The struggle of Cassino and Monte Cassino Bombing in early 1944 was one of the most brutal and costly battle involving Kiwis forces in the Second World War. For the 2nd New Zealand Division, this German-held strongpoint southeast of Rome would prove the most tragically elusive prize of the Italian campaign, which lasted all together for 18 cruel months from October 1943 to May 1945. The commander of the New Zealand Corps (A temporary formation which included the 2nd New Zealand Division, the 4th Indian Division and the British 78th Division). Lieutenant-General Sir Bernard Fryberg, steeled himself and his forces for the battle ahead. Desperate to minimise casualties, he requested a massive bombardment of the German defences to procede the assault, including the historic monastery of Montecassino, which was wrongly believed to contain a German Garrison. The subsequent aerial bombardment on 15th February laid waste to the monastery and its environs. Monte Cassino bombing was one of the most famous act of the WW2 European History. This destruction, which Freyberg and his men believed to be a vital pre-condition for victory,actually proved to be counterproductive. Most of the German defenders in the Cassino Area surveved and the exploited the ruins of the town and monastery to create even more formidable defences.
After another heavy bombardment, New Zealand forces fought their way into the devastated town from the north on 15th March. Once again, the German put up a tenacius resistance fromhidden position in the middle of rubble, that once again was Cassino town. After eight days of fighting from one shattered building to the next, Freyberg decided the cost was proving too high and he ordered his troops to stop. Shortly afterwards in early April, the New Zealand Division withdrew from the Cassino area, having suffered 1600 casualties, of whom 343 died.
Memory is preparing the world of Tomorrow, so let's remember together what happened here 75 years ago!
The "Monte Cassino Battlefield Tour for Kiwis" (about 3 hours) includes:
1) pickup from your arrival at the railway station in Cassino everyday at 10.00am or 02.00pm (Main Square, near the Green Kiosk)
2) about 3h30 guided tour of the Kiwis and Maoris most meaningful sites of Cassino:
- Cassino town Center
- Hotel des Roses and Hotel Continental
- The Convent
- Captain Foltin's cave
- Castel Hill
- Point 165
- The Panoramic Point
- The Germans' Cave
- Montecassino Abbey
- The Commonwealth War Cemetery
3) return to the railway station in Cassino at 01.30pm or 05.30pm
Dr. Anna Maria Priora Ph.D
WW2 Monte Cassino Battlefield expert, researcher and tour guide