General Freyberg, officers and other ranks of 2NZEF contingent at the Kiwi war graves site at Cassino on 10 October 1945 where 456 Kiwi boys lie to this day. A further 55 New Zealand soldiers were posted missing and still remain their in unmarked graves.
Cassino was seriously expensive for all participants - being such a difficult zone for a military offensive and providing far superior natural defensive capabilities to the Germans. From January 1944 the assaulting American US 5th Army, commanded by 2nd US Corps Lt General Mark Clark sustained massive casualties, in one 48 hour period alone 2100 US soldiers were lost. The force were ultimately unable to crack Cassino during the initial 4 week battle, which was appropriately called 'Death Valley' by rank and file American soldiers and it completely exhausted all human effort regardless of huge material resources available to them.
By early February the struggling 2nd US Corps ground to a halt under the relatively inexperienced Lt Gen Mark Clark and although a little unwilling were to be relieved by English Generals Alexander and Leese and given well earned respite. A recently rested 2NZEF (after its bitter retreat from Orsogna) and 4th Indian Division commanded by Major-General Francis Tuker replaced them, to be called the NZ CORPS but were under serious strategic pressure to "get cracking." Because of recent pressure and debacle from the combined Anglo/US Anzio landings on the 22 of January from of a lack of command initiative giving the enemy time to create formidable resisitance of which when the landings took place, did not exist. This new force commanded by General Freyberg very quickly realised the seriousness of the obstacles were no exaggeration. The German artillery barrages alone were much more concentrated than those faced in North Africa and firing from well dug-in alpine sites with muzzle flash not visible from below, this was no desert.
Cassino being part of the Italian Gustav defensive line was tenaciously held by the Germans under Field-Marshall Albert Kesselring and was not broken until the 10 of April 1944.
The casualties and material costs of the 135 day long Cassino stalemate are simply staggering, needless to say the war grave cemeteries at Cassino are equally so.
- 54000 Allied casualties at Cassino which includes 1695 from New Zealand.
- A total of 1825 (NZ Official History Italy 2) New Zealanders were killed in action and died of wounds in the Italian campaign.
- 6843 wounded and POW.
- 8668 total NZ casualties in Italy alone.
NB. 20000 German soldiers lie at the German war cemetary at Cassino.
2 NZEF File Photo J. Kennewell, Denis Clough archive