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Monte Cassino: The Story of One of the Hardest-fought Battles of World War Two [Audiobook] [Audio Cassette]

Matthew Parker
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
RRP: 14.67
Price: 14.47 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

2 Aug 2004

The six-month battle for Monte Cassino was Britain's bitterest and bloodiest encounter with the German army on any front in World War Two.

At the beginning of 1944 Italy was the western Allies' only active front against Nazi-controlled Europe, and their only route to the capital was through the Liri valley. Towering over the entrance to the valley was the medieval monastery of Monte Cassino, a seemingly impenetrable fortress high up in the 'bleak and sinister' mountains. This was where the German commander, Kesselring, made his stand.

MONTE CASSINO tells the extraordinary story of ordinary soldiers tested to the limits under conditions reminiscent of the bloodbaths of World War One. In a battle that became increasingly political, symbolic and personal as it progressed, more and more men were asked to throw themselves at the virtually impregnable German defences. It is a story of incompetence, hubris and politics redeemed at dreadful cost by the heroism of the soldiers.

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Product details

  • Audio Cassette
  • Publisher: Headline (2 Aug 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0755313275
  • ISBN-13: 978-0755313273
  • Product Dimensions: 3.1 x 10.6 x 13.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,498,583 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Born in Central America in 1970, Matthew Parker spent part of his childhood in the West Indies. He has written for most UK national newspapers as well as The Literary Review, History Today and BBC History Magazine, as well as lecturing around the world and contributing to TV and radio programmes in the UK, Canada and US. His bestselling and critically-acclaimed books include Monte Cassino, Panama Fever and The Sugar Barons. His new book, Goldeneye, published in August 2014, explores the importance of Jamaica in the creation of British national icon James Bond. He lives in east London with his family and annoying dog. More at

Product Description


Monte Cassino is a fitting tribute: an important and beautifully written book, told with real understanding and pathos for those who withstood the Western Allies' bloodiest encounter with the German army (James Holland, Daily Telegraph)

Parker has produced a deeply moving, richly detailed and fast-paced account of the most infamous British battle of the Second World War (Saul David, Sunday Telegraph)

Published in time for the sixtieth anniversary of the battle, Monte Cassino deserves to be widely read (Gary Sheffield, Living History)

Some excellent passages (Norman Stone, Sunday Times)

Moving and well-researched (Economist)

A pacy and informative addition to the military history of a much-neglected campaign (Glasgow Herald)

Book Description

The compelling account of one of the most ferocious and costly battles of World War Two, including interviews with hundreds of veterans who have never spoken publicly before

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
50 of 50 people found the following review helpful
This book deals with the Italian Campaign, from its beginnings mired in confusion, to the bitter struggles that gained the Allied forces yard after slow yard in central Italy, to the climatic, but empty, victory at Cassino, which cost 200,000 people their lives or health. Parker is very in touch with the soldier on the ground, and shows us their plight in intimate, frightening detail, often following the lives of several soldiers during the whole course of the campaign, giving us a detailed view of what each single infantryman or soldier had to suffer just to survive, never mind fight, in such an inhospitable place. Parker shows us the bravery of the Allied soldiers, and also the steadfast guts and intelligence of the Germans.
I have also read John Ellis' 'Hollow Victory' on the same subject, and, in comparison to Parker's book, Ellis is more concerned with allocating blame to the various Allied commanders who lead their soldiers so pitifully, and let petty squabbles get in the way of good strategy, but is perhaps less in touch with the single soldier's plight on the ground. Parker, I feel, gave a much better impression of what the 'Poor Bloody Infantry' suffered. Ellis gives us a more impressive view of the grand strategy behind the campaign, and also better describes the battles after Cassino, while Parker simply alludes to them. Parker tells us how it all lead up to Cassino though, so you can see the two books in many cases complement each other well, and for a complete understanding of this battle I would recommend first reading Parker's work, then Ellis'.
Both, individually, however, are very good histories, detailing a very long, very bitter, very hard-fought and hugely costly battle in a long, bitter war.
I would thoroughly recommend this book, especially for those who believe the Second World War was somehow 'easier' than the First. If you want to get as good an impression of war as you can from words and script, this book will show you.
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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Verdun in the mountains 26 Jan 2004
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I believe the best book on Monte Cassino remains John Ellis' Hollow Victory but Parker still cuts his own piece of turf on this bloody ground. Acknowledging his debt to Ellis he adds some very interesting points of view as well as introducing some new witnesses (especially the Italian civilians). I held off buying for sometime because I thought Ellis might have said it all but am glad that I decided to buy Parker as well. Monte Cassino is a story full of small advances on terrible terrain (and, hurrah, the maps are effective and numerous) and Parker keeps one aware of what it was like to hold a "quiet" bit of the front on the massif. Parker offers useful comparisons of why (for example) the Texans failed on the river crossing but the British did not. He also remembers to record the impact that these defensive victories had on the Germans. He is perhaps less concerned with apportioning blame than Ellis, but one is no less impressed by the troops that fought there.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very thought provoking 5 July 2004
You have to take time out to read this book, by the time Cassino was being fought the campaign in Italy had become more or less secondary, yet this battle was one of the most ferocious battles in the whole war, on a par even with Stalingrade. The sheer horror of what happened here defies belief, when the author talks of a battalion of some 250 men in which only a handful are left after 1 night you start to understand the tragedy that unfolds. You also understand the mutual respect that seems to grow between the 2 sides as on top of everything else the conditions were beyond comprehension. Parker's thorough research ensures you can read this book taking in all the facts while at the same time experiencing the feeling of utter, eyes closing & head bent, sadness.
Delicately tied into this are stories, some related after the event, others more or less as an obituary. All relay the same message of complete despair and fear that at moments transcend to levels of unparalleled courage, ( the experiences of Spike Milligan makes you nod your heard with understanding at his nervous disposition that became world famous ) such moments in history should not be forgotten.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Anyone who's had the opportunity to visit the Cassino battlefield is bound to be struck by the steepness of Monastery Hill and the surrounding mountains. The idea of fighting your way up its slopes seems so preposterous it makes you wonder if there really could have been a battle there. This feeling is further reinforced when you arrive at the restored monastery itself. It is difficult to believe that the building has been put back together from the bombed out rubble seen in pictures and movies. Compared with many Italian towns, Cassino itself is a very plain and functional place with modern residential areas and sprawling industrial estates on the outskirts; whatever character and charm the place had before the war has been wiped out. Even so, visiting in a typical Italian summer, it is still hard to image the horrors of the fighting which incurred in this spot in the cold and damp winter of 1944.

Matthew Parker's excellent account of the allies' four attempts to break the Gustav Line goes a long way to put the reader into the hell of these battles. When you read as much military history as I do then you do develop a certain emotional immunity to reels of casualty statistics. The author has been able to bring together numerous very moving firsthand accounts, principally of the front line infantry and engineers, and weave these into a clear and coherent narrative of the battle. This is one of the few books that have left me almost shell shocked, even to the extent of deliberately picking non-military related book to read next.

The author doesn't engage a great deal of debate about the strategy of the campaign and the handling of the battles, although there is sufficient to give the events proper context.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
As good as expected, thanks
Published 1 month ago by Mrs a
5.0 out of 5 stars No problems
Great book - Great condition - Great price - Great service = No problems. What more could you want. Happy to recommend
Published 2 months ago by John Burchell
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating
I wanted to read about this battle prior to an upcoming visit to Italy. I am not a great fan of history books but found that I couldn't put this down. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Mrs. Elizabeth Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent read
Excellent just about to tour the Casino battlefield and this is a good way to learn what it was like before I go.
Published 5 months ago by S. Amos
4.0 out of 5 stars One of the Toughest battles of WW2.
The Battle of Monte Cassino was one of the most difficult of WW2 that the allies had to face. The German defences at Cassino straddled the Gustav line which blocked the Allied... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Nicodemus
5.0 out of 5 stars Harrowing and compelling
This is terrific account of the battles on the Gustav Line in Italy. This book ranks with Beevor's best and is reminiscent of a conflict as attritive as the worst of WW1 and of... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Mr. G. A. Irwin
5.0 out of 5 stars Touching
This was bought as a relative was in this. I didnt realise to the extent of what he went through, you cant really get the true picture sometimes but this story has deepend my... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Lisa
4.0 out of 5 stars good insite to struggle
never realised it was so hard to take it well written with good accounts of the struggle the Americans and the commonwealth soliders had the Germans certainly didn't want to let it... Read more
Published 12 months ago by A. TUCKER
2.0 out of 5 stars Hard to read
Book is ok but hat to read an keep up with whom everybody is there are that many characters. Try the forgotten soldier by Guy Sajer or the red partisan if you want to read up on... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Dave
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant book !!
Well written, exciting, captivating . . . but also absolutely awful, as regards learning what men were put through during this bloody slogging match. Read more
Published 14 months ago by George
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