Tour Narrator – Frank de Planta
Frank de Planta has had an interest in military history since childhood and has run battlefield studies in Spain, France and Italy. He read Modern History at King’s College, London and was commissioned into The Royal Anglian Regiment in 1984. He retired in 1991 and joined the Territorial Army during which time he commanded East Midlands Officers’ Training Corps in Nottingham.
Fred Majdalany’s personal account of Cassino sparked an intense interest and he now devotes much of his free time to this fascinating and highly controversial series of battles that, ultimately, led to a costly breakthrough in May/June 1944. His interest then shifted to include Anzio, a part of the Italian Campaign that is inextricably linked to Cassino.
In 2010, his projects included working with Wall to Wall, the production company for the BBC 1 series ‘Who Do You Think You Are?‘. His project for 2011 was researching the route of 1/6 Surreys from the fall of Rome in June 1944 to the capture of Forli, in northern Italy, in October 1944. During 2012, he completed research for the Battle of Salerno in order to include it as a study. For 2013, he researched 1 Canadian Infantry Division’s assault on the Hitler Line on 23 May 44 and during 2014 he examined in detail the 128 (Hampshire) Infantry Brigade crossing of the Garigliano on 19 January 1944 as part of the assault on the Gustav Line. 2015 and 2016 were spent researching 234 Infantry Brigade’s futile defence of the former Italian island of Leros in the Dodecanese in November 1943 – often described as ‘Churchill’s Folly‘. 2017 and 2018 focussed on the Eighth Army’s tumultuous battle for the Gothic Line in August-September 1944. For 2019, he is researching 5 Canadian Armoured Division’s handling of the rush to secure the River Melfa on 24-25 May 1944 during which Major John Mahoney was awarded the Victoria Cross. For 2020-22, he has spent the period of Covid lockdown writing a trilogy – a series of three books entitled ‘A Walking Tour of Italy’s WWII Battlefields covering the Allied involvement in Italy from Salerno to Rome. For 2023, he has been researching the US Fifth Army move up the west coast to Florence and their desperate and demanding 1944-45 Winter in the Apennines.
Frank de Planta explains the D Company 2nd Battalion Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry diversionary attack on 11-12 May 1944 to soldiers from 2nd Battalion Royal Gurkha Rifles in June 2023.