The “forgotten warriors” of a key Second World War battle will be remembered in a service at the National Memorial Arboretum.

Veterans from around the globe are expected to visit Alrewas to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Monte Cassino.

Soldiers during the Battle of Monte Cassino

The Italian campaign saw troops from as far afield Brazil and Bangladesh, from South Africa and Poland, and from Canada and New Zealand come together to fight as one army under British command.

The battle resulted in more than 55,000 Allied casulaties, while the Germans suffered around 20,000.

But troops felt the best equipment was being reserved for those fighting in Northern Europe, leading to the battle being known as the forgotten campaign.

Bryan Woolnough, Signals Wire Operator No. 2 Commando and Monte Cassino veteran, said: “Those of us serving in the Italy campaign began to believe that our war was too far away to be foremost in public mind.

“We received UK newspapers and were given the impression that the actions in Northern Europe were the main event, with our campaign in Italy being a regarded as a mere sideshow.

“We read that we were the ‘D Day Dodgers’ and felt that the public had little interest in our casualties or any idea the challenges we were facing.

“We in Italy were the forgotten warriors, with the latest and best equipment held for Northern Europe. As we crossed rivers, under fire, in flimsy canvas Goatley Boats, our brothers in Normandy had bullet proof amphibious-tank like craft.”

The anniversary memorial service will take place on Saturday, 11th May, with a parade of veterans at 11am and a service at 11.30am. Wreath-laying ceremonies will follow at the Polish Forces Memorial, Monte Cassino Memorial and Italy Star Memorial.

Lt Col (Ret’d) Bob Gamble OBE, assistant director for commemorative events at The Royal British Legion, said: “The Italy campaign was a pivotal moment in the Second World War yet it is a comparatively less well-known portion of the nation’s history by comparison with other key operations such as D-Day.

“This event provides a fantastic opportunity to shine a spotlight on the contributions of all who fought in the ‘forgotten campaign’ and to pay tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the pursuit of the liberation of Europe.”

Veterans of the Italy campaign who wish to attend are encouraged to contact The Royal British Legion by emailing or calling 020 3053 7015. The ceremony is also open to members of the public who don’t need to register.


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