The attack on the Gustav Line commenced at 11pm on 11th May 1944 with a massive artillery barrage along 20 miles of the defensive line from Monte Cassino to the coast. In the Liri Valley, the initial assaults across the Gari river were led by the British 4th Infantry Division to the south of Cassino town and the Indian 8th Infantry Division near San Angelo in Theodice. As soon as a bridgehead was secured, work started on building bridges across the Gari to allow armoured squadrons to support the infantry attack. The first bailey bridge to be completed on the morning of 13 May was called Amazon.
In a recent visit to the Cassino area, the Irish Brigade co founder, Richard O’Sullivan, was able to walk the area close to the location of Amazon Bridge. The approach to the crossing area on the eastern bank (ie the Allied side of the river in 1944) had been marked by wreaths and 15 poppy crosses signifying the number of sappers who had been killed during the building of the bridge. These had been laid down a few days earlier by a Royal Engineers’ group who had commemorated the exact time and date of the 70th anniversary of the completion of the bridge – 0530 on 13th May.
Close to the western bank of the river is a memorial to the 2nd Battalion of the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment, who had been one of the first units to cross the Gari river on 12th May 1944.
On that first day near the river, stretcher bearer Private Sydney Hyde was seriously wounded and after being taken to a medical unit near to Presenzano, he succumbed to his wounds on 29th May 1944. In an emotional ceremony, Sydney’s sister, Eileen, accompanied by her daughter Cynthia, laid a wreath at the monument, on behalf of the Royal Anglian Regiment, in recognition of all the Beds and Herts’ men, who had fallen during May 1944.
Thanks are due to friends of the Irish Brigade web site, Paul Hooton and John Howes, for arranging the ceremony at the Beds and Herts memorial and cleaning the site earlier in the day.