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 Silver Birch

Monte Cassino



August 1997 and the hot Italian sun
both delights and torments
as there is little shade here
high on Monte Cassino.

The very sight of the
Commonwealth War Graves
in the cemetery elicits
very strong emotions.

The sheer number of graves
more than 4,000 almost takes
your breath away. So many
so young. The cemetery is beautifully kept,
shaming the shabby state of our own.

Some of the Gurkha dead
were only fifteen years of age.
Both shocking and incredibly sad.

My son is here with me, and he
is almost fifteen. A boy
much too young to fight
in anybody's war.

My father was here at Cassino
more than fifty years before,
with the British army.

Although he rarely spoke about
the horrors of war he had witnessed,
I remember him telling me that almost
every tree had been blasted to oblivion.

Hard to believe, looking at the
beautiful scenery here today.
Such a peaceful place, yet those
graves are a constant reminder.

My father survived that horrific conflict
unscathed, apart from the mental scars.
Many of his comrades lost their lives.
He never returned to Italy.
Too many bad memories.

So sad. My memories of Italy are almost
entirely good, and I return again and again
to that land of culture, fine cuisine,
fabulous scenery and great works of art.

I shall probably never return to Cassino,
but I am glad that I had the chance to visit.

_____________________________________

Copyright Robert Haigh 2021







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