|Air photograph issued for operation dickens. The road to the monastery winds up towards the top of the picture. |
General Freyberg set the next attack for 24 February. Called Operation DICKENS, the attack comprised two infantry divisions and a tank regiment. Believing a direct approach would prove more effective, Freyberg planned to attack frontally into the town of Cassino, but heavy rains delayed the operation until 15 March. Following the Italian Campaign's first massive carpet bombing, Freyberg's troops engaged in heavy fighting within the town and on the surrounding heights. For the next 10 days, II New Zealand Corps fought in close combat amid the ruins of Cassino with little effect. Because Freyberg failed to commit his reserves in a decisive manner, his conduct of the operation resulted in the heavy casualties he had hoped to avoid. By 24 March, the II New Zealand Corps attacks had halted, with the Germans still in possession of portions of Cassino and the abbey's ruins.