This weekend is the anniversary of one of the most important battle series during World War II, the Monte Cassino Battle. The fourth and final assault of the series May 18th 1944 ended in victory for the Polish troops on the Cassino Mountain on May 18th 1944. The result was that the road to Rome was opened up to the Allied Forces.
From Friday, May 18th at 07:30 CEST until Tuesday, May 22nd at 07:00 CEST (05:30 and 05:00 GMT), you will be able to benefit from the following offers:
Enjoy this special offer and honour the anniversary of the Monte Cassino Battle with your brand new vehicles!
To help you immerse yourself in the atmosphere of this notable battle, we will now introduce you to the historical context behind this offer.
Gustav Line was a fortification system which operated as part of the Winter Line, and proved to be a series obstacle between the Allies and their target of Rome. The Gustav Line ran across Italy from the area of the Garigliano river estuary in the west, through the Apennine Mountains and the Liri Valley and then to the mouth of the Sangro River on the Adriatic Coast.
Defended by about 15 German Divisions, it was a formidable defensive position that took a long time and some complex tactics to break.
The first attempts to break through the Winter Line were made in November 1943,when Canadian forces tried to take the city of Ortona. After 2 months of fighting, heavy blizzards forced them to withdraw without reaching their target. The first battle of Monte Cassino took place between the 17th and 22nd January 1944, and consisted of a combined attempt by British, US and French forces to break through the Gustav Line by using a surprise amphibious landing at Anzio. However, the Allied forces ended up trapped at the line of Rapido River at the base of Monte Cassino, and the landing forces were able to gain only 30km of land before being brought to a halt by the Germans.
The second attempt was made on 12th February. Fresh Commonwealth forces along with Indian and ANZAC, (including Ghurka and Nepal Regiments), managed to strike deep into the line with artillery and aerial bombardment. Indian troopers then managed to capture the mountain line called Snake's Head whilst New Zealand Troops successfully captured the town of Cassino. However, after three days of heavy fighting and losses, they were repelled.
On March 15th, the third battle began with the bombardment of Cassino town and Monte Cassino Abbey. New Zealand forces managed to capture the ruins of Cassino again, and Indian troops were able to get within 200m of the abbey, but in the end they were once again driven back.
After those first three attempts, General Alexander decided that the next assault would be against the whole of the front line. Attacking forces included the US 5th Army (including the French Expeditionary Corps) and the 8th UK Army (including 2nd the Polish Corps). The plan was for US II Corps of the 5th Army to attack up the coast along Route 7 towards Rome. The French would attack through bridgeheads across Garigliano and the British XIII Corps of the 8th Army would attack along Liri Valley. Meanwhile the 2nd Polish Corps would attack Cassino itself. Against them stood the formidable German 10th Army, which included the famous 1st Paratrooper Division.
The attack began on May 11th at 23:00 hours with a massive artillery bombardment involving over 1600 guns. This continued until daybreak but the US forces were making little progress. The French forces managed to achieve their objectives and created two crossings over the Rapido thus enabling the 1st Canadian Armoured Brigade to roll across and support their troops against German counterattacks. On the abbey front, a hill called Mount Calvary was briefly captured by Polish forces, but they were pushed back by German paratroopers. The British bridges over the Rapido held despite counterattacks, and the French forces managed to Capture Monte Maio. This allowed them to support the British 8th Army, which was now resisting assault by every scrap of reserves the German commander, Field Marshal Kesselring was able to dredge up.
On May 14th, the French Moroccan Mountain Division successfully managed to navigate the allegedly impassable mountains and outflanked the German positions along the Liri Valley.
The commander of the 2nd Polish Corps, General Anders, mobilised every human reserve he had, sending drivers, mechanics, cooks and even his staff officers for the final push on the 17th May. During the early morning hours of May 18th, Polish forces and the British 78th Division linked up a few kilometres west of Cassino town. Shortly after that the forward elements of the 12th Podolian Uhlans Regiments raised the Polish flag over the abbey, which had now been abandoned by the retreating German forces.
The road to Rome was now open. But both sides had suffered heavy losses. Allied forces reported 55 000 casualties whilst the Germans reported 20 000 dead and wounded.