On 22nd January 1944, Allied Forces, led by two American and British infantry divisions, landed at the coastal port area of Anzio-Nettuno. The plan had been that this outflanking sea landing would force German forces to withdraw from their strongly held defensive positions on the Gari and Garigliano rivers. In fact, this did not materialise and by the end of January, a massive German reinforcement force was able to attack the bridgehead and desperate to and fro battles continued throughout February.
By early March, and following six weeks of bitter fighting, the Allies at Anzio had been forced into a stalemate position and they now awaited a breakthrough elsewhere. Renewed assaults on the Gustav Line commenced on 11th May, but it was not until 23rd May, when the German defensive lines had been completed breached, that the forces in the Anzio bridgehead commenced their own break out attack and were able to make contact with the northward advancing troops.
A London Irish Rifles/Royal Fusiliers group recently visited the Anzio and Nettuno area and held Ceremonies of Remembrance at both the US Nettuno and Anzio Beachhead CWGC cemeteries. The reflections on the memory of all the men who are lying in peace at each cemetery was enhanced by the beautiful piping of Robert Williams and emotion laden bugling of Mark Goatcher.
Following these commemorative events, the joint party moved onto the ‘The Wadis’ area north of Anzio where battalions of both the London Irish Rifles and the Royal Fusiliers, as part of the British 56th (London) Infantry Division, had fought desperate defensive actions in the latter part of February and early March 1944. Here, they listened to personal narratives and family accounts of men who had fought in the area. Once again, a Piper’s lament rang clear across the peaceful countryside as the group paused to remember the men who fought here so bravely seventy years ago.
It was yet another remarkable day amongst so many remarkable days of commemorative reflection.