The Battle of Monte Cassino

Both 2771 Squadron and 2788 Squadron RAF Regiment saw heavy fighting at Monte Cassino in an infantry role as part of the 2nd New Zealand Division and 4th British Division respectively. It was here that RAF Regiment Squadrons 3-inch mortars were a highly-valued asset by Commanders.

A 3-inch mortar crew of RAF Regiment bombarding enemy positions
A 3-inch mortar crew of 2771 Sqn RAF Regiment bombarding enemy positions from their position in a ravine on the Colle Belvedere, north of Cassino, Italy.

The Battle of Monte Cassino was a costly series of four assaults by the Allies in the Italian Campaign of WWII. Monte Cassino, part of the Gustav defensive line was an historic hilltop abbey founded in AD529. Between 17 Jan – 18 May 1944 for 123 days Monte Cassino and the Gustav Line were the scene of some of the most ferocious fighting in the European Theatre of Operations. In February 1944 number 1, 2 and 3 RAF Regiment Wings were formed, the complex nature of the campaign required such formations to command all these Units.

Two RAF Regiment officers conferring over a map
Wing Commander E M Downes (left), Commanding Officer of No. 1320 Wing RAF Regiment, Mediterranean Allied Tactical Air Force, confers with Squadron Leader F G J Allen, Officer Commanding 2771 Squadron RAF Regiment.

Twenty RAF Regiment Squadrons were involved at various stages during the long hard slog up the Italian peninsular. The Corps operated under both US 5th Army and British 8th Army.

RAF Regiment gunners listen in to a briefing.
2771 Squadron RAF Regiment listening to a briefing at their base camp, before moving up to the front line on Colle Belvedere, north of Cassino, Italy.
RAF Regiment gunners packing a mortar away ready for transport.
RAF Regiment gunners packing a 3-inch mortar for transport to the front lines north of Cassino, Italy.

It’s a grim life clinging tenaciously to the side of steep hill with the Germans in strength on the other side and the RAF Regiment men holding a sector of the front line…

Corporal Alf Blackett of 2771 Squadron, RAF Regiment
LAC Sledmore with sleeves rolled up, cleans his Bren gun
LAC J Sledmore of Doncaster, serving with 2771 Sqn RAF Regiment, cleaning his Bren gun at the entrance to his foxhole on the Colle Belvedere, north of Cassino, Italy.
An RAF Regiment mortar party walking in single file with their officer
A mortar party of 2771 Sqn RAF Regiment make their way to the front line from Squadron HQ on the Colle Belvedere, north of Cassino, Italy.
RAF Regiment gunners overlook enemy positions through the arch of an aqueduct
2771 Sqn RAF Regiment overlook enemy positions from their outpost under the arch of an aqueduct on the Colle Belvedere, north of Cassino, Italy.

…soon after we got to Italy, in about March 1944, our Commandant had a bright idea, he decided to lend his boys to the US 5th Army. The only nice thing to come out of this for us was that we had American rations and were able to watch films. However, very soon we were in the Line.

2788 Squadron field notes
Major-General C F Liardet, Commandant of the RAF Regiment inspects the NCOs of No. 2788 Squadron at Cassino, Italy. He is seen here shaking hands with Sergeant Curtiss from Hull.
Major-General C F Liardet, Commandant of the RAF Regiment inspects the NCOs of No. 2788 Squadron at Cassino, Italy. He is seen here shaking hands with Sergeant Curtiss from Hull. (ca. Spring ’44).

Photo sources copyright IWM with the last being colourised by Doug from the WW2 Colourised Photos page on Facebook.