Monte Cassino 75

11 May 2019

To commemorate 75 years since the Battle of Monte Cassino, The Royal British Legion held a service of Remembrance in the grounds of the Arboretum on Saturday 11 May.

It was expected that the Italy campaign would be easy. A strike at the weak link in the Axis, Mussolini’s Italy, it was assumed that the entire country would be in Allied hands not long after they landed on the peninsular. In reality, the campaign to liberate Italy would be one of the toughest of the entire war, resulting in hundreds of thousands of causalities on each side.

Between January ad May 1944 nearly a quarter of a million troops from six continents, representing many nations, fought four battles on and around Monte Cassino and in the town of Cassino, Italy.

The service featured a number of readings and performances including the Ballad of the D-Day dodgers. The Ballad was written in response to some public perception that the allied forces in other theatres were undertaking the ‘real’ fighting whilst those serving in Italy were not. The ballad finishes:

“When you look ‘round the mountains, through the mud and rain
You’ll find the crosses, some which bear no name.
Heartbreak, and toil and suffering gone
The boys beneath them slumber on
They were the D-Day Dodgers, who’ll stay in Italy.”

Following the service guests were invited to lay wreaths at the Polish Forces War Memorial and the Monte Cassino and Italy Star Memorials.