Prince Harry visits WWII battle site in Italy

Prince Harry visits WWII battle site in Italy
Britain's Prince Harry is accompanied by priest during the visit of the Abbey of Monte Cassino, southern Italy

CASSINO, Italy - Britain's Prince Harry visited Cassino in Italy on Sunday for the 70th anniversary of a key World War II battle in which tens of thousands died.

Army captain Harry, 29, attended a ceremony with veterans to remember Polish and New Zealand war dead and will honour Britain's fallen soldiers on Monday.

The prince in dress uniform laid a wreath at the Polish War Cemetery near the Abbey of Monte Cassino in a ceremony with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

He also attended a ceremony at the Commonwealth cemetery with New Zealand Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae for the 2,176 New Zealanders who fell.

The battle in and around the town of Cassino, some 140 kilometres (87 miles) southeast of Rome, eventually led to the liberation of the Italian capital.

The Battle of Monte Cassino actually consisted of four major assaults by Allied troops on German lines over a period of four months starting in February 1944.

During the fighting, the hilltop mediaeval monastery overlooking Cassino was destroyed by US bomber planes because the Allies believed that German troops had been using it as a defensive bastion.

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 had died on the Allied side and 20,000 among German forces.

Later on Sunday, Harry is expected at Rome's MAXXI contemporary art museum for the inauguration of Britain's pavilion for the Milan Expo in 2015.

Harry flew into Rome on Friday from Estonia, where he met troops taking part in a NATO training exercise including some he served with in Afghanistan.

Harry, who is fourth in line to the throne, has been in the headlines because of his reported split with society beauty Cressida Bonas last month.

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