On this day – The Battle of Monte Cassino begins – 17 January 1944

Monte Cassino Cemetary

The battle of Monte Cassino officially began on this day in 1944.

Also known as the ‘Battle for Cassino’ or the ‘Battle for Rome’, it was a costly series of four assaults by Allied forces over the first five months of 1944 on Axis defensive positions along the Gustav Line, with the objective of breaking through and capturing Rome.

Italy Defensive Lines 1943-44

The Gustav Line ran across Italy from just north of where the Garigliano River flows into the Tyrrhenian Sea in the west, through the Apennine Mountains to the mouth of the Sangro River on the Adriatic coast in the east.

Monte Cassino, a historic hilltop abbey founded in AD 529, overlooked the nearby town of Cassino and the entrances to the Liri and Rapido river valleys. It was key terrain, whose ownership was decisive for the outcome of the battle as it completely dominated the surrounding area and Highway 6, which ran through the nearby town, leading directly to Rome.

Cassino

Following the Axis surrender in North Africa in May 1943, the Allies launched Operation ‘Husky’, the Invasion of Sicily, in July 1943 spearheaded by the US 7th Army (under command of Lieutenant General George Patton) and British 8th Army (under command of General Bernard Montgomery). Over six weeks the Allied amphibious and airborne operations were successful, leading to the removal of Benito Mussolini from power, and the cancellation of a major German offensive against the Russians at Kursk, in order to divert German forces to Italy.

Invasion of Sicily 1943

In early September 1943 the Allies followed up this success with the Invasion of continental Italy, with British forces landing at Reggio (Operation ‘Baytown’) and US forces (now the 5th Army under Lieutenant General Mark Clark) landing at Salerno (Operation ‘Avalanche’).

Invasion of Italy 1943

In October 1943, Hitler was persuaded by Field Marshall Albert Kesselring, that the defence of Italy should be conducted as far away from Germany as possible. This would make the most of the natural defensive geography of Central Italy, whilst denying the Allies the easy capture of a succession of airfields.

Kesselring was given command of the whole of Italy and immediately ordered the preparation of a series of defensive lines across Italy, south of Rome. Two lines, the Volturno Line and the Barbara Line, were used to delay the Allied advance so as to buy time to prepare the most formidable defensive positions, which formed the ‘Winter Line’, the collective name for the Gustav Line and two associated defensive lines on the west of the Apennine Mountains, the Bernhardt Line and Hitler Line.

The ‘Winter Line’ proved a major obstacle to the Allies at the end of 1943, halting the Fifth Army’s advance on the western side of Italy. Although the Gustav Line was penetrated on the Eighth Army’s Adriatic front, and Ortona captured, blizzards, drifting snow and zero visibility at the end of December caused the advance to grind to a halt. The Allies’ focus then turned to the west, where an attack through the Liri valley was considered to have the best chance of a breakthrough towards Rome.

Map-2-Salerno-to-Cassino-largeThe ‘First Battle of Cassino’ launched on 17 January 1944 involved 5th US Army attacking along a 30 kilometre front, with the British X Corps crossing the Garigliano River below its junction with the Liri River near the coast.

The US II Corps would then follow on 20 January 1944 with the main thrust in the centre, crossing the Garigliano River eight (8) kilometres downstream from Cassino. Simultaneously, the French Expeditinary Corps would continue its ‘right hook’ toward Monte Cairo, which was the hinge to both the Gustav Line and Hitler Line.

Map-4-The-crossing-of-the-Garigliano-large

The initial attack by the British X Corps was successful but they could not make a decisive breakthrough. The initial success of their operations caused a lot of concern for the Germans and resulted in the deployment of two Panzergrenadier Divisions from Rome to reinforce the German line.

Map-5-Bloody-River-largeThe central thrust, an opposed river crossing over the Garigliano River by US 36th Division on 20 January 1944 was a costly failure due to well dug in German defensive positions and a lack of sufficient armoured support.

Map-6-USII-Corps-on-the-Massif-largeOn 24 January 1944 US II Corps again attacked across the flooded Rapido River valley north of Cassino with the 34th US Division and French colonial troops. Flooding made movement very difficult, particularly for armour and it took eight (8) days of heavy fighting to establish a foothold.

Map-7-The-French-Attacks-on-Belvedere-largeThe French assault on the right made good initial progress against the German 5th Mountain Division. However by 31 January 1944 their attack had ground to a halt.

The task then fell to the US 34th Division to fight south across the hilltops near Monastery Hill. Despite tough conditions and fierce fighting, by early February the Americans had captured positions no more than half a kilometre from the Abbey itself.

On 11 February 1944 after a final unsuccessful three (3) day assault on Monastery Hill and the town of Cassino, exhausted US forces were withdrawn, with some battalions losing 80% of their strength.

Three further attempts were made by Allied forces to capture Monte Cassino, the final attempt by the Polish Corps in May 1944 being successful.

 

Army News – 9th Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery (9 Regt RAA) re-formed to command all Army Reserve Light Batteries

F2 Mortar

9th Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery (9 Regt RAA) was re-formed on 15 January 2018 to command all of the Army Reserve (ARes) Light Batteries, who previously from 2013 onward were placed under operational command (OPCOM) of Infantry battalions, providing indirect fire support utilising F2 81mm Mortars.

RAA Badge           9 Regt RAA Unit Colour Patch

RHQ 9 Regt RAA is based at Kogarah Multi-user Deport (MUD) in Sydney and now commands the following sub-units:

  • 2nd/10th Light Battery (formerly part of the 5th/6th Battalion, The Royal Victoria Regiment the based in St Kilda in Melbourne)
  • 3rd Light Battery (formerly part of the 11th/28th Battalion, The Royal Western Australia Regiment based at Irwin Barracks in Perth)
  • 5th/11th Light Battery (formely part of the 9th Battalion, The Royal Queensland Regiment based at Gallipoli Barracks in Brisbane and on the Gold Coast)
  • 6th/13th Light Battery (formerly part of the 10th/27th Battalion, The Royal South Australian Regiment based at Keswick Barracks in Adelaide and Glenorchy in Hobart)
  • 7th Light Battery (formerly part of the 2nd/17th Battalion, The Royal New South Wales Regiment based at Dee Why and Adamstown in Sydney)
  • 23rd Light Battery (formerly part of the 4th/3rd Battalion, The Royal New South Wales Regiment based at Kogarah in Sydney)

9 Regt RAA takes its lineage from the 9th Australian Field Artillery (AFA) Brigade (part of the 3rd Australian Division in the First World War) and 2/9th Field Regiment RAA (part of the 8th Australian Division in the Second World War). Each of the above Batteries also take their own lineage from predecessor Regiments and Batteries stretching back to before Federation in 1901.

You can find out more about the Royal Australian Artillery here: https://www.army.gov.au/our-people/corps/royal-regiment-of-australian-artillery

Naval News – RFA Mounts Bay (L3008) the ‘RFA Ship of the Year 2017’

RFA Mounts Bay

The Royal Navy announced on 10 January 2018 that RFA Mounts Bay (L3008) has been awarded the title of ‘RFA Ship of the Year’ for 2017, the second year in a row that she has won the award.

RFA Mounts Bay Ships Crest

Commissioned in 2006, RFA Mounts Bay is one of three 16,000 tonne Bay-class auxiliary landing ship dock (LSD(A)) of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. She is named after Mount’s Bay in Cornwall.

RFA Mounts Bay was the first British naval vessel to arrive in the Caribbean following Hurricane Irma, which devastated Anguilla, the Turks and Caicos and the British Virgin Islands. She remained on station for almost a month delivering aid and materials ashore.

The award allows the ship to fly the Fleet Efficiency Flag for another year.

RFA Mounts Bay Ship of the Year 2017

You can find out more about RFA Mounts Bay here: https://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/our-organisation/the-fighting-arms/royal-fleet-auxiliary/landing-ships/rfa-mounts-bay

 

 

 

Marine Corps News – Workup for historic first F-35B Lightning operational deployment onboard USS Wasp (LHD-1)

USS Wasp

The US Marine Corps (USMC) announced on 9 January 2018 that F-35B Lightning IIs from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron VMFA 211 currently based at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in Arizona will join the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (13 MEU) for 6 months of work up training, prior to the aircraft’s first operational deployment in the North Pacific onboard the USS Wasp (LHD-1).

F-35B STO 15 Aug 2013 USS Wasp DT-II

Formed in 1937, VMFA 211 are known as the ‘Wake Island Avengers’ and transitioned from AV-8B Harrier to the F-35B Lightning II in May 2016. They are currently assigned to Marine Aircraft Group 13, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.

VMFA 211 Badge

Formed in 1985, the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (13th MEU) is one of seven Marine Expeditionary Units (MEUs) currently in the United States Marine Corps (USMC). It consists of  a Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) with a strength of about 2,200 personnel and includes a Command element, reinforced Infantry Battalion, composite Aviation Squadron and a Combat Logistics Battalion. The 13th MEU is currently based out of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California.

13th_MEU_Logo

Commissioned in 1989, USS Wasp (LHD-1) is a United States Navy multipurpose amphibious assault ship, and the lead ship of her class. She is the tenth USN vessel to bear the name since 1775, with the last two ships of the same name being aircraft carriers that earned 10 battle stars for their service during the Second World War.

USS Wasp Badge

You can find out more about VMFA 211 here: http://www.3rdmaw.marines.mil/Units/MAG-13/VMFA-211/

You can find out more about the 13th MEU here: http://www.13thmeu.marines.mil/

You can find out more about the USS Wasp here: http://www.public.navy.mil/surflant/lhd1/Pages/default.aspx

Famous Regiments – The Korps Mariniers

Korps Mariniers

Formed: 1665

Country: The Netherlands

Armed Service: Royal Netherlands Navy

Royal Netherlands Navy Jack

Current Role: Marine Corps

Locations: Doorn, Texel and Aruba

Structure: The Korps is 2,300 strong and part of the Netherlands Maritime Force and consists of:

  • Maritime Force Command Staff
  • 1st Marine Combat Group
    • 10th Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Target Acquisition Squadron (10 RSTA Sqn)
    • 11th (Parachute) Raiding Squadron (11 (Para) R Sqn)
    • 12th Raiding Squadron (12 R Sqn)
    • 13th Raiding Squadron (13 R Sqn)
    • 14th Combat Support Squadron (14 CS Sqn)
    • 15th Combat Service Support Squadron (15 CSS Sqn)
  • 2nd Marine Combat Group
    • 20th Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Target Acquisition Squadron (20 RSTA Sqn)
    • 21st Raiding Squadron (21 R Sqn)
    • 22nd Raiding Squadron (22 R Sqn)
    • 23rd (Parachute) Raiding Squadron (23 (Para) R Sqn)
    • 24th Combat Support Squadron (24 CS Sqn)

Motto: Qua Patet Orbis (“As Far as the World Extends”)

Korps Mariniers Capbadge

Battle Honours: 16

  • Chatham (1667)
  • Kijkduin (1673)
  • Senneffe (1674)
  • Spain (1702–13)
  • West Indies (1764. 1772–77)
  • Dogger Bank (1781)
  • Algiers (1816)
  • Bali (1846–49)
  • Aceh (1873–76)
  • Rotterdam (1940)
  • Java Sea (1942)
  • East Java (1942)
  • Java and Madura (1946–49)
  • New Guinea (1962)
  • Cambodia (1992–93)
  • Uruzgan (2006–10)

Korps Mariniers Beret

More information on the Korps Mariners can be found here:

Official website – http://korpsmariniers.com/

Naval News – HMS Ocean (L12) sold to Brazilian Navy for £84 million ($145 million)

HMS Ocean

The current flagship of the Royal Navy (RN), HMS Ocean, has been sold to Brazil for £84 million.

The 22,000-tonne Landing Platform Helicopter (LPH) carrier will be formally decommissioned from the RN in spring this year. Whilst it was well known that HMS Ocean was up for sale, with interest from Brazil and Turkey, reference to the sale was contained in the Brazilian Navy’s end of year statement published on Christmas Eve. To date, no official statement confirming the sale has been released by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) or the Royal Navy.

HMS Ocean was built for £150 million and was commissioned in September 1998. She underwent a £65 million refit in 2012, extending her life by three years.

Six RN ships have borne the name HMS Ocean.

HMS Ocean Badge

Motto: Ex undis surgit victoria (‘From the waves rises victory’)

Battle Honours:  Al Faw 2003

You can find out more about HMS Ocean here: https://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/our-organisation/the-fighting-arms/surface-fleet/assault-ships/hms-oceanhttps://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/our-organisation/the-fighting-arms/surface-fleet/assault-ships/hms-ocean

 

Naval News – New interim Canadian Replenishment Ship MV Asterix completes maiden voyage to Halifax

Federal Fleet Services Inc-Media Advisory - Arrival in Halifax o

MV Asterix, a Resolve Class Naval Support Ship, arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia on Wednesday 27 December 2017, after completing its conversion from a civilian container ship.

Resolve Badge

Owned by Federal Fleet Services, Asterix will be leased to the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) and commence service from 1 January 2018. She will be operated by a mixed crew and remain in service until HMCS Protecteur, the first of two new AORs based on the Berlin Class replenishment ship, commissions in 2021.

You can find out more about MV Asterix here: http://federalfleet.ca/2016/06/02/resolve-class-aor/

You can find out more about the new Protecteur class AORs here: http://www.navy-marine.forces.gc.ca/en/fleet-units/jss-home.page