WHITE Duncan Urquhart
11480, Captain temp Major, New Zealand Engineers, WW2
Distinguished Service Order
For a week preceeding he initial assault on Cassino on 15 March 1944 and throughout the period of the attack in the town itself Captain (Temp Major) White as Officer Commanding a Field Company of Engineers was responsible for the direction and completion of very important but difficult and hazardous engineer tasks. His achievements were the greater because of the fact that half of his officers and several of his senior NCOs were detached to the Armoured Brigade and were not available to him. Prior to the main assault Captain (Temp Major) White on numerous occasions made valuable reconnaissances of river crossings, approach routes and minefields all right at the edge of Cassino and under fixed line machinegun fire from Point 193. Under repeated bursts of heavy shelling he carried out major repairs on the Rapido River banks to prevent the flooding of the ground and approach roads which had to be traversed by the assaulting troops. While he directed his parties on the clearing of mines along the North and Northeast fringe of Cassino, he himself disarmed and dealt with dangerous “booby” traps. Under intermittent but accurate mortar fire he organized and led the working parties throughout two successive nights on the construction of a ford across the river adjacent to the gaol, and during the night previous to the attack he completed a difficult bridging operation on the Pasquale Road despite fixed line firing from Point 193.
On the 15th March 1944 Captain (Temp Major) White led his company forward with the assaulting infantry to prepare the way for the tanks. The bombing had destroyed the ford giving entrance to the town, and streets and roads were completely obliterated by heaps of masonry and overlapping craters up to fifty feet in width and frequently containing ten to fifteen feet of water. Despite such formidable obstacles Captain (Temp Major) White quickly had his men at work and the tanks were helped to make steady progress into the town. His working parties were constantly sniped and heavily mortared and casualties continued to occur, but by his magnificent example and courageous leadership he held his men together and with determination pushed the tracks ahead. He repeatedly went forward alone working out and selecting routes well into the middle of the town. He was sniped at almost continuously on these occasions. His steel helmet was penetrated by a bullet, and soon afterwards a bullet pierced the back of his neck, but he refused to be evacuated and carried on with his work. When, owing to the alertness and activity of enemy snipers, movement of working parties during hours of light became impossible Captain (Temp Major) White continued to make reconnaissances through the rubble and round the craters by day in order that he could more efficiently lead his working parties by night. It was seldom necessary to instruct him to carry out a task. He always anticipated requirements and, no matter how severe the enemy shelling and machine-gunning, he carried out prompt maintenance and repairs of shell damage and craters which continuously occurred in all important roads and tracks.
In the late afternoon of 22 March 1944 the bridge on the southern fork of Highway 6 just at the edge of town was knocked out. It was most important that the bridge should be quickly rebuilt so that replacement tanks, tank ammunition, and other supplies could go through. Except for one of Captain (Temp Major) White’s platoons, which was to have had its first night of rest for a considerable period, all other Engineers of the Division were already fully committed for the night on almost equally important tasks. Notwithstanding that both he himself and his men had had a particularly arduous and exhausting time, Captain (Temp Major) White unhesitatingly volunteered to replace the bridge. As he led his men and the bridging equipment to the site he found the whole area under heavy mortar fire. He halted his party and went forward alone to ascertain the exact work required. His men and stores were called forward only as necessary so that the minimum number of men at any one time were exposed to the enemy mortaring. However casualties were occurring, but Captain (Temp Major) White went calmly, though energetically, about his work and the bridge had been set out and the erection was in hand when he himself received a severe wound in the hip. He could no longer stand and with the loss of much blood was becoming very weak. Nevertheless, he refused to be evacuated until he saw the task well advanced and until he had given full instructions to the Sergeant who now remained in charge.
Throughout the battle for Cassino Captain (Temp Major) White cheerfully carried out the most difficult and dangerous tasks. He contributed in considerable measure to the clearing of the way for the assaulting Infantry, to the opening up of tank tracks and to the keeping open of the vitally important maintenance routes. His outstanding gallantry was an inspiration to all with whom he came in contact
Distinguished Service Order
War Medal 1939-45
New Zealand War Service Medal
Born 2 March 1908, Kaituna, New Zealand
Died 1977, Napier, New Zealand