Tank Attack at Monte Cassino

Tank Attack at Monte Cassino

Jeffrey Plowman
ARRSE Rating
4 Mushroom Heads
Before the Second World War the Italian Army considered that Monte Cassino might be that rarest of military things, an impregnable position. In the winter of 1943-44 the British Army in Italy did their best to prove them right. This well researched and readable book details the Cavendish Road operation, part of the Third Battle of Monte Cassino, somewhat improbably managed to get a New Zealander armoured force up the mountain and behind the monastery – to the stunned disbelief of the German paratroopers who had taken over the defence. The bold operation failed due to depressingly poor staff work and weak command, rather than to the (usually superb) counter-attacking ability of the Wehrmacht.

The book follows the chronology, switching from the machinations of allied divisional and army command – the Monte Cassino battles were complicated by changing structures and an astonishing amount of US UK and UK Commonwealth politics – and the battle as seen from individual tanks.

Therein is the books greatest weakness; the rapidly changing perspectives impede the reader from developing a clear view of what was going on. (Of course, that might be an accurate reflection of the state of the command). It also relies heavily on the opinions of the few participants who are still alive.

Notwithstanding which the book paints an engaging picture of what command failure looks and feels like – something perhaps that soldiers should study more. The book also includes an extensive battlefield guide should anyone want to visit. That alone is worth the price.

Four mushrooms.

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