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
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.
Prior to entering Cassino, the Intelligence Section of 22 Battalion HQ was 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.
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.
Cassino after the battles
Last updated: 28 January 2023