This book is dedicated to Richard Holmes who the author describes as his friend, colleague and mentor and in my opinion he has been mentored very well. Peter Caddick-Adams writes very much in the Holmes style, covering from the strategic level to the lot of the average soldier on both sides.
I thought I knew a bit about Monte Cassino and the battle that was fought for it but this is by far the clearest and easiest to understand description of the four phases of the battle without being dumbed down in any way. The maps accompanying the text are well chosen as are the multiple photographs.
The book starts with how the fighting ended up being concentrated at Cassino, deals with the various attempts by the multinational forces to capture it and finally ends with the break through and advance to Rome. Of all the allied battles in Europe few involved as many different nationalities in such a small area, this lead to difficulties all or their own as the author deftly points out.
It covers the 129 days that the battle lasted from the start of the British attacks on the 17th
of January 1944 through to the link up with the US VI Corps from Anzio. As is said in the subtitle ten different nationalities of Army were involved in the fighting, British, American, Canadian, Indian, French, Italian, South African, Polish, New Zealand on the Allies side and the Germans on the other.
Caddick ĖAdams does not hold back during his analysis of the various commanders without regard to nationality. He is consistent with his presentation of the fighting at lower levels, where German bravery is highlighted as much as Allied. He does make a point of describing each VC that was won during the campaign.
The battle started in the depth of a wet winter with ground conditions similar to that of the worst of the trenches of the First World War with deep mud and ended in searing dust of Italy in June. It raged from the mountain tops down to the shores of the seas and incorporated fighting across the peaks of the mountains as well as contested river crossings.
The impact of the Anzio landings on the Cassino campaign are discussed especially with regard to the physical and strategical relationship they had to each other, at various times actions were taken at each to relieve the other to tie down German troops. The lackof aggression shown by the Americans during Anzio had a marked effect on the failure of that particular landing.
The use of armour during the battle is often one that is overlooked due the nature of the terrain but as is described in the book, itís use was crucial during taking of the town and the consequent breakout down the Liri Valley. The limited use of armour against the monastery itself is fully explained including how they got the tanks up to the heights to fight in terrain not usually associated with armoured warfare.
There a clearer picture of the decision making process behind the bombing of Monte Cassino and what the aims of that controversial aspect had been at the time. It is perhaps one of the most contentious elements of the whole battle. Where the Germans inside? Probably not. Did it destroy a priceless building? What is one more building compared to the hundreds of thousands that were destroyed throughout the course and it has been successfully rebuilt! (My view, not that of the author). Did the bombing make Cassino more defendable? Definitely. And probably on that ground alone it should not have been bombed as it was.
I enjoyed the authorís writing style, it flowed freely, was not too stuffy or bogged down in detail but gave enough information to give a real view of the battle from the headquarters to the front line.
The book is finished off with a superb set of notes on each chapter and an extensive bibliography.
Iíd give it a thoroughly deserved 4 Mr Mushroomheads. (Only losing one due to the price,£25, though currently on sale at £15.50 which in fact is probably not bad for a hardback of this quality)(£13.95 for the Kindle
Fang Farrier Monte Cassino: Ten Armies in Hell
. Peter Caddick-Adams. Published by Preface Publishing Click here to buy from Amazon