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, 17:11
Concordia Academy

Five new school campuses are planned for Havering, the leader of the council has said.

Yesterday, 15:31
Rita Chadha, from Ramfel

An emergency meeting was held last night by a leading migrant charity to discuss practical help for East London migrants following the European Union vote.

Yesterday, 13:04
Mark Abrahams who has been sentenced to 11 months in jail. Photo: City of London Police

A construction worker is facing a lengthy prison sentence for breaking a colleague’s jaw after a heated argument broke out.

Yesterday, 13:00
Parents outside Parsonage Farm school in Rainham last year opposing expansion plans

Controversial plans to knock down a historic bingo hall and expand a school have been deferred by a council committee last night.

Yesterday, 13:00
The man pictured in Romford on Saturday with a t-shirt which read,

A leading charity has raised “serious concerns” about how hate crimes are tackled in the borough after a number of incidents were brought to light.

Yesterday, 12:43
Sarah Rensch with her son John and daughter Renesmee

“I didn’t know anything. I thought the doctors did the routine checks and that was it, you gave birth to your baby.”

Yesterday, 12:00
Teachers at Broadford Primary School celebrate winning the Community and Collaboration Award at the TES Awards 2016. Photo: Peter Searle

Teachers celebrated a prestigious award win on Friday, last week, following the success of a pupil volunteering programme.

Yesterday, 10:36
Residents gathered in front of the Town Hall last night to protest against plans to build 32 homes on the green off New Zealand Way

Delighted residents celebrated last night after plans to build 32 homes on their “green gem” were refused.

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

Copyright: Erich Spiegelhalter/Schwarzwald

Embark on a three day round trip (including flights) during which you will taste local specialities such as the famous Black Forest Gateau, discover nature, absorb vibrant city culture, learn about technological innovations, indulge yourself in the plentiful wellness spas, take some shots on the golf course, and enjoy family fun at Germany’s largest theme park.

£15k prize bundle

Imagine having the opportunity to win an incredible £15,000 bundle of some of the most amazing prizes available. Well, for one lucky contest entrant that dream could soon become a reality because we at MyOffers are offering an incredible free prize bundle that will make even the most hardened person wild with excitement.

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Romford Recorder
e-edition today

Subscribe