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National Commemorative Service at Pukeahu to mark 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Cassino

10 May 2019

The struggle for Cassino was one of New Zealand’s most brutal and costly battles during the Second World War. On the 75th anniversary of this battle, the public is invited to gather for the National Commemorative Service to remember those who fought and those who fell.

The service will be held at the Hall of Memories at Pukeahu National War Memorial Park in Wellington on Thursday 16 May, 11am-12pm. It will be attended by representatives of the government and the diplomatic corps.

Nearly 350 members of the New Zealand Division were killed during the Cassino campaign, and at least 1,200 were wounded. The 28th Māori Battalion played a crucial role in this campaign and suffered significant losses – 128 of their soldiers were killed, wounded or captured during a single attack on the town’s railway station.

Located just over 130 kilometres southeast of Rome, Cassino is famous for the historic Benedictine monastery which overlooks the town from a height of 520 metres on Monte Cassino. Founded in 529, the monastery was destroyed during the Battle of Cassino but has since been restored.

Though the footprints of our soldiers have long since faded, New Zealand’s connection with the town of Cassino remains. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery in Cassino holds the graves of 464 New Zealanders and a further 55 names are listed on the Cassino Memorial.

This National Commemorative Service is arranged by the Visits and Ceremonial Office, Department of Internal Affairs, in partnership with the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, the New Zealand Defence Force, and the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association.

The 75th anniversary of the Battle of Cassino with also be marked at a National Commemorative Service in Cassino, Italy, organised by the New Zealand Defence Force.

Event details
Thursday 16 May, 11am (please arrive by 10.45am)
Hall of Memories
Pukeahu National War Memorial Park


Media contact:
Genevieve Le Gall
Senior Communications Advisor
M: 027 338 2451

An advisory for media wishing to attend will be sent next week.

Further information about the Battle of Cassino
May 2019 marks the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Cassino. For the New Zealand Division, this German strongpoint southeast of Rome would prove the most tragically elusive prize of the Italian campaign.

The Germans' success in resisting the Allied offensive along their defensive Gustav Line prompted the Allies to switch their focus to the Liri Valley, which led directly to Rome. However, the entrance to the valley was just over ten kilometres wide and was overlooked by the 500-metre-high Monte Cassino, topped by an historic Benedictine monastery.

In late 1943 the New Zealand Division arrived in Italy and in November joined the Allied effort to breach the Germans’ Gustav Line by attacking its eastern margins.

The Allies undertook several unsuccessful campaigns before Cassino eventually fell to British and Polish troops, with support from New Zealand artillery, in May 1944.

For further information visit the Ministry for Culture and Heritage Website and the New Zealand History Website.