Monte Cassino &
The Battle of Monte Cassino, also referred to as the Battle for Rome, is the name given to a series of assaults in the Italian Campaign of 1944, designed to break through the Winter Line and achieve a breakthrough to Rome. At the beginning of 1944, the western half of the Winter Line was being secured by the Germans along the Rapido-Gari, Liri and Garigliano valleys which combined to form the Gustav Line. The historic abbey of Monte Cassino stood proud above the town named after it, and watched over the entrance to the Liri and Rapido valleys.
Repeated pinpoint artillery attacks on Allied assault troops led to the incorrect assumption that the abbey was being used by the Germans as an observation post and as the casualties and anxiety grew, so did the determination to destroy it to allow progress. This had the opposite effect as after an intense bombing, German paratroopers, who had previously respected the historic nature of the building, occupied the ruins and established excellent defensive positions.
Between 17 January and 18 May, Monte Cassino and the Gustav defences were assaulted four times by Allied troops and finally, on the 18th May, a Polish flag followed by the British were raised over the ruins. Victory had come at an extremely high cost, as the cemeteries surrounding the monastery today bear testament; - some 55,000 Allied casualties, with German losses being far fewer, estimated at around 20,000 killed and wounded.