NWORA Remembrance Vol.4 - NE99


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Page 94 of 97

Forget-me-not 90 THE LIRI VALLEY by Mark Zuelke, published by Stoddart, 2001, Hardcover, 492 pp. $45:00 (Get Smart hint: internet @ ABE Books, Paperback $9:95 M ark Zuehlke is rapidly becoming Canada's best-selling historian of the Second World War, and for good reason. His research is meticulous, very often based on personal narratives that sometimes serve as correctives to lapses in the official accounts - which he does not neglect. Following upon his book about the battle of Ortona, This essential volume returns to the Mediterranean theatre with this gripping story of courage in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. In The Liri Valley, Zuehlke pays tribute to the valiant Canadians who opened the way for the Allies to take Rome. The Liri Valley was a long, flat corridor through miles of rugged mountains. At one end stood the formidable defensive bastion of Monte Cassino, at the other, Rome. Many remember the fighting of May 1944 as the triumphant finale to the battle of Monte Cassino, but it lives on in the memories of Canadians as the battle of the Liri Valley. It was during this battle that Canadian troops faced their most terrible test of arms and secured one of their greatest victories. As they fought to break through a German line constructed of thousands of tons of concrete bunkers fronted by wide swaths of tangled barbed wire, minefields, and "Tobruk" weapon pits, I Canadian Corps engaged in fierce fighting that would result in the single bloodiest day of the Italian Campaign. The Liri Valley is a testament to sacrifices made by the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, the Van Doos, the Royal Canadian Regiment, and the other Canadian regiments that battled the Germans to open the back door to Europe. This book, like the battle it records, will live long in readers' memories. In particular, Zuelke sheds much light on the experiences of that unique independant Canadian fighting force so treasured by Field Marshal Montgomery, The First Canadian Armoured Brigade (The Ontario Tank Regiment, The Calgary Tank Regiment (of Dieppe fame - and sorrow, The Three Rivers Regiment). With the approach of spring, the Allies desperately sought to find a way to break the deadly impasse in which they had been mired for months, as on either side of the Apennine Mountains each army had fruitlessly attempted to sever the heavily fortified German lines. The Canadians had spent a bitter winter just north of Ortona engaged in costly but futile patrols and probing attacks without purpose. General Harold Alexander, Deputy Supreme Commander Mediterranean, decided the only solution was to break through the Gustav Line on the western coast. To do so, he would require the combined strength of the two armies. Plans were developed to shift the majority of Eighth Army west in time for a massive assault across the width of the Gustav Line from Monte Cassino to the sea. Operation Diadem would be launched on 11 May 1944. I Canadian Corps was to play a leading role in determining the offensive's success or failure by breaking out of the German defences and driving up the fertile Liri Valley, which formed the southern gateway to Rome. So, with the first hint of spring, the Canadians started marching west toward the Liri Valley and a new battle, the first test of their ability to fight as a corps. This is the story of that terrible test of arms. Book review Remembrance Vol.4

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