Sunday, August 01, 2010

A Vickers Machine Gun, Cassino (May 1944)




The Battle for Monte Cassino, Italy, May 1944:
A 2nd Battalion Northumberland Fusilier using a Vickers Machine Gun
Plus the description from the Museum

Photographs:
Courtesy of Northumberland Fusiliers Museum, Alnwick, Northumberland)


For additional information click on 'Comments' below

13 Comments:

Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Additional information

In the spring of 1944 the Allied northwards advance in Italy was stalled for many weeks at the Benedictine monastery of Monte Cassino. The monastery is on the top of a hill commanding views around the district. As long as this position was in German hands the Allies were unable to progress towards Rome and northern Italy. Another significant factor was that by this stage in the European war the Allied Supreme Command was prioritising the forthcoming invasion of N.W. Europe (Operation Overlord). Nevertheless, the Allies were eventually able to take Cassino, link up with the Anzio bridgehead and - controversially - the Americans arrived in Rome on 4 June 1944.

The above photograph displays how a British soldier of the 2nd Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers used a Vickers Machine Gun during the battle for Cassino in May 1944. Using a ruined house as protection, the machine gunner lays down 'covering fire' during an attack on a German position. The photograph was taken with permission during a visit to the Northumberland Fusiliers Museum at Alnwick Castle, Northumberland. The Museum also has an Archives section about the Northumberland Fusiliers from the time it was the 'Fighting Fifth' to modern times, as well as other information about the war years.

The Vickers Machine Gun seen in the photograph fired a .303 bullet to a range up to about 1.75 miles (c. 2 kilometres). Its fire power was around 600 rounds per minute.

Sunday, 01 August, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joseph while your comment is fairly good with the exception that while the 2nd Battalion Northumberlands were the support m/c gun battalion for the 4th Infantry Division - they did not in fact take any part in the battle for the Cassino Monastery in May of 1944.
The Polish Troops had that honour and the 4th Division were to meet them on the lower Western slopes at #6 Highway in the Liri Valley as they started with Operation Diadem. Unfortunately this not take place as the German First Paras had a great deal to say about that, and 78th division pushed on past them both !
Tomcann

Monday, 02 August, 2010  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

According to the Northumberland Fusiliers Museum and Archives the 2nd Battalion were involved in the Italian campaign and Battle for Cassino. The relevant War Diaries other various official written documents show that men of the ‘Fighting Fifth’ (as the Northumberland Fusiliers are often referred to) were involved in the fighting at Cassino.

At the Museum there is also a film on a ‘continuous loop’ showing the various theatres in which the NF have been involved with over 300 years or so, including various official Government films, Pathé newsreels and so on. Hence to state otherwise would be incorrect. As explained in the initial posting, the above photograph taken in the Museum re-creates an episode from the Cassino battle.

Everyone does credit the Polish infantry with the final taking of the monastery ruins, but it had been a hard-fought battle and costly on both sides, and also costly for the local civilian population, before that time had arrived.

Wednesday, 04 August, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joseph - not wishing to argue the point of the Museum's expert knowledge as I am quite sure that they have read the offical history of that particular conflict and have decided that their regiment took part in the Battles-(plural there were four in total). only one of which - Diadem- the 4th Infantry divison and Northumberland Fusiliers were involved.
Many revisionists have claimed that many battles were fought for "Cassino" such as Mignano - Garligliani - miles away from Cassino - both town and Monastery.

BUT - I can assure you as having been there at the time - the 4th Division AND the Northumberlands did NOT take part in the battles for Cassino - Town nor Monastery.

What they did was to advance along the right flank of the 78th Division - which was next to 6th Armoured Divison- which in turn was next to 1st Canadian Division and taking up the left flank was the 8th Indian division - then the Sacco river and the French four Divisions of 5th US army - the Task of 4th Div was to meet with the Polish forces descending from THEIR conquest of the Monastery..which they failed to accomplish...!
It may be of some interest to read the account of those battles by JOhn Ellis " Cassino" - The hollow victor - Chapter 16 will explain the battle.
Tomcann

Thursday, 05 August, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joseph - as a PS to my last posting - if you have the opportunity to read Ellis' book on Cassino - in between pp 293 - 296 you will find map #14 which shows all the dispositions of the various divisions in operation Diadem - and that #28th Bde failed at the rapido - then 10th and 12th. bdes headed right to meet the Polish forces coming down from the Monastery - after cutting Highway # 6.
I was sitting just a few miles south at that time waiting to move up when 25th Tank bde lost so many Tanks at the Hitler Line...and 5th Cndn Div lost even more at Ceprano
Tomcann

Thursday, 05 August, 2010  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

I have now posted the Museum's description of the scene as well as the photograph. I trust this may help clarify the situation.

Thursday, 05 August, 2010  
Blogger Peter G said...

There is a lot of confusion over this. Nearly all military history books fail to mention the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers (RNF) at Cassino. I think this arises because in 1937 all the battalions of the RNF were converted into machine gun units and they are often designated as 'machine gun battalion'.

The 2nd RNF were 4th Infantry Division HQ troops, known as the 2nd Machine Gun Battalion. They fought in the second Monte Cassino battle and indeed one of their many honours is 'Cassino II'.

They are mentioned on page 18 of the excellent
Ministry of Defence: Battles of Monte Cassino document.

Thursday, 05 August, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Peter- it is indeed confusing inasmuch as the comments started with the claim that the 2nd NF's fought during May '44 at Cassino- which was the final battle with the title of Operation Diadem.
now the 2nd Battle of Cassino proper was held between 15th - 18th February after the monastery was bombed - according to the OAB of 4th Div - the 2nd NF's were part of that Div from 11-11-41 to
20-5-42 and again from 10-3-44 to 6-6-44 and again from 7-6-44 to 31-8-45 ...the main units at that second battle were the KIWI's - 4th Indian and 6th Armoured - so who were the 2nd NF's with at the second battle ?
Tomcann

Thursday, 05 August, 2010  
Blogger Catherine L said...

Peter, I read this booklet quite thoroughly, and it is of amazing interest. Is there a similar one on the landing in Sicily by any chance?

Friday, 06 August, 2010  
Blogger Peter G said...

Catherine, I don't think there is one on the invasion of Sicily (Operation Husky) in this series.

These are the only ones published so far, I believe: MoD Commemorative Booklets.

All are authoritative, well produced, and well worth reading.

Friday, 06 August, 2010  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

One could debate the semantic of various terms for ever and a day and make no progress. For example, take the term ‘fighting in a battle’ (whatever that may mean).

One of my uncles served in the Medical Corps during WW2. In June 1944 he travelled over to Normandy (France) and subsequently Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. His ‘best pal’ while they were training in Britain was posted to the British Eighth Army and went to North Africa, Sicily and Italy. Being in the Medical Corps and therefore non-combatants neither of them did any ‘fighting’. It was not their particular role to do any ‘fighting’. However, they were involved in the respective campaigns as much any infantry solider, machine gunner or bombardier. To state otherwise would be incorrect.

Another of my uncles served with the 2nd Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers shortly after the end of WW2. He was with me during my recent visit to the Museum and Archives. Traditionally at that time, the 2nd was a full-time battalion of the regiment, although they also had conscripts among their number. Several of the fellows my uncle served with in the Fusiliers had served with the battalion right through the war - including Italy and the battle for Cassino.

The Northumberland Fusiliers Museum & Archives, exhibits and other official records show this was the case. Again, for anyone to state otherwise would also be incorrect. Anyway, I think this debate has probably run its natural course by now.

Friday, 06 August, 2010  
Blogger Catherine L said...

Thank you Peter.
@ Joseph:
I totally agree with you, having, as you well know, researched the movements and actions of the Pioneer Corps, as well as having obtained first hand testimony from a RAMC veteran - no way anyone can say they were not involved in those battles, even when it meant carrying the dead, or fixing up those who were almost dead. But as you say, this is it.

Friday, 06 August, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joseph & Catherine -
It might be a real stretch for you to accept the fact that the German LT.General commanding the
X1V Panzer Corps defending the Abbey at Monte Cassino - was a Catholic - and a Third Order member of St Benedict charged with defending that Saint - probably why it took us so long to batter our way through..Cheers
Tomcann

Sunday, 08 August, 2010  

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