrapping boots in sacking (something everyone who went down to that post did) one would creep down the road tommy gun under arm. Frogs were abundant in roadside swamps, the night being filled with their love songs (it was early spring). Suddenly all frogs would cease to croak and dead silence would descend. It was at such times that the tommy gun was held a a little tighter and the sweat ran down the forehead in spite of the coolness of the weather. Although it was necessary for 3 Company Sigs to make that trip a number of times no break in the ‘phone line was ever found and always at the end sat two B— soldats who had put the earth wire on the wrong terminal or plugged the earphones in the microphone jack (we were at this stage using wireless remote control units as telephones).

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‘One night whilst sitting on the 10 line Telephone Exchange switch-board (to which we had 19 lines connected) a light above the listening post line came up and on answering it a whispered voice asked for Company Commander, Haddon Donald. “The trump” was soon put on and the following conversation ensued:

OC: “Yes”.
Whispered Voice: “We can hear some Germans moving down here in the swamp, Sir!”
OC: “In the swamp! In the swamp! What's the good of them in the swamp, I want them in the bag—get cracking!”

‘Sometime later the light again came up above the listening post line and a whispered voice said, “Tell the Major they got away, will you?”

‘Hell—who'd be an infantry Private again?’

An engineer officer briefly with the battalion failed to cross the Gari. He found that the current ran about ten miles an hour and thought there was some danger of being swept away. Nevertheless on 20 April Lieutenant-Colonel Steele (CO of the battalion now that Colonel Campbell had left on furlough for New Zealand) told 2 and 3 Companies' commanders that patrols would cross the river. Shortly after this the enemy heavily shelled 3 Company and 15 Platoon headquarters. Private Tama49 was killed outright, and Private Mollier,50 gravely wounded, died next day. After dark the patrols set off to the river. The patrols from 2 Company didn't get across; they found the water too deep and the current too strong, but 3 Company's patrols were successful at two places.

After the first attempt patrols (‘faces blackened, proper commando outfits like’) from both companies successfully crossed over each night until 24 April, when the battalion was relieved by the Indians. Strangely enough the first 2 Company officer to cross was a very poor swimmer. Once across, patrols left ropes in position on each bank to help future reconnaissances. One patrol successfully used rubber boats. A boat was swamped, but the officer and corporal, undaunted, swam the river. Only page 291 once did these parties run into resistance. A patrol which was to cover Lieutenant Jock Wells51 crossing the Rapido on a rubber pontoon drew mortar and machine-gun fire. Although the party sheltered in a safe-looking sunken road, four men were evacuated: Privates Duffy, Dumble,52 Heald,53 and Rule.54 Robert Rule, badly wounded in the mouth and with ten teeth knocked out, remembers ‘after they gave me the needle and had me on the stretcher ready for the ambulance, I braced my arms against the stays and refused to let go, fearing they were putting me in my Box for St. Peter before I was ready. There is one thing I would like to mention as a Maori in a Pakeha Battalion. I fully appreciate having served alongside mates such as they were—our platoon officer Jock Wells was tops.’

The battalion took some pride in mastering the river. Men patrolling the enemy side discovered a severe tank obstacle: a deep ditch quite overlooked in the plans for the coming attack. (Photographs from the air did not show up this ditch as a serious obstacle. Information from the 22nd's patrols led later to the ditch being bridged by tank bridgers.)

A company cook, Terry Miles,55 was plagued by rats. He slept in the cookhouse, a downstairs room which once housed grain. Rat traps were not an army issue. A sympathetic signaller collected a number of old wireless batteries and fixed up a small tin of food and a sheet of tin. ‘The idea was that the rats had to stand on the sheet of tin and reach up into the food. As soon as the rat standing on the plate of tin touched the food tin, contact was made and whacko she bumped. The first night the idea was used proved a real nightmare for Terry. Rats and blue sparks shot all over the room and next morning the tin plate bore many scratch marks where rats had taken off with great acceleration. Admittedly no dead rats were found but thereafter, however, no more rats were seen or heard.’

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For another month Cassino held out. Meanwhile 22 Battalion left the river and reorganised, changing from a motor battalion proper to a motorised infantry battalion. During this time a sergeant, an ammunition-truck driver, and George Orsler went back for a trip to Piedimonte. Orsler writes: ‘Here Sergeant X [name withheld] had become friendly with an Italian girl of 25–30 years—quite a nice piece too she was, and he being in charge of rations could easily do a big line and Sergeants were better than Privates, etc., in the eyes of the Fair Sex, but somehow this girl must have fallen for X in a big way. For when the three of us arrived back there the girl was at church but her friends were still at home. They were pleased to see us again and asked after X, telling us that this girl had felt and dreamt that he had been killed, so we told them it was true, and they cried and told us not to tell the girl when she came back from church. So we were on our guard and held back our news. The girl arrived in due course and was pleased to see us and asked for X. We said he was too busy to come today. But no, she said, that was not right, she was sure he was killed. We said “No”, then: “he was hurt.” She was sure. We said yes he was wounded and in hospital and would be out soon. No, she said, that was lies. X was dead. We could not convince her otherwise, so asked her how she knew. She told us that on the night of … she had seen X killed in her dreams at the exact minute he was killed and that first he was wounded and later killed by a German mortar bomb. It seemed so real that we could not see how she could know so much had she not been there but it was all true to the exact detail and she, in a straight line, was more than 15–20 miles away. We had to admit that what she told us was true, every detail. I have heard of similar experiences but this is the only one I personally have come in contact with at its happening. This is true and may be fantastic but the other two of the party will verify my words.’

Once the battalion was out of the line by the Rapido River, parties went on leave, some making south to Bari, others (the lucky ones) heading off for a first-class holiday on the beautiful Isle of Ischia off the Gulf of Naples—another Capri without San Michele. The island had offered similar hospitality to page 293 German soldiers. The scheme: the battalion supplied the food, the little hotels cooked it, and the cost of board, two shillings a day, was paid from regimental funds.

The island was now a Royal Navy rest camp. The naval officer in charge was Lieutenant-Commander McLennan, who had visited New Zealand. Fourth Brigade started the ball rolling by sending over small parties. Then Division grew interested. Brigadier Crump,56 Commander of the NZASC, made a good job of arranging the organisation, accommodation, and control of New Zealand troops in Ischia.

From Naples a little steamer took leave parties to the island's lovely little port, almost a complete circle, the remains of a drowned (and, happily, long extinct) volcano. Men went on a couple of miles to Casamicciola. On the way they passed over a few hills and looked back to a glorious view: the harbour, the blue Mediterranean, Naples, and Vesuvius away in the distance. ‘It was not a camp as a soldier knows it,’ writes a staff-sergeant. ‘There was no reveille, parades, or queuing up for meals. No sleeping between blankets on hard beds. Just the reverse. The men were all accommodated in quaint old-world hotels or more modern villas. Built of stone they were large and cool. All had their gardens and open courtyards or balconies almost entirely shaded by the dense foliage of grape vines [where sometimes] meals would be served during the heat of the day.’

Good wines were sold most of the time in the villages, but the pensions sold wines and liqueurs to their guests at any hour (a service by no means overlooked by the visitors). Yet not once were the authorities troubled with drunkenness, and of the 950 New Zealanders who passed through this rest camp, only one was banished ‘for unruliness’.

The soldiers swam, sunbathed, and loafed about on a good sandy beach; they hired sailing boats, canoes or row-boats, bought grass hats and souvenir baskets and model boats woven from seagrass, lazily watched the swallows in the daytime and the fireflies at night, and clip-clopped in old gharries along sleepy little streets and out into the orchards, vineyards and olive groves, all circled by an unruffled sea. Invigorating mineral page 294 baths could be taken in several imposing buildings, where for ten lire (sixpence) a small room could be hired with a large marble bath and a full-sized mirror.

They ate plenty of good fresh vegetables and fish, and fruit too—big grapes and cherries. A few gathered up enough energy to climb 800 feet through woods and tall firs to the top of a sleeping volcano, Mount Epome, where the view (or exquisite liqueurs at a tiny monastery with its rooms tunnelled out of solid rock) made the effort well worth while. A bootblack (rewarded with a meal) guided one party: ‘the track ended with the pine woods and we had to trust in our leader as he skirted plantations of corn and beans. Shy peasant girls were caught looking up at us after we had passed them at their work; the men did not even give us a “Giorno” in greeting. At the edge of the crops sticks some three feet high carried a small trap, baited with a green twig. Each time our guide came up to a trap which had caught a bird he gravely transferred the bird to his overcoat pocket and gently reset the trap.’

Some managed to arrange a small dance or two, but hawkeyed chaperones watched every move. A school-teacher (from an outlying village), who had been in the United States, brought a party of girls and their families along to one 22 Battalion dance. It wasn't much of a success. The visitors' main interest was the supper. It was very difficult to prise any of the girls away from the supper table for a dance. ‘They played sad havoc with our rations,’ reported Major O'Reilly glumly.

Three days and four nights the holiday lasted. Then it was goodbye to the little villas and hotels with the big vases and bowls overflowing with flowers: the Internazionale (Mario and his wife), Miramonte (‘Madame’—was she pro-Axis?), Valla Igea (‘John’), Yacarina, Canetti, La Camera.

‘On the last night before our leave finished I went to bed early: the vino had taken another victim,’ writes ‘Shorty’ Kirk.57 ‘My cobber, Bert Clifford, hardened and seasoned, could not be beaten, he would not give in to vino. Finally he came in and woke me up. “Hey Shorty, would you like a feed?” I said faintly “Rightoh Bert.” Bert returned with a couple of fried eggs in his hands. I looked at Bert and said nothing about page 295 “Where's the plate?” or such like. But I could see something was troubling Bert pretty bad. This island by the way had a terrible lot of lizards on it, they were really thick. But anyway Bert was pretty far gone, and the next thing I could hear was Bert's hands fumbling all over the top of the dressing table. “What's wrong Bert?” Bert replied: “Aw blast these lizards. I'll catch them in the morning.” Poor Bert, he did have it bad.’

At a parade of 4 Armoured Brigade General Freyberg presented Bob Knox with the MC he had won at the Sangro—a popular award, for Bob (shortly to be invalided home because of ill health) knew his men not only by name but by nature too. It was Bob's custom to read out routine orders to his assembled company, and his interpretation of orders was characteristic. ‘No rubbish,’ he would read, ‘may be deposited in the lines.’ Then he would look up and say: ‘That means you, Smith, Brown and Robinson.’ Reading orders about discipline, Bob would pause, then add those which would be enforced rigidly. If anyone thought he was incapable of doing so, he would be pleased to meet him at the back of his tent after the parade, to decide who was the better man.

The General pinned on the decoration, paused, spoke a few words, then moved on. Everyone wanted to know what Freyberg had said. ‘Well,’ explained Knox, ‘he told me that it was a very nice decoration, which I thought was damned decent of him seeing it was the only one he didn't have himself.’

Battalion officers held a dance in the main post office at Caserta and invited the sisters and VADs of 2 General Hospital to help things along. Entertaining themselves further afield, some went on picnics to the coast near the mouth of the Volturno River. Swimming in the water in the nude was marvellous. One picnic party looked up to see a maimed United States Liberator, returning from a raid, falter then smash into the sea. Still vivid in many minds is the obvious desperation with which the crew were jettisoning everything movable as they passed overhead, fighting in vain to win a little height on two engines. Strong swimmers, led by Sergeant ('Strip’) Teaz,58 went to the rescue and brought ashore two drowned airmen.

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While the leave parties enjoyed freedom, the rest of the men settled down into the new arrangement of three motorised infantry companies and a support company. This reshuffle virtually wiped out the Anti-Tank Company. Still more infantry were needed in Italy and mechanised troops were of little use when war stagnated in the hills. Then the battalion trained in tank and infantry co-operation (SCONEDOER, this exercise was called) with the armoured regiments, suffering three casualties —three men of 2 Company caught in our own fire. On one such manoeuvre 1 and 3 Companies skirted Alife. The tanks laid a smoke screen at one stage of the attack to enable the infantry to get forward, the smoke shells passing waist high through 3 Company, which took off to a man and sheltered in a ditch full of blackberry until the manoeuvre was safely over.

Training with the tank men continued. Simultaneously, volunteers were coached in special work on reconnaissance patrols, while selected officers went about lecturing on and demonstrating mines, explosives, signals (the No. 38 set), patrols, and river crossings by rubber assault boats. Here Arthur Fong59 heard the most gracious remark ever made about the atrocious ‘V’ cigarettes: an Italian purchaser explained to a friend that the ‘V’ meant Virginia tobacco.

But (as more than one veteran prophesied) this training was of little use in the last week of the month. The battalion was sent into a dead-end, the mountains about four miles north-east of Cassino, to hold very steep country. Here, for the first time since Olympus, the battalion depended on mules for supplies. Here, too, came the curious sensation, while staying in the same place, of being in the front line one day, and miles behind it the next. The battalion was out of the picture. A heavy offensive began on 11 May, and within a fortnight the Gustav line yielded and broke at last, thanks mainly to the Goums finding their way through the mountains into the Liri valley. This spectacular drive, surprising friend and foe alike, took the enemy from behind. He was in trouble enough, too, in front. Simultaneously the Poles, backed by New Zealand artillery, attacked the Monastery, and British troops, with New Zealand armour, cut bloody Route 6 behind the ruined town. page 297 By 25 May the Liri valley lay wide open, and the hunt up the peninsula to Rome swept forward.

Two days before this 22 Battalion, which all the time had been expecting a dashing part in the break-through, was being tucked away quietly among the trees and woods and brave red poppies in the hills, a mile north of Sant’ Elia Fiumerapido,60 well towards the source of the Rapido River. Units of the Division were stationed here after their Cassino ordeal. One and 3 Companies had to march a good way into position in the dark to relieve the Cape Town Highlanders. It was raining too and the country was rough. Supplying these hillside positions was tricky. From Hove Dump jeeps took over, grinding along a steep, rocky exposed road. Some 22 Battalion drivers joined this jeep train briefly. When jeeps could get no further, mules took over. The Cassino line petered out here in the mountains. From rocky peaks and sangars, outposts watched one another while the main fighting went on below round Cassino.

For six days (23–28 May) 1 and 3 Companies stayed above Sant’ Elia Fiumerapido, a rough area of stunted trees and hard rock. Men fitted themselves into crude depressions high in the hillside, around which the South Africans had built low walls of loose rock. To tired eyes the trees and bushes moved in the night like enemy soldiers on patrol: ‘and the countless fireflies—all their lights going on and off at regular intervals.’

For the first four days the companies met shelling and mortaring, which one night killed a man, the only 22 Battalion death by direct enemy action in this place, Private Strang,61 in 3 Company's headquarters area. On 27 May, after careful patrolling, they found the enemy had gone.

page 298

A mile in front of the battalion's positions lay the village of Valleluce, hidden in woods. Shelling and mortaring was still going on at this time, but on the night of 25–26 May Lieutenant Mullinder,62 with thirteen men, reached the village to find, after creeping stealthily from house to house, that both enemy and civilians had flown. A little later the lieutenant, with Lance- Corporal Lange63 and Private Leighton,64 walked into a booby trap. All three were wounded. A party began carrying the lieutenant, the most seriously hurt, back on a heavy door to battalion positions. Lange rested one hand on the side of the door to help himself along. Dave Hannah,65 bent over on the back of the door, changed places with his comrade, ‘Mac’ Shotter,66 and 15 yards further on another mine ‘went up right under us’, killing Shotter and Lange and wounding Hannah and Hodges.67 Stunned and wounded in the head, Hodges was helped to the RAP by ‘Nuts’ Medway,68 ‘and from there I don't remember much except a lot of needles and getting carried in and out of the ambulances.’

Blown from the door, the unfortunate lieutenant died two days later. After this the rest of the party gave up the idea of remaining overnight in the village, which, a member of the patrol notes, was ‘the most poverty stricken I have ever seen. It was alive with fleas. Trip-wires and traps were everywhere, even in the church. We saw a violin case lying only too prominently in one cottage and dared not touch it. In another a locked cabin trunk begged to be opened. We passed it by, only to learn later that a braver or more foolhardly soldato had inquired within and found—a dead cat.’

page 299

That evening the enemy, getting rid of stocks of ammunition, shelled Sant’ Elia and the jeep-head for the last time. After dark Lieutenant Monaghan led a patrol a mile north of Valleluce, wove safely through a minefield, and hid n thick undergrowth as a shadowy party of forty enemy soldiers filed past within 25 yards. At dawn (27 May) further patrolling detected empty positions. After this another patrol under Lieutenant Bright69 pushed on to the summit of Cifalco, on the battalion's left flank, and found more abandoned sangars and dugouts. Next day other patrols came back with the same story: clearly the enemy now had abandoned the top of the Rapido River valley. The only casualty in these patrols was Second- Lieutenant Stuckey, who was wounded by a booby trap.

That was the last day in this place. The two companies marched back to Sant’ Elia Fiumerapido, where the Rt. Hon. Peter Fraser, meeting the battalion on an informal visit, spoke about the 2 NZEF and rehabilitation plans. A few nights before this a battalion man had been yarning about prospects in a new job that was waiting him back home. Three or four comrades were sitting about in the calm dusk of an Italian evening. The conversation had drifted to news of home. This man pulled out his wallet and handed round photographs of his young wife and small baby, of his parents, and the new home which was waiting his return. ‘Somehow,’ writes Padre Sullivan, ‘we came to know the people he spoke about, and began to share something of their lives, and his.

‘The next morning at 7.0 a.m. we buried him. There were only three people at the grave, which was dug out on the top of a mound and overlooked a valley below, with whole fields of red poppies blowing gently in the breeze.

‘Just as the simple service began, up staggered one of his friends, who was en route to the front line. He stood there, a big, hulking fellow, heavily accoutred as for war, tin hat on his head, rifle in one hand, and in the other he clutched half a dozen wild red poppies. He was dumb and inarticulate, but this tribute he felt he must pay. There could not have been a simpler cortege. It is doubtful if there could have been a more splendid one.’

page 300

All over the western Italian front the German was now in headlong retreat, pulling back fast over 200 miles to his next fortified line south of Florence. Other victorious units near the coast pressed on up the Liri valley; the New Zealanders, working northward further inland close to the Apennines, would not reach Rome (which fell on 4 June), but were to halt at Avezzano, about 50 miles north-west of Cassino. They cleared rearguards, removed cunningly concealed mines and booby traps, and patched up smashed roads and bridges. This took about a fortnight; by 9 June the first troops were in Avezzano.

In this New Zealand advance 22 Battalion, again disappointed at not being used as a motorised battalion, moved almost 20 miles due north, through the little town of Atina, and went into position just below Alvito. Shortly before the move began (Sergeant Bart Cox recalls), ‘the boys with an eye to loot no doubt, were venturing further and further afield.

‘Sergeant-Major Frank Kerrigan to one of the troop sergeants: “Is your jeep here?”

‘T.S. “Yes.”

‘S.M. “Can I borrow it?”

‘T.S. “What do you want it for?”

‘S.M. “There's a little portable organ in a church just up the road. Just the thing for the Padre. He'd like it.”

‘T.S. “But Frank, the Padre wouldn't use an organ you had pinched from a church.”

‘S.M. “Wouldn't he? That's all you know. Look, I'm a bloody Doolan but I know your Padre better than you do. If I get the organ he'll use it.”

‘Fortunately the road proved impassable, even for a jeep, so the good Padre was never put to the test.’

Near Alvito the battalion stayed from 1 to 12 June, for the first three days protecting the right flank of the advancing Division (5 and 6 Brigades were thrusting towards Avezzano). The first three days brought shelling, and then the enemy and his mountain guns had gone. On the first day his shelling ‘killed a very fine fellow, a character, Captain W. H. (“Bunty”) Cowper, acting OC Support Company. He spoke in quick staccato style, he was very good on the foraging side of army life, and he ran a most unorthodox company headquarters.

Black and white photograph of a soldier cooking

D. Charlwood prepares a meal near Rimini

Black and white photograph of a tank

Panther turret captured by 22 Battalion near Rimini, September 1944

Black and white photograph of a sports team

The 22 Battalion rugby team which won the Freyberg Cup, December 1944. This photograph was taken before one of the earlier games

Black and white photograph of a group of people

A village priest brings in refugees from German-occupied areas near Faenza, December 1944

Black and white photograph of a house

D Company headquarters, January 1945

Black and white photograph of a gun

A machine gun in the rear of Palazzo Quarantino covers the Senio stopbank, January 1945

Black and white photograph of a field

The attack across the Senio River begins, 9 April 1945. The line of the stopbank is clearly seen

Black and white photograph of vehicles

QM trucks at Massa Lombarda, April 1945

Black and white photograph of army officers

Don Horn, Sid Benson and Major Reg Spicer with a mortar captured at the Reno River, April 1945

Black and white photograph of vehicles near a river

Ferrying trucks across the Piave, April 1945

Black and white photograph of soldiers with a vehicle

German prisoners pushing their vehicles near Trieste, May 1945

Black and white photograph of a parade

C Company parades in Trieste, May 1945

Black and white photograph of soldiers

22 Battalion controlling the Japanese repatriation centre at Senzaki

Black and white photograph of soldiers resting

Resting during manoeuvres, November 1946

Black and white photograph of an army officer

Lt-Col A. F. W. O'Reilly

Coloured map of Italy


page 301

Bunty's death was bitter to them.’ When shells began plastering a crossroad Cowper, Sergeant ‘Strip’ Teaz, and Walker70 ran into a cave for shelter. Fragments flying from a shell bursting about eight yards away killed Cowper and wounded his companions. ‘“Strip” Teaz was a damn fine man and a grand soldier, and our whole platoon were sorry when he passed out in hospital in Caserta a few days later.’

Among the last enemy shells to fall in the battalion's area was one which ended Private White's71 war days. He was washing his feet at the time and had his right leg pulverized while still holding it. White remembers ‘how I yelled like hell for my cobbers as I was afraid another shell would land and finish me off.’ Spun around by the concussion, he recalls how the shattered leg ‘felt as though it was “corkscrewed” in the cobbled road.’ Bed-boards (six-foot planks) were placed across a jeep to take the stricken soldier to the RAP. A dud shell landed five yards in front of the jeep on the way down to the doctor.

During this time no visible sign of the enemy was found by three patrols, one sent out by the carrier section, the others under Second-Lieutenants McHardy and Henderson.72 Then, on 3 June, five Honey tanks, a troop of Shermans, and 11 Platoon 2 Company, with Captain House73 in command, pushed six miles north, shot up an enemy observation post and saw abundant signs of recent occupation but actually saw no enemy troops, although the armour, skirting ahead of the infantry, came under shelling late in the afternoon.

This ended 22 Battalion's brief role in the advance. Support Company moved up to billets in the orphanage at Alvito (the cold showers here were most welcome). The village, the late headquarters of the German 5 Mountain Division, was the wealthiest and least damaged settlement the battalion had met so far.

Looking back to this day, a veteran writes: ‘After the desert environment (which seemed a fitting place for a battle) war seemed to clash with the atmosphere of Italy—the countryside and weather from spring to autumn seemed too beautiful and page 302 peaceful for that. I remember the morning we moved up to Alvito. There was a stop just before we got to the place and everyone was standing round the trucks waiting in the sun and taking in the Italian spring at its best. There wasn't a murmur of war anywhere. Then all of a sudden—like a train coming— a big shell came over the hill and crashed down on the Orphanage. It completely broke the spell and someone said: “What a b—of a thing to do on a morning like this.” And I was in perfect agreement.’

‘Small Italian towns can be funny places,’ writes another member of the battalion. ‘Under the late Benito Mussolini's regime they were all over-organised. Alvito was no exception. It had a Director of Art, a Director of Music, even a Director of Education, I believe. They gave us a concert in the small theatre, one in the afternoon and one in the evening. The Director of Drama took over the programme—pathetic—but the Battalion compere thought that we had to give local morale a boost, so he came on to the stage and said in English: “This won't be much of a show, but give it all the support you can. We shall start with a frightful tenor, but give him a good hand.”

‘The tenor came out and, before he could sing a note, he was given an ovation. Schubert's Serenade followed: the trouble was that he was so overcome with his welcome, he would not stop singing. The compere went on the stage again and said: “Break it down you fellows: there are other items and you have overdone it with this bird.”

‘We eventually got through with a one-act play in Italian, interpreted by one of our people who spoke the language, and “Penny Serenade” was sung by a young Italian girl with a “penny” voice. At the end of the afternoon's show, the Director of Drama came forward to the compere.

‘“They were a good audience,” he said, “but you forget that I speak English.” ‘

After the first show the actors and actresses were told: ‘You must be here at 7.30 p.m. If you arrive five minutes late, the show's off. And we will give you supper.’ They were there at 7 p.m. with all their families, obviously because food was in the offing. ‘To our embarrassment and chagrin, our lighting system broke down and we were unable to start until 8.15 p.m. The show went off with a bang, thanks to the co-operation of page 303 the troops. Then came supper. The girls were beautifully dressed, even to lacquered finger-nails, but they were very hungry. It was a sad sight to watch them stick their bare arms into the Army cookers and pull out handfulls of baked beans. It was a pity that Mussolini could not have seen that.’

Alvito town rose up from the foot of a knoll and looked down on a checker-board of fields spreading away down the valley towards Atina, a pleasant place marred by the tragic death of Private Wood,74 of Battalion Headquarters, who accidentally shot himself in the head when removing his tommy gun from its case in preparation for a route march. He was buried next to ‘Bunty’ Cowper.

Here came the news, first of the fall of Rome, then ‘the thing for which we had been waiting for years: The Second Front as we called it. The authorities said we shouldn't call it that, that we were really The Second Front, but we still stuck to it instead of invasion. So when we heard we all went down and gathered round the radio, and it sounded very like what you expected it to sound.’

‘What made me the most bitter?’ asks Lloyd Grieve.75 ‘Hard to say. Neither discomforts nor delays, cold or mud, booby-traps or soya-links. I think, perhaps, the wounding of a non-combatant, the small boy in the Liri Valley whom I found playing with some German detonators and who, before I could intervene, blew the flesh from the fingers of one hand, exposing the bones like small twigs on a branch. War was not an army on the march; it was all the wounded and suffering; it was shooting a German in the arm and then using one's own field dressing to stop the flow of blood; a crazy adventure to the man in battle, a dread horror to the civilian.’

From here the battalion went on to rest. One soldier wrote: ‘This “rest” business you hear about is really only a lot of hard work for us, training, etc. They never leave you alone for long.’

For several weeks the Division rested and trained at Fontana Liri, near Arce on Route 6, 55 miles short of Rome. The dour struggle for Cassino was over. The battalion had not been page 304 heavily engaged—its casualties were 13 dead and 57 wounded —but the approaching battle for Florence would be a different story.

Padre Sullivan has the last word on Cassino:

I suppose the war floated over the heads of some men like a warm wave. They seemed to go through the business without any idea of what was involved. My little batman was such a one. He enlisted under age in order to be with his brother, but he never at any stage understood the significance of the conflict. He seemed to live in another world. The incident I am about to record seems incredible, but it is true.

We had been in Alvito for some time and he was driving me back to Caserta to No. 2 Hospital. We were obliged to pass through Cassino and, as we came down the hill to go through that shattered and forlorn looking place, I said to him,

‘Walter, what is the name of that town below us?’

He looked out of the cab of the truck and pondered for some time.

‘You've got me beat,’ he replied.

‘Stop the truck,’ I ordered him. He did so and we got out.

‘Now,’ I said, ‘it could be one of the four following places. Alvito, Montecorvo, Mignano or Cassino.’ It obviously could not be any of the former three, but Walter did not seem to think so. He reflected for some time.

‘It's Alvito, of course,’ he replied, and mark you, we had just left that town, having spent a fortnight there. I got him by the ear and led him to the side of the road and said:

‘That is Cassino, my boy. Take a long, long look. It is now burnt into our national history. If you remember nothing else about the war, remember that.’

Knowing him as I do, I am willing to bet that is all he has remembered.

1 Devastated Cassino lay at the foot of Montecassino (about 1700 ft high), topped by the famous monastery, soon to be bombed. Cassino blocked the way into the Liri valley. Here, on the western side of the Apennines, British, American and French troops of Fifth Army had hoped for a quick break-through from Cassino to the great prize of Rome, less than 70 miles away. These soldiers had fought their way into the Volturno valley, which led into the Liri valley near Cassino. But the mountains drew in, the evil winter weather descended, and the enemy, firmly entrenched in his rugged Gustav line, fought back with defiant courage and skill. Here, into the Volturno valley came the New Zealand Division in the first week in February. Three weeks later 22 Battalion learned that its old desert brigade commander, Major-General Kippenberger, now commanding 2 NZ Division, miraculously escaping death but losing both feet, had trodden on a mine on Monte Trocchio. He was succeeded by Brigadier G. B. Parkinson.

2 Pte D. R. Froggatt; New Plymouth; born New Plymouth, 30 Mar 1922; postman; twice wounded.

3 A wall of Pompeii had an ancient Latin notice: ‘It is a wonder, oh Wall, that thou hast not collapsed under the weight of so much nonsense’. Throughout Italy, as the months dragged by and the front seared its way north, the old tradition of slogan-scribbled walls lived on: DUCE or DUX, now defaced and out of fashion, together with VEDERE, VIVERE, VINCERE or COMBATTERE. VIVAS were abbreviated to a w-sign (which the dissenter inverted into an M sign), VIVA STALIN (always correct and plentifully supplied with hammers and sickles, or stencil of Lenin), CHURCHILL (CHURCHIL or CIORCIL) and ROOSEVELT (RUSVELT). Nobody attempted to viva Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek (or, oddly enough, Hitler, it seems). WELCOME TO THE LIBERATORS varied once or twice with LONG LIVE DEAR OLD ENGLAND; LONG LIFE TO THE USA; HURRAH! BOYS! HURRAH! and YOU ARE WELL COMMING. Peaceful signs ran to GOOD CLEAN BARBERS, and VERY BEST LAUNDRIES and FAST WASHWOMAN. Among Allied signs (varied and many) were two which nobody ever understood: WASKI POST and PUNKT RAT. The Allied Military Government of Occupied Territory, joining the fray as a mere amateur, posted well-meaning signs reading AMGOT, but these were again abbreviated (and hastily, too) to AMG because, so the story runs, amgot is Persian for something unspeakable connected with a dog.

4 Here New Zealanders came into closer contact with American troops and bartered successfully for large-collared American jackets. An officer relates: ‘The Yanks, after their custom, had provided almost every known amenity. In the centre of an area which they occupied, stretching for what looked like almost an acre, there was a vast series of marquees strung together. This was the American mobile bath unit. The procedure was most exact.

‘We New Zealanders, after first having taken advantage of it without permission, were finally granted authority to use it. That was allowed because the Yanks appeared to have no option. The men lined up and entered the first marquee. As they did so, they took off all their clothing and each man put it in a huge canvas bag, which was received by a courteous G.I., who gave him a duplicate disk by way of receipt. Then slowly the group of male nudes made its way along duckboards, up the steps and into a series of shower cubicles, which ranged from very hot to cold. Each one was visited in turn and, as the individual soldier came out of the last one, he was met by another courteous G.I., who handed him a huge towel. Still clutching his disk he dried himself, passed it on to a third waiting American and received his bag of clothing back, de-loused, fumigated, one almost thought dry-cleaned. He dressed and went out the far end of the last marquee. The pièce de résistance needs to be described. This whole business went on to the accompaniment of music. In the far corner a lanky G.I. worked the gramophone and changed the records. What will be his answer to his growing son, who now keeps on asking him: “What did you do in the War, Daddy?” ‘

5 ‘In the fullness of time,’ writes a sergeant, ‘newspapers and periodicals from NZ reached the Div. What photos! What comment. “My God! What these boys must be going through!” “Look at that brave man charging through the smoke with a rifle and bayonet!” “Great men on the bayonet, these NZers!” “These men have seen hell”.’

6 Battalion appointments at Cassino: CO, Lt-Col T. C. Campbell; 2 i/c, Maj D. G. Steele; OC 1 Coy, Maj A. W. F. O'Reilly; OC 2 Coy, Maj R. R. Knox; OC 3 Coy, Maj H. V. Donald; OC 4 Coy, Capt W. H. Cowper.

7 Lt H. D. Orton; Onewhero, Tuakau; born NZ 20 Feb 1916; farmer; wounded 25 Mar 1944.

8 Pte C. G. Nikolaison; born Whetukura, Ormondville, 25 Aug 1911; deer stalker and lorry driver; killed in action 25 Mar 1944.

9 Sgt M. A. Rogers; born NZ 2 Aug 1916; twice wounded.

10 Pte G. S. Bygrave; born NZ 10 Aug 1920; farmer; killed in action 25 Mar 1944.

11 Cpl H. McIvor, MM; Hastings; born Scotland, 16 Feb 1919; labourer.

12 Pte A. B. Jarmey; born Wellington, 23 Feb 1922; clerk; wounded 25 Mar 1944.

13 Cpl B. K. Kirschberg; Hastings; born Wellington, 23 May 1918; shop assistant; twice wounded.

14 Cpl C. E. Hatchard; Hawera; born Normanby, 21 Jun 1921; electrician's apprentice.

15 Pte F. E. McRae; Napier; born Auckland, 6 Aug 1917; labourer; wounded 25 Mar 1944.

16 2 Lt D. A. Valintine; born Cambridge, 17 Apr 1922; clerk; killed in action 30 Jul 1944.

17 L-Sgt S. McL. Nairn, m.i.d.; Hawera; born Hawera, 24 Sep 1920; shop assistant; wounded 30 Mar 1944.

18 Capt C. H. Baird, m.i.d.; born NZ 2 May 1918; medical student.

19 Pte J. R. McCarthy; Wellington; born Christchurch, 18 Dec 1920; clerical cadet; wounded 23 Dec 1944.

20 L-Sgt H. F. McKinnon; Palmerston North; born Rongotea, 9 Feb 1919; truck driver; wounded 27 Mar 1944.

21 Pte B. T. Leach; born Marton, 11 Feb 1919; P and T Dept linesman; wounded 27 Mar 1944. ‘I would like to add the fine work the VADs did, some of them were real angels and really spoilt us,’ writes Leach. ‘I will never forget the days I spent in hospital in Bari, some of my cobbers would go down town and smuggle up wine to me. Believe me, I used to get quite merry in bed. I was well looked after as the nurses would smuggle the empties out for me in the mornings before the Sister came on duty.’

22 Pte L. J. Small; Gisborne; born NZ 28 Feb 1917; printer; wounded 27 Mar 1944.

23 L-Sgt W. H. Nicholls; Palmerston North; born Auckland, 31 Aug 1913; carpenter; wounded 27 Mar 1944.

24 L-Sgt S. N. Tsukigawa, MM, m.i.d.; Balclutha; born Balclutha, 21 Jul 1918; printer; twice wounded.

25 L-Sgt L. H. Faull; Stratford; born New Plymouth, 27 Jul 1913; dairy farmer; twice wounded.

26 Cpl P. F. K. Potiki; Wellington; born NZ 11 Sep 1918; clerk; wounded 27 Mar 1944.

27 2 Lt G. F. McHardy; born Palmerston North, 22 Dec 1905; sheep-farmer; killed in action 28 Nov 1944.

28 S-Sgt F. N. Kerrigan, m.i.d.; Hastings; born Portobello, Otago, 21 Apr 1910; carpenter; wounded 27 Jun 1942.

29 The carrying parties going out from Cassino used to wait at the crypt, which served as Battalion Headquarters, until about 1 a.m., to carry out any casualties to the ADS.

30 Letters home, of course, were written from within Cassino itself. Private 492769's letter, which eventually found its way to his wife in Hastings, contains this classic sentence: ‘That oil question on the car seems to bother you but when you can't see any oil at all on the dip-stick that's the time to worry.’

31 Pte J. E. Jensen; born NZ 14 Jan 1917; shepherd; killed in action 29 Mar 1944.

32 Cpl J. O'B. Beckett; Tauranga; born Christchurch, 23 Jun 1904; mercantile and insurance manager; wounded 29 Mar 1944.

33 Sgt A. A. Franklin, m.i.d.; Te Kuiti; born Hong Kong, 11 Oct 1905; farmhand.

34 Cpl W. S. Thomson; New Plymouth; born New Plymouth, 2 Feb 1911; public accountant; wounded 28 Jun 1942.

35 Pte D. T. N. Calman; born NZ 19 Feb 1919; carpenter; twice wounded.

36 WO II R. H. Absolom; Linton; born NZ 2 May 1914; shepherd; now Regular soldier.

37 Maj J. Milne; Otautau, Southland; born NZ 24 Oct 1913; farmer; twice wounded.

38 L-Cpl G. F. Knuckey; Hastings; born NZ 24 Mar 1910; builder; wounded 22 Sep 1944.

39 L-Cpl R. W. Grant; born Dunedin, 11 Feb 1907; hairdresser.

40 Pte E. N. Lee; Waitoa; born Durham, England, 1 Nov 1920; printer; wounded 17 Oct 1944.

41 Sgt S. Meads; Rangiwahia; born Rangiwahia, 18 Apr 1911; farmer; wounded 2 Aug 1944.

42 Pte L. H. Bridgeman; Tariki, Taranaki; born NZ 8 Feb 1920; farmhand; wounded 2 Aug 1944.

43 2 Lt R. G. Stuckey; born Manukau, 29 Jun 1921; clerk; wounded 28 May 1944.

44 Lt A. F. Aldridge; born Napier, 3 Apr 1914; stock agent; wounded 14 Apr 1945.

45 Maj A. H. Revell, m.i.d.; born NZ 3 Oct 1908; farmer; twice wounded.

46 Sgt G. R. Bradbury; Clive, Napier; born NZ 23 May 1911; carpenter; wounded 14 Apr 1944.

47 2 Lt J. D. McClymont; born England, 18 Sep 1915; sheep-farmer; killed in action 15 Apr 1944. (McClymont, who had been recommended for a commission, was gazetted posthumously.)

48 Putting down phone wires in pitch dark (wrote T. Hegglun), some men ‘had a lot of fun, falling into all the shellholes, tripping over everything, raining like hell, and what with wading about in the river and falling in the mud I'm in a hell of a mess. Spent rest of night just in overcoat…. burnt blasted boots and socks drying by fire.’

49 Pte R. Tama; born NZ 27 Sep 1920; general labourer; killed in action 20 Apr 1944.

50 Pte F. H. Mollier; born NZ 10 Feb 1904; auctioneer; died of wounds 21 Apr 1944.

51 Maj J. Wells, m.i.d.; Wellington; born Dargaville, 4 Jan 1911; bank officer.

52 L-Cpl W. Dumble; Napier; born Meeanee, 17 May 1912; farm manager; wounded 23 Apr 1944.

53 Pte L. J. Heald; Lower Hutt; born NZ 18 Sep 1918; moulder; wounded 23 Apr 1944.

54 Pte R. G. Rule; Wairoa; born NZ 10 Jun 1918; shepherd; wounded 23 Apr 1944.

55 Sgt T. U. Miles; Halcombe; born Feilding, 26 Mar 1914; farm contractor; wounded Dec 1943.

56 Brig S. H. Crump, CBE, DSO, m.i.d., Bronze Star (US); Lower Hutt; born Wellington, 25 Jan 1889; Regular soldier; NZASC 1915–19; Commander NZ ASC, 2 NZ Div, 1940–45; comd 2 NZEF (Japan) Jun-Sep 1947; on staff of HQ BCOF and NZ representative on Disposals Board in Japan, 1948–49.

57 Pte R. H. Kirk; Napier; born NZ 1 Jun 1922; apprentice mechanic; wounded 2 Aug 1944.

58 Sgt A. S. Teaz; born NZ 21 Oct 1915; aircraftsman; died of wounds 11 Jun 1944.

59 L-Sgt A. S. Fong; Greymouth; born Greymouth, 12 Jun 1908; linotypist.

60 A town which had been knocked about somewhat (one man writes). In one of the churches the statues of the saints were undamaged and somebody had placed them in the pews, facing the altar; the local cemetery was of interest to the observant. A book of records showed when several bodies had been interred in the special plot until they were ready for exhumation [they were taken out and placed] in a linen bag in the small compartments in the cemetery wall. A building at one end of the central walk contained hundreds of bones—the heads in one stack and the rest in another. One marble plaque in memory of an Italian youth bore a bas-relief of the departed riding his motor-cycle. No famous last words were quoted. The rough soldiery took delight in ringing the cemetery bell at odd times. ‘Many of the tombs had been broken into before our arrival….’

61 Pte J. S. Strang; born NZ 27 Aug 1914; farm contractor; killed in action 26 May 1944.

62 Lt E. F. T. Mullinder; born Taihape, 30 Dec 1917; school-teacher; died of wounds 28 May 1944.

63 L-Cpl D. W. C. Lange; born Gisborne, 14 Jun 1920; proof reader; killed in action 26 May 1944.

64 Pte E. G. Leighton; Helensville; born Auckland, 15 Jun 1919; sheep-station hand; wounded 26 May 1944.

65 Cpl D. Hannah; Hawera; born Scotland, 2 Jul 1911; slaughterman; wounded 26 May 1944.

66 Pte M. J. Shotter; born NZ 11 Sep 1922; exchange clerk; killed in action 26 May 1944.

67 Pte V. L. Hodges; Manaia, Taranaki; born New Plymouth, 24 Feb 1915; farmhand; wounded 26 May 1944.

68 Pte L. J. C. Medway; born NZ 23 Jan 1922; shop assistant; killed in action 30 Jul 1944.

69 Capt T. N. Bright, m.i.d.; Wellington; born Gisborne, 10 Jun 1917; bank clerk; wounded 4 Dec 1943.

70 Pte U. B. Walker; Levin; born NZ 24 Mar 1911; butcher; twice wounded.

71 Pte C. J. White; Palmerston North; born Wellington, 31 May 1919; warehouseman; wounded 3 Jun 1944.

72 Capt V. G. Henderson; Tawa Flat; born Featherston, 30 Mar 1919; clerk.

73 Capt A. House; born Lower Hutt, 15 Nov 1913; warehouseman.

74 Pte B. J. Wood; born NZ 28 Dec 1921; farmhand; accidentally killed 11 Jun 1944.

75 Pte L. G. Grieve; Auckland; born Auckland, 28 May 1906; grocer; wounded 27 Sep 1944.