Tank Attack at Monte Cassino

...The Cavendish Road Operation 1944, from Pen & Sword

Title: Tank Attack at Monte Cassino
Author: Jeffrey Plowman
Publisher: Pen & Sword
ISBN: 978-1-52676-490-4

This new book has a sub-title which tells you the specific element of the many facets of the battle for Monte Cassino that it covers, 'the Cavendish Road Operation 1944', Operation Revenge. A 194-page hardback, it makes use of many personal accounts of those who took part, both Allied and German, and arranged into 3 main sections, each one subdivided into a number of sub-sections.
The first section of the book, The Road to Revenge, is sub-divided into 7 chapters, giving the background to the plan, the units involved, and the building of Cavendish Road, to turn a mule track into a more substantial track, first to be large enough to take Jeeps, but later decided to be big enough to allow tanks to use it. It also details the building of the road, with troops from the New Zealand Corps of Engineers working ont he lower section, and Indian Army units working on the upper sections. The second section, The Execution of Revenge, details the progress of the attack, by New Zealand and American armoured units. It also explains why there was a failure to provide infantry support for the tank units that finally made the assault, and how German defenders were able to knock out a large proportion of the attacking armour and just what happened to the various crews. A mix of Stuarts and Shermans, there are a number of photos included which show the knocked out tanks. Some were recoverable, and some were destroyed by German defenders when they got to them. The book is well illustrated with archive photos throughout, but the third and final section, On the Trail of Revenge, uses more modern, colour photos, to illustrate the route of the old Cavendish Road for the visitor today. Everything is rounded off by 6 Appendices with some specific records that support the story.
I found this a very readable book, written in a relaxed style which I liked. The mix of the story with the images and the personal accounts works well. The operation itself was not a success, just one of the plans to take Cassino which didn't work, though not down to the bravery of those who tried. There were problems from weather, the obstruction of the route through the town because of allied bombing, and differences of opinion over the plans. I think it is noteworthy for highlighting how the battle included British, New Zealand, US, Indian, Gurkha, Polish and French units in the battle. For those who haven't had the pleasure of visiting Monte Cassino I must encourage you to do so if you can. When you see the view over the Liri valley from the rebuilt monastery today, you instantly appreciate how it dominated the route that led to Rome. A place where my own father fought back in 1944. Next time I'd certainly take this book with me and check out the remains of the Cavendish Road.
Thanks to Pen & Sword for our review copy.