Cassino war cemetery

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War Cemeteries around Monte Cassino, Italy

Useful tourist information on Military Cemeteries of WW2 in Italy
Links to local web cams, aerial photographs, maps and local information.

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Pilgrimage Italy South 13th – 20th October 2005
To Salerno, Anzio, Nettuno (American), Sangro River, Minturno and Cassino War Cemeteries.

Introduction

Originally written as a record for our group to share with friends.
I have expanded it to be a useful guide for tourists planning a trip to War Cemeteries in Italy.
Some wheelchair and disabled accessibility information for several War Cemeteries and tourist attractions.

Map Italy

Our Coach Tour was arranged by www.poppytravel.org.uk/
(previously Remembrance Travel) Telephone 01622 716729 — International +44 1622 716729
Called a Pilgrimage, to distinguish it from their Battlefield Tours

Our Group was just over 90 strong — two coach-loads. 7 staff, 39 Veterans and 47 family / friends.
A good mix of people from every corner of the UK and Ireland as well as one couple now living in Spain.
The departure point was Stansted Airport, London.
Many of us, who lived far from London, were offered overnight accommodation at the Union Jack Club in London at a specially discounted rate.

More information on the Union Jack Club
Telephone 020 79286401 — International +44 20 79286401

Union Jack Club entranceAccess — From the rather narrow street, there is a huge flight of steps up to the ground floor and seated Reception area. I think there is a chair-lift but contact them (above link) and verify that the chair-lift is operational.
From the Reception area there is a flight of five steps to access the level with dining room, bar and elevator (maybe 2 steps) to rooms. There is a separate flight of steps from Reception to another elevator accessing other rooms.

The Union Jack Club is fairly wheelchair friendly once you have made it to Reception (extra assistance will be required for the internal stairs).
This information is my opinion (October 2005) and not offered in any professional capacity.

View a scalable aerial photograph and map of London

The Union Jack Club is a private members club for serving and ex-serving military personnel of many countries. It is a very smart and modern building in the centre of London. It is probably akin to a 4 star hotel (not that I spend much time in hotels) and the staff are very friendly.
If you find your lights don’t work, try putting your plastic key-card in the slot — like I said, I don’t spend much time in hotels — I had to phone reception to solve that mystery.

The rooms have en-suite shower / toilet and tea / coffee making facilities. If you need a fridge for medication, ask at Reception.

Make sure you visit the display area just off Reception with photographs and memorial plaques (steps involved).

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NEW Video of Remembrance Parade 2008 in Stirling, Scotland, UK (new window)

INDEX TO THIS PAGE

A new Remembrance Day Song (new window)

ADVICE
Finding graves and names
Italy weather report (new window)
CEMETERIES & MUSEUMS
American War Cemetery Sicily-Rome
Anzio Beachhead Cemetery
Anzio Beachhead Museum
Anzio War Cemetery
Cassino War Cemetery
Minturno War Cemetery
Polish War Cemetery
Salerno War Cemetery
Sangro River War Cemetery
EXPLORING
GAETA
Monte Cassino Abbey EXCURSION
Pompeii and Naples EXCURSION
Rome EXCURSION
ACCOMODATION & TRAVEL
Union Jack Club, London, England
Departure
Arrive Hotel Serapo, Gaeta, Lazio
Coaches & Schedules
MISC
Homeward Bound & CONCLUSIONS
The Video and then a Song
Our Veterans Regiments

 

 

 

 

 

 

Union Jack Club Reception

The Union Jack Club, London, England, UK

Day 1 — Departure
 (Thursday 13 October)

Union Jack Club to Stansted Airport
Total distance: 37 miles
Estimated time: 49 Minutes

After breakfast, we bundled into two coaches and managed to completely block the tiny 2 foot wide pavement (sidewalk) with our freestyle luggage loading — much to the annoyance of sleepy Londoners who were used to walking to work on auto-pilot. We saw a few of the sites as our coaches negotiated the London traffic.

If you are a Veteran and contemplating a trip like this, you should consider your limitations. Can you carry your luggage, unaided, up and down flights of stairs? Lifts / elevators cannot always be relied on. Although we had a few Veterans who were traveling on their own, the majority were accompanied by helpers in the form of friends and family who were often one or two generations younger (and fitter).

Were there any problems? Only from the word go! Some people left home without enough essential prescription medication. Was that a disaster? Nope! Our very competent Doctor, a Major with the Royal Army Medical Corps, was kept busy with our problems and always solved them smoothly and quickly.
I am not encouraging you to be lax with your planning. If you depend on prescription medicine, you should ask a friend or relative to double check your calculations and confirm that everything necessary has been packed — a wee bit extra might be a good idea. Don't forget a spare hearing-aid battery.

Our Nurse, a Captain with the Queen Alexandra’s Nursing Corps, was also kept very busy, and a nicer person you could not hope to meet.
The people at Remembrance Travel know their stuff. We had an extremely able staff, shepherding us every step of the way. Nearly every time I saw the leaders, they were counting heads.

We boarded a Ryan-Air flight that lasted about two and a half hours and presented some splendid views of the Italian Alps before landing at Ciampino Airport, Rome (a distance of about 900 miles).
There were limitations inside the aircraft as to how many personal wheelchairs could be accommodated. If you want to take your own wheelchair to and from the aircraft, you should make extra enquiries about this as early as possible.
Most airports will supply wheelchairs (and someone to push) to get you through the airport — again, some prior arranging could be required if you don’t want to be held up unnecessarily.

Advice for disabled travellers using Stansted Airport

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Italian Alps

Italian Alps

Ciampino Airport

Ciampino Airport, Rome

USEFUL INFORMATION ON ROME AIRPORTS & TRANSFERS

Arrive Hotel Serapo, Gaeta, Lazio

Rome to Gaeta
Total distance: 100 miles
Estimated time: 2 Hours, 15 Minutes (+ comfort stops)
More information on the Hotel Serapo
Telephone 0771 450037 — International +39 0771 450037

Hotel Serapo Reception Access —There are elevators to to all floors and Breakfast room. The Dinging Room is on the ground floor with ramp access to the Bar which is level with the veranda (maybe a tiny step). Travelling from the Reception to the Dining Room and Bar does involve a few stairs.
The problem is getting up to the ground floor Reception and Bar from the car park. I do not know if there is an elevator from the car park. Their website (link above) does not give information on wheelchair access but a phone call or email to them should give you all the information you need.

Hotel Reception from the car park

View a scalable aerial photograph and map of Gaeta

After another long coach trip, we arrived after dark at the Hotel Serapo, Gaeta, about 100 miles south of Rome. This location was fairly central for our excursions.

When I first saw the Itinerary, I thought it a bit wasteful to make the first full day, in Gaeta, a rest day — I soon changed my mind. I am a generation younger than the Veterans and I was tired and sore after a long flight combined with two long coach journeys and the necessary waiting and queuing times.

We were all allocated our room keys. No fancy electronic cards here, just good old fashioned metal things attached to a heavy lump of wood that could have doubled as a ship’s anchor. The rooms all had en suite bathroom / shower but no TV or coffee / tea making facilities. I just noticed their web site says they have TV — could this be my brain starting to go? You should get a welcome-pack with local information and a handy road-map. If not, ask at reception.

If you need to use electrical equipment, remember to take the appropriate adaptors. I got mine on ebay. Try to ignore the paragraph in the hotel-rules about not using electrical equipment::
“I did not have my reading spectacles with me, your honour.”
Italy’s electrical system uses 230 volts 50 cycles. This is the same as the UK but the plug / pin shapes are different — hence you need an adaptor or two to charge up your camcorder and cell-phone. The photo on the right is of one of three identical adaptors I used in Italy.
Americans, with their 110 volt appliances, will have a voltage / frequency difference problem.
It's probably a good idea to only use your chargers when you are in the room rather than leave them unattended — burning the hotel down could really take the edge off your holiday.

We had dinner and then the sensible people went off to bed.
I joined a few like-minded, drouthy (thirsty), souls and kept the bar staff busy till very late — I missed breakfast.
In the UK, when you order a whisky, you can just about detect where the bottom of your glass has changed colour. In Gaeta they just bend the elbow and pour freestyle. A large glass with a measure about 6 times the size I am used to — and cheaper than the UK.
Although there was plenty of room inside the bar area, most people sat out on the large veranda — even late at night as it was very warm — well it certainly seemed warm after a few glasses.

The staff were efficient, very friendly and helpful. Some have a smattering of English but they like it when you make an attempt at the Italiano.

      ‘Good day / morning’ — ‘Buon giorno’
      ‘Good evening’ — ‘Buona sera
      ‘Yes’ — ‘Sì’
      'No' — 'No'.
      'Affrettarsi su col mio whisky' —'hurry up with my whisky'.
      'ahi che ha doluto' —'ouch, that hurt'.

LISTEN to some simple Italian Pronunciation

You can get some free simple English Italian translation
but I would not use it for any legal documents.

You almost sing, rather than speak, the language. I tried out some words on the cleaning staff as I headed for the elevator. They were obviously a bit shocked to hear their beautiful language boomed out in a guttural Scottish accent but they smiled and responded politely.

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Serapo Beach

Serapo Beach

Gaeta

Gaeta

Hotel Serapo, Gaeta

Hotel Serapo, Gaeta

Electrical Adaptor

Electrical Adaptor
Two pins for Italy — 3 pin UK socket

Hotel Serapo Veranda with plenty of tables and chairs

Hotel Serapo Veranda with plenty of tables and chairs

Day 2 — Rest Day exploring Gaeta
(Friday 14 October)

6 day weather forecast with sunrise and sunset times for Gaeta, Italy

One woman, ex Royal Navy, dragged her poor old Veteran dad from his bed at some frighteningly early hour and walked to the top of a nearby hill to view an ancient monastery or two before breakfast — them navy folks are tough.

Our shepherds left us alone on rest days and allowed us to wander wide-eyed among the local populace. We all wore special name badges with the famous logo of a red poppy on a blue background. This made us easy to spot from a distance. The locals seemed to be quite used to foreigners, sporting such badges, walking around their town.

Before I surfaced, the rest of my party (five strong) had already set off to explore, so I made my way to a nearby shop, specializing in filled-rolls and bottled water, where some similarly badged people were already being served. It was around noon and about thirty teenagers from the nearby school were gathered round the shop.
Not only were the teenagers very smartly dressed, they were surprisingly well behaved and there was none of the horse-play and rowdy behaviour often seen among large groups of UK teenagers. Such a large group in the UK might often be perceived as ‘threatening’ by older people — there was no such perception on that occasion.

Being right next to the Mediterranean Sea, (actually the Tyrrhenian Sea) some people negotiated their way down the beach passed bikini clad, sun bronzed, model-like bodies and risked baring their ankles for a paddle in the water — oh that great British reserve. I was busy with my video camera so just dipped my left hand in so I could say I had been in the Med.
Others jumped on a bus and visited the far side of the Gulf of Gaeta.
I did not use the bus service, but be warned — you buy your bus ticket at a shop before boarding. When you get on the bus you stamp your ticket in a machine. Getting on a bus without a ticket can land you in serious trouble.

Some shops were selling extremely cheap phone-cards but I found you were lucky if you got through to the UK one time in ten attempts — my cell-phone (enabled for Italy) proved totally reliable though more expensive. Maybe I should have bought the normal priced phone cards.

More information on Gaeta

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Gaeta Monasteries

Sanctuary of Montagna Spaccata (Cracked Mountain)

Name Badge

Name Badge with logo of Royal British Legion

Hotel Serapo

Hotel Serapo is next to the beach

Coaches & Schedules
Our cemetery visits inevitably involved very long coach journeys, but the coaches, by Anxur Tours, were luxurious and nicely air conditioned. Everyone had a comfy snooze at some point during the journeys. The Anxur Tours drivers were superb.
The coaches stopped along the way so we could eat, stretch and visit the toilet (or bathroom if you’re American).
The large coaches have a small toilet (no bath) on board, but as I never used one, I cannot comment on how easy it was — the steps to it are steep — add 60 mph and some turns in the road and you can see how difficult it could be for an 85 year old in a wheel chair.

More information on Anxur Tours
Telephone 0773 72291 — International +39 0773 72291

The schedule is very tight — breakfasted, showered and on the coach for 8.00 a.m. — If you’re late for the coach, you ARE left behind.
The British and Commonwealth War Cemeteries are scattered all over the place. As far as I know, all the American war dead from both Sicily and Italy, as far up as Rome, are buried at Nettuno. The only other American Cemetery in Italy is at Florence.

I should point out that if you attend every possible thing available during the week, and I did, the pace can be pretty punishing. Thankfully the pace is not compulsory. Some people did not make all the possible cemetery visits or optional excursions and took extra rest days. One Veteran, who could not cope on his own, had a single purpose on the tour — to re-visit Anzio. This was very important to him, and with the assistance of his very courageous wife and two other younger family members, he was able to return to Anzio, where, along with other Anzio Veterans, he was presented with a special certificate at the Anzio Beachhead Museum.

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Anxur Tours coach in Napoli

Anxur Tours coach in Napoli

leaving the reception area

Early start, leaving the reception area
Coach (centre distance) is in front of the bar / veranda area

Finding graves
When booking a trip with Remembrance Travel, you will be given paperwork to request information on any graves you are interested in. Remembrance Travel is in close contact with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and will research the information on your behalf. This information is also made available to the Group Guides so they can help you find the graves

You can do your own research beforehand at
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
where you can search the listings of names of war dead — British and Commonwealth Soldiers and Personnel from WW2 (WWII) in Italy — in fact several wars worldwide.
This should return useful information including the cemetery name and the plot reference number.
By filling in a cemetery name HERE you will get information on that cemetery and a link button to show a map of the cemetery layout plan and plot numbers. Another link button should bring up a photograph of the cemetery.

There is currently no online facility to search a cemetery by Regiment but the staff at Remembrance Travel may be able to do this for you – assuming you are booking with them.

The enquiries department at CWGC may be able, with sufficient notice, to do a Regimental search of a cemetery for you.
Telephone 01628 507200 — International +44 1628 507200

American Personnel can be traced at
American Battle Monuments Commission

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Typical cemetery information supplied by CWGC

Typical cemetery layout information supplied by CWGC
you will of course get a larger print than this

Day 3 — Sangro River War Cemetery
(Saturday 15 October)

Gaeta to Sangro River War Cemetery
Total distance: 117 miles
Estimated time: 2 Hours, 53 Minutes (+ comfort stops)
More information on the Sangro River War Cemetery at CWGC

Sangro War Cemetery Steps Location & access — Directions to Sangro River War Cemetery can be a bit complicated. Best to just take a look at the scalable map link below.
From the car park there is a very gentle downhill slope for about 50 metres to the covered building with the Visitor Book.
Another gentle slope with three small flights of steps takes you on to the headstone area.
The headstone area is grass on a fairly gentle slope.

This site is fairly wheel chair friendly (extra assistance may be required for the steps.)
This information is my opinion (October 2005) and not offered in any professional capacity.

View a scalable aerial photograph and map with location of Sangro River War Cemetery
Driving directions are easily obtained by putting a start and end pin in the map. This will give you a line — produced by a computer — so follow the line at 'high resolution' just in case it takes you through a farmer's field (I am NOT joking).

Sangro River War Cemetery contains 2,617 Commonwealth burials. Men who died in the Adriatic Sector in November and December 1944.
There is a memorial commemorating more than 500 servicemen from the Indian Forces — their remains were cremated. (CWGC)

My party and a few others formed an independent group of 12 people traveling in a small (not so comfortable) coach to the Sangro River War Cemetery. This outing was specially arranged because of significant interest. The drive took about three hours. Our Group Leader was an ex Wing Commander in the Royal Air Force.

The route took us through and over the Apennine mountains — the Backbone of Italy that runs the full length of the country.
The scenery was breathtaking. Small communities could be seen clinging precariously to the sides of high mountains. They must have great views but I guess when the roads are icy in winter, they just phone in sick.

We turned off the main road onto a single track road called the 'Strada Comunale dei Coldi' (Town Road of the Coldi) — wonder what a Coldi is ? This road wound its way up a fairly steep hill. We had a magnificent view to the North across the Sangro River. If you tired of that view, you could look out the other side of the coach at the many small farm buildings with local people staring at us as curiously as we stared at them.

The Sangro River War Cemetery is very beautiful. The elegantly designed entrance building is also very practical — you could shelter half a battalion of Veterans in there during a thunderstorm.

After signing the visitor's book, we went off to find the headstones we were interested in.
We laid our poppy wreaths, often close to small bushes and shrubs, then got a bit of a shock from a notice, “beware of vipers” — now that’s a notice that should be hanging just below head height at the entrance — if you have a bump on your forehead then we know you have read the notice.
We finished with a short Remembrance Service taken by the Wing Commander.

Our driver was not familiar with the area. It was afternoon and we needed feeding — Italian Police to the rescue.
I thought it a bit strange that the police were patrolling the Cimitero Inglese, atop a high mountain in the middle of nowhere. They guided us to a local restaurant and did not leave till they were sure we were going in — mmm — very helpful policemen in that area.

The Cardellino Ristorante Bar & Pensione (Boarding-house) was located in a quaint and rustic street. I think they were a bit overwhelmed by a party of twelve — we waited about an hour to be served.
Along the front of the building, grows a well established vine that was hanging with ripe bunches of grapes. One of our Veterans jumped up to try and grab some but he aint as young as he used to be and the grapes were in no danger.
After a long drive back, we arrived at our hotel about 8.00 p.m. just as dinner was being served.

This was a long and tiring journey, made worse by the harder suspension of a smaller coach and the twisting mountain roads. My party of three ex-Paratroopers was certainly feeling the strain and they took the next day as a rest day. Of the seven Veterans on this trip, only two made the trip to Anzio the following day.

A short summary of the battles around Sangro River

After landing in the ‘Toe of Italy’, the 8th Army fights its way up the west coast to try and assist the Landing at Salerno. The 5th Army at Salerno gradually pushes the Germans back towards the north.

The 8th Army does the same but transfers its advance to the east (Adriatic) coast. Both armies eventually come up against the formidable German defensive line known as the Gustav Line which runs from Gaeta in the west, via Monte Cassino and on to the Sangro River on the east coast.

 

 

Italian spelling of Cemetery

Some help with spelling

Main entrance to Sangro River War Cemetery

Main entrance to Sangro River War Cemetery

Sangro War Cemetery visitor book

Sangro River War Cemetery visitor book

Sangro Cemetery stones are arranged in curved lines

Sangro River War Cemetery searching for grave stones

Sangro Cemetery beware of vipers

Careful where you put your hands

The Cardellino Ristorante

The Cardellino Ristorante

Gustav Line and Sangro River

Late November 1944. The British 78th Division crosses the River Sangro. The river is swollen by heavy rain. The men wade across, neck deep in icy cold water. They are followed by the New Zealanders, the Canadians and the Indians. By the time the Indians cross, the river is even higher. Wounded men on the far bank cannot make it back across the river — many die from exposure.

The hope is to take Pescara and secure the road to Rome (route 16) but this eventually proves to be wildly optimistic.
The Canadians take Ortona. The New Zealanders fight valiantly with heavy losses but do not manage to hold Orsogna. The further the 8th Army advances, the higher its rate of loss. The advance stops at this point, primarily because of the weather and the terrain. Three Divisions leave for England to prepare for the invasion of France.

The Allied Front is being rearranged for a final big push at Cassino and much of the 8th Army is moved further west nearer Monte Cassino.
The push comes in May 1944 and the Gustav Line is finally broken. The Allies pour into the Liri Valley. Rome falls within a month.

Stone of Remembrance with the Cross of Sacrifice

Sangro River War Cemetery — Stone of Remembrance with the Cross of Sacrifice in the distance

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Salerno War Cemetery

Gaeta to Salerno War Cemetery
Total distance: 104 miles
Estimated time: 2 Hours, 11 Minutes (+ comfort stops)
More information on the Salerno War Cemetery at CWGC

Salerno Cemetery Entrance Location & access — Salerno War Cemetery gate is on the north side of, and right next to, the main road — 'Strada Statale 18 Tirrena Inferiore' (SS18).
4.6 km from Pontecagnano
4.4 km from Battipaglia
Step down from the coach onto the pavement and it is all level from there in with no steps.
The small covered area with the visitor book is just to the right after entering.
The headstone area is grass on a level surface.

This site is wheelchair friendly (no extra assistance required)
This information is my opinion (October 2005) and not offered in any professional capacity.

View a scalable aerial photograph and map with location of Salerno War Cemetery
Driving directions are easily obtained by putting a start and end pin in the map. This will give you a line — produced by a computer — so follow the line at 'high resolution' just in case it takes you through a farmer's field (I am NOT joking).

Salerno War Cemetery contains 1,846 Commonwealth burials, 107 of them unidentified.
Many of them died during the heavily opposed Anglo American Landing at Salerno on the 8th & 9th September 1943 . Others died elsewhere in South Western Italy. (CWGC)

The majority of our Veterans travelled an equally long distance in two coaches to the Salerno War Cemetery. This main party had our Standard Bearer. A Standard is a large flag. The Standard was presented during the Remembrance Service and dipped for a one minute silence. Many people had their photographs taken, with the Standard Bearer in attendance, beside a grave of special personal significance.

Alf Barley at Salerno 2005They then visited Salerno Beach where one brave Veteran, Alf Barley of the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, went in for a paddle. He said that the last time he was there he was up to his neck in water and taking enemy fire. Sadly, this old soldier died in January 2007.
You can read a short tribute to him at Tribute to Alf Barley.

The Allied Landing at Salerno was heavily opposed and came close to failing.

Another Veteran recalled just how much of a rubbish tip war zones tend to be with abandoned enemy weapons and equipment. He used enemy rifles for props and roof bars in his dugout and an old door that happened to have lost its house!
He was also the proud owner of the highly prized German hand gun (the Lugar). Discarded ammunition was readily obtainable.

Watch a live webcam of Salerno
WEBCAMS OR NOT ALWAYS ONLINE
Image refresh every 5 minutes

A short summary of the battle of Salerno

3rd September 1943, the British 8th Army invades the ‘Toe of Italy’. This landing is pretty much unopposed and considered to be a ‘waste of effort and resources’ by the British General Montgomery (later proved correct) — he may also be a bit upset about having the minor role in the Italy Invasion.
.
The Germans are not impressed by the landing of only two Divisions — they believe the main ‘surprise-attack’ will target the port of Naples but they also defend the neighbouring ports of Gaeta and Salerno. This section of coast is initially defended by Italian Forces but when the Italians surrender just before the Salerno invasion, the German’s attention is immediately focused on this area.

Salerno map

Operation Avalanche, Salerno
This 'surprise attack' was no surprise for the Germans who were ready and waiting

You can read about the campaign in more detail at Salerno Landing

 

 

Salerno War Cemetery Remembrance Service

Salerno War Cemetery Remembrance Service
photo by Michael Sanderson

HEADSTONES AT SALERNO

Headstones at Salerno

Salerno Beach

Salerno Beach
photo by Jan Williams

 

Italy invasion map

After taking Sicily, the Allies invade Italy

9th September 1944, the newly formed American 5th Army (actually 50% British) under American General Mark Clark, lands on the beaches of Salerno on the west coast of Italy — about 200 miles from the 8th Army.
The Germans are expecting the attack and the landing area is soon reinforced with German Reserves — the Landing is heavily opposed.
At one point, plans are being considered in the American sector for an evacuation.

The 8th Army is ordered to make haste to Salerno, but blown bridges, mined roads and problems with re-supply (all available shipping is supporting Salerno), as well as fighting Germans, makes haste impossible.
16th September, advance units of 8th Army are penetrating the German held area around Salerno but the 5th Army now has Salerno under control after the arrival of Paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne and the support of Naval gunfire.

The Germans are concerned by the arrival of 8th Army on their left flank. They fall back to the north, fighting delaying-actions at previously arranged lines of defence. They finally stand firm at the now completed Gustav Line which runs from the River Garigliano on the west coast, through Monte Cassino and on to the Sangro River on the Adriatic Coast. It will be May 1944 before this line is broken.

Salerno War Cemetery panorama

Salerno War Cemetery panorama

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Day 4 — Anzio Beachhead Cemetery
(Sunday 16 October)

Gaeta to Anzio Beachhead Cemetery
Total distance: 64 miles
Estimated time: 1 Hour, 36 Minutes (+ comfort stops)
More information on the Anzio Beach Head Cemetery at CWGC

Anzio Beachhead Cemetery Entrance Location & access — Anzio Beachhead Cemetery gate is on the east side of, and right beside, the 'Via Nettunense SS207'.
About 5 km from Anzio.
Just a few metres from the coach to the gate.
The going is level with just one small step before the gate.
The small covered area with the visitor book is just to the right after entering.
The headstone area is grass on a level surface.
From a floral point of view, this must be the nicest cemetery we visited. Timber arbors covered with climbing plants produce a shaded walkway when the sun is strong.

This site is wheelchair friendly (no extra assistance required)
This information is my opinion (October 2005) and not offered in any professional capacity.

View a scalable aerial photograph and map with location of Anzio Beachhead Cemetery
Driving directions are easily obtained by putting a start and end pin in the map. This will give you a line — produced by a computer — so follow the line at 'high resolution' just in case it takes you through a farmer's field (I am NOT joking).

Beach Head War Cemetery contains 2,316 Commonwealth burials, 295 of them unidentified. Most died during the Allied Landing behind German lines in January 1944. Some were brought in from the surrounding country. (CWGC)

Our large group was starting to gel and behave like we had known each other from childhood. Our two leaders, one for each coach, were very knowledgeable about the military campaigns associated with our cemetery visits. They also encouraged our Veterans to share some stories with us and this did make the journeys seem shorter.

We visited the very beautiful Anzio Beachhead Cemetery.
Church bells were ringing as one of our group laid a wreath on the grave of her father, a corporal with the Green Howards. His name was mentioned during a short Remembrance Service.

Remembrance Travel supplied us with small poppy wreaths and tiny wooden crosses to place on the graves of comrades etc.

The overall Group Leader, an ex Army Major, was a bit of a cricket fan. The first ten minutes on his coach was spent updating us on some very important cricket event that was happening somewhere on our ever-shrinking planet. I got the impression his passengers were more into football (soccer) but it was a considerate gesture.

 

 

The Standard is Dipped

The Standard is dipped at the Anzio Beachhead Cemetery
Service of Remembrance

Poppy wreath and small wooden cross

Small wooden cross and poppy wreath

Anzio Beachhead Remembrance Service

Anzio Beachhead Remembrance Service

Beachhead Cemetery Stone of Remembrance

Anzio Beachhead Cemetery Stone of Remembrance with Cross of Sacrifice in background

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Anzio Beachhead Museum

Anzio Beachhead Cemetery to Beachhead Museum
Total distance: 2.7 miles
Estimated time: 8 Minutes
More information on Anzio Beachhead Museum at www.sbarcodianzio.it/
Telephone 0698 48059 — International +39 0698 48059

Anzio Beachhead Museum road Location & access —Anzio Beachhead Museum. The Coach dropped us off on the downhill road to the harbour area, 'Via Claudio Paolini'.
We then made our way along a pedestrian-only road with a cobbled surface, 'Via di Villa Adele', for about 120 metres.
The going was level with just a very small step at the museum entrance.
Inside the museum, everything of interest to us was on the ground floor with possibly just one step into the display area. Inside the main entrance is a large room with lots of chairs — presumably a lecture area — this is where our Veterans received their certificates. The museum display area is not a huge room but coped with our full party.

This site is wheelchair friendly (no extra assistance required).
This information is my opinion (October 2005) and not offered in any professional capacity.

View a scalable aerial photograph and map with location of Anzio Beachhead Museum
Driving directions are easily obtained by putting a start and end pin in the map. This will give you a line — produced by a computer — so follow the line at 'high resolution' just in case it takes you through a farmer's field (I am NOT joking).

Anzio Beachhead Museum was opened in 1994 in the town of Anzio. Our Veterans of the Anzio Landing were presented with Certificates of Appreciation by the museum curator.
The museum has a good collection of photographs and WW2 memorabilia.

One of our Veterans got a bit of a surprise, and was the centre of attention from other tourists, as he stood beside a photo of himself from 1944 — he had not previously known his photograph was on display.
The museum had a television set showing video of the local campaign. I must have seen every documentary on WW2 that's been shown on UK TV but this video was all new to me. The few minutes I managed to watch seemed to be mostly American — I would have liked to watch more.

We then walked downhill (400 metres) to the town centre behind the harbour and went our separate ways to find some lunch. I just managed to get served before the cafe closed for the afternoon. This was a Sunday around 1.30 p.m.
It was not by design, but I think about half our group ended up sitting round the lovely harbour area for the remainder of our allocated lunch hour.
Our coaches could not park in the town and we had to be at the pickup point for 2.30 p.m. so the coaches were not kept waiting.

A short summary of the battle of Anzio

22 January 1944 an Anglo American force invades from the sea at Anzio, (the 6th Corps of the 5th Army) behind the German front line. Resistance is minimal and soon dealt with — the Germans are taken completely by surprise.

General Lucas establishes a beachhead and expands it as far as he dares with the forces at his disposal.
The German commander requests extra troops from as far away as France, Germany and Yugoslavia.
After a few days, the Germans strengthen their opposition. Eventually, 70,000 Allied soldiers are holding a 35 mile perimeter against 95,000 Germans — only the Allies' Artillery prevents disaster.

The battle turns into trench warfare and this stalemate is not broken until the victory further south at Monte Cassino in May 1944.
The American general, Mark Clark, is instructed to cut off and capture the Germans retreating from the Gustav Line, but he tells General Lucus to go for Rome where Clark has a victory parade on 4 June as most of the Germans escape north to form a new defensive line.
Two days later the Allies invade France, then Italy becomes back-page news.

 

 


Entrance to Anzio Beachhead Museum

Entrance to Anzio Beachhead Museum, Villa Adel

Anzio Beachhead Museum

Anzio Beachhead Museum

Anzio town near the harbour

Anzio town near the harbour
The road from the museum, 'Via Claudio Paolini',
can be seen in the distance.

Anzio Harbour

Anzio Harbour

Anzio Map

OPERATION SHINGLE
Initial Beach Head — later expanded to a larger continuous front of about 35 miles

Read about the campaign in more detail at Anzio Landing

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Anzio War Cemetery

Anzio Beachhead Museum to Anzio War Cemetery
Total distance: 0.8 miles
Estimated time: 3 Minutes
More information on the Anzio War Cemetery at CWGC

Anzio War cemetery stepsLocation & access — Anzio War Cemetery is about 1 km from Anzio town centre.
It is a few hundred metres from the east side of the 'Via Nettunense SS207'.
This is the same road as Anzio Beachhead Cemetery (5 km from Anzio) — be careful not to confuse the two.
From the car park, there is a set of about 20 steep narrow steps. This is followed by a fairly easy uphill slope of 50 metres to the cemetery gate where there are 3 more steps.
The small covered area with the visitor book is just inside the gate. There follows 2 steps then a paved path on a gentle downhill slope for about 60 metres. There are three wide steps up to the the area with the headstones. The headstone area is grass on a gentle slope.
This route is NOT wheelchair friendly (a lot of extra assistance will be required)
This information is my opinion (October 2005) and not offered in any professional capacity.
According to CWGC, there may be alternative access. Check their link above or telephone their enquires department on 01628 507200.

View a scalable aerial photograph and map with location of Anzio War Cemetery
Driving directions are easily obtained by putting a start and end pin in the map. This will give you a line — produced by a computer — so follow the line at 'high resolution' just in case it takes you through a farmer's field (I am NOT joking).

Anzio War Cemetery contains 1,056 Commonwealth burials.
Most died during the Allied Landing behind German lines in January 1944. (CWGC)

Anzio War Cemetery overlooks the Mediterranean and there was a welcome sea breeze. It is located next to the Communal Cemetery and there are several Florists in the car park.

One man, slightly older than me, laid a wreath on his father’s grave. He carries a small photograph in his wallet at all times. The photograph was taken during World War Two and shows him as a small boy, of about four years, standing beside his father in the uniform and insignia of the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry.
There were many very emotional moments during our cemetery visits.

Two women laid wreaths on the graves of their older brothers from the 80th Medium Reg. R.A. Scottish Horse and the Grenadier Guards.
By request, I videoed a re-enactment of the wreath laying.
Later, at the editing stage, I superimposed photographs of those fallen soldiers.
We finished with a short Remembrance Service. The small Remembrance Services were taken by the very able, and beautifully spoken, National Secretary of the Royal British Legion, Women’s Section.

Watch a live webcam of Anzio Beach
WEBCAMS OR NOT ALWAYS ONLINE
Image refresh every 5 seconds

 

Anzio War Cemetery entrance

Anzio War Cemetery entrance

Anzio War Cemetery access to the headstone area

Anzio War Cemetery access to the headstone area

Anzio War Cemetery

Anzio War Cemetery

Anzio War Cemetery Remembrance Service

Anzio War Cemetery Remembrance Service

Anzio War Cemetery

Anzio War Cemetery

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Sicily-Rome American Cemetery, Nettuno near Anzio

Anzio War Cemetery to American War Cemetery, Nettuno
Total distance: 3.3 miles
Estimated time: 11 Minutes
More information on the American War Cemetery for Sicily and Italy

Entrance Location & access — The World War Two (WW2, II) Sicily-Rome American Cemetery and Memorial is situated at the north edge of the town of Nettuno, on the west side of the 'Piazza J. F. Kennedy'.
The cemetery is pretty much on the level with a gentle slope rising towards the far end.
There are some steps in front of the memorial building but there are alternative routes for wheelchairs.
The cemetery is huge, so the only problem is the distance you may have to cover on foot or in a wheelchair.
The crosses are arranged in separate, gently sloping, fields of grass. There are toilet facilities about 100 metres behind the Memorial building, easily accessible via a wheelchair ramp and fully equipped for the physically challenged.
This cemetery is wheelchair friendly (no extra assistance required).
This information is my opinion (October 2005) and not offered in any professional capacity.

View a scalable aerial photograph and map with location of American War Cemetery
Driving directions are easily obtained by putting a start and end pin in the map. This will give you a line — produced by a computer — so follow the line at 'high resolution' just in case it takes you through a farmer's field (I am NOT joking).

The Sicily-Rome American Cemetery has 7,861 American burials from the Sicily campaign and the Italy campaign as far as Rome.
The white marble walls of the chapel are engraved with the names of 3,095 American missing who gave their lives in the service of their country and whose remains were never recovered or identified. (ABMC)

Eagle on gate This busy day was not over and another short coach trip took us to the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery at Nettuno.
This Cemetery is huge (77 acres) — too big to walk round in the time we had available.
We took a slow drive to the far side and visited the magnificent Memorial with the wall of names .
In the garden, the memorial is flanked by two white flag poles flying the Stars & Stripes.

The Memorial building also houses a bronze relief map and four fresco maps depicting the military operations in Sicily and Italy.

Field after field of white crosses — it was absolutely heart stopping.
I don’t think anyone could be prepared for the enormity of this cemetery.

 

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Sicily-Rome American Cemetery Memorial

Sicily-Rome American Cemetery Memorial

Wall of American Names

Wall of American Names

Statue in centre of Memorial building

Statue in centre of Memorial building

Ten fields of white crosses

Ten fields of white crosses

The main road network in Italy is monitored by a collection of cameras. autostrade.it
WEBCAMS OR NOT ALWAYS ONLINE
Although the image is current, they seem to show a clip that lasts about four seconds and just keep repeating it

 
Day 5 — Roma
(Monday 17 October)

Gaeta to Saint Peters's Basilica, Rome
Total distance: 105 miles
Estimated time: 2 Hours, 6 Minutes (+ comfort stops)
More information on Rome
with useful tips on currency, telephones, attractions, opening times, transport etc.

Rome sidewalk stepsACCESS — Fairly straight forward. You will have to negotiate the usual sidewalk level changes.
I did not see any sidewalks that had tapered sections for wheelchairs.
Rome is fairly wheelchair friendly (you may need occasional extra assistance).
This information is my opinion (October 2005) and not offered in any professional capacity



View a scalable aerial photograph and map of Rome
'Double left click' on any point to magnify — or use the roller on your mouse, if you have one.

Another rest day, or you could shell out some Euros and join the single coach special excursion to Rome — and my party did.
The actual price per person depends on how full the coach is but I think this outing cost about 80 Euros.
A visit to St. Peter’s Basilica involved joining the biggest queue I have ever seen but some of our group surreptitiously merged at a point near the entrance with no apparent objection.

Watch a live webcam of Vatican City
Choose one of eight preset views -- then click on 'Change View'
WEBCAMS OR NOT ALWAYS ONLINE

Our tour of Rome covered a lot of ground but we did not have much time at any particular spot. I think it should be regarded as an Indexing trip with the possibility of returning at a later time to study the things that interest you in more detail.

Watch a very good live webcam of Rome
Choose one of eight preset views -- then click on 'Change View'
WEBCAMS OR NOT ALWAYS ONLINE
You may have to click on 'view live video' and possibly follow instructions for installing an 'Active X' control the first time you use it.

Lunch at the nearby pavement cafe, was accompanied by gypsy youths presenting us with photographs of some poor souls.
Text beneath the photo said, “this child is dying from leukaemia, please give me some money.” They were organized. I think they had cards with text in every possible language. The police move them on but they just come back — keep your hand on your wallet — especially if two of them are talking to you at the same time.

Our name badges had an unexpected benefit in that tourists from every part of the globe would use them as an opening point in a conversation — my lot spoke to some lovely people from Canada.
I was approached by a young European student who seemed to be majoring in Begging. When I refused to give him money, he turned his attention to the remnants of food left on various plates before the waiter cleared them away.

There seemed to be an incredible lack of toilet facilities for such a popular tourist location. Our group was dependant on the small cafe toilet and there was a permanent queue for this.
The Romans were just like most of the Italian people I met — fascinating and friendly.

Watch a SUPERB live web cam of the Piazza del Pantheon
This webcam seems to be down but I will leave the link for a while in case it comes back up.

A short coach trip, then, for those who could keep up (some stayed on the coach), a brisk guided walk round the Piazza della Rotonda and a look inside the Pantheon. The usual restrictions applied with no smoking. This did not stop one of our nicotine-dependant Veterans puffing away in his wheelchair as our guide described the amazing ceiling.

There must have been about six guided tours going on at the same time. The guides used visual aids, usually in the form of a lightweight extended aerial with a flag on top, so their party did not get lost. Our guide held up a rolled up newspaper.
Another short walk and a look round the Piazza Navona, originally a Roman Stadium. There is now an oval ring of houses built on top of the original stadium seating area. The centre, originally the arena, has some magnificent statues and is crowded with traders and artists — you can have your portrait done here.

Back on the coach and a tour round the old town of Rome where we saw the expected sites and finished with a flying visit to the 2nd largest church in Rome, 'St. Paul’s behind the wall' — an interesting name as we had only stopped to use their toilet facilities before heading back to the hotel. I think the proper name is maybe, ‘Outside the Wall’.

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St. Peter's Basilica, Rome

St. Peter's Basilica, Rome

Biggest queue I have ever seen

Biggest queue I have ever seen

Cafe S. Pietro, Roma

Cafe S. Pietro, Roma

The Pantheon, Piazza della Rotonda

The Pantheon, Piazza della Rotonda

St Paul's Outside the Wall

More information and a virtual tour of
St Paul's Outside the Wall
WARNING
— you may need to install Apple Quicktime to view these animations — a good thing to have on your computer anyway.
If need be, you can follow instructions and download it for free.

Day 6 — Minturno War Cemetery
(Tuesday 18 October)

Gaeta to Minturno War Cemetery
Total distance: 15 miles
Estimated time: 28 Minutes
More information on the Minturno War Cemetery at CWGC

Minturno War Cemetery entranceLocation & access — Minturno War Cemetery is on the south side of, and right beside, the 'Via Appia SS7' about 3.5 km (straight line distance) South East of the town of Minturno.
It is just a few metres from the coach, over level ground, to the cemetery gates.
Inside the gates there is a flight of about 6 steps down to the very long level path (about 200 metres) that takes you to the headstone area which is a level grass surface.

 

This site is fairly wheelchair friendly (some extra assistance may be required for the steps
This information is my opinion (October 2005) and not offered in any professional capacity.

View a scalable aerial photograph and map with location of Minturno & Minturno War Cemetery
Driving directions are easily obtained by putting a start and end pin in the map. This will give you a line — produced by a computer — so follow the line at 'high resolution' just in case it takes you through a farmer's field (I am NOT joking).

Minturno War Cemetery contains 2,049 Commonwealth burials — mainly those who died during the crossing of the River Garigliano in January 1944. (CWGC)

Minturno War Cemetery was on the way to Cassino. Only a few of our Veterans had known comrades buried here. It was a short visit but we still managed a small Remembrance Service.

Local tourist information with links to hotels restaurants etc Minturno

A short summary of the battle in the Minturno area

17 January 1944, the British successfully cross the Garigliano, capturing Minturno and the high ground at Tufo.
The German commander sends most of his Reserve Divisions from Rome to reinforce the area — Divisions that would not be available to oppose the landing at Anzio on 22 January 1944.
The British lose ground that is not retaken till the final victory at Monte Cassino and the breakout through the Liri Valley, 'the Gateway to Rome', during May 1944.

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Minturno War Cemetery

Minturno War Cemetery looking back towards the coaches

Minturno War Cemetery headtsones
Minturno War Cemetery headstones

Cassino War Cemetery

Minturno War Cemetery to Cassino War Cemetery
Total distance: 23 miles
Estimated time: 40 Minutes
More information on the Cassino War Cemetery at CWGC

Cassino War Cemetery entrance Location & access — Cassino War Cemetery is about 2.5 km south of Cassino town centre on the west side, and right beside, the 'SP76'.
It is just a few metres from the coach to a set of about 12 steps.
The headstone area is grass and starts almost immediately. The surface is level to start with, turning into a gentle slope further back (see the large title photograph at the top of the page).
There is a central paved area with a pond and several tall monolith stones with names. This area is about three steps down from the headstone area.
The CWGC (see their link above — telephone 01628 507200) say, "Wheelchair access to the cemetery is possible, via a ramp at an alternative entrance, which can be located approx. 200 metres from the main entrance." I did not see this entrance and cannot comment on it.
This site should be fairly wheelchair friendly (extra assistance may be required).
This information is my opinion (October 2005) and not offered in any professional capacity.

View a scalable aerial photograph and map with location of Cassino and Monte Cassino
Driving directions are easily obtained by putting a start and end pin in the map. This will give you a line — produced by a computer — so follow the line at 'high resolution' just in case it takes you through a farmer's field (I am NOT joking).

Cassino War Cemetery has 4,271 Commonwealth servicemen buried or commemorated. 289 of the burials are unidentified.
Within the cemetery stands the CASSINO MEMORIAL which commemorates over 4,000 Commonwealth servicemen who took part in the Italian campaign whose graves are not known. (CWGC)

Cassino War Cemetery is overlooked by the Abbey of Monte Cassino. As well as the grave stones, there are many tall monolithic slabs covered with the names of the fallen.

Although this was the largest British & Commonwealth cemetery we visited, their layout, over a certain size, follows a fairly standard design. At one end is a large Stone of Remembrance, with the inscription,
THEIR NAME LIVETH FOR EVERMORE
(words chosen by Rudyard Kipling, from the Bible [Apocrypha] Ecclesiasticus ch44 v14).
At the other end, facing the stone, is the Cross of Sacrifice, a large white stone cross with a sword of gunmetal-grey bronze.

Cassino was our longest Remembrance Service. The Cassino Remembrance Service was taken by a minister from Canada who was born during the war.
The British Ambassador to Italy was in attendance — as were his two body guards who gave me some suspicious looks as I knelt quietly behind my tripod-mounted camcorder on a grassy knoll.

Our Veterans lined up and there was a short processional march in, led by the minister and ambassador. The Last Post was played on trumpet by a Major from the Italian Army as our Standard was dipped for a one minute silence. Several poppy wreaths were laid.

After the service, people found the various graves they were interested in and laid their tributes. One woman, who gives up a lot of her time for War Veterans, had her photograph taken beside the grave of a 16 year old soldier, Mane Rai of the 7th Gurkha Rifles. I believe the photo was forwarded to the Gurkha Association.

The visit finished with a group photo of the Veterans and staff.
We had lunch at a local hotel where the Italian Major was presented with an inscribed silver salver.

A short summary of the battle of Monte Cassino

The British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, was a romantic and poetic individual. It was his idea to invade Italy from the south — he described it as, 'the soft underbelly of Europe'. No sensible military commander in history has ever attacked Rome from the south. In 218 BC, Hannibal took his army (including war-elephants) across the treacherous Alps rather than invade from the south.

Autumn 1943. The Allies advance north through Italy as the Germans fight delaying actions at various preplanned lines of defence— gradually falling back to the Gustav Line which runs from the Gulf of Gaeta through Monte Cassino and on to the Sangro River on the Adriatic coast.

The American 5th Army (50% British), under American General Mark Clark, faces the Gustav Line from Monte Cassino to the West coast. The British & Commonwealth 8th Army faces the rest of the line.
The Allies do not yet fully appreciate that the Gustav Line is not just another delaying action but a formidable and well prepared line of defence— arguably the strongest defensive position confronting any army during the Second World War.

Previously, as the 8th Army fought its way north along the coast to link up with the 5th Army at Salerno, they developed a technique for handling German resistance. They simply sent an amphibious force round behind the enemy (a left-hook) and attacked them from the rear.

It may have been the success of these actions that inspired the idea of landing a large force 50 miles behind the Gustav Line at Anzio (a huge left-hook).
The problem is time and resources. The 5th Army has only just arrived at the Rapido River in front of the Gustav Line. The soldiers are exhausted but have no time to recuperate before being forced to launch a diversionary attack to draw the German Reserves south from Rome. This is expected to minimize possible opposition at Anzio. The Anzio Landing has to take place immediately as the amphibious landing-craft are about to be recalled to England for the invasion of France.

The ill-prepared American 36th (Texas) Division attacks (several times) across the swollen and fast flowing Rapido River (which further downstream retains its ancient name River Gari). They carry small boats for two miles across flooded minefields under shell and mortar fire — 900 men are lost before the river is reached — it’s a crazy plan and the Texans are slaughtered — The Germans are so aghast by the spectacle that they eventually stop firing. To this day, the survivors display an utter loathing for the very name Mark Clark.

Further west, the British successfully cross the same river — at this location it is called the Garigliano River (below the joining of the Gari and Liri Rivers) but fail to cross at another point on the left flank of the American 36th Div. The Americans are not too happy about this failure to protect their left flank.
The Germans are indeed concerned and send the bulk of their Reserves south from Rome. The Anzio Landing meets only light resistance.

The Liri Valley (Gateway to Rome — highway 6) is the only practical route north for the Allies with their heavy vehicles and tanks but it is dominated by the heights of Monte Cassino from where German Artillery Observers can direct very accurate fire on the valley. Taking Monte Cassino becomes the primary Allied objective in that area.

Over the following winter months as Allied vehicles sink past their axles in the poor Italian road surfaces that turn into mud fields, and much of the troop deployment is on top of mountains, the most valuable form of transport becomes the pack-mule.
Several costly disjointed attacks are made against Monte Cassino with no sustainable success.

In May 1944 the Allied front is rearranged and the 8th Army, with reinforcements (most notably the 2nd Polish Corps), take over the line from Cassino to the Adriatic Coast. The 5th Army is moved further over to the west coast.
After a huge artillery barrage, a massive coordinated Allied attack breaks the Gustav Line and the Allies pour into the Liri Valley — eventually joining up with their forces at Anzio. The Poles capture Monte Cassino on 18 May 1944.
This is known by historians as the 4th Battle of Monte Cassino but to the soldiers on the ground, the four battles were just one long bloody slog.

The Germans withdraw to the north. General Mark Clark is instructed to cut off and capture the retreating Germans but his vanity has been dented — he is not the ‘Conqueror of Monte Cassino’. Clark directs the bulk of his force to Rome where he has a victory parade as the Germans successfully retreat north and form yet another defensive line. The German commander, Field Marshall Albert Kesselring, has promised he will not turn Rome into a battlefield and the German Forces simply withdraw from the city.

Two days later the Allies invade France, then Italy becomes back-page news.

 

 

View from the Cross of Sacrifice

View from the Cross of Sacrifice

Monte Cassino Abbey from Cassino War Cemetery

Monte Cassino Abbey from Cassino War Cemetery

Stone of Remembrance, Cassino War Cemetery

Stone of Remembrance, Cassino War Cemetery

Cross of Sacrifice

Cross of Sacrifice
photo by Jan Williams

Veterans line up at Cassino War Cemetery

Veterans line up at Cassino War Cemetery

Cassino town after Allied bombing

Cassino town after Allied bombing

Mules were the only practical transport

Mules were the only practical transport

Castle Hill with Monte Cassino in the distance

Castle Hill with Monte Cassino in the distance

Cassino Map

OPERATION DIADEM
The 4th and final Battle of Monte Cassino when the Gustav Line is broken and the Allies advance into the Liri Valley

The Polish Army, after fierce fighting and heavy losses, take the previously impregnable Monte Cassino Abbey

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Polish War Cemetery

More information on the Polish Soldiers of World War Two
for some reason you have to  ' DOUBLE left click'  the links on this page.

Polish War Cemetery walkway entrance Location & access — The Polish War Cemetery car park is 0.7 km (by road) from the car park at Monte Cassino Abbey.
From the Polish Cemetery car park, you progress down a sloping walkway (about 500 metres long) with about 3 flights of about 8 steps each.
Arriving at the cemetery gates, there is another flight of about ten steps to get up to the cemetery base. This cemetery is all stone. There is no grass in the main cemetery.
The crosses are laid out on a steep terraced stone semi circle. You have to be reasonably fit to climb up there and then on to the garden further up the slope. One of our Veterans, in a wheelchair, got as far as the cemetery base, but this involved the assistance of three fit young men.
This route is NOT wheelchair friendly (a lot of extra assistance will be required)
This information is my opinion (October 2005) and not offered in any professional capacity.

View a scalable aerial photograph and map with location of The Polish War Cemetery Monte Cassino
If you are interested in the military campaign, I strongly recommend you click on the '3D' link and install the free software. This produces the amazing effect of seeing the ground in three dimensions. You can move around as if flying an aeroplane.

The sun continued to blaze down (it had done all week) as we arrived at the Polish War Cemetery, very near to Monte Cassino Abbey. This is a magnificent cemetery with terraces lined with stone crosses. Above the terrace, further up the slope, is a large hedge, clipped and shaped to form a hollow cross. This can only be seen properly from higher up and the best view is probably from the Monastery. There is at least one balcony where the public can view the cross but because of the distance, a telephoto lens is required for a good photograph.

The entrance is guarded by two large stone eagles that look toward Monte Cassino Abbey.
Standing in the cemetery and looking towards the Monastery presents a magnificent view, so make sure you get a photo. Set your zoom-lens on its widest possible setting.

It was the Poles who eventually captured Monte Cassino from the Germans after several failed attempts by other regiments.
The Poles paid a heavy price with over 4,000 casualties including over 1,000 killed. These casualties were incurred during the struggle towards the Monastery. At one point, when the Poles had exhausted their ammunition, they resorted to throwing rocks at the enemy.

By the time the Monastery was reached, the main allied force had already progressed along the Liri Valley and was about to cut the German supply lines. The Germans withdrew their forces north, leaving about thirty badly wounded German soldiers under a white flag of surrender in the ruins of the Monastery.
The cemetery is located at the base of hill (point) 593 — many soldiers of several nationalities were sacrificed for this objective. Hill 593 was taken by the Poles, as was Monte Cassino Abbey the following day.

Look out for the grave of General Wladyslaw Anders.
After being captured, tortured and eventually released by the Russians, Anders led his people down through the 'Persian Corridor' to Persia (Iran), where he formed and then commanded the 2nd Polish Corps from 1943 to 1946. He never returned to his homeland (then communist controlled) and died in exile in London, England, on 12 May 1970.
At his own request, after a period of 'lying in state', he was buried with his men at the Polish War Cemetery, Monte Cassino.

The inscription at the entrance, reads

FOR OUR FREEDOM AND YOURS
WE SOLDIERS OF POLAND
GAVE
OUR SOUL TO GOD
OUR LIFE TO THE SOIL OF ITALY
OUR HEARTS TO POLAND

 

 

 

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Polish Cemetery base looking up towards the shaped hedge

Polish Cemetery base looking up towards the shaped hedge
photo by Warwick Saunders

Polish War Cemetery looking towards Monte Cassino

Polish War Cemetery looking towards Monte Cassino

Monte Cassino Abbey 1944

Monte Cassino Abbey 1944

Polish Flag on Monte Cassino 18 May 1944

Polish Flag on Monte Cassino 18 May 1944

General Władysław Anders

General Wladyslaw Anders

Monte Cassino Abbey

Cassino War Cemetery to Monte Cassino Abbey
Total distance: 5.7 miles
Estimated time: 12 Minutes
More information on Monte Cassino Abbey at www.officine.it/montecassino/

Monte Cassino Abbey slopeACCESS — From the car park there is a fairly easy slope up towards the Abbey — about 150 metres.
This gets steeper as you near the entrance and the steepest part is going through the tunnel shaped entrance.
It then levels out through the Entrance Cloister that takes you into the main area of the Bramante Cloister.
There are no steps worth mentioning.
From the Bramante Cloister, you can access several areas, sometimes with one or two steps.
The Basilica Cathedral is a different matter. There is a huge flight of steps to get up there.
Monte Cassino Abbey is wheelchair friendly up to a point.
This information is my opinion (October 2005) and not offered in any professional capacity.

View a scalable aerial photograph and map with location of Monte Cassino Abbey
If you are interested in the military campaign, I strongly recommend you click on the '3D' link and install the free software. This produces the amazing effect of seeing the ground in three dimensions. You can move around as if flying an aeroplane.

Monte Cassino Abbey was destroyed by Allied bombing during the war but the foundations remained intact and the Abbey was completely rebuilt.
The building, like so many buildings in Italy, is magnificent. Italians are obviously among the best stone workers anywhere — so many beautiful ornate buildings and stunning statues.

The drive up to the Abbey is a spectacular event in its own right as long as you are not the driver who obviously needs all concentration on the narrow twisting road.
Several of our group were very interested in identifying the various hills and points of battle from WW2 and I think some of them returned for a longer look on a rest-day.

From the inner square (the Bramante Cloister) you can easily access several areas, including a balcony with splendid views of the Liri Valley and the cross shaped hedge at the Polish War Cemetery.

This is a very Holy place and you must treat it with respect and dignity — don't be shouting to someone at the other side of the cloister.
The Abbey is open in the morning and then again in the afternoon. For exact current times, check out their web site link (above).

Inside the Basilica Cathedral, we wandered freely as the Monks chanted their beautiful music. The officials are very accommodating to tourists but there are limits you must observe. Basically they don’t like to see too much flesh — so no shorts, mini-skirts or short sleeves. No smoking, eating, tripods, or flash photography — though you can video away till your hearts content (at least you could when I was there).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back to our hotel, and that was, for many, the end of the week’s official activities.

 

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The steepest part of the access route

The steepest part of the access route

Inside the Basilica Cathedral, Monte Cassino Abbey

Inside the Basilica Cathedral, Monte Cassino Abbey

Bramante Cloister with the Liri Valley in the distance

Bramante Cloister with the Liri Valley in the distance

Lots of steps up to the Basilica Cathedral

Lots of steps up to the Basilica Cathedral

Day 7 — Pompeii & Napoli
(Tuesday 18 October)

Gaeta to Ruins of Pompeii
Total distance: 75 miles
Estimated time: 1 Hour, 46 Minutes (+ comfort stops)
More information on Pompeii and Vesuvius

Pompeii starting the tourACCESS — The route we took over a two hour period would have been absolutely impossible for wheelchairs.
As well as the uneven roads, there are high steps and very steep slopes.
There are plans to improve wheelchair access and you can read more about this at
Identifying architectural obstacles
Hopefully they will keep their information up to date.

If you are wheelchair dependant you can forget about visiting Pompeii.
Pompeii is, in every practical sense, wheelchair impossible.
This information is my opinion (October 2005) and not offered in any professional capacity.

View a scalable aerial photograph and map with location of Pompeii, Vesuvius & Naples
Driving directions are easily obtained by putting a start and end pin in the map. This will give you a line — produced by a computer — so follow the line at 'high resolution' just in case it takes you through a farmer's field (I am NOT joking).

You need to be fairly fit and sound to walk round Pompeii. The going is very uneven and you must concentrate on where you put your feet. Pompeii is an archeological site in progress.
You will need good sensible footware. Leave your stiletto heals on the coach — tell your wife to do the same.
Our guide tried to show us as much as possible in the time available and this resulted in us walking at a brisk pace over rough ground — this is no gentle stroll.

There aint no tuck-shops or toilets so take a bottle of water with you — but don't drink too much.

More toilet talk.
When we left the coach, there was some uncertainty about toilet locations and some of us found one that was operated by a local entrepreneur who charged one Euro to use his underground facilities with un-tiled concrete walls that I tried not to touch. Space must have been at a premium as the Ladies and Gents used the same line of cubicles. Wash your hands then dry them on your clothing — you don't get much for your Euro.
Buy your ticket at the main entrance, Piazza Anfiteatro, to the Pompeii ruins (10 Euros) and just inside there are free toilets.

Pompeii was almost totally buried by volcanic ash in A.D. 79 when the nearby Mount Vesuvius erupted in a huge volcano.
The top parts of the buildings, that were left above the ash, had the stone removed for building projects elsewhere. Now that the ash has been removed, it looks like some giant scythe has sliced the top off the tall buildings.

Watch a live webcam of Vesuvius from Naples Bay
WEBCAMS OR NOT ALWAYS ONLINE
I happened to take a look at sunrise and grabbed this image (hope they don't mind)>>>>>

We had a two hour guided tour of the site but our group leader, a former Lieutenant Colonel in the Royal Marines, reckoned you would need several days to see it properly. We saw some of the plaster casts of buried bodies protected in glass display cases.

The layout of the streets, houses and shops was fascinating. Our local guide, Margareta, pointed out a specially carved stone that was part of the road surface. The carving was a direction indicator for strangers looking for the red light district. The pointer was not your conventional arrow but a representation of the male anatomy more often found in graffiti. Margareta called it the Lupanii (sounded like) though I have not been able to find any other reference to such a name.

Lunch in the nearby Hotel Vittoria was quite an experience. The meal was lovely but the staff were openly and animatedly expressive. A waiter, serving the soup, was arguing with the manager across the table as we dodged the swinging ladle.
We knew from our itinerary that some lunches were part of the package and others we paid for. I think this meal cost 15 Euros and that included a beer or wine.

More information on the Hotel Vittoria

The people of Naples were noticeably different from Gaeta.
As we made our way from lunch to the coach-park, the route was lined by locals waving copies of an illustrated book on Pompeii.
As we left the hotel restaurant, a book was costing 10 Euros. The price slowly diminished and by the time we were boarding the coach, I got mine for 5 Euros — I'm a Scotsman.

The coach tour of Naples was very interesting.
Narrow side streets with tall buildings on each side. The people in one building could almost reach out and touch hands with their neighbours across the street.
We stopped for photos and leg-stretching at two viewpoints.
Margareta waved us goodbye and I confidently shouted, “ciao!” (chow) — (oops, that means ‘hello’). She frowned slightly and shouted back, “arrivederci!”

Back to our hotel in Gaeta for dinner then a bit of a party with balloons and paper hats in the hotel dining room.
Group and solo singing. A poem and a few jokes. A Morris Dance, with six men who were ordered to look foolish by a very nice but dominant woman on the Entertainment Committee.
The night was rounded off by singing ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ then ‘Auld Lang Syne’.

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Not Wheelchair Friendly

Not Wheelchair Friendly

Two hours can be a long time without a sit down

Two hours can be a long time without a sit down

 

 

Sunrise over Vesuvius

Sunrise over Vesuvius — from the campaniameteo.it webcam
7.05 hours local time 27 February 2007

Direction Sign, Pompeii style

Direction Sign, Pompeii style

Castel dell'Ovo (Egg Castle)

Coach tour of Naples — second viewpoint stop
to view Castel dell'Ovo (Egg Castle)

 

 

 

Party night with the Morris Dancers

Party night with the Morris Dancers

Day 8 — Homeward Bound & Conclusions
(Thursday 20 October)

Where did the time go? Everyone a bit stunned and silent. The rain was announcing its imminent arrival as we stood on the large covered veranda with luggage at the ready.

The rain kept up all the way to the airport and we even had some quite dramatic lightning. This should be an indication to any potential travellers that you don’t just need a knotted handkerchief to protect your head from the sun — some rainwear is also important.

Our Coach Tour was a holiday with a mission — a very worthwhile week in my life.
The common interest of all 86 people is probably why we got on so well from the word go — there was no ‘ice to break’.
We looked out for each other in a way I thought reminiscent of soldiers at the front-line.
We were very lucky with the weather, but I don’t think rain would have made much difference — our soldiers waded neck deep through ice cold rivers in winter and then went on to fight for days without drying out or warming up — I don’t think our Veterans would have paid much heed to summer rain.
Will I go on another trip ? I most certainly will.

Towards the end of my video, one young woman speaks to camera and says, “I think youngsters should all go on trips like this — I think it’s so informative, I’ve learned such a lot — as well as seeing sights that I never thought I’d ever see, like Pompeii and Naples.”

One young man with his wheelchair dependant grandfather said, “I brought my wife’s granddad and had reservations about the trip in that I knew it would be hard work . . . and after the first day I wasn't sure I would make it — but we sorted all those problems out — and to everyone, thanks very much for your help on the trip.”

We owe our Veterans so much. Most are now at an age and income level that prohibits them financing a tour like the above.
Some of our Veterans described our holiday as, "the trip of a lifetime".
When you and your siblings next talk about what to get dad and mum for a present . . .

This site has no connection with Remembrance Travel or CWGC.
It is owned by Nigel Turnbull (me) from bonny Scotland, UK.
There are other firms offering such tours and I am sure that many will give an excellent service, but I only have experience of Remembrance Travel and you have just read that account.

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The Video and then a Song — For that Tomorrow

My intention was to make a video record of my dad and our party. I quickly realized that the few people who were shooting video, were complete beginners and did not have my background in the field of photography and video.

I offered to cover everyone on the tour and this idea was met with some enthusiasm though I suspect most people were expecting to get an unedited copy of some guy’s home movies.
They did get a nicely edited production with the required start, middle and end — albeit shot on a domestic camcorder with a rickety tripod.

I spent several months editing the video. I decided to add names and regimental details so much time was spent communicating with everyone by email, telephone and letters.
The finished DVD was very much appreciated and some people ordered several copies.

This video project was finished but I felt absolutely saturated by the whole experience.
It was at this point I doodled a verse. The next morning, I read the doodle, deleted it, and immediately wrote the first three verses of, ‘For that Tomorrow’. The words just seemed to flow of their own accord — I had never written a song before.
I later wrote the last two verses then spent many weeks polishing the words and making it more universal and less British.
I secured an appropriate domain name and put the song on the internet.

The song was launched about three weeks before Remembrance Sunday 2006. This was a bit late but the minister, at my dad’s local church, liked the song so much she got her organist and choir involved quickly enough for her congregation to sing it on Remembrance Sunday.

A few chance events that gathered momentum and culminated in a Remembrance Day Song.

Nigel J. C. Turnbull
nigel@remembrancedaysong.com

Many of the photographs on this page were taken by fellow traveller Susie Swarbrick.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Watch a video of this song  

 For that Tomorrow

(1) I stand here alone
          with loved ones to hand;
     my tributes to lay
          on this salient land.
     The voices within
          as mem'ries unfold
     of a comrade at peace now
          who shall grow not old.

(2) A tree gives me shade
          in gardens so fine;
     a stone with inscription
          that goes beyond time.
     The headstones are neat
          in rows marching past
     and the names of the fallen,
          forever will last.

(3) A son kneels to touch
          his father's cold stone;
     a tear in his eye for
          a friend long since gone.
     A woman stands proud,
          with medals on show,
     for a husband who died that
          his children might grow.

(4) Recorded in stone
          and gun metal grey,
     those heroes in silence
         look down as we pray.
     The standard is dip'd,
          the flowers are laid
     then the music is sounded
          and homage is paid.

(5) They left us a torch
          to carry with pride
     and hope for a future
          where peace can abide.
     I dream of a life,
          that's lived without fear,
     it is for that tomorrow
          our people lie here.

You can listen to the melody and print out a song sheet on the home page at RemembranceDaySong.com

© June 2006 Nigel J. C. Turnbull
nigel@remembrancedaysong.com

IMPORTANT: There has been a problem with the above email address that has now been corrected.
If you have not received a reply, please resubmit.

Our Veterans represented the following Regiments in alphabetical order

Cameron Highlanders, 2nd Battalion — 4th Indian Division
City of London Royal Fusiliers, 8th & 9th battalion — 56 Division
Commandos, 10th east Riding Yeomanry Battalion — Green Howards
East Surrey Regiment, 1 / 6th Battalion — 4th British Division
East Surreys, 1 / 6th Battalion — 4th British Division
Entertainments National Service Association, Italy — 8th Army
Grenadier Guards, 5th Battalion — 24 Guards Brigade, 1st British Division
Grenadier Guards, 6th Battalion — 201 Guards Brigade, 1st British Division
Grenadier Guards, 6th Battalion — 201 Guards Brigade, 56th Division
Hampshire Regiment, 5th Battalion — 139 Brigade, 46 Division, 5th Army
Kings dragoon Guards, 1st — Armoured Cars
Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry—
Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry 2 / 4th Battalion, — , 46 Division
Lincolnshire Regiment, 6th Battalion —
Parachute Regiment, 5th Battalion Scottish — 2nd Independent Brigade, 1st Division, Army Air Corps
Parachute Regiment, 5th Battalion Scottish — 2nd Independent Brigade, 1st Division, Army Air Corps
Parachute Regiment, 5th Battalion Scottish — 2nd Independent Brigade, 1st Division, Army Air Corps
Reconnaissance Regiment, 44 — 56 London Division
Royal Army Service Corps, b/520 Company — 139 Brigade, 46 Division Salerno
Royal Artillery —
Royal Artillery —
Royal Artillery —
Royal Artillery —
Royal Artillery, 14 Medium Regiment — Surrey & Sussex Yeomanry, 2nd Army Group RA
Royal Artillery, 160 Battery — 57th Field Regiment, 2nd Army Group
Royal Artillery, 25th Heavy Regiment —
Royal Artillery, B Battery, 74th Medium — Sussex Yeomanry
Royal Artillery, Kent Yeomanry —
Royal Corps of Signals — 78th (Battleaxe) Division
Royal Corps of Signals, 7th Suffolk Regiment — 25th Army Tank Brigade, 142 Royal Army Corps
Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers —
Royal Engineers, Bridging Platoon — 46 Division
Royal Fusiliers, 1st Battalion — 8th Indian Division, 8th Army
Royal Fusiliers, 9th Battalion — 56th British Division, Salerno
Royal Hampshire Regiment, 1 / 4th Battalion — 46 British Division
Royal Leicestershire Regiment —
Royal Navy, HMS Glengyle — Anzio Landing Ship
Royal Tank Regiment — 23rd Armoured Brigade, 4th Division
Royal Tank Regiment

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