On to Rome, Anzio & Victory at Cassino
...more Images of War from Pen and Sword
Title: On To Rome, Anzio & Victory at Casino 1944
Author: Jon Diamond
Publisher: Pen and Sword
One of the recent additions to the very popular Images of War series from Pen and Sword, and another on the topic of WW2 in Italy from author Jon Diamond. It's a very 'full' book, 240 pages and packed with some great references throughout. If you have an interest in the war in Italy then I am confident you will enjoy this one. It doesn't try and capture all of the Italian campaign, but a very specific period. The campaign had reached a stalemate at the Gustav line, south of Rome, in February 1944, and the obstacle of Monte Cassino remained a significant obstacle to be overcome.
The book splits into 6 chapters, and their titles give you a good idea of how the subject is tackled. It starts with Strategic Prelude to the Campaign for Rome. Next comes Terrain, Fortifications and Weapons; Commanders and Combatants before we get to the operation designed to bypass the Gustave Line, Operation Shingle and the German Encirclements at Anzio. For chapter 5 the focus moves to Cassino's Second, Third and Fourth Battles and the Breakthrough at the Gustav Line. With that done, we get to Breakout from Anzio and On to Rome, and all rounded off with a short Epilogue.
Each chapter starts with a couple of pages of text that tells the appropriate element of the story, and these are then followed by a collection of well chosen archive photos to illustrate the events. Most of the photos I hadn't seen before and all have well informed captions. The photos are interesting to the historian, and I think many modellers will find lots of useful detail and some inspirations within the pictures. Amidst the basic historical story there are a number of elements to it all. There is no hiding the horrors of war with a number of images that clearly show the bodies of the dead as well as knocked out equipment. A mined Sherman is literally split apart, a potential model project for one. As for the troops that are illustrated, it is interesting to see the variety of nationalities that fought in Italy. Not just British, American and German, but French, Moroccan Goumiers, Ghurkas, Indian and New Zealanders just to pick a few. The mountainous terrain meant rough going, and as well as the well known mechanisation of the Allied armies, there are also the mules used to get supplies over terrain totally unsuitable for vehicles. Speaking personally, I know my father fought in Italy during this period and was at Casino just before he returned home, having been away from the UK since the start of 1940, having been in North Africa most of that time, before landing at Salerno. I always look at the photos just wondering if one day I'll see he appears in one. The Germans were defeated, but even after Casino and the fall of Rome, Kesselring was still able to withdraw his armies, despite casualties and equipment losses, and keep them a very capable fighting force that continued to use the Italian terrain to hold back the allied armies as they retreated up the Italian mainland. Another fine set of photos from the Italian campaign, accompanied by very readable text from author Jon Diamond that gives a good understanding of the historical events. A good example I think of why the Images of War series has proved so successful.
Thanks to Pen and Sword for this review copy.