Abbey of Monte Cassino at peace still remembers the war

A journey to Cassino would not be complete without a visit to the abbey founded by St Benedict in AD 529. It has been destroyed four times in its history, the last being in 1944, before being completely rebuilt in the 1950s and it now again looks down with a commanding presence over the Liri valley.

A London Irish/Royal Fusiliers group recently visited the abbey vaults where monks and civilians had sheltered during the desperate weeks of battle in 1944 They reflected on the desperate circumstances of that time.

The Polish War cemetery north of the abbey occupies some of the territory contested by Polish Soldiers in May 1944

On the route down from the abbey, the party stopped at the Polish War Cemetery, where there are over 1000 men buried as a result of the Fourth Battle of Cassino during May 1944. It is also the final resting place of the Polish commander, General Anders, who was buried there in 1970. At the altar, high up in the cemetery, Pipe Sergeant Williams played an unbearably moving set of laments and continued with his playing as he walked back towards the abbey.

Further down the mountain, a stop at Castle Hill on the lower slopes and closely overlooking the town of Cassino shows the continuing steady progress of many years of renovation of the castle area. Here there is also a memorial plaque to the Royal Essex Regiment in remembrance of their bitterly fought period here in early 1944.

The panoramic views from outside of the castle walls towards Monte Trocchio and back up towards the abbey continues to provide an opportunity for further reflection on the events of seventy years ago.

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