This amateur footage was shot by Lt. Colonel John Henry Shirley during his time serving with the New Zealand 21st Infantry Battalion during the Second World War. Shirley was stationed in Italy during the Italian Campaign and was only 20 years old when he served and fought. The footage captures parts of the battle between Allied and German forces for the Italian town of Cassino and the monastery of Monte Cassino in early 1944.
The footage shows areas around Cassino, including Monte Cassino, the Italian countryside and surrounding hills, valleys and mountains. It appears to have been taken in deep winter and in the warmer months during [1943 and 1944] and shows soldiers at war and relaxing, including the New Zealand infantry, a member of [the 28th Maori Battalion] and German Prisoners of War (POWs). It also reveals civilian life in a war zone and the impact of war.
Some shots include:
Civilians and soldiers gather at a house and walk through a damaged Italian town [it is not certain that this is the town of Cassino]. An army jeep drives through snow and a soldier appears to attend to a [body] in the snow. A highland pipe band marches into town, watched by soldiers and civilians. This is followed by shots of civilians skiing and soldiers sitting, relaxing and writing.
In the next shots, an officer makes his way to an observation point and has a discussion with another officer. A camp at an artillery site is shown; artillery men handle ammunition shells and fire weapons. The bombing of Cassino and Monte Cassino follows, with footage of bombers in formation overhead and the town engulfed in smoke. German prisoners of war (some wearing paratrooper helmets) are escorted along the road by a soldier from the [28th Māori Battalion].
Further footage shows the aftermath of the bombing, including scenes of destruction in Monte Cassino and Cassino and two routed tanks, one completely upside down. Soldiers are shown walking around the town and up to the ruins of Monte Cassino. Army personnel use mine detectors and inspect German weapons including a six barreled Nebelwefer 41 rocket launcher and a destroyed Panzer tank. Infantryman hitch rides on tanks and a [soldier] digs in beside the road.
Final scenes show civilians running through the streets of a town and a group who appear to be Italian partisans gathering in the street with guns and pointing up at windows above them. A flame thrower armoured vehicle sets a hillside and trees on fire and there is a brief shot of a group of New Zealand infantrymen and officers.