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70th anniversary of the battle of monte camino italy

Article about: Hi guys,my granddad fought on monte camino.On saturday morning im off for a week to Italy for the 70th anniversary and to pay respect to all the fallen hero's,,so ill be back in a week with

  1. #1

    Default 70th anniversary of the battle of monte camino italy

    Hi guys,my granddad fought on monte camino.On saturday morning im off for a week to Italy for the 70th anniversary and to pay respect to all the fallen hero's,,so ill be back in a week with plenty of pics
    many thanks adam

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    That is neat.

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    Wow! Enjoy the incredible experience!

    Can't wait to see the pics!!

    Nick
    "In all my years as a soldier, I have never seen men fight so hard." - SS Obergruppenfuhrer Wilhelm Bittrich - Arnhem

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    Hi Rabbitface, my grandfather also fought in Monte Camino and has just returned from a trip to Italy with my Aunt and cousin. Despite being 91 and nearly blind, he took a return to Italy in his stride!
    He was very frustrated though as he wasn't able to find some sites he specifically wanted to see, mainly the mule track which was a key site during the campaign. I have only just found this description on another site of the location, I thought I'd post it in case your grandfather was hoping to find the same site...

    To find the track first go to the small Village of Mielie, park your car then walk up the hill between the houses, the large pink house on your left was the HQ for the German commander of the area, keep going until the road finishes which then leads on to a narrow track on your roght you will see a large derelict House this is where the survivors of the first battle slept after they came down, the rack leads on sti;ll going up until it opens up to reveal the mule track with Spandau ridge on your right and the cliffs of Bare Arse ridge on your left if you want to just keep climbing up and up the track whch eventually brings you to Point 727 on top of Bare Arse.
    The caves mentioned in Miele are no longer there they were blown up in the mid sixty's and used for hard core for the roads to be built from Miele to Calabritto

    My Grandfather was a Black Cat - do you know your Grandfathers regiment? Who knows,they could even have served together.

  5. #5

    Default Here we go to camino

    This is dedicated to my Granaddad,Charles henshaw,Grenadier Guard,2616692 6th battalion.

    When I flew off to Italy on 2 Nov.2013 I had little idea of what the experience would turn out to be. All I knew was that I needed to follow my Granddads footsteps and climb Barearse, a barren rock feature of Monte Camino, to the killing ground at the top where he and his brother had fought in atrocious wintry weather with the 6th. Battalion Grenadier Guards 70 years before.Granddad was with No.3 Company and his brother Ron was with either No.2 or No. 3 Company. Granddad died in March 2012 and had said very little of the awful experience. Like so many of his generation who had seen the true horrors of war the memory was clearly too painful but it created a special bond which lasted a lifetime between himself and his brother Ron, and an experience which they couldn’t readily share with anyone else.
    Over the years we have picked up snippets of their experiences in Italy and stored them away in our minds but out of respect we didn’t delve or intrude into their private thoughts on the matter. Oh how I wish we could have done, especially with Ron who was rather more forthcoming than my granddad.
    When granddad passed away it was clear to me that i had quietly realised my granddad’s anguish and pain but instead of letting it all go i started to search for information.I quickly made contact with Mike Sterling, who had been studying the Battles of Camino and had visited this beautiful area of Italy for the last 23 years in his research. Mike had lost his uncle there as a signaller with the 6th. Battalion and had been compelled to learn more just as we were and had become expert in the history of what seems to have been the second sacrifice of this, the youngest Battalion of the Regiment. At the airport we met with others who were joining us on this visit. They included George Booker, a lovely old gentleman of 92, who had served with No.1 Company and is one of only 7 men left alive who served with the 6th. Battalion at Camino. Accompanying him were his son and daughter in law and their two sons. They had travelled all the way from New Zealand to where George had emigrated after the war. Such is the compulsion that we all shared in our own different ways to be there for the 70th. anniversary of the First Battle of Camino on 6 November.

    So after picking up our hire cars at Fumicino Airport, Rome we drove south in the dark for two hours to the foothills of the Camino area, where I began to get a feel of the terrain. Once off the main road from Rome the winding roads taking you higher and higher in a way that makes it difficult to keep your bearings.
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    This was my first daylight view of Italy, taken from my balcony at 8:00 a.m. Less than 5 minutes later the castle had been swallowed up in the ever shifting cloud again.

    The building is the castle at Rocca d’Evandro, a fortification on a natural crag, typical of the area and from where the local community takes its name.

    We had arrived on the weekend when the Italians hold their armistice remembrance events. This is a week before our own back in the UK. It came as something of a surprise to me that they held such an event but they do make a big issue of it and involve the youngsters too.

    On the first day, Sunday 3 November, after attending one of these local services we set off to place a wreath at the Cairn of Remembrance for the Grenadiers at the back of Monte Camino. That is to say, the northern side, which is easier to access than the southern route, via a small hamlet high in the hills called Formella.
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    George walks with a stick these days but he intended getting up there to the cairn to pay his respects to his old mates. The climb is steep, uneven and rocky but with the help of his son and grandson he made it and was photographed and interviewed by the local media after a short service.
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    George valiantly making his way through the mist and rocks.

    What a fantastic man for his age, with a mind still as sharp as a razor and such a gentleman.
    The following day, Monday, we were to attend Service of Remembrance at the War Memorial in Rocca d’Evandro.

    I wasn’t aware that this was part of the visit but it was to become part of a wonderful realisation of a bond of appreciation and respect from the local people for the sacrifice of the 6 th. Grenadiers in two separate battles to liberate this rural part of Italy..

    George Booker was to be the star of the show and to be introduced to the local people at the service as one of the last of the liberators of the town.

    On the day bus loads of kids were brought up to the square waving Italian flags and a few Union Jacks whilst a local band played. The Caribinieri and military chiefs turned up and placed their wreaths etc. and the mayor gave a lengthy speech about George and his mates. This was translated for our benefit by another fantastic local, Giovanni, who to our amusement had picked up his English in Lancashire...and you could tell with the hard vowels.

    At the end of it all the kids queued up the steps to embrace and kiss this lovely old man as if he was the Pope. I managed to take one shot and then I had to walk away and have a moment.
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    I was beginning to realise what lovely affectionate and grateful people I was amongst and my visit was taking another dimension.
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    Tribute to the 6th.Battalion Grenadiers at Rocca d’Evandro War Memorial.


    Later that afternoon the Mayor, Dr. Angelo Marrocco, put on a meal for us at our Country House.The meal lasted about three and a half hours and it was a very nice gesture and there were so many courses I thought I would burst.
    So now we must come to the things we had gone to see. George particularly wanted to visit the War Cemetery at Minturno. A lovely setting and immaculately kept by anyone’s standard.

    He wanted to leave a cross and pay his last respects to a man he swapped duties with. This soldier was Guardsman Liddiard and as a result of this swap he took a fatal hit that George would have taken. George has now lived for another 70 years, raised a family and prospered but it weighs on the thoughts of the old man.George still carries a photo in the wallet of Guardsman Liddiard

    From there we went to Cassino to visit the Cemetery there. Just browsing around, looking for headstones with a Grenadiers badge at the top I was confronted with the headstone of Lieutenant Bryan Henshaw Age 20; killed 7 Nov. 1943.

    He was no relative but granddad had told me of him being placed with his Company as grandaddas platoon commander. He was shot quite close to him as they approached the top of Barearse at daybreak and was the first Grenadier to be lost in the battle.
    From there we could see Monte Cassino, the mountain that is spoken about above all others in the Italian Campaign. It’s actually much smaller than Monte Camino from which it can be seen 15 to 20 miles away. The Monastery at the top was blasted to dust and rubble in 1944 and rebuilt again in 1949 to a remarkable standard. It is a most impressive place to visit and you can get to it by one of those zig-zag roads to the top.
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    Monte Cassino War Cemetery with the Monastery on the hill beyond.
    On Wednesday 6 November, 5 of us decided to climb Barearse, 70 years to the day since the Grenadiers were sent up.

    They had been camping in Chestnut Wood to the south of the mountain and from there you can see the main features of the lower part of the mountain clearly. Unfortunately, we picked a day to visit Chestnut Wood when the clouds just would not move away from the peak and I could not get a full picture of the mountain from that most important direction.
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    This is the best shot I could get from Chestnut Wood of the mountain to be attacked.

    Either side of the central Vee are two craggy ridges looking down on a steep ravine. The ridge on the right was named Razorback Ridge but became known as Spandau Ridge because the Germans had well placed machine gun positions along it.

    The one on the left was known as Bareback Ridge and the steep rocky flank to the left of it was christened Barearse by the guardsmen and it has been known as such ever since.

    Perhaps this name succinctly reflects a soldier’s vulnerable perception of its cold unwelcoming sight in wintry weather and the fact that there is nowhere to take adequate cover.

    Down the centre of the Vee is a mule track descending to the village of Mieli. This was the obvious way to the top but the enemy had anticipated that and any assault by this route would most certainly have been caught in cross-fire from above.

    Just off the picture to the left is the small hamlet of Calabritto which tapers off to the end of an olive grove in the foothills. It was decided that the Coldstream Guards would clear this area of any opposition and the 6th. Grenadiers would pass through them to make their assault of Barearse to Pt. 727 overnight 6-7 November. Pt. 727 is just covered by the left side of the cloud base here.

    Before they could begin the Grenadiers had a 6 mile march along the winding roads to Calabritto.
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    Here we have George Booker walking down the road from Chestnut Wood where he set off with his mates 70 years before.

    On approaching Calabritto the Grenadiers had to stop as they could hear the Coldtream having a hard time in the foothills. There were the familiar dull thuds of mines exploding and the exchange of machine gun fire.

    Eventually, at 8:30 pm. the Grenadiers passed through the Coldstream onto a wet rocky mountain side in the dark and in atrocious weather carrying 40 lbs. on their backs as well as their weapons. They were spread out in 4 Companies, each with different objectives but Nos. 2&3 Companies had drawn the short straws. They had been ordered to leave their greatcoats at the bottom and take two separate and difficult to see features hidden in the clouds in my photo. These two Companies were to take the brunt of the fighting and few would return.

    In those conditions it took them 9 hours and they reached the top of Barearse at 5:30 am. Then the slaughter started, the Germans had had several weeks to prepare their defences and they knew the terrain.

    To summarise: the reports seem to reflect and suggest confusion and a lack of organised leadership at the top, probably due to the loss of senior officers. Several young officers took an initiative to organise but were overrun through shortage of men and supplies, in spite of a valiant supportive attack by F Company, Scots Guards. The plateau at the top with a wood to the left (now known as Grenadier Wood) and a knoll, Pt. 819 to the right became a killing ground.

    There were 8 German counter attacks and the two forward Companies were almost wiped out after 5 days. with no warm clothing, little food and dwindling supplies of ammo.
    A complete bloody mess. Granddad was listed as missing on the 8 November, he’d been hit by shrapnel (which is still littered all over) and taken prisoner.

    Ron was one of the lucky ones. He was one of the few relieved by the Ox & Bucks.Light Infantry who made a corridor for the Guards’ withdrawal. He made his way down the mountain, most likely via the mule track, believing that he’d seen his brother dead at the top as he passed through his lines.

    A month later, in the second battle, the Generals sent two British Divisions and an American Division up to do what had been expected of a Battalion and Ron had to do it all again. That’s at least 60 times the amount of men plus a massive artillery bombardment.

    The really sad thing is that just before the withdrawal and after all the death and hardship the Germans taunted the Guards, shouting “come on Tommy, let’s see what you can do”. The wild response from the Grenadiers, expending the last of their ammo and resorting to the bayonet saw the Germans off. Sadly it wasn’t fully realised that the Germans had retreated until the Guards’ withdrawal had taken place. They had actually taken the ground but two days later the Germans were back.
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    About to leave Calabritto and climb Barearse.

    So on 6 Nov. 2013. in beautiful sunshine 5 of us set off to climb Barearse. Struggling to push through the heavy vegetation at the edge of the olive grove and the 300 metres beyond were the worst. From there it was a matter of plotting your way from rock to rock and trying not to fall between them. Conveniently, there’s a coarse grass growing between the rocks as

    frequently you need to grab something quickly as you lose your balance; such an easy thing to do in daylight carrying next to nothing. It must have been hell for the Guards.

    About half way up the rocks seem to get slightly smaller, making the going a little easier but just as you think you are near the top another false crest becomes visible and on it goes.
    We managed to reach Point 727 in two and a quarter hours, which just goes to show how difficult it must have been for the Guards, in the dark, laden with kit, wet through and always in fear of mines, being shot at or mortared.

    When we arrived at Pt. 727 the others were waiting to greet us. They had come up the back of the mountain via the small hamlet of Formella and the cairn. This was the easy way that the Germans had scaled the mountain.

    George had been asked to go to a local school to be interviewed by the kids. He had a good time and was somewhat amused by their questions. One youngster asked him what he did when he needed the toilet.

    So the rest of us tucked into our sandwiches and viewed the surrounding terrain. We were actually sitting around two gun pits that must have been blown out of the rock by the Germans when they prepared their defences and were still intact and usable. We reckoned that one of them must have been used by the gunner who shot Lt. Henshaw. Shortly after this they were overrun as the Guards made their attack into the wood.
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    Time to eat at point 727.

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    This is a view immediately to the right of the last shot, looking at the forward edge of Grenadier Wood. It is now much thicker with trees than it was even 15 years ago.

    The rock terraces that run through it can be seen at the edge.

    In the distance is the actual top of the mountain, quite another climb in itself but there is a zig-zag track. This was known as Monastery Hill and was not an objective in the first battle. However, it gave the enemy an extremely good view of movement over the battlefield. There is a chapel at the top there now.
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    Off into Grenadier wood (left to right) Mike sterling,myself and my uncle John

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    Mike had thoughtfully brought two of these crosses along for John and I.
    Obviously my granddad and his brother didn’t die up here but somehow it seemed the right thing to do after all the terror they must have experienced. They never forgot the place.

    The following day we went to the chapel at the very top of Monte Camino. This was much higher up than we had been so far but easier to get to by road most of the way from the northern side of the mountain.

    We travelled by car to a very small hamlet called Colle (di Camino) high in the mountain, from where most of us walked to the top but the local Caribinieri kindly provided a 4 wheel drive jeep to take the ladies and the less energetic amongst us.

    The walk took about half an hour on a zig-zagging path to the chapel and from there one could see the commanding view the Germans had had of the fighting area. There would have been almost nothing that couldn’t be seen by them from this vantage point.
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    Looking down from the chapel onto the plateau where the battle had taken place.

    The mule track can be seen going through the centre, across land which is grazed by goats and wild horses. It then continues down the ravine between the Barearse Ridge and Spandau Ridge in the distance to the village of Mieli.

    In the centre distance is the top of Barearse which we had climbed the previous day from the opposite direction. To the right of the grassland is Grenadier Wood which has a far greater intensity of trees now than there would have been during the war.

    The wood rises to the right to another strategic point known as Pt. 819.

    With hindsight one can readily see that this area was a textbook killing ground: difficult to see from below; hard to climb to and get supplies to; very little cover at the time and dominated by a well prepared enemy with a superb view of the fighting area. That’s without considering the weather conditions. This area became known as the Saucer.
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    Looking down from the chapel onto the plateau where the battle had taken place.

    The mule track can be seen going through the centre, across land which is grazed by goats and wild horses. It then continues down the ravine between the Barearse Ridge and Spandau Ridge in the distance to the village of Mieli.

    In the centre distance is the top of Barearse which we had climbed the previous day from the opposite direction. To the right of the grassland is Grenadier Wood which has a far greater intensity of trees now than there would have been during the war.

    The wood rises to the right to another strategic point known as Pt. 819.
    With hindsight one can readily see that this area was a textbook killing ground: difficult to see from below; hard to climb to and get supplies to; very little cover at the time and dominated by a well prepared enemy with a superb view of the fighting area. That’s without considering the weather conditions. This area became known as the Saucer.

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    The chapel at the top of the mountain and the bell being wound up to let everyone in the locality know that there was somebody up there.

    Inside the chapel
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    Granddads photo along side Mike sterlings uncle,,IT TOOK 70 YEARS BUT WE GOT HIM THERE!!!
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    Looking in the opposite direction from the Monastery at Monte Cassino to Monte Camino.
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    The pyramid peak of Monte Camino can be seen to the left of centre.what a view

    In that first Battle of Camino 6-11 November 1943, four hundred and eighty three Grenadiers went up Monte Camino in four Companies. Only two hundred and sixty three returned, therefore two hundred and twenty were killed or taken POW.

    483 ÷ 4 = approximately 120 men per Company. It’s believed that almost nobody returned from No. 3 Company and little more than twenty returned from No.2 Company. These figures still need to be studied but can be considered to be quite close.


    RIGHT NEXT
    We went to a museum in some bodys house,very interesting
    everything here has been found on or around Camino
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    Heres my uncle with a k98,good thing about this place he let you pick up and hold anything you wanted
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ID:	602012Heres two British mortars,these were found the week before we got there,still look in quite good condition,he was soaking them in diesel,so i wasnt hanging around them to long.
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    thats it for now,i have more pics of the surrounding area if anybody wants to see them.
    thanks for looking and i hope you enjoy the read
    ps i hope all the pics are going to show ok,this has took me ages lol
    my love to all the hero's
    many thanks Adam

    written by John Henshaw
    Last edited by rabbitface; 03-02-2014 at 10:22 AM.

  6. #6

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    Hi guys i think ive sorted the picture prob
    cheers

  7. #7
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    Wow man. What an amazing trip you had. You did a great job with the photos and story too! Your Grandfather (and his brother) would obviously be proud that you did this. Sounds like you had a great time, and even cooler that George was there. What a warrior, walking/climbing all that at his age! And so glad you got to put the photo up, that you have been looking forward to do for a while! Thanks for posting all of this

    Would love to see any of the other photos of the surrounding areas too, as I'm sure many of us would!

  8. #8

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    Very good thread. Thanks!
    Had good advice? Saved money? Why not become a Gold Club Member, just hit the green "Join WRF Club" tab at the top of the page and help support the forum!

  9. #9
    jwp
    jwp is offline
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    Default

    A great thread indeed !, many thanks,
    John.

  10. #10

    Default

    Thank you for sharing - great thread!

    Cheers

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