Kiwis remembered at Monte Cassino

AIMEE GULLIVER
Last updated 09:13 19/05/2014

Britain's Prince Harry visits the Monte Cassino abbey ahead of a memorial to mark the 1944 Battle of Monte Cassino.

Monte Cassino
Reuters Zoom
Britain's Prince Harry speaks with New Zealander war veteran Noel Bunn at the end of a ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of the World II Two Monte Cassino battle.

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Prince Harry has honoured New Zealand soldiers who died at the Battle of Monte Cassino, south of Rome, during World War II.

He attended a two-hour ceremony at the Commonwealth cemetery with Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae for the 343 New Zealanders who died, on the 70th anniversary of the Allied victory. At least 600 New Zealanders were wounded in the battle.

Before the service the prince hongied senior guests who had gathered to pay their respects, and watched a Maori cultural group perform songs and a haka.

Thirty-eight New Zealand veterans attended the ceremony, that included contemporary accounts of the battle, and a minute's silence was observed after a bugler had sounded the Last Post.

The Battle of Monte Cassino consisted of four major attacks by Allied troops on German lines over four months starting in February 1944.

One of the bloodiest battles of World War II, Allied troops made slow progress in removing Nazi forces from the 1400-year-old Benedictine monastery on the strategically-important rocky outcrop

The intention was a break through to Rome, but troops were hampered by icy mountain terrain, mines and bombardment from Nazi forces.

New Zealand forces played a big part in the second and third battles, before Allied forces, headed by British and Polish troops finally broke through in May 1944.

The monastery was heavily bombed and destroyed and has since been rebuilt.

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