3 Company – ‘The Little Iron Men’
WG Italian Dragon
From Gibraltar to Italy…
The baton has now been passed from Support Company to Number 3 Company whose mission is to cycle and run the route the 3rd Battalion Welsh Guards would have embarked on during the Italy Campaign in WW2. The ‘Little Iron Men’ will lead and partake in various educational stands, guided tours and conduct acts of remembrance as they cycle and run their way through the mountainous terrain from Cassino to Venice.
The Italian Campaign of WW2 is overshadowed by the Normandy Landings and therefore rarely spoken about, however, less significant it is not. No other campaign to date has cost more than the Italian Campaign in terms of lives lost and wounds sustained by infantry forces from both the Allies and the Germans. Something that will become very prevalent as the ‘Little Iron Men’ embark on their journey.
In the build up to leaving for Italy members of 3 Company were subjected to a series of educational presentations, a day out to the Tank Museum in Bovington and a historian came to Elizabeth Barracks with his collection of WW2 memorabilia. This allowed 3 Company to get ‘hands on’ on the weapon systems and equipment their Welsh Guards predecessors would have had during WW2.
Each Guardsmen was asked during their summer leave to prepare educational stands that they would deliver on the ground in Italy. The subject of these stands varied from looking at the Allies capabilities compared to the Germans, to what day to day life was like for guardsmen fighting in WW2.
27 hours, 1250 miles later 3 Company arrive in Cassino…
After a brief overnight stop in Dijon the G4 Team and Group 1 arrived at their hotel which was overshadowed by the prominent Monte Cassino Abbey (pictured in the background). Group 1 set off on the first leg of their trip, cycling 52 miles towards Rome. Due to the nature of the mountainous terrain this was no small feat and the group had to dig deep in order to overcome the steep inclines. A very good first effort!
Monte Cassino Abbey…
Number 3 Company were delighted to have the Padre join us for a few days in order to guide them in commemorating their Welsh predecessors. The Padre conducted a service of remembrance at the Monte Cassino War Cemetery and a wreathe was laid on the grave of a 18 years old Welsh Guardsmen who died during one of the daring assaults to capture Monte Cassino.
The Padre also acted as a invaluable member of the support team that followed some of the G4 team as they ran/cycled the 6 mile route, accumulating a marathon between them, from the bottom of Monte Cassino, where the allied forces would have once stood looking up at the impossible task that lay before them, to the Abbey at the top 500m above sea level.
It was a difficult task due to the heat and the relentless incline, however this only reiterated just how daunting and difficult it must have been for the allied forces assaulting the well defended German positions back in May, 1944.
Once they had reached the top (and recovered!) the group were given a guided tour around what has been described as ‘the worlds most glorious monastery’. Monte Cassino was built in 526 by St
Benedict and was situated on the highest feature in the area so that everyone that resided in the valleys surrounding could see its awesomeness and therefore be reminded on a daily basis of the greatness of God.
The group were shown where likely German positions would have been and the severe damage the Abbey suffered during the Monte Cassino bombings. Something that is still to this day widely criticised as a mistake due to the civilian casualties suffered, lack of enemy within the abbey walls and the advantage it afforded the enemy as their elite German Paratroopers were able to hide amongst the rubble fending off the relentless assaults from the allies.
When in Rome….
The group had a day out in the Italian capital which proved to be a huge success. They splintered off into smaller groups and went to explore what Rome had to offer. Some had a tour around the Colosseum whilst others went to sample Rome’s local delicacies.
Cycle from Rome to Narni…
0600 and the group were back on their bikes cycling from Rome and heading north to Narni. The route was not as steep as the previous one and they managed to cover the 49 mile distance in just under 4 hours.
A duathlon for good measure….
Group 1 spent the remainder of the day relaxing by the pool before attempting a duathlon the following day. They set off early in order to avoid the midday heat and ran for 8 miles and cycled for 20 miles. It was a great day and 3 Company are continuing to rack up the miles.
In the evening the Group had their farewell BBQ and members of all ranks delivered educational stands that they had prepared before coming out to Italy. 3 Company were honoured to have been joined by a fellow camper with us mentioned he was in fact a retired Dutch Surgeon General. A great week for 3 Company, well done Group 1 on your efforts, bring on week 2…
3 Company Stats to date:
Total miles covered per man: 129 miles
Total miles on bicycles per man: 115 miles
Total miles ran per man: 14 miles
Expected miles cycled: 140 miles
Expected miles ran: 30 miles (inc. a marathon)
With thanks to Matthew McNeill Love for his report.