Polish Tank Memorial, Monte Cassino...
...a Sherman tank memorial still on the slopes of Monte Cassino
It was early July this year (2018) when we went on a week away to Italy, to visit our daughter, her partner and his mother. Part of our week away was to visit one of the battlefields where my father was during WW2. I was unable to check exactly where he was during the battle, as it is many years now since he passed away. It meant a lot to me however to visit the area, knowing at least that he had been close by. As one part of our visit to the modern town of Cassino we went to the Polish Cemetery, on a hill very close to the now rebuilt monastery. The road to the cemetery ends at a car park, and you walk past the visitor centre and 100 metres or more to the cemetery itself. For this one, it is the Car Park which interests us.
Once you have parked your car you will find a fence and gate in front of you, to the left of the entrance to the cemetery itself. The gate is usually kept shut, as this is a private road. I say road, but in reality it is just a rough, unmade track. If you find the gate open, I'd not drive in as it may be locked when you come back! There is however a pedestrian gate which is left open for walkers. There are two noticeboards near the gates, and these provide maps which show the different historical sites you can walk to. These include the 'Carro Amarto', which is the wrecked Sherman that makes up this memorial. It is roughly a 20 minute walk to get to the tank, and of course the same back. Please take note of the warning massage at the bottom of both noticeboards which advise/tell you to keep to the main paths and not to wander off into the woods which cover the hill. Even to this day there is a danger from mines and unexploded ordnance that are still there and hence very dangerous. Even on the day we were there a visitor was enquiring what to do at the visitor centre as he and his family had come across an unexploded shell of some sort.
The tank was taking part in an assault on Monte Cassino, near the Albaneta Farm when it was disabled by a mine, along with several others. This one was left on the battlefield, and by using sections of the metal track, a cross was made using the tracks and mounted in the centre of the hull. The engine has been removed and the turret is laying on the ground beside the hull. It is though a real relic of the fighting for Monte Cassino from 1944 which remains on the battlefield where it was knocked out. The guns have been removed since the war, but the turret laying on it's side still has major parts of the turret basket still attached, while the damaged suspension units indicate it was disabled by mine(s). Created in memory of the Polish 4th Armoured Regiment, the candles and flowers around it indicate it is still a regular place of pilgrimage for Polish families visiting the area.
Now, I have to be honest, in that my wife and I went to visit the Polish Cemetery, and with the heatwave Europe has experienced this year, my legs were not up to the additional cross country walk to the tank. However, our elder daughter Robyn and her partner did the walk for me and took these fine photos of the memorial as it stands today. If you are visiting Monte Cassino, I'd suggest this is definitely one of the sites to put on your list to see.