22battalion crest

22nd Battalion 2NZEF

"Vrai et Fort"



The 22 Battalion in Cassino: 25 March - 7 April 1944

2014 will be Seventy Years since Cassino

In preparation for the 70th Commemoration of the Battle of Cassino, I have collected some information about the 22 Battalion's role, and some photos and maps of the area.

Much has been written about the battles of Cassino - mostly factual but some fanciful and full of the benefits of hindsight. With each decade anniversary, more books are published by armchair generals, many criticising General Freyberg for ordering the destruction of the Abbey. Perhaps the sanctity of the Abbey was being honoured by the German forces - they certainly claimed that later - but for the Allies in Cassino the Abbey looked down on them and saw their every move.

The Second Battle for Cassino

cassino propaganda The four battles for the hilltop of Cassino occupied the Allied Armies in Italy for many months and cost thousands of lives. Fortunately, the 22 Battalion had only a small part to play, at the end of the second battle. General Mark Clark, the American in overall command of the 5th Army invited General Freyberg and the New Zealand Division to attempt to take Cassino and open up the Liri Valley to Rome. The opposing German forces were well aware of the reputation of the Kiwi Division and dropped propaganda leaflets over the area in a vain attempt to demoralise the troops.

Nearly all of the New Zealand Division was thrown into Cassino, but they could not crack that "nut". The 22nd Battalion was kept in reserve, being a highly mobile, motorised battalion its role was to sweep down the Liri Valley towards Rome as soon as Cassino fell. Eventually it became obvious that Cassino would not fall, on this attempt, so Freyberg brought in the 22nd to bolster and relieve his other battalions.

The 22 Battalion's HQ and 3 and 4 Companies moved into Cassino on the night of 25 March 1944 to relieve companies of the 21 and 24 Battalions. (See Battalion Diary for March 1944.) The Battalion was relieved by 3 Grenadier Guards on the night of 7 April 1944.

Air Photos

Prior to entering Cassino, the Intelligence Section of 22 Battalion HQ were supplied with aerial photographs of the town. These were referred to in the Battalion's Monthly Diary, but copies of the photos are absent from the copy in the National Archives. However, the Intelligence Officer of the time retained copies, which are reproduced here.

Oblique photo of Cassino. The prominent building in the centre foreground with the bomb-cratered field in front (and "22" penciled on it), was the building occupied by the 22 Battalion HQ during their time in Cassino. Vertical photo of Cassino. The Hotel des Roses, the Continental Hotel and the Railway Station figure prominently in the history of the New Zealand Division in Cassino.

George Kayes's Official Photos of the 22 Battalion "in action"

Although some of the Battalion missed out on Cassino itself, they did feature in the New Zealand publicity about the battle. The official photographer, George Kaye, borrowed a few men from the 22nd and took some of the classic shots of them in "action". Many years later these men were still laughing about their exploits, throwing grenades and storming the ruins, well back from the front line.

The following 27 photos were taken by George Kaye on 5 April 1944 somewhere near Cassino. They feature men of 22 Battalion. Only a few of the men have been named and these are noted in the captions.

The orginal negatives are held by the National Library in Wellington. Bibliographic Reference "Kaye, George Frederick, 1914-2004. New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs. War History Branch. Ref: DA-Series. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz". The negative number is noted with each photo.

DA-05493 DA-05499 DA-05501
DA-05502 DA-05503 DA-05505
DA-05494 DA-05495 DA-05500
DA-05504 DA-05514 DA-05492:
41082 SJT William John ALDERSLEY and 44933 SJT Ernest Derek BOUGEN "rest among village ruins on Cassino battlefront"
DA-05507 DA-05506 DA-05505
DA-05511 DA-05512 DA-05513
DA-05496
44198 PTE Joseph Desmond RUSCOE "leaning on his rifle on the Cassino battlefront"
DA-05508
43663 PTE Leslie Thomas BREMNER on the Cassino battlefront
DA-05509
43927 SJT William Hector MARK on the Cassino battlefront
DA-05497 DA-05498 DA-05516
DA-05510
Captain Peter McINTYRE, New Zealand Official War Artist at work on the Cassino battlefront
DA-05455
37313 Sgt Major E.M. SCOTT and 70492 LT John McNEILL at Monte Cassino, 8 March 1944. "Scottie" used this photo for his personal Xmas card and always claimed that Freyberg specially commissioned it!
DA-05456
"This enormous pile of empty shell cases gives visible evidence of the intensity of the shell fire that has been a feature of the fighting on the Monte Cassino front. These are charge cases used by American guns."

Cassino after the battles

22 Battalion Intelligence Officers Terry McLean and John Bright in front of "The Crypt", one of many underground strongholds in Cassino. The German Stug self-propelled gun occupying the lobby of the Continental Hotel. A force too powerful for the NZ Division to capture. The ruins of the Continental Hotel.


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Last updated: 12/12/13