The Battle of Monte Cassino

The British

During the 1st and 2nd Battles of Monte Cassino, the British forces were subordinated to the US 5th Army and were composed of the British X Corps and a division in the II New Zealand Corps.  .  The X Corps was composed of the 5th ID (Maj. Gen. P.G.S. Gregson-Ellis), 56th ID (Maj. Gen. G.W.R. Templer), 46th ID (Maj. Gen. J.L.I. Hawkesworth), 23rd Armd Bde (Brig. R.H.E. Arkwright) as well as the 2nd SSF.  The British component of the II NZ Corps was the 78th ID (Maj. Gen. V. Evelegh). 

The Brits opened the 1st Battle of Monte Cassino on the17th of January with an assault on the Allied left flank.  Their objective was to cross the Garigliano river and then cut through the Auruncian Mountains into the Liri Valley thus hitting the rear of the German forces opposing the Americans on the Cassino front.  The British began their assault with an amphibious landing which, while a good idea, was not very well executed as due to a navigational error the landing force landed behind friendly rather than enemy lines.  The rest of the assault went well and a bridgehead was established beyond the Garigliano.  However the relative ease with which the British forces managed to cross the Garigliano stemmed from the fact that the German main line of defence ran not along the river but in the mountains just to the north of it.  Attempts to penetrate the enemy lines there failed and energetic counterattacks stopped the British offensive for good. 

A little later, British troops that were part of the New Zealand Corps, namely the 1st Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment which was one of the units of the 4th Indian ID fought in the mountains above Cassino.  Their objective was Hill 593 – an important height that had to be taken to allow for advance on Monte Cassino itself.  This objective stopped the American advance earlier on and so it stopped the men of the Royal Sussex with 50% casualties.

During the 2nd Battle of Monte Cassino, the 78th ID from the New Zealand Corps fought in Cassino, following through on the successes of the New Zealand troops that took large parts of the town during the initial stages of the battle. 

During the 3rd Battle of Monte Cassino the British took command of the eastern section of the Allied line with their 8th Army while the US 5th Army controlled only the western section.  Their 4th ID crossed the Gari river south of Cassino as the Americans tried and failed to do so earlier.  Together with the 8th Indian ID it established a bridgehead across the river and expanded it against tough German opposition.  


 The Commonwealth cemetery where the British soldiers who fought at Monte Cassino are burried. 

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