Prince Harry pays tribute to British war dead in Italy

CASSINO, Italy (AFP) - Prince Harry stood shoulder to shoulder with veterans of the Battle of Monte Cassino in Italy on its 70th anniversary on Monday, honouring the British soldiers who fell by laying a wreath at the Commonwealth War Cemetery.

The 29-year-old Harry, a captain in the British army who has served two tours in Afghanistan, also walked among the white graves near Cassino, some 140 kilometressoutheast of Rome, before going for a tour of the Colosseum.

"It's important that the sacrifice that was offered here is not forgotten," Jonathan Boardman, the Church of England's archdeacon for Italy, said on the sidelines of the event.

One of the veterans attending was Fred Mason from the West Midlands, who took part in the Italian campaign. "It's a bit emotional but I think it's worth coming back,'' he said.

"It's a pity some of the young people can't come out and see this, not just the veterans. It's to be hoped they don't have to go through what we went through.

"Live in peace I say," he added.

The "battle" consisted of four major assaults by Allied troops on German lines over a period of four months starting in February 1944 to reach Rome. During the fighting, the medieval monastery overlooking Cassino was destroyed by US bomber planes because the Allies believed German troops were using it as a fortress. The monastery has since been rebuilt brick by brick. Allied troops finally managed to break through German lines in May 1944.

Some 55,000 troops were officially reported dead on the Allied side and 20,000 among German forces.

Lolita Vittiglio, a local inhabitant also taking part in Sunday's remembrance, said that period of history is one that "maybe we have tried to push away a little bit".

"But it's our history, the history of our grandfathers and it's still relevant today," she said.

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