Cassino: Interlude in the Mountains

Richard Doherty details the desperate fighting in the highlands of Italy during 1944.


On 21 March 1944 General Sir Harold Alexander, commanding Allied armies in Italy (later 15th Army Group), held a conference to discuss the progress, or lack of it, of the Fifth Army attack on the Gustav Line. The ad hoc New Zealand Corps, commanded by Lieutenant General Sir Bernard Freyberg VC, had failed, for a second time, to break through the line and its soldiers were nearing exhaustion.

What to do? Alexander considered two options: reinforce Freyberg with the aim of securing the Abbey of Monte Cassino within days, or abandon the operation and start planning a fresh assault. It was agreed that the battle be shut down, the New Zealand Corps relieved, and that the Eighth Army, which had completed a move across the Apennine Mountains on the 13th, should take the major role in another assault on the Gustav Line.

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