Members of the 18th Battalion hitch a ride in a Sherman tank belonging to the 4th New Zealand Armoured Brigade during the advance through northern Italy in late 1944.
Thirty-eight New Zealand war veterans will be in Italy this week to
commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Monte Cassino.
The veterans, all in their 90s and accompanied by a medical support team,
left New Zealand yesterday.
In Cassino they will attend a service of remembrance at the Cassino railway
sation and the New Zealand national commemorative service at the Commonwealth
War Graves Cemetery.
Men of 28th (Māori) Battalion
marching north of Faenza, Italy, in January 1945. They are moving out
of the line approximately 2 km from the enemy-held Castel Bolognese.
The veterans are expected to be joined by Prince Harry at the New Zealand service on May 18.
They will also attend a private service at the Abbey of Monte Cassino and
have a guided battlefield tour.
Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae is attending the commemorations, along
with Minister of Defence Jonathan Coleman and Chief of Army Major General
A total of 2176 New Zealanders lost their lives in Italy during World War
II, and 456 are buried in Cassino.
The Battle of Monte Cassino is regarded as one of the hardest-fought battles
of the war.
German defenders were driven from their positions but at a high cost,
including the loss of 352 New Zealand lives and 1200 wounded.
Cassino - the Italian campaign
Why were we fighting ?
Baldrick the incorrigible star in Blackadder said " War is a terrible thing."
Never a truer statement.
My father fought in the 2nd World War and was on that terrible battle for Monte Cassino as part of New Zealand's 23rd Battalion.
Recently my brother and his wife visited Monte Cassino and laid five roses there, one each on behalf of his five children. Private James William Godfrey McKerrow fought gallantly on Monte Cassino and saw a huge number of his friends die around him. He was wounded, but able to continue fighting. Dad spoke little of the war, but would often get nostalgic at Christmas time as he remembered the Christmas he spent in a trench on Monte Cassino. He told me how there was a half day cease fire and he and his comrades crossed the frontline to celebrate Christmas with the German soldiers they had been trying to kill for the past few months. Dad said. " they were good men like our soldiers, fathers and sons like us. " He said rather sadly to me, " I wondered then and still do now, why we were fighting ? "
My Dad told me how they swapped precious gifts such as chocolate, sweets, canned meat and cigarettes. They also sang songs in tehir own languages.
I have worked for the Red Cross for more than 40 years years and have seen first hand the Vietnam War, the war that created Bangladesh, wars in Ethiopia, India/Pakistan, Nepal, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Tajikistan. My Dad's words turn over in my head, " Why were we fighting ? "