Europe 14 - Day 21

Cassino Commemoration - Day 3: The Battle of Orsogna then back across the Apennines to Cassino

The New Zealand Division arrived in Italy from North Africa in mid-1943 as part of the British 5th Army. They moved north along the Adriatic Coast while the American 8th Army moved along the western Mediterranean side towards Rome. The 5th Army were soon bogged down on the south side of the Sangro River, and the Americans ground to a halt at Cassino. After the Sangro had been crossed the NZ Division took the town of Orsogna and then tried to move north and west. They met stiff resistance. The NZ tanks were ordered to move west from Orsogna, along the crest of the ridge but soon came under fire and all were disabled.


On our tour, we drove inland from the port of Ortona along the same ridge that the tanks had followed, 70 years before. We stopped at the local cemetery where the tanks had sheltered, before we turned back to the town of Orsogna.

Looking from the Cemetery back down the road that the tanks negotiated in 1944.
The entrance to the cemetery that was destroyed in 1944.
Some remains from the battle are still standing.
2014: The view from the heights of Orsogna.
2014: The view inland from Orsogna.
Looking across the valley to Orsogna from Castelfrantano.
Taken in 1994 during the Veterans Tour: Views from the heights of Orsogna and looking towards the route taken by the NZ Division in its advance. Lanciano, Castelfrentano, Guardiagrele and San Eusanio are visible
Another view from 1994
A local bar in Orsogna where we found real coffee.
A Panorama of the valley to the southeast of Orsogna.

The French Cemetery at Venafro

After exploring Ortona, we were back on the bus ready to cross the Apennines again. The NZ Division had taken a similar route in early 1944 when they were pulled out of the Adriatic side and sent to sort out the stalemate at Cassino. On our voyage, shortly before arriving at Cassino we stopped at the French War Cemetery at Venafro. It is laid out in a similar fashion to Commonwealth cemeteries, but the graves and headstones are quite different. The diversity in the French forces was very apparent: Christian crosses, Muslim Star and Moon and Jewish Stars. It was a reminder to many people of the role the Free French had played in the war in Italy.

Entrance to the French War Cemetery at Venafro.
French notice on gate.
Muslim mosque in centre of cemetery.
French graves through the trees.
The individual plots are laid out with symmetry.
A pair of graves.
Symmetry of the star and moon.
Regular crosses and a chapel.
More graves in military precision.
The mosque.
The Memorial Stone in French and Arabic.

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Last updated: 26/10/2014