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Peter McIntyre, Air raid at Monte Cassino, February 1944 | by Archives New Zealand
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Peter McIntyre, Air raid at Monte Cassino, February 1944

On 15 February 1944 Allied forces began a massive air assault on Monte Cassino, Italy. The air raid was part of an ongoing push by the Allies against the Winter Line in Italy held by Axis forces during the Italian Campaign of World War II, known as the ‘Battle of Monte Cassino’.


At the beginning of 1944, the western half of the Winter Line was being anchored by Germans holding the Rapido, Liri, and Garigliano valleys and some of the surrounding peaks and ridges. Repeated pinpoint artillery attacks on Allied assault troops caused their leaders to conclude the abbey at Monte Cassino was being used by the Germans as an observation post. Fears escalated along with casualties, and in spite of a lack of clear evidence, it was marked for destruction.


On 15 February American bombers dropped 1,400 tons of high explosives, creating widespread damage. The raid failed to achieve its objective, as German paratroopers occupied the rubble and established excellent defensive positions amid the ruins. Between 17 January and 18 May, Monte Cassino and the surrounding area were assaulted four times by Allied troops, the last involving twenty divisions attacking along a twenty-mile front.


This painting by Peter McIntyre is part of the National Collection of War Art held by Archives New Zealand. In 1939, McIntyre enlisted with the 34th Anti-tank Battery, a New Zealand unit formed in London, and was sent as a gunner to Egypt. In Egypt he provided illustrations for the war magazine Parade as well as doing advertisements he sketched members of the Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force (2NZEF). In January 1941, McIntyre was appointed New Zealand’s official war artist and promoted to the rank of captain by Major General Bernard Freyberg. His work in this role covered the campaigns in Greece, Crete, the Western Desert, Tripolitani, Tunisia and Italy. He was promoted to the rank of Major at Cassino in Italy.


Exhibitions of McIntyre’s artworks toured New Zealand both during and after the Second World War. Immediately following the war he worked as an artist in Dunedin, producing portraits and landscapes. In the decades following the war McIntyre won a number of art awards, and published eight books. He was awarded an OBE in 1970, and died in Wellington on 11 September 1995.

The National Collection of War Art is composed of about 1,500 artworks, including portraits, battle scenes, landscapes and abstracts, depicting those who served New Zealand in times of war, and the arenas in which they served. It includes both official pieces of war art, by artists formally commissioned by the New Zealand government, and other unofficial art works that were acquired by or donated to the collection. The majority of artworks in the collection depict World War One and World War Two, however official war art continues to be commissioned by the New Zealand Defence Force up to the present day.


Archives reference: AAAC 898 82/ NCWA 315


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Uploaded on February 8, 2015