The Battles for Monte Cassino Then and Now
An Outstanding Book
Jeffrey Plowman and Perry Rowe.
I have to confess I knew little of the detail of Monte Cassino Beyond the controversial bombing of the monastery before I read through this latest work from After The Battle.
Strategically placed, the iconic monastery and its panoramic views were fought over by several hundred thousand men between January and May 1944, of whom over 14,000 died – probably the closest WW2 epic to the embedded trench warfare of the Great War. A truly international battle ( in fact 4 battles), with British, Canadian, New Zealand, Polish. French and US soldiers determined to dislodge the 100,000 German defenders.
As someone who has recently lost a lot of Sundays often fruitlessly searching the locations of wartime pictures in Normandy, you have to marvel at the immense task the authors undertook becomes clearer – and its not like Italy is on their doorstep - they both live in New Zealand – though Perry Rowe moved his family to the UK for a year to work on the comparisons. Their painstaking research and attention to detail is flawless, reinforced with anecdotal accounts from those who fought there.
If you think you have seen most of the wartime European combat pictures by now, you are mistaken – the vast majority of the original pictures in this book are unpublished elsewhere. (For vehicle enthusiasts it is a must have!) In many cases the authors careful analysis of the photos as well as their location determines what actually happened.
At the time, the soldiers in Italy were unfairly dubbed the “D Day Dodgers” by those with nothing better to say – once you have read this superb work you will have nothing but respect for the men on both sides who fought this battle of absolute attrition for the road to Rome and the subsequent fall of Italy.
In “The Battles for Monte Cassino Then and Now”, publishers
After The Battle has produced one of its finest works so far and I am
sure this book will generate considerable interest in the Italian campaign
from a very wide audience.
And if you have even the slightest intention of visiting Italy in the future – arm yourself with this quality and eminently readable book and make sure you take it with you. No battlefield tour operator could cover the battles in such detail – one thing is certain they will all be using this as their bible from now on.
409 pages, published by After The Battle.
Reviewed by Nigel Hay.
More information on the After The Battle website