Cassino, Italy – An Unlikely Place to Meet

Early on the morning of 15th May 1944, I was crossing the River Rapido (Gari) in full view of Monte Cassino Monastery with a number of NCO reps going forward to take over areas within the Bridgehead which had been captured from enemy units a few nights previously. Our job was to take over areas within the Bridgehead where our Rifle Companys could concentrate prior to moving up to the start line for the attack which would start the advance up the Liri Valley to Rome.

At the point where we crossed the river there was a ford and we were able to walk across and, right in the middle of the river, there was a sandy high point and standing there was a lone M.P. (Military Policeman) who was directing different units along marked lanes out of the river so that they would arrive at the correct concentration areas.

As I approached the M.P.,  I noticed that he was a Lance Corporal and I had a feeling that I knew him. As I got close, I asked him if his name was Brogan – he replied yes and asked who I was and I said Bob Robinson from Tully, Church Hill. As we had to keep moving I told him that I would try and contact him again, but was never able to do so.

In the spring of 1929, I started school aged 6 years at Church Hill P.E.S and leaving school that year were a number of 14 year olds including a lad known locally as “Red” Pat Brogan, very red hair and a freckled complexion (once seen never forgotten). After leaving school, Red Pat went off to England to find work and never returned as far as I know. His family lived in a little house in a place called Beagh, about half way between Tully and Derrygonennelly.

Red Pat and I met briefly in the middle of the River Rapido under shell fire fifteen years after we had been at Church Hill Scholl on the same day in 1929. Brogan survived the war and settled in Watford.