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75th anniversary of the Battle of Cassino

News: 10 May 2019

May 2019 marks the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Cassino.

National commemoration

On 16th May 2019, a national commemoration will be held inside the Hall of Memories, Pukeahu National War Memorial Park at 11am. Members of the public are welcome to attend the ceremony. Please be seated inside the Hall of Memories by 10.45am.

Details about international commemorations at Cassino are listed here.

Historical background

The struggle for Cassino in early 1944 was one of the most brutal and costly battles involving New Zealand forces in the Second World War. For the New Zealand Division, this German strongpoint southeast of Rome would prove the most tragically elusive prize of the Italian campaign.

The Germans' success in resisting the Allied offensive along the Gustav Line prompted the Allies to switch their focus to the Liri Valley, which led directly to Rome. However, the entrance to the valley was just over ten kilometres wide and was overlooked by the 500-metre-high Monte Cassino, topped by an historic Benedictine monastery.

Read more about the battle on the website.

This view of the Cassino area was taken from Trocchio on 2 February 1944, before the town or the Benedictine monastery on Monte Cassino were destroyed by aerial bombardment.  

Source : Alexander Turnbull Library War History Collection, Reference: DA-09505-F. Photograph taken by an unidentified member of the 36th New Zealand Survey Battery Division

International commemorations

16 May

12.30pm (10.30pm NZT)

(United Kingdom-led) Commonwealth Service at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cassino War Cemetery

16 May

5.30pm (3.30am NZT)

New Zealand National Commemorative Service, Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cassino War Cemetery

17 May

6.30am (4.30pm NZT)

Service of Remembrance at Cassino Railway Station

17 May

10.30am (8.30pm NZT)

New Zealand Thanksgiving Service at the Basilica, Abbey of Montecassino

For more details about the international commemorations, visit the New Zealand Defence Force's website.

On 07 May 2019, the following motion was read out in Parliament by Minister Ron Mark:

I move, That the House recognise that 18 May 2019 is the 75th anniversary of the fall of Cassino, which brought to an end one of the most brutal and costly battles in which New Zealand forces fought during the Second World War.

NZ On Screen documentaries

NZ On Screen is the online showcase of NZ television, film, music video and web series. Here are two Cassino documentaries, discover more at NZ On Screen.

In early 1944 the Italian town of Cassino was the site of a devastating World War II battle. Kiwi soldiers were part of the Allied forces attacking a German-held stronghold. New Zealand General Bernard Freyberg made the decision to bomb the town, including an iconic 1,400 year-old hilltop monastery. Both sides suffered heavy losses as the Nazis utilised the ruins to their advantage. This documentary follows Kiwi veterans CJ 'Brick' Lorimer and Stewart Black (aka Tai Paraki) as they return to confront the brutality and horror of war, as part of events marking the battle's 60th anniversary.

In this 2014 documentary, singer Whirimako Black explores the World War II experience of her late father Stewart Black (who enlisted as Tai Paraki), and its legacy for his whānau. With her daughter Ngatapa — also a singer — Whirimako returns to Cassino in Italy. The 1944 battle helped forge the reputation of the Māori Battalion, but they suffered heavy losses, and it left survivors like Paraki with trauma and shame. The pair respond in word and song to the place — and to their koro’s memories, which were captured by director Reuben Collier for earlier doco Monte Cassino 60 Years On.

Updated on 17th May 2019