Regimental Pilgrimage to Monte Cassino and Anzio
This was the first time that no veteran who had fought in Italy in 1943 and 1944 was able to come along.
One of the regular participants on this tour originated by the late Major Michael Gibson-Horrocks stated enthusiastically that the tradition of the past 20 or more years had been fully maintained. We owed much to Captain Bob Keating, who although unable to lead the tour this year, gave us invaluable advice.
This was the first time that no veteran who had fought in Italy in 1943 and 1944 could be with us but we did have Roger Evans whose father lost his life at Monte Cassino with the regiment and who was buried in the British Cemetery where we held a parade with our Colours and wreath laying in Memory of all the fallen.
Blessed by perfect spring weather we wasted no time in starting by spending our first day at the remarkable pair of Museums at Piana dele Orme. These huge museums cover on the one hand the agricultural and cultural development of the Pontine Marshes from after the first world war to now in a highly realistic way with actual farm machinery of between the war years along with brilliant depictions with models of the farming community, contemporary photographs, sound recordings, texts in several languages and outstanding contemporary photographs. They set the scene for the other huge museum that depicts the story of the fighting from 1942 to the end of the war.
This Museum takes one through the North African campaign and then the fighting in Italy in such a realistic way that one can feel the horror and the pain of it all . Aeroplanes and tanks, soldiers whether German or American, British, Polish or Indian and military vehicles, landing craft and artillery weapons abound set in perfectly depicted backgrounds right down to walking through the sand of the desert or the beaches. Again the sound of warfare by day and by night, the careful descriptions of the struggles of the capture of the hills and of the Monte Cassino Monastery and the dramatic contemporary photographs make this the perfect setting for the actual visits which we made over the days that followed.
The day of the Monte Cassino visit was ideal with really clear vision of the incredible view for many miles from the monastery itself. An excellent guide took us all round the monastery including the catacombs, in which the Monks took shelter from the bombing, and the magnificent Cathedral and Museum. Lunch in a farm house restaurant below was a particular success.
This year our visit to Anzio Cemetery had the additional presence of Italian officers and other ranks, an Australian priest, as well as the President of the Society of the Order of Malta and Colonel Matthew Festing, the Prince of the Order of St John of Malta. He is also a former Colonel in the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers. We held a Service and parade and our bugler was an Italian Officer!
5 Ashurst Drive, Worth, Crawley,
West Sussex RH10 7FS
Tel: 07988 833944
Colonel M J Dudding OBE TD DL
Lieutenant Colonel K W Kiddie
36 Maryfield Close, Bexley,
Kent DA5 2HY
Tel: 01322 550285
The White Hackle editor
2 Keswick Road,
West Wickham, Kent BR4 9AT
Tel: 07702 008446