View Full Version : Monte Cassino visit 5th July 2010 (56k'ers beware big pics!)

07-10-2010, 04:42 AM
I've just spent a weeks holiday in Southern Italy and took the opportunity to visit a place that has always interested me: Monte Cassino.

Arguably the most savage battle on the Western Front of World War 2, the Abbey on the peak of Monte Cassino was a crucial point in the German defensive line, known as the "Gustav Line", that faced the allies as they advanced up the Italian peninsular. The mountain around the Abbey was occupied by German paratroopers who maintained a steadfast resistance whilst providing them with a fantastic view for miles to the South, East and West making unobserved movement by Allied forces impossible.

In desperation the Allies bombed the mountain and Abbey totally destroying it. This proved to be a grave error as the resulting rubble reinforced the defensive positions of the Germans whilst causing them virtually zero casualties as they had sheltered in the caverns inside the mountain below the Abbey.

The nationalities of the the Allied troops was amazingly varied: British, American, Polish, Canadian, French, Moroccan, Tunisian, Indian the list goes on for a total of 26 allied nations involved.

The Abbey was eventually taken by Polish troops and they have their own cemetery on the adjacent ridge to the Abbey. The Commonwealth War Cemetery is below Monte Cassino in the town of Cassino. ( The town was utterly destroyed during the battle and has also been completely rebuilt.) The cemetery's are carefully maintained and both are within the view of the Abbey.

I was surprised to find that there was no American cemetery. Apparently this is because the Americans combined their Cassino graves in the cemetery at Anzio where the crucial second invasion took place.

It was as a result of the Anzio landings that the Allies maintained pressure at Cassino in order to prevent the Germans redeploying forces against the Anzio beach head.

The Abbey was completely rebuilt as the original between 1948 and 1960 and the statues and other treasures that had been removed by the Germans and the Monks with the help of the people of Cassino town prior to the bombing were returned.

The place is stunningly beautiful and it is easy to forget how many thousands of troops died in order to take it.

I took many pictures and have posted just a few to give you an idea of the place:

Monte Cassino from the Commonwealth War cemetery

The Abbey:

The Commonwealth Cemetery:

The inscription reads:"THEIR NAME LIVETH FOR EVERMORE" (It was a very hot and bright day which caused the glare to overwhelm my camera)



The Polish Cemetery:

Unfortunately the tour was not long enough to visit here.

Inside the Abbey:







The Abbey interior is amazing! There is a lot more that I haven't posted or my camera could not capture. I am not a religous person but I do admire craftmanship and the quality displayed in the Abbey is breathtaking.

The Castle below the Abbey:

This too was virtually destroyed by the battle and is still being rebuilt. It was hard to get a decent photo as the coach was twisting and turning down the mountain road.

The view across the town of modern Cassino:

Just a quick snap due to the same problem as the Castle photo, but I think it gets across the strategic importance that Monte Cassino held.

If you get the opportunity I cannot recommend a visit highly enough. My wife admitted that she was just expecting to be dragged around another World War 2 site by me but came away moved both by the beauty of the place and the human cost involved.

Monte Cassino held one final surprise for me: On the flight home our plane overflew Cassino. I was not expecting it and my camera was now out of reach in the overhead compartment. I can tell you that the aerial view was superb and showed the layout of the Monte Cassino battlefield in a clarity I had only been able to imagine before that. It gave me some idea of the view the B17 crews had when they carried out the raid albeit mine was thankfully a peaceful experience.

I hope you enjoyed the pictures.

07-10-2010, 04:45 AM
great pics, ww2 sites and travel are always good to see.

07-10-2010, 05:03 AM
Thanks for posting these. It's good to see the whole place has been rebuild. Also, my grandfather was there when it all happend, the more interesting to see how it looks today.

07-10-2010, 05:34 AM
Wow!! Beautiful and Great picture!! http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/25.gif

07-10-2010, 06:13 AM
Stunning!, thanks for taking the time to post this.

Here's a before picture, makes it all the more amazing...


07-10-2010, 06:56 AM
If I want to see something 'different' from my own culture I pretty much need to leave North America to see it. Very envious of my European friends here. Europe is interesting to me because of the diversity and proximity.

07-10-2010, 07:02 AM
As i have just read about the battle around Monte Cassino i'd like to remark that the abbey was NOT occupied by german troops until AFTER the bombardement from the USAAF.

07-10-2010, 09:38 AM
Originally posted by robtek1957:
As i have just read about the battle around Monte Cassino I'd like to remark that the abbey was NOT occupied by German troops until AFTER the bombardment from the USAAF.

You are quite correct, bad phrasing on my behalf. In fact the Germans placed a 300m neutrality zone around the Abbey in an effort to protect it with orders that none of their troops should enter it. However as the fighting progressed the zone shrank until the Germans were constructing defensive positions right against the walls of the Abbey. The Allies became increasingly convinced that the Germans were in fact using the Abbey itself as an observation point. Allied orders at this time forbade any direct shell fire at the Abbey. However the Germans were increasingly using caves directly beneath the walls as reinforced defensive positions. Civilians reported to the Allies that there were German troops using the Abbey and finally USAAF General Ira Eaker made an overflight and reported seeing a radio aerial and troops within the Abbey grounds. Eventually the decision was made for the Abbey to be bombed prior to a major assault by the 4th Indian Division and the 2nd New Zealand Division. On the 15 February 1944 142 heavy bomber and 114 medium bombers destroyed the Abbey. The raid killed many Italian civilians who had been sheltering in the monastery as well as 40 soldiers of the 4th Indian Division who had been in their shelters on the mountain side. The raid was followed by an artillery barrage. Unfortunately the infantry assault did not follow up the preceding action with sufficient speed and the Allies lost the advantage when the Germans re-organised and then took up positions in the rubble. The Allies problem was now worse than before the bombing.

Thanks for that picture Monty_Thrud. That is the Castle shown in my picture which is actually lower than the Abbey, being about a third of the way up the mountain.

There was a large Canadian contingent too. In the 4th picture down the graves to the immediate right of the stone with the inscription are all Canadian soldiers. To the left is the start of the British section. The vertical monoliths bear the names of soldiers whose remains were never recovered.

Higher up the mountain itself is the German cemetery but I did not see that from our tour route.

07-10-2010, 09:39 AM
Interesting story and beautiful pictures . Thank you, Bo_Nidle.

This actually made me think that it would be great to have a book, website or anything that lists major WW2 battle sites in Europe that can be visited and where memorials exist today. Does anyone know of such source?

07-10-2010, 09:43 AM
Great photos.
Thank you very much for sharing these with us.

07-11-2010, 09:29 PM
Thanks for sharing, Bo.

07-11-2010, 10:41 PM
Great pix!!..Now i see why that mission never wants us to bomb the Cathedral...Amazing craftsmanship there!!