BOOK REVIEWS: Costly Battle in Second World War; Anzio: The Friction of War - Italy and the Battle for Rome 1944 by Lloyd Clark, Headline Review, Pounds 20
Byline: Reviewed by Prof Gary Sheffield
It is sometimes said that the soldiers of the Second World War had an easier time than the PBI in the First World War.
If anyone believes this they need to read Lloyd Clark's gripping new book on Anzio.
Clark, a military historian at Sandhurst, tells the story of a battle in 1944 that was as grim as anything experienced at the Somme or Passchendaele. Yet it was all supposed to be so different.
Winston Churchill, scarred by his memories of the Western Front, succeeded in persuading his reluctant American allies to fight in the Mediterranean in 1943 rather than going for the direct route to Germany through France.
In one of his worst miscalculations of the war, Churchill believed that Italy was the "soft underbelly" of Europe.
It proved to be anything but.
The Allied armies faced mountain range after mountain range and river after river, defended by tough and skilful German troops under "Smiling Albert" Kesselring, an airman turned general who proved to be one of the best defensive commanders of the war.
Bogged down in front of the notorious Monte Cassino, position well to the south of Rome, the Allies decided to move a force by sea, and land it behind the German lines at the seaside resorts of Anzio and Nettuno. This, surely, would break the deadlock and rapidly lead to the seizure of the Eternal City.
The Allies landed largely unopposed on January 22, 1944, but a combination of indecision by the commander on the spot and an extremely rapid response by the Germans pinned the British and Americans onto the beaches.
A four-month siege resulted, and Rome did not fall until May - when the Allies had at last broken through at Cassino. …