I was informed by Vince Stanaway that today marks the 73rd year to the day when Sargent Vincent Stanaway (his dad) earned, through the battle for Cassino, the Military Medal (MM).
Vince has kindly shared some insight on his fathers military exploits.
- Name: Vincent Stanaway
- Last Known Rank: Sergeant
- Serial No: 63019
- Date of Birth: 28 July 1918
- Occupation: Grocer
- Address: Helensville
Cassino – Italy, this town was considered the gateway to Rome, if the Allies could take it they would open up the road (Route 6) and the railway link all the way to Italy’s capital city. The Allies needed to capture Cassino, the Germans needed to hold it.
Capturing Cassino however was never going to be an easy task. The landscape in which the town sits at the base of the mountains and with a narrow passage through to the Liri Valley had always presented a very strong defence against attackers in past centuries. It also had the vantage point of the Benedictine monastery on top of Monte Cassino, from where defenders could see virtually anything happening in the approaches to the town below for miles.
The Germans also strengthened the town and positions around the hillsides with concrete and steel structures to create strongpoints for their machine-guns and mortars. And around the town they had broken river stop-banks and flooded the pastures to ensure tanks and vehicles approaching could only use the roads, which of course the German artillery had “taped” firmly in their sights. Furthermore any attack on the town by the Allies would involve crossing the Rapido River so the Germans had destroyed the bridges to make this more difficult.
It was 73 years ago today that the Second Battle of Cassino was taking place, and this was the first of three battles the New Zealanders were directly involved in there. On the 15th of February 1944 a large force of 142 Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses, 47 North American B-25 Mitchells and 40 Martin B-26 Marauders of the United States Army Air Force bombed and destroyed the Abbey on the top of Monte Cassino (the imposing mountain behind the town of Cassino).
We pick up Vincent’s involvement from the 24 Battalion Official History page 231-232 – we read;
“March the 15th dawned with a clear sky, and at half past eight, in bright sunshine, the first wave of bombers flew over Cassino to drop their lethal cargoes, and thereafter until midday squadron followed squadron in successive waves, raining high explosive on the town. The wisdom of moving all troops back behind a safety line was amply demonstrated by the number of bombs which fell near C and D Companies’ former positions. During intervals in the aerial attack O’Brien’s gun crew, consisting of Corporals Stanaway and Bryant, fired on enemy pillboxes around Point 193 and then went to ground again as soon as the bombing was renewed. Eventually the platform of loose stones which served as an emplacement was shaken down by the concussion of the bombing, and they were obliged to cease fire. Since nothing more could be done, the crew retreated to B Echelon, leaving their gun behind, and were subsequently employed in the arduous and dangerous duty of carrying supplies to forward troops. Stanaway received the MM as an immediate award for his conduct on this occasion.”
AWARD OF THE MILITARY MEDAL TO TEMPORY LANCE SERGEANT VINCENT STANAWAY SECOND NEW ZEALAND EXPEDITIONARY FORCE. 1944.
“Prior to the bombing of Cassino on 15th March, 1944, this non-commissioned officer, who was in charge of one of the unit’s anti-tank gun crews was, at his own request given permission to remain with his gun crew 500 yards inside the bomb line to engage known targets on point 193 of Monte Cassino. After the first flight of bombers had dropped their bombs, considerable movement was observed around the pillboxes on the feature and severe toll of the enemy was taken by fire from his gun. He maintained his gun in action till the concussion from the bombing threw the gun off line. When the bombing was completed, he ordered his crew to swing the gun into position and carried on with his task thereby restricting the fire of the enemy till the feature was taken. The excellent qualities of leadership, determination and courage shown by this non-commissioned officer during this and other battles were outstanding.”
We have included photographs of Vincent’s medals, which include;
- Military Medal (MM)
- 1939-1945 Star
- The Italy Star
- Africa Star
- Defence/War and NZ Service Medals
Arch Scott mentions Vincent Stanaway in his kiwi war book “Dark Side of the Moon”
….the fertile mind of a prankster who knew how to sail “close to the wind” where any lesser mortal would have floundered…
Vince says – “pretty much the old man to a tee. He was usually two sheets to the wind as well!”