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Commemorating the 80th Anniversary of the Battle of Monte Cassino

More than 100 UK Armed Forces personnel took part in commemorations to mark the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Monte Cassino (MC80), at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery Cassino, Italy.

Attended by Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Edinburgh, the commemoration included a service of remembrance, prayers, and wreath laying, with the UK and Italian national anthems performed by the Honourable Artillery Company (HAC) Band.

Anniversaries are opportunities to pause and reflect. On 19 May we mark eighty years since the end of the four-month long struggle at Monte Cassino." General Sir Patrick Sanders, Chief of the General Staff

Soldiers from the Royal Tank Regiment, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, and the HAC formed the Guard of Honour and Colour Party as guests from across the globe paid tribute to the fallen.

Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Patrick Sanders said:

“Anniversaries are opportunities to pause and reflect. On 19 May we mark eighty years since the end of the four-month long struggle at Monte Cassino.

“Standing in the tranquil shadow of the great Monastery today, it is difficult to imagine the savagery of the fighting that echoed around the Liri Valley in the late winter and early spring of 1944.

“As we remember the courage of those who paid the ultimate price to secure Allied victory, I am reminded of the truly multinational nature of the forces involved: British, Canadian, New Zealand, Indian, Polish, French, Italian and American troops all served alongside each other, united by a common cause.

“We are fortunate that allies of the past remain allies today. In Europe, we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our NATO partners, resolute in our continued commitment to European security and the freedom won by those who fought and died at Monte Cassino.”

All Commonwealth countries who fought in the Second World War were acknowledged through the reading of national citations, by tri-service personnel based in Italy, primarily from the NATO Joint Force Command HQ in Naples.

Captain Nicholas Warren-Miller’s grandfather was part of the Forward Delivery Squadron, Royal Armoured Corps, supporting the Royal Tank Regiment - the same regiment as his grandson - he would have supplied the tracked vehicles and tanks to the front line.

“It is fantastic to be part of the 80th Anniversary of Monte Cassino knowing that my grandfather, William Frank Jack Warren was part of the battle”, he said.

“To honour his memory and that of his friends is a great privilege; made even better by having our Canadian exchange officer present.

“My grandfather was attached to the Canadian Brigade that fought here and was awarded Maple Leaves to commemorate this.”

The four battles took place between January and May 1944, fought between the Allies and the Axis powers, with the Allies seeking to break through the heavily fortified German defensive known as the Winter Line.

As we remember the courage of those who paid the ultimate price to secure Allied victory … We are fortunate that allies of the past remain allies today." GENERAL SIR PATRICK SANDERS, CHIEF OF THE GENERAL STAFF

Montecassino was a 1,400-year-old Benedictine Abbey located on a rocky hill overlooking the town of Cassino, the Germans using its surrounding hills as a key strategic position.

The victory was a significant achievement for the Allies, allowing them to continue their advance towards Rome and eventually liberate Italy from German occupation, it is remembered as one of the most challenging and costly battles of the Second World War.

The capture of Monte Cassino on 18 May 1944 came at a high price, with the Allies suffering around 55,000 casualties in the battles. British forces alone lost around 8,000 personnel, killed, or missing and presumed dead. German casualties were estimated at around 20,000 killed and wounded.

At the foot of monastery hill, stand the rows and rows of gleaming white headstones, the final resting place of thousands who fell in some of the fiercest fighting of the Italian campaign, a sombre reminder of their bravery.

Veteran Jack Hearn (100), who served with the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers went to war with many of those who never came home, those that paid the ultimate sacrifice.

Part of the Royal Army Service Corps, he was a dispatch rider and transport driver, key to the war effort he delivered troops, supplies, ammunition, and weapons and spent almost three years in Italy.

Paying his respects to those ‘who didn’t make,’ he said: “I’m here today in this special place, to pay tribute to my fellow soldiers and friends with whom I fought.

“We’ve heard accounts from others of bravery, some who made it through and other who sadly didn’t.

"Thousands lost their lives in Italy and many who returned home were never the same. We remember them all today and the bitter cost of freedom.”

Marking the 80th anniversaries of several pivotal moments during World War Two, a ‘living flame’ travelled to its first official commemorative event at the Cassino War Cemetery.

Part of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission ‘Legacy of Liberation 80’ campaign, it will head to Normandy for D-Day, illuminating every CWGC grave before it continues the journey through Europe. It is a symbol of their commitment to never forget the losses made for freedom, as they pass a flame of commemoration from veterans to the next generation to keep the stories of the fallen alive. 

The honour of carrying the Torch of Commemoration, was given to Trooper Daisy Crichton, the granddaughter of Captain John Frendrought Grey Crichton who was with the 10th Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment and survived the war.

“I feel really privileged to be given this responsibility and be part of the commemorative activities.

“From a personal perspective, it’s really good for me to connect with the family history as my Grandfather fought here. It has been emotional to be here on the anniversary.

The fall of Rome, on 4 June, 1944, ended almost two years of fighting. It occurred two days before the D-Day landings and by drawing the German troops to the Mediterranean it contributed to the success of campaigns elsewhere in Europe.