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5677261 Pte Cook. R.W

Local Information:

Reg Cook had lived at 33 Charnham Street, Hungerford.

He served with the 2nd Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry.

Photo Gallery:

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- Reg Cook (probably taken in Gibraltar)

- British Cemetry, Monte Cassino, Italy

Regimental Information:

The battle for Cassino and the monastery at Monte Cassino that took place in May 1944, followed three unsuccessful attempts to break through the Gustav Line. The other battles were in January, February and March of that year.

Each time, the Allied advance was pushed back with heavy losses on both sides due to the difficult mountainous terrain, the rivers Liri, Rapido and Garigliano that had to be crossed and the difficulty of attacking on a broad front against the almost impregnable Gustav Line, which Hitler had ordered would be defended to the last man.

The battle started on the night of 11/12 May following a large artillery barrage which crept forward in front of the advancing infantry. It was on the banks of the Rapido River that the 2nd Battalion Somerset Light Infantry were to form part of the 4th Infantry Division of the 10th Brigade at the assembly point at Monte Trocchio. It is impossible to cover all the events of this assault, but extracts taken from the Regimental History record the main facts.

The attack was to start at 11.00pm on the night of 11 May with the 2nd Kings Regiment holding the river crossing points, which were narrow tracks through mine fields. The creeping barrage started at 11.00pm but the infantry were thirty minutes late assembling at the crossing points. The valley was full of noise and smoke, both allied and enemy, with river fog adding to the confusion. When the Somersets arrived at the crossing point it became apparent that the advance crossing by the 2nd Kings had not gone well. The strong currents had taken their boats downstream, after the wire rope that the engineers had put across had been cut by heavy mortar fire. The mortar fire also destroyed many of the assault boats.

Congestion built up as engineers brought more rafts and ferry equipment. By now the crossings were running two hours late and the creeping barrage had finished. It was not until 3.00am on 12 May that the rest of the Kings Regiment and the 2nd Somersets were across the Rapido River and 4.00am before they advanced 400 yards to consolidate their line.

It is not possible to pinpoint where Private Reginald Cook was killed, but he and eleven others from the 2nd Somersets fell during the action to cross the river.

On 20 September 1994, whilst on holiday in Italy, I was able to visit the monastery and town of Cassino and see the valley where the action took place. I also visited the British Military Cemetery where I found that Pte Reg Cook is listed as having no known grave, but his name is recorded with others of the Somerset Light Infantry on one of the large memorial pillars in the centre of the cemetery.