Monte Cassino...

 

...Armoured Forces in the Battle for the Gustav Line, more Images of War from Pen and Sword

 

Title: Monte Cassino

Author: Jeffery Plowman

Publisher: Pen and Sword

ISBN: 978-1-52671-893-8

Another addition to the prolific Images of War series, and another from author Jeffrey Plowman.  Perhaps the most famous battle to take place during the Italian campaign, there remains a degree of controversy over the degree of bombing the Allies delivered on both the town of Casino and the Abbey that dominated the heights above it.  This particular book though concentrates on the use of armour in the extended fighting which took place in the town and surrounding areas as the Allies sought to break through the Gustav Line.

Allies is a good point to consider, as the book clearly shows the variety of nationalities who were involved in the fighting over the months it took to break through.  We see British, American, New Zealand, Polish, Indian and French Moroccan forces, as well as German of course.  There is also an interesting selection of armoured vehicles among the nearly 200 archive pictures.  Lots of Shermans of course, many knocked out, and with a mix of camouflage and markings.  Add M5 Stuarts, M31 Recovery vehicles, Churchills, US Armoured Bulldozers, German Stug IIIs plus their use of Italian Sermoventes plus the rare operational use of the Valentine Bridgelayer.  The story is spread across 11 chapters, from the background to the situation and the early attacks on the Gustav Line.  It moves on through the 1st, 2nd and 3rd before moving to other elements of Cavendish Road, various aspects of Operation Diadem and the final assault on Monte Cassino.  Each one is opened with a few pages of text to tell the story, followed by well captioned photos to illustrate each part.  At the end we have an epilogue showing the making of the Polish tank memorial from the remains of the M4A2 of Lieutenant Lodmir Bialecki, which had run over mines, destroying the tank and killing the crew

Part of the attraction of this one for me was the fact that I visited Casino and the restored Abbey just a few months ago.  In particular we took photos of the Polish tank memorial on the hill near the Abbey, one which features the early pictures of the tank when it had been knocked out and later, as the memorial was constructed.  Even now there are warnings on the signs in the area to keep to paths because of the danger of unexploded ordnance that remains in the woods surrounding the Polish Cemetery.  Today the town and Abbey have been rebuilt but still a remarkable comparison in looking through the wartime photos seen in this new book.  Recommended.

 

Thanks to Pen and Sword for this review copy.

Robin