View of Monte Cassino on June 6, 1944.George Clark Meggison
"We put our guns in position out of sight, camouflaged them then fired. All the guns from the 8th Army came there and only the guns that were there before did any firing, the others camouflaged and waited."
As a troop commander I had little to do not going with the infantry. I was sent up to the Ontario Tank Regiment to try and train them to use indirect fire. I had to show them how to put out markers in order to put their guns in line and to be able to shoot on regular targets. I don’t know whether it was a very good operation, I didn’t see them ever going in action, so I only hoped that they could do something. As a troop commander we had very little to do, no infantry to go to, so I was sent as an officer to find the rest area that the regiment was to take over and rest. I was given a map reference of the area and sent along with my driver. I found it, and going around to find a spot, I found an old Roman road going straight through the hills. It was a great spot for a place to camp. During that time I came … an Italian, an old Italian, and he said, “who are you?” “English.” I said, “Who are you? How do you speak English?” “I used to be in Chicago.”
At the same time I came across a gateway and over the gateway a school of mountain warfare. What’s this? So I went in and reported, I saw English were running it. English officers there and they told me, “come on in, you can stay with us.” I told them what I was doing, so they looked after my driver and I stayed in their mess. They were very hospitable. Right after dinner they wanted to know if I could play poker. However, after a few days, the regiment came and we were there for I don’t know how long. It must have been a week anyway, after which at rest we were taken to Cassino, for the Cassino Battle.
Okay, we moved to Cassino where they had two battles, were defeated and General Montgomery told us to make sure that we would win it this time, he was … had enough artillery there to make sure we did. We put our guns in position out of sight, camouflaged them then fired. All the guns from the 8th Army came there and only the guns that were there before did any firing, the others camouflaged and waited. On the … I don’t remember the date, but at 11 o’clock that evening, about 500 guns had fired at once. It was a tremendous explosion.
I was with my battery, but I was not FOOing [Acting as Forward Observation Officer], and so I went out in front of the mole … the knoll, I should say. I could see the whole of the Gari Valley and up to the Monte Cassino. I could see all flashes of those exploding shells, hundreds of thousands of them out before me. It was a sight. Later our regiment had a special job to do. Monte Cassino was thought to be an OP for the Germans, as it was. In order to keep them from seeing, our regiment fired smoke shells at … so the smoke could drift over the Monte Cassino monastery and keep them blinded. We fired hundreds and hundreds of smoke shells, in fact we fired all the smoke shells over in Italy, and whether it kept them covered we’re not too sure, but that was our job. After the British division had made a bridgehead over the Gari, the 1st Division was told to go through. The Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment was one of the battalions to go and I was ordered to go along with them. We did get mortared but it wasn’t many … any heavy shelling. There was very little resistance. The Germans were withdrawing ahead of us into Hitler Line. My last forward observation job with the infantry was at one after Cassino.
After that we were on our way up to Rome and our quartermaster took ill. I went down the line and I was asked if I wanted the job as quartermaster. I said, “you bet.” I found that,although you went FOOing, before you went-- every time you were told to report somewhere-- you tighten up and it was that feeling. You knew what you’re going to, but after you got with a unit, that part, that feeling more or less disappeared and you were with the unit and you were busy. You didn’t have time to feel otherwise. So I went back and was happy to become a quartermaster.