Search

‘It was like walking into hell’: Monte Cassino veteran from Upminster remembers battle on eve of return

16:14 14 April 2014

Jim with a painting presented to him by the Ilford branch of the Parachute Regimental Association.

Jim with a painting presented to him by the Ilford branch of the Parachute Regimental Association.

Archant

An Upminster veteran will join other Second World War heroes from across the country on a historic pilgrimage to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Monte Cassino, the epic struggle to capture a vital German stronghold and open up the way for the allied advance into Rome.

Jim was 16 when he first joined up Jim was 16 when he first joined up

Recognised as one of the most dogged and ferocious actions of the war, the five-month struggle claimed more than 50,000 lives.

Jim Knox, 89, from Upminster, was still a teenager when his regiment, 4th Parachute Battalion, landed in Italy at Taranto in September 1943 and moved up the west coast to the Sangro river to join forces with a New Zealand Division patrolling the Gustav Line.

“The most frightening time of the war for me was going into Monte Cassino for the first time,” said Jim. “There was a tremendous noise from the mortars and this hideous yellow smog. The sky was lit up red and yellow and we could see flames. It wasn’t until we got closer that we realised that was Vesuvius erupting. It was like walking into hell. The stench was horrible from dead mules and dead soldiers. It was terrifying.

“We were with a New Zealand division at the railway station and Germans were dug in just a few yards away at the Continental Hotel. We were so close that we shouted abuse at each other.

Jim, far left, with friends from the Paras in Italy. Picture: Jim KnoxJim, far left, with friends from the Paras in Italy. Picture: Jim Knox

“You could hardly move – and you only moved at night. And we constantly worried about treading on a mine. The mortaring was constant from both sides. It was a bit like trench warfare at the First World War – a stalemate - no one could move.”

Jim is travelling with the Monte Cassino Society which was awarded a £28,535 Heroes Return grant by the Big Lottery Fund.

The grant allows WW2 veterans from across the world to pay their respects to fallen comrades at official ceremonies around the battle sites.

Big Lottery Fund has to date awarded more than £26.6 million to more than 54,000 Second World War veterans, widows, and carers under its Heroes Return 2 programme.

Jim with his war medals. Picture: Jim KnoxJim with his war medals. Picture: Jim Knox

Peter Ainsworth, chairman of the Fund, said: “We are proud to remember and honour the immense debt of gratitude owed to those brave veterans who endured one of the most arduous campaigns of the Second World War.”

The battle of Monte Cassino was pivotal to the success of the Italian campaign and the greater allied advance into mainland Europe.

It eventually led to the destruction of the formidable Gustav Line, the spine of German fortifications across Italy.

Latest Romford News Stories

Yesterday, 18:53
London City Airport

A campaign group says it has been inundated with complaints following an increase in flights over part of Havering.

Yesterday, 15:00
Police outside the home in Rainham Road, Rainham, earlier today. Photo: MPS Havering

Three men are in police custody after officers seized Class A and Class B drugs along with a large amount of cash.

Yesterday, 15:53
Gemma Karim 3 with mum Gemma and sister Ayshia aged 2 with bees

There was a buzz in the air at Ingrebourne Valley Visitor Centre yesterday as youngsters learnt how to look after bees and their habitat.

Yesterday, 13:51
Becci Smith who was crowned Miss London City on Saturday. Photo: Aida Photography.

Miss Romford says she is “overwhelmed” to add the title of Miss London City 2016 after being crowned the winner of the capital’s top beauty pageant.

Yesterday, 13:22
The Jobbers Rest is soon to close to make way for a restaurant. Licensee Sharon Causton behind the bar

The very last pint will soon be pulled at a “community pub” after 30 years of serving its punters.

Yesterday, 07:00
Hornchurch Nursing Home. Picture: Google Maps.

A registered nurse has been charged with serious misconduct after a panel of medical experts ruled she had “abused a vulnerable resident”.

Tue, 16:51
Ardleigh Green CC on Saturday morning

A cricket ground appears to have been vandalised after club members found the pitch covered in a black substance.

Tue, 14:50
Romford man Oliver appearing on Monday's First Dates. Picture: Channel 4

Millions tuning into the popular Channel 4 dating show last night would have seen a new round of singletons entering a swanky London restaurant hoping to be lucky in love.

Newsletter Sign Up

Most read news

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

News from your area

WW100

Click on the banner above for full coverage of the centenary commemorations of the outbreak of the First World War.

Competitions

You could win £15,000 to spend on either their mortgage or a deposit towards the home of their dreams

Wouldn’t it be lovely to have a period of time when you simply don’t have to worry about finding the money each month to pay your mortgage? When you don’t have to put money aside from your monthly income, or worry about having to afford other essential outgoings?

Which book character do you share cleaning habits with?

Whether you have more in common with put-upon Cinderella, emotionally turbulent Jane Eyre, or easily distracted Mole, you’re sure to appreciate that one lucky winner will receive four sessions of free cleaning. Enter our quiz for your chance to win. All runners up will get £10 off their first clean when making a repeat booking.

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Romford Recorder
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now