Yesterday, on the first day of Prince Harry’s tour of Italy, he commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Monte Cassino. The battle was fought by thousands of British and Commonwealth troops who were attempting to push forward and take possession of the German stronghold there.
Prince Harry attended a series of remembrance services to mark the Allied victory. To commemorate the anniversary of when Polish troops finally took hold of the Benedictine monastery on the hilltop, near Rome, Harry started his series of engagements by laying a wreath at the Polish military cemetery. He later toured the restored sixth century abbey which had been bombed by Americans during the campaign in an attempt to prevent the German troops who occupied the monastery from having a strategic lookout spot.
An exhibition that has been put together within the restored monastery illustrates how it had previously been heavily bombed by US planes and left as rubble. After seeing what was left of the monastery, Prince Harry stated: “Unbelievable. They knocked the whole thing down. They flattened it”.
The fourth in line to the throne then took park in a New Zealand commemorative service, in order to acknowledge the 1,400 casualties New Zealand troops suffered during this campaign. Harry also took part in his first Maori greeting, where he rubbed noses with a number of people, including the New Zealand Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae. The Prince’s first attempt at the hongi greeting was a success, with one onlooker, Warrant Officer Twomey, stating: “He was very good”.
Harry joined the Governor-General and a number of veterans in a Cross of Sacrifice procession, which was led by Maori warriors and two airmen. The New Zealand flag was lowered to half-mast and the Prince laid a wreath of poppies at the cenotaph.
During this engagement, Harry also got the chance to speak to a number of injured Italian service personnel who are due to take part in the London Invictus Games later this year, which the Prince has been enthusiastically promoting recently.
After this engagement, Harry travelled to Rome where he visited the MAXXI National Museum of Contemporary Arts. It was here that the Prince unveiled the winning entry for a design for the UK Expo pavilion in Milan by artist Wolfgang Buttress. The winning design was supposedly inspired by beehives. In relation to the Expo themes being of sustainability and development, Prince Harry commented that this theme is very much “close to my heart”, and continued by saying: “I, like many of you here today, feel hugely responsible for the next generation”.
Photo credit: Paul Reed/@sommecourt