Europe 14 - Day 20

Cassino Commemoration - Day 2. Across the Apennines to the Sangro River

Rome to the Sangro River

We started early to get ahead of the traffic - and it worked. No traffic jams in Rome and we were soon out onto the Autostrada heading east, first on the A24 and then the A25, passing Pescina, Sulmona, Popoli, Chieti; almost out to the Adriatic Coast at Pescara, where we turned south on the A14. We left the A14 at a small sign to Val di Sangro and this road took us down into the valley and across the Sangro River - a name well known to all. Then up the steep eastern bank onto roads that even our brave driver was questioning. When Greg directed the bus onto an even narrower road with a steep and tight corner, the driver had to ask twice, even though there was a large sign to "Cimitero Inglese". But up we went, through the olive groves, past the farm houses and then, there was the bus park and the familiar Cross of Sacrifice through the trees.

Out of Rome and onto the autostrada.
We passed many olive groves...
and ancient hilltop villages.
We saw amazing highway structures...
and crossed many of them.
Past more villages...
and mountains...
then snow-capped peaks.
Through tunnels...
and down steep grades...
Until the Adriatice Sea came into view.
We turned towards Vil di Sangro.
Despite the driver's concerns, we were on the right road...
across the Sangro River, up the hill,
and yes, we do have to go up there...
through the farmyards and
then the whole Sangro River valley opened up before us.
West to the mountains and
east to the sea.
A panorama of the whole valley.

Sangro River Commonwealth War Cemetery

It was a quiet and thoughtful group that clambered down from the bus and stared across the Sangro Valley. Many were seeing it for the first time but all knew it from stories, books and the history of bitter fighting that had raged there just over 70 years ago. Then absorbed with their own thoughts, the group moved slowly through the main entrance and into the ranks of headstones that form broad arcs around the curve of the ridge. At one end is the monument to the Indian soldiers who were cremated as is their custom.

I looked for and photographed the headstone for each of the 22 Battalion men - there are 22 of them here. Two of note are Major Frederick OLDHAM and Capt. NANCARROW. Major Oldham was killed on 30 November 1943 during when he stepped on a mine during a recce while the Battalion was taking over the Barone feature from 24 and 25 Battalions. Capt Nancarrow was killed a few days later on 2 December at Guardiagrele while the advance was held up while demolitions were being cleared.

The entrance to the Sangro Cemetery.
The unusual paving at the entrance.
From the entrance, looking over the register book.
Looking west across half of the cemetery.
The Cross in the centre.
The Cross.
Looking east from the Indian Memorial.
The Indian Memorial with the snow-capped mountains behind.
The Indian Memorial.
Headstones and the mountains.
From the Cross looking over the olive groves.
Headstones, rank on rank...
they form a wall...
in careful order.
Row 16E
Major Oldham's headstone on right.
Major Oldham
Capt Nancarrow
and many others, all in straight rows.
Colourful flowers were in abundance amongst the headstones...
and at the foot of the Cross.
And finally, signing the register book as we departed.
The Sangro River Cemetery from the air.

Moro River Canadian War Cemetery and Ortona

From the Sangro we went north towards Ortona, stopping at the Moro River Cemetery. There are 1563 Commonweath burials here, including 37 New Zealanders. Many of the New Zealanders were officers, and four had been awarded the Military Medal (MM) for action in North Africa.

Back across the Sangro River.
Through Fossacesia Marina.
The Adriatic Coast here is quite rugged...
These wooden structures are fishing platforms with nets strung from the long poles.
The harbour at Ortona.
Moro River Cemetery.
The entrance gates..
Headstones and the Cross.
There was a party of Italian schoolchildren visiting..
The Moro River Cemetery
New Zealand headstones. SJT B.A. WORTHINGTON MM on left.

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Last updated: 26/10/2014