Defensive Positions Near Cassino

On 18th March 1944, the Irish Brigade received orders to move to the eastern bank of the River Gari facing the heavily fortified village of San Angelo in Theodice. The Faughs and Irish Rifles duly moved to their new positions on 23rd March, but they only spent three days there before being withdrawn from the line for a short period. At the end of the month, the entire brigade had taken over the French Corps’ defensive positions on the upper slopes of Monte Castellone and near to the village of Caira.

After a most uncomfortable few weeks of static warfare, by 25th April, all three battalions had been relieved by Polish forces and were withdrawn to a most peaceful rest area near to Formicola.

San Angelo.

“By now, it had become evident that the New Zealand Corps’ plan for the capture of Cassino and the Monastery had failed and it would be necessary for considerable regrouping to take place before the major offensive could be resumed. From December till the big push in May, some parts of this particular front had not changed at all….”

Meeting up with the French.

“While we were facing the Germans in the San Angelo area, plans had already been started for us to get a more pleasant view of them from the mountains north of the Monastery on the foothills of Mount Cairo.

On the 26th, the General told me that we would have to take over from the French in this area and that a reconnaissance was to be made straight away….”

Monte Castellone/Caira.

“The COs’ groups went 24 hours ahead to tee up the takeover in each area. Only one battalion could be relieved on any one night owing to the limited track space.

The Skins started off from Mignano on the 28th, followed by the Irish Rifles and then the Faughs. The relief was not completed until early on 1st April…”

Resting at Formicola.

“Division had found the most delightful place for a camp at Formicola, about ten miles north of Caserta and a good thirty away from the nearest gun. It was a really lovely valley and after a loathsome place like the barren and stenching slopes of Monte Cairo, it seemed about the next best thing to heaven that we had seen for a long time….”

Read ‘Cracking the Gustav Line’ here.


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