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22nd Battalion 2NZEF
"Vrai et Fort"
DAY 6 Thursday 26 May 2005
The War Memorial at San Giusto
At 1000 we departed by bus to climb the hill that overlooks Trieste. Here lies the Castle of San Giusto and the Church of the same name. Beside the Castle is a parade ground and towering War Memorial, where we were met by an Italian Army honour guard and a parade of flags and banners from many Italian, American and British units. After a round of speeches, the New Zealand veterans laid a wreath.
Following the ceremony, a number of Triestini came forward to talk to the veterans and to thank them for past efforts. One person in particular sought out Haddon Donald and showed him pictures taken the day Haddon had arrived in Trieste in his jeep. He also had a copy of a book of photographs recording events of the time that he presented to Haddon. I have subsequently obtained a copy of the book (in Italian, and the photos relating to the events of 2 May 1945, can be viewed here....)
The Cathedral of San Giusto
Following the wreath-laying, we were able to visit the Cathedral San Giusto, which has elaborate frescos and wonderful architecture like all of the Italian churches. It was completed in the 14th century on the site of earlier Roman ruins.
The Castle of San Giusto
Looking over the city and harbour of Trieste with unparalleled views, is the Castle of San Giusto. It was built on the site of a Roman villa, and earlier castles by the Venetians between 1470 and 1630. The Castle was substantially restored following archaeological excavations in the early 1930s.
San Giusto Castle played an important role for the New Zealanders who arrived in Trieste on 2 May 1945.
22nd Battalion Lunch at Hotel Jolly Trieste
By a quirk of circumstance, there were 18 veterans on our tour that had served with the 22nd Army Battalion in Italy. Their Commanding Officer at the time of the liberation of Trieste was Lt Colonel Haddon Donald, who promptly suggested that a lunch for the Battalion be organised. I arranged with the Hotel in Trieste for a special lunch, which was attended by 17 veterans (one being confined to bed for the day) and accompanying family, making a party of 26 diners.
The Lunch was a wonderful occasion to meet as a group, to share the time and the memories, to thank people present and past for their contributions and to raise a Toast once again to the battalion. With great reluctance the group acknowledged that this would be the last time that so many 22 people would meet in Italy. A group photo commemorates the time.
Risiera di San Sabba - Monumento Nazionale
At 1400 hours we boarded the buses for the drive to the Risiera - the Rice factory. Our tour notes had listed this as a Nazi Prison, but this had not alerted people to the reality of the place. The German Army had maintained the factory for drying rice, but in March 1944 they converted it to a prison camp and crematorium, using a design by Erwin Lambert who had designed crematoria in Poland. It was first used in April 1944. The prison was used to house people rounded up before transport to other camps outside Italy. Estimates of the number of people who died at the prison range from three to five thousand. It was the only concentration camp operated by the Nazis outside Germany/Poland.
On the night of 29th April 1945 the crematorium and chimney were destroyed by the Germans. Three days later the New Zealanders drove into Trieste.
Despite knowing in advance what we were visiting, the place, now a National Monument, came as a shock to all. The buildings, the high walls, the unerring quiet of the place deeply saddened everybody and cast a sombre cloud over the tour. But that is why such sites have been preserved, and why it was an important part of the tour of Trieste - to remind us of the events of those times, and to again reinforce why the Triestini hold the New Zealanders in such high regard. We noted with pride a large group of school children sitting quietly in the shade of the high walls. On being told of our presence and who we were they rose and applauded our veterans. It was a touching moment.<
Later in the afternoon the buses took us along the coast road to Miramare Castle. The elaborate castle built from white marb wonderful views across to Trieste. The Castle was built in 1856-1860 for the Governor of Trieste, Archduke Maximilian of Hapsburg and his wife Charlotte of Belgium. Maximilian had spent his early life at sea, and the interior was designed to resemble a ship. However before completion, Maximilian was appointed Emperor of Mexico leaving Charlotte behind. Maximilian was killed in Mexico so never slept in the completed Castle. (More info......)
In 1945 the New Zealand troops used Miramare Castle as their divisional HQ, being quartered their for several months before their return to New Zealand. The large German flag that hung in the entranceway when the Castle was entered on 3 May 1945 was "captured" by a New Zealand soldier and is now in the Waiouru Army Museum.
Today Miramare has been restored, most of Maximilian's furniture has been returned, and the Castle is now a museum.
When I returned to the bus park at the entrance to Miramare, I noticed that our bus drivers were taking an unusual interest in the view over the bay, especially those sunbathing on the breakwater. They asked if they could borrow my camera with telephoto lens and this is "What the drivers Saw".
Last updated: 04/12/2016