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A trip back to Cassino

Three generations of the Nixon family will visit Anzio and Monte Cassino with 96 year-old veteran Walter Nixon to re-live the 'hardest fought' battle of the war, paying respects to the soldiers who fought alongside the British from all over the world.

We will be taking Walter and his family back to Anzio for the first time since his service. We visited him as he recalled the generosity of his American comrades, the loss of Captain West and life underground as the soldiers took shelter from enemy attack. 

"We were told that we were landing at a place called Anzio, which is south of Rome," Walter said.

"The idea was to cut off, I think it was Highway 6. That was the one that was leading to Cassino because they were held up at Cassino and they were taking a lot of heavy casualties."

Watch Walter's incredible story.

Walter explained that the first few days were relatively quiet until the Germans called in their troops.

"I think it was about the third or fourth day when the Germans had called in their units from all over Europe and then all hell was let loose," he said.

"From then on every day and every night you was under observation the whole time and everything, any movement and the shell fire would come down."

A young Walter Nixon in Army uniform
Walter Nixon in his Army days.
Walter Nixon holding up his medals

Life at Anzio

The battles during the campaign have been dubbed 'the hardest fought battles of the war'. There were heavy casualties and horrendous conditions.

Life at Anzio

The battles during the campaign have been dubbed 'the hardest fought battles of the war'. There were heavy casualties and horrendous conditions.

"There was no comfort. The snow was three or four foot deep and we just lived a couple of three blankets and the feet were wet 24 hours a day seven days a week," Walter explained.

"I mean everyone lived underground. You couldn't live above ground because you would of either of got done by anti-personnel bombs or mortars or shellfire.

"I read later on that it was like Passchendaele in the First World War. I don't know what Passchendaele was like in the First World War but I do know what it was like on Anzio. It was really really bad."

Walter will be going back to Italy 75 years on after his grandson saw the Legion's trip taking veterans back to the battlefield.

"It's going to be great to be able to take him back because he's never been there since fighting," Paul said.

"I'm really looking forward to seeing where he fought and reliving the memories with him and with my uncle, and paying our respects as well to all those that have a fallen."

The trip back to Anzio will be Walter's first time abroad since the war. 

"I'm looking forward if that's the right word going around the two cemeteries and I would like to go to the grave of this Captain West who I helped out of the trench when he got hit with the bombs and killed. I'd just like to go back and just to see that again," he said.

Walter's son Keith will also be with him on the trip back to Cassino and is incredibly proud of his father's service during the war. 

"We don't appreciate it. We can only hear it. It's a story from the dim and distant past and we can never understand the horror and the fear and the smells and stuff like that," he explained.

The Italian campaigns were fought by over 240,000 soldiers from six continents, an important  fact that Keith said is often overlooked.

"The multiculturalism - people forget that. People forget that the Sikhs and how many Muslims actually died you know. And these people who are here now. It was their father's who were actually fighting for us."

Along with his nephew, Keith is looking forward to taking his father back to Anzio and sharing the experience.

"It's not going to be the same we know that. The last time he was there, was abroad was in 1943," he said

"There's going to be other people there who can share this experience.

"And I can only listen to stories. But if there's other people there who were there that’s gonna be a great experience for him."

"The sons and daughters of war veterans are the legacy of the World War Two generation.

"And as we approach the 75th anniversary of important historical battles like Monte Cassino, those stories become more important than ever in standing the test of time."

 

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