Amid the many recent commemorations of D Day in Normandy, there have also been a number of events commemorating the battles at Anzio and Monte Cassino, which led to the liberation of Rome on 4th June 1944.
In May, to mark these momentous occasions, representatives of the Regimental Association took part in two commemorative services at the National Memorial Arboretum and at the Cassino CWGC Cemetery, where over 90 London Irishmen are buried or named on the Memorial panels.
The campaign in Italy had started with the invasion of Sicily in July 1943 and would last until the final surrender of all Axis forces in the country on 2nd May 1945. Forces from over a dozen nations took part in the various battles along the whole length of Italy – a remarkable display of military coordination and leadership. The London Irish Rifles played a full part in the campaign with one or other of its two battalions in almost constant front line action for the full duration of the 22 months – in 1944 for example, the 1st Battalion had spent 6 weeks defending the bridgehead at Anzio and the 2nd Battalion was positioned near to the abbey of Monte Cassino for more than 8 weeks.
At the Royal British Legion organised event at the Arboretum, we were represented by Dick Scott Kerr and Tony Robinson, who proudly carried the Association Standard.
It was fantastic to see 100 year old 2nd Battalion veteran Charles Ward lay a wreath on behalf of the London Irish Rifles at the British Embassy commemorations at Cassino. A most poignant moment occurred after the ceremony when Charles paused for quiet reflection at the final resting places of his friends Sergeants Edward Mayo and Gerard Keegan, both holders of the Military Medal and who were killed during May 1944.