At the start of April 1944, the entire Irish Brigade was positioned on the Cassino massif with a perfect view down onto the Monastery built in the 6th century by St Benedict, but which was now in total ruin. Both the Skins and the Irish Rifles were close to the summit of Monte Castellone and the Faughs and the Brigade HQ on the lower slopes near to the village of Caira. After a most uncomfortable three weeks, the brigade withdrew to a rest area several miles to the south near to Formicola.
During the month, the newly promoted Major Lawrence (Lawrie) Franklyn-Vaile continues to be in reflective mood as he writes home to his wife, Olive, and imagines what his family must be thinking as they listen to the BBC news.
In his letter home on 8th April, Lawrie writes to his wife:
“I hope you were listening to the 8 O’Clock News this morning. It gave a very graphic description of conditions on the Cassino Front. The broadcaster said how ‘Nothing to report’ gives a completely wrong impression in people’s minds. He described the ordinary night routine – the mule trains, the Jeeps coming forward loaded with rations, water, mail, etc, the unloading in the dark, the almost continuous sound of machine gun fire, the artillery and mortar duels as the Germans try to put crumps down on our positions and our supply routes and we, of course, do the same with them. The patrols going out into ‘No man’s land’, and all this occurs every night, even when the official communiqué says ‘Nothing to report’ and it is always a time of anxiety, excitement and strain.”
In another letter home later in the month, Lawrie further describes conditions in the line for the Faughs:
“I am writing this letter in a small dug out on the side of a mountain. There is very little room to move around, but it has been made fairly snug by hanging blankets abound the sides and over the entrance while the roof is covered with logs. This afternoon, it poured with rain and, after a time, the water started to drip through the roof and we were threatened with disaster.”
Thus, the fate of an infantryman when not in action.
On 19th April, Lawrie tells Olive that he has now been able to take leave on the Amalfi coast, before returning to the Faughs by the end of the month. By this time, the Irish Brigade were back in the serenity of Formicola, and awaiting orders to move forward for further front line action.
They didn’t have to wait very long for these orders…
View from Monte Castellone towards Monte Cassino (taken in October 2012.