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When I work with Indians groups, who want to follow Indian footprints in Cassino, I usually tell then the story of the 8th Indian Division and that of private Sepoy Kamal Ram. Let's talk about it!
In mid-April the call came for the Eighth Indian Division. Before the end of the month the Division was concentrated along the River Gari, in a section known as the Rapido. Here they met the men of the first Canadian Armoured Brigade, which was to serve with them. The task assigned to the Division was to force the Rapido and so at 23.00 on May 11th, 600 guns crashed a great weight of shell upon the enemy's position in the triangle of valley between the Liri and the Rapido rivers. Forty-five minutes later, the infantry began to cross the river in assault boats. In a curtain of smoke and fog, with each man clinging to the bayonet scabbard of the man ahead, files of infantry groped forward. The enemy reacted vehemently. Morning broke on a death grapple upon the approaches to the main German positions. Along the river, working furiously, Indian sappers drove out bridges. One was thrown across under intense artillery and small arms fire ; another' was borne on the back of a Canadian tank, pushed by another tank ; thus Canadian and Indian sappers combined to invent a new type of crossing. Before nine o'clock, the first Canadian armour was over the Rapido, and just in time, for panzers had come thrusting up to deal with our infantry. The Canadians destroyed or held off the German tanks while the 1st Royal Fusiliers, the 1/12th Frontier Force Regt., the 3/8th Punjabis and the 1st Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, (who had -replaced the 1/5th Essex in 19th Brigade) made good the bridgehead. It was during this consolidation that Sepoy Kamal Ram of 3/8th Punjabis volunteered to mop up enemy machine gun nests. With superb gallantry and judgement he not only slew and captured the garrison of post after post, but lived to become the recipient of the Division's first Victoria Cross. From the bridgehead the i/5th Gurkhas swept through to storm San Angelo, a heavily fortified stronghold which wasthe key to the river defences. Then 21st Brigade took up the running, and 5 th Royal West Kent Regt., 1/5th Mahrattas, and 3/15th Punjabis burst into the main German positions. When Pignataro fell to a Pathan charge at twilight, the breach was complete. General Russell sent a message of congratulation to his tired men, bidding them " rest and lubricate." But rest was far away. The men who had punched the hole were called upon to exploit and to pursue. On an axis east of the main road to Rome, the brigades of the Division began to leapfrog on a drive into the north.
If you want to know something more about what happened during the Second World War, book one of my Montecassino and battlefields tour! A guided tour on the footsteps of 8th Indian Division.
For Monte Cassino Battlefield tours , and for Monte Cassino tours from Rome, plese have a look to my new WW2 web site here! www.montecassinowartours.com