Sound: A veteran remembers Cassino

Private Reg Minter, 620068, went to the Middle East with the Tenth Reinforcements in July 1943. He joined 24 Battalion as a signalman and went to Italy in late December 1943. His first real time in action was at Cassino in March 1944. Here he remembers that time.


'The sixteenth we were there all day... in that, in that rubble.

And was there fighting going on outside in the town?

Yes, yeah, yeah. But during the day there wasn't much because we were sending a lot of smoke shells to try and hide us from the, from the monastery, because you could see the Germans walking around on the top of that... around the perimeter of the monastery. You couldn't move during the day. He had the snipers all over the place.

The seventeenth, what happened the seventeenth. We, we, we moved up towards the crypt, that's right. We advanced a bit more. Actually we were, we were told just to keep this little part open while 25 and 26 Battalions moved in a, in a pincer movement around to the left. A sort of circling movement, so we just had to stay put.

On the eighteenth, in the morning, we went a few yards, a few, oh about thirty or fifty yards... By this time they'd got the tanks across into the, into the town. We had two tanks coming up to us, well, to join us and we stayed and ... the sergeant major, he said, "You'd better, we better dig in or get into these holes." He'd no sooner said that when a machine gun opened up on us. One of my sigs got a nasty burst right down the side of his leg. Poor bugger, he did scream too. And I, I, I had the telephone and that, that received about three bullets in the telephone, instead of me, so that was all right. So actually I had a pretty good charmed life. However -

We went further on. Our Red Cross was looking after Jack. His name was Jack Yates. He wasn't a sig, he was a runner for our company commander. Went a bit further then we met the tanks. And the tanks came up and we, what happened then? Oh yes, the, in the back of the tank there's a socket and a little phone you can pick up. And the company commander picked up the phone and spoke to the commander of the tank inside. And he answered and said if we could take the Continental Hotel. But I suppose you went about 40 yards and all hell broke loose. Of course we're near on the tanks, and that’s when me and several others got hit.

By shrapnel or?

Mmm. Well I ended up on my face, like somebody just picked me up and threw me down. And I didn’t know that I’d been hit – never felt a thing. I had my boss’ Italian submachine gun, which was quite nice, it had a wooden but on it – sort of metal and had a wooden but. I looked down at that and that but had been smashed.

And Merv, he comes and says "Are you alright?", and I say "Yeah, I think so." Of course the stretcher-bearers are fixing up some other guys who got it a lot worse than me. I went to stand up and I fell down again. This leg wouldn’t work. I got a hell of a shock, I looked down to see if I still had it.

Did you? So your right leg?

Yeah, right leg. It was just that the shrapnel had done that and put my leg into shock. It just wasn’t working. Leg just wouldn’t work. And I looked down and saw a tear and put my hand down inside my thigh, and blood and I thought "Oh, hell."

What a horrible feeling.

So Shorty Walker, he said "Are you alright?" and I said "Yeah". He said "Look, you have to get back to the crypt." Well just opposite where the post office was, was sort of a church. It had a big crypt underneath. And our own battalion doctor had come up, probably to help the 25 Battalion doctor, and they’d created a little first aid post in the crypt down, down underneath. And he said to me "Can you get back there?", and I said "Yeah, I think so." I had to walk from about, I suppose, from about here down to the corner.

How far’s that? What, about 150 yards?

Yeah, about 150 yards. But I couldn’t walk so I dragged myself.

What, on the ground with your elbows or?

Mmm, yeah. I had my pack on my back.'

Soldiers among piles of empty shells

Empty charge cases at Cassino show the intensity of shellfire, March 1944.

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3 comments have been posted about Sound: A veteran remembers Cassino

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Brian Potter

Posted: 12 Sep 2012

My Dad was a Gunner in the New Zealand Artillery during the battle. He recalled that when they were pulled out after the 3rd battle they rested up at Isernia and Venafro which his photos show as peaceful places. They took part in the 4th battle, being stationed near Acquafondata. On leaving he picked a poppy from a field near San Elia and pressed it into his army paybook. We still have it.


Posted: 25 Jun 2009

I was 8 years old after the battle of monte cassino staying near a place called Casalvieri near Atina Italy. Our area was occupied by NZ troops who were very kind to us.I know its a bit late in the day,but is there any chance of tracing some of these soldiers? Regards D.R.Forte London.UK