NZDF contingent mark 80 years since Battle of Monte Cassino

25 days ago

As Staff Sergeant David Fiu ran his fingers across his great-uncle’s name etched into a wall of remembrance, he said quietly: “My family are so proud”.

Monte Cassino - Figure 1
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The Italian campaign cost the lives of 230 members of the 28th (Māori) Battalion, who still remain buried at Cassino.

“I do feel a sense of loss,” said David Fiu, “and I know that they are far from home.”

“I have been fortunate enough to be in places where my great-grandfather fought in the First World War, and I know that he came back. But I know Wiremu did not come back.”

Situated at the head of the Liri Valley, Cassino was a key point in the Gustav Line - a chain of German defences in the Italian mountains south of Rome.

The NZDF contingent who travelled to Monte Cassino. (Source: Supplied)

The battles to capture the town would ultimately open the pathway to the liberation of Rome and success in the Italian campaign.

But it also proved to be one of the most costly battles for New Zealand. In total 343 soldiers lost their lives. The close-combat ferocity of the fighting there had few parallels during World War Two.

It took four attempts to take Cassino and open the gateway to Rome. Cassino eventually fell in May 1944 to British and Polish troops, with support from the New Zealand artillery.

Private Taedyn-Edmonds Griffiths has whakapapa to more than 100 soldiers and other servicemen who served with the 28 Maori Battalion and is here for the first time with the important role of carrying the banner.

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It's a role usually performed by an officer, but it has been given to the private to honour the young 21-year-old’s links to the Monte Cassino battles.

“It makes me really sad,” he said. “War is terrible for both sides, so it's really important to remember just how bad it is so it never happens again”.

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