||Forum Eerste Wereldoorlog
Hťt WO1-forum voor Nederland en Vlaanderen
Geregistreerd op: 11-6-2007
|Geplaatst: 07 Dec 2007 22:22 Onderwerp: Italian Campaigns,1915-1918
At the outbreak of the World War the Italian general staff had no worked-out plan for an offensive campaign against Austria-Hungary. The omission was not due to the fact of the Triple Alliance, for the prospect of war on the N.E. front had always been faced, but to the relative military position of the two countries. The Habsburg Empire had a great superiority over Italy in organized and potential man-power and in material, but the controlling factor which seemed to deny the possibility of Italian offensive action was the frontier drawn in 1866. The Trentino salient, thrust down like a great wedge to within a few miles of the Lombardo-Venetian plains, dominated the strategical situation. Nor was the hampering influence of the frontier confined to a practical veto upon attack. Its length in relation to Italian military strength, and above all the fact that the threat of the Trentino came so far west in the long line, meant that Italy's defensive frontiers were far from being coterminous with her political boundaries. The first possible line of defence was held to be the Tagliamento, with its fortified bridgeheads at Osoppo, Codroipo and Latisana; plans had been drawn up with the Piave as the main line of resistance, though with the intention of meeting the enemy in the plain E. of the river; but there was much to be said for the contention that the true military frontier of Italy was still the line of the Mincio and the Po.
The plans and studies of peacetime had been based upon the supposition of a duel between Italy and Austria-Hungary, and the outlook changed in view of the general conflagration. The prospect of a break with Austria-Hungary was at once considered by the Italian general staff, and by Aug. 21 1914 a scheme of offensive operations had been outlined. This plan was based upon the supposition of Italy's entry into the war within a month and upon the consent of the Italian Government to provide at once for the requirements put forward by Gen. Cadorna, chief of the general staff. As neither condition was fulfilled, the plan need not be discussed, and it was in fact withdrawn by Cadorna a month later. The preparations of the winter and spring and the march of events on the French and Russian fronts determined the plan of operations which it was hoped to carry out upon Italy's entry into the war.
Gen. Cadorna, who took command of the Italian armies on the declaration of war, had worked out his scheme on the idea that Italy's object should be to hold on the N. and push towards the E. He had not sufficient strength to attack in both sectors. This decision, however, did not imply a passive defensive on the mountain front. On the contrary, the choice of the eastern sector for the main offensive demanded an active defensive, or rather a limited offensive, on the mountain front, and especially in the Trentino. If the operations towards the E. were to be developed with reasonable security it was absolutely essential to improve the position in the Trentino, to reduce, at least, the threat to Italian communications caused by the great salient. The long frontier may be divided into three sectors: (1) the Trentino salient; (2) the great barrier of the Cadore and Carnic Alps; (3) the eastern frontier from Pontebba to the sea. In the first of these sectors the Austrians had an overwhelming advantage in the natural lie of the terrain and the use which had been made of it. The salient was well protected on the flanks; on the W. by the great Alpine mass that is broken only by two feasible passes, the Stelvio and the Tonale, and on the E. by the mountains N. of Asiago and the great rocks of the western Dolomites, a wall that had only two gaps, the narrow valley of the Brenta and the road that runs from Feltre by Fiera di Primiero and the Passo di Rolle. The Austrians were in this position, that they could defend the salient with a comparatively small number of troops thanks to the immense natural strength of the positions they occupied and the system of fortifications which had been prepared, while within their mountain walls and behind these fortifications they could concentrate forces for an attack through the comparatively narrow mountainous zone which lay between the frontier and the plains. Three classic military routes led into Italy, through the Guidicaria, Lagarina and Sugana valleys, and other roads had opened up the difficult country between the Adige and the Brenta. East of the Trentino, from the Marmolada through the Alps of Cadore and Carnia as far as Pontebba, operations on an important scale were almost equally difficult for both sides, in face of the natural advantages that lay with the defensive. The Italians had a greater depth of mountainous zone to back their first lines, but the Austrians, with the Pusterthal and the Gailthal, were very much better off for lateral communications. The third sector of the front, from Pontebba to the sea, was less unfavourable to an Italian attack, but here also the conditions were very difficult. Between Pontebba and the Isonzo great mountains blocked the way, while the upper and middle reaches of the Isonzo flow through a wild, mountainous country with few roads. South of Tolmino indeed the mountain masses decrease in height and steepness, but the country still has the aspect of a giant ridge and furrow. The plain of Friuli narrows rapidly as it approaches its eastern limits, and at the old frontier the gap between the lagoons and the foothills of the Julian Alps is not 15 m. in width. And this gap has little depth; less than 10 m. to the E. of the old frontier begins the plateau of the Carso. The approaches from the W. are completely commanded from the Carso and the hills about Gorizia, and to the E. the ground rises again. Here, too, Italy had to fight over country where the enemy had a very great advantage in position. Still, the natural obstacles were much less formidable towards the Isonzo than elsewhere along the frontier; communications were fair in the plain and there was space for an attack upon a relatively wide front. Above all, a successful advance in this direction would lead somewhere, would threaten a vital part of the monarchy. An invasion of the Trentino held no such promise. At the most, success would have meant the reduction of the salient and the occupation of the unredeemed" territories, for northern Tirol must be considered impregnable. The choice of Cadore and Carnia for the main offensive was open to the same objection. Given the strong defensive positions near the frontier, the Austrian superiority in communications and the distance of any objective of firstclass importance, the prospects of an advance in strength afforded by this region were not tempting, the less so as the district afforded little in the way of supplies. There was a further argument in favour of attacking towards the E., that an attack in this direction would be calculated to occupy a much greater number of enemy troops than an attempt to advance in the mountains. The fact that Austria-Hungary was already heavily engaged elsewhere gave the Italian general staff the chance of attacking but there were corresponding obligations. The Italian campaign had obviously to be planned as part of a whole, and it was the duty of the Italian command not merely to strike for Italian aims but to cooperate in the general struggle.
Cadorna decided on the plan that offered the chance of the greater success, and he framed his scheme of operations on the supposition that in May 1915 he could expect simultaneous offensive action on the part of Russia and Serbia. The objections to an offensive in the direction of Trieste and Laibach were obvious enough: a successful advance meant the lengthening of a front that was already very long in proportion to the number of troops and guns available, and, moreover, increased the menace of the Trentino salient. But the drawback was lessened by the expectation of Allied action on the N.E. and S. fronts of Austria-Hungary, which would prevent the enemy from taking advantage of this weakness.
Cadorna's plan, completed in detail while the Russians were still upon the Dunajec, was as follows. Gen. Roberto Brusati with the I. Army was to conduct a limited offensive against the Trentino salient, with the object of shortening the line and securing strong defensive positions. Gen. Nava with the IV. Army was to push N. from Cadore to threaten the enemy communications in the Pusterthal and cooperate in an advance from Carnia. This advance was to be conducted by a separate force under Gen. Lequio, consisting mainly of mountain troops, which was to move in the direction of Tarvis. The II. and III. Armies, under Generals Frugoni and Zuccari respectively, were to cross the Isonzo and attack E. with all speed. A large number of troops, with units brought up to war strength by the recall of several classes, had been in the neighbourhood of the frontier for many months. They were not in sufficient strength for attack, but were aligned with the object of covering mobilization; for the enemy was already fully mobilized, and the prospect of a sudden attack on his part had to be considered.
As the discussions between Rome and Vienna gradually led towards the final break, the Austro-Hungarian command prepared for defence. In addition to the strong permanent works already existing on the main routes, "barrier lines" were constructed in the valleys and on the open sectors of the front; many of the fortress guns were removed and placed in wellconcealed positions, and wire was lavishly employed. At the end of April the Austrian covering troops, under the command of Gen. von Rohr, numbered about 80,000 infantry, 1,400 cavalry and 54 batteries, in addition to fortress troops and guns. Two divisions under Gen. von Koennen-Horac were stationed in the Trentino; one division under Gen. von Langen watched the approaches to Carinthia; two divisions under Generals von Boog and von Kuczera were upon the middle and lower Isonzo respectively, or, rather, E. of the river, in the mountains, on the Carso and about Gorizia. These divisions were improvised formations, with a considerable proportion of second-line troops and volunteer battalions.
When Italy denounced the alliance with Austria-Hungary, on May 3 1915, Vienna was already convinced that war was certain. The attempts to continue discussions had only been undertaken for the purpose of gaining time, and military preparations were hastened. It was the first intention of Gen. Conrad von Hotzendorf to wait for the Italians at Klagenfurt and Laibach and attack them as their columns came out of the mountainous country, but the plan was not approved by the German command. Falkenhayn declined to give the io divisions which Conrad required for this plan, and it was abandoned. Conrad wished to smash Cadorna's offensive by manoeuvre and counter-attack. Falkenhayn was not only unwilling to spare the troops for this plan but he doubted whether Cadorna would allow himself to be led into Conrad's trap; he feared the difficulties of recovering territory once abandoned, and he realized the great natural strength of the Isonzo and Carso lines. It was decided to conduct an obstinate defensive rather than to attempt Conrad's plan. The command of the AustroHungarian armies on the Italian front was given to the Archduke Eugene, who had commanded the Balkan armies. His chief of staff was Gen. Krauss, and under his direction Gen. Dankl, lately in command of the I. Army, was entrusted with the Tirol and Trentino sector; Gen. von Rohr commanded on the Carinthia front, while Gen. Boroevich von Bojna, lately in command of the III. Army, took charge of the Isonzo - Carso front. It was not until May 21, three days before the declaration of war, that the main body of Boroevich's army, consisting of five divisions brought from the Serbian front, began to be entrained from near Agram. When war was declared the Isonzo front, from Tolmino southward, was lightly held by three divisions under Gen. Ludvig von Goiginger.
Meanwhile Cadorna had to adapt his plans to the quickly changing circumstances. The Russian armies N. of the Carpathians had given way under the attacks of Mackensen and BoehmErmolli, and had begun the great retreat that was to go so far. There was no word of movement, even of demonstration, on the Serbian front. The request of the Allies that the Serbian armies should resume action, or at least make a show of action, met with no response, and in May the Austro-Hungarian troops on the Serbian front were reduced by five divisions, their place being taken by three newly formed German divisions, which had not yet completed their establishment. Various reasons, military and political, have been given for the inaction of the Serbians, but in the present connexion it is simply the fact that matters, the fact which allowed five Austro-Hungarian divisions to be transferred en bloc from the Serbian front to the Italian theatre of war.
The altered circumstances compelled Cadorna to revise his immediate objectives, but not his general plan of attack. A further handicap, in his view, was imposed by the denunciation of the alliance with Austria-Hungary three weeks before the declaration of war, and by the immediate leakage regarding the London agreement between Italy and the Entente, which gave the enemy more grace to prepare against his initial moves. The time for preparation was further lengthened by the political crisis caused by the last efforts of Berlin and Vienna to keep Italy out of the war. On the other hand, the main body of the Italian army was not ready for an earlier advance. It was not fully ready when war was declared. Mobilization was nearly complete as far as the men were concerned, for drafts had been brought up gradually during the previous months. The armies were ready to fight in their positions against an Austrian attack, or for preparatory movements on a limited scale. They were not ready, the eastern armies in particular, for a big advance.
On the eve of war, Cadorna's dispositions were as follows: Brusati's I. Army, with 5 divisions and io battalions of Alpine troops, was to push forward in the Trentino, and carry out the limited offensive already indicated. The IV. Army under Nava was to advance, the right wing upon the Pusterthal, the left wing across the great Dolomite road, past the peaks of the Sella group, to threaten the valleys running down to the Eisack. Nava had five divisions and seven Alpine battalions, while a sixth division of his army was at first held in reserve about Spilimbergo, near where the Tagliamento runs out into the plain of Friuli. To this army, in view of the positions which it had to attack, especially the Landro and Sexten fortifications, was assigned the bulk of Cadorna's very limited supply of heavy artillery, including practically all the guns above 149 mm., with the exception of seven batteries of 2 10's, assigned to the Carnia force. The task of Lequio's Carnia force, which consisted of an infantry division and 16 battalions of Alpine troops, was that designed in the original plan, the probable movements, in the event of success, depending upon those of the armies to right and left. The II. and III. Armies were to attack with all speed upon the Isonzo front, but their movements were to be inspired by strategic caution. They were to get under way as quickly as possible and break through the enemy's covering troops. Further movement was to depend upon what they found, and upon the news from the other fronts. While initial speed was obviously the essence of Cadorna's plan, he was handicapped by the fact that another fortnight was required for complete mobilization. Frugoni's II. Army was to consist of three army corps (eight divisions), and Zuccari's III. Army of three corps (six divisions) with three cavalry divisions. On May 24 only three corps and two cavalry divisions were ready for the initial attack. Meantime there had been a difference of opinion between Cadorna and Zuccari, and the clash of two strong characters made the difference irreparable. As a result Zuccari was relieved of his command and the III. Army was entrusted to the Duke of Aosta, on the very eve of the declaration of war.
In addition to the divisions already mentioned, a central reserve of io divisions and one cavalry division was in process of mobilization in the plains of the Veneto and Friuli,-5 infantry divisions in the rear of the Trentino sector, the other 5 and the cavalry between the Tagliamento and the eastern frontier, - but these troops could not be ready for action for some three weeks. The first shots of the war were fired by Austrian guns upon the Carnia front, a few hours before midnight on May 23, the hour fixed for the opening of hostilities, and early on May 24 the Italian advance began.
The opening moves of the campaign, all-important as they were in relation to the future operations which depended upon them, failed to obtain the results hoped for in Cadorna's design. The I. Army was prompt to carry the limited objectives assigned to it, overcoming the weak resistance of the enemy covering troops and occupying positions which not only were in themselves much better adapted for defense than the frontier, but greatly reduced the length of the line to be held. The IV. Army was very slow. Its heavy guns were not ready when hostilities began, and Nava waited upon their arrival, preoccupied by the strong positions which faced him and the permanent fortifications which lay beyond. It would appear that he was influenced by the positions themselves and assumed the existence of an opposition which in fact he would not have found. He was not ready himself to carry out his plan of advance, which was based on the supposition that the enemy resistance was already adequately organized. He held by his plan and may have missed an opportunity of reaching his objective by changing it. His initiative was hampered by adherence to method. Lequio's Carnia force was quick to move, and found that the enemy was equally quick. This sector was all-important to the Austrians, from the point of view both of offence and defence. It was essential to prevent a break-through to Tarvis and Villach, and if they could hold the frontier line it preserved for them the chance of the attack down the valleys converging upon the Tagliamento which had long figured in the plans of their general staff. This sector had been quickly reenforced as the danger of war became imminent; and here alone, in the first days of the campaign, there was, roughly speaking, an equivalence of infantry strength. The contending troops met on the passes and the mountains that flanked them; and though the Italians had the best of the fighting which followed, and wrested several important positions from the enemy, it was quickly evident that the way was blocked here against all but an attack in overwhelming strength. On the other hand, Lequio's quickness had locked a door upon which the enemy had his eye.
Meanwhile the II. and III. Armies were on the move. Frugoni with two corps (5 divisions and 14 battalions of Alpini) attacked along the line of the Isonzo from Saga to opposite Gorizia. The Duke of Aosta, with a single corps and two cavalry divisions, was to force the passage of the lower Isonzo and push on towards the Carso, his other divisions following rapidly as their preparations for movement were completed. The II. and III. Armies were in theory organized for quick movement; their artillery, except for 12 batteries of 149-mm. guns, consisted entirely of field-guns, mountain-guns and 149-mm. field-howitzers (19 batteries), and the proportion of guns to men and shells was very low. Speed and initiative were essential to the success of the opening moves, and at various points speed and initiative were lacking.
The Austrians had withdrawn beyond the line of the Isonzo, except at the two bridgeheads opposite Tolmino and Gorizia, which were held in force, and S. of Gorizia the line of defence chosen was the Carso plateau, only a few covering troops being disposed along the lower reaches of the river, which leaves the Carso at Sagrado. For the II. Army the first obstacle was the river line and the two bridgeheads, and the main initial attack was to come from the II. Army, whose preparations were further advanced and which was echeloned forward; but the I. Cavalry Division, which was attached to the III. Army, was to dash for the Pieris bridges and secure the crossing for the infantry. The cavalry were inexplicably slow, and the bridges were destroyed just before they arrived. This failure would have mattered less, and might have mattered not at all, but for a sudden and violent flood which filled the wide bed of the Isonzo with a deep and rapid stream and made the fords impassable. And the pontoon trains were far away. Cadorna had counted on passing the lower reaches of the river by bridge and ford, and his very inadequate supply of bridging material had been designed for later use or use in other sectors of the front. It was not until June 4, when the river was falling, that it was possible for the right wing of the III. Army to throw troops across in force. Meanwhile the left wing had advanced from Cormons against the northern half of the Carso, where the Isonzo flows like a moat under the plateau, and farther N. the II. Army had come in touch with the enemy all along its front. The long ridge which separates the valleys of the Judrio and the Isonzo from Kolovrat to Verhoolje, was occupied without resistance, but the Austrians had fortified the bridgeheads opposite Tolmino and Gorizia, and here an unexpected opposition was found. Both bridgeheads were naturally very strong. In neither case, owing to the course of the river, did the Austrian position form a salient. The defence of the hills of Santa Lucia and Santa Maria opposite, Tolmino, and of Monte Sabotino and Podgora, N. and W. of Gorizia, was supported by direct flanking fire from the positions to the N. and S. on the left bank of the river. The right wing and centre of the II. Army were quickly brought to a standstill in front of the bridgeheads; tentative attacks, carried out by small detachments, were readily repulsed, and a pause followed. The bridgeheads were invested, and here too, perhaps, the theory of "fixed positions," the old rule that these could not be ignored, had too much weight with the attacking forces. For every day lessened the chance of breaking through the thin enemy line, strong only at selected points. On the other hand, the country is extraordinarily difficult, and roads were few and mostly bad. And those which were suitable for the movement of troops and guns led only to the points where the enemy was holding in some force. On the left wing of the army the IV. Corps under Gen. Di Robilant crossed the Isonzo N. of Tolmino and pushed up into the mountains E. of the river, hoping to turn the Tolmino position. Appalling weather made movement in the mountains impossible during the critical week, and when the chance of a surprise had gone the great barrier of the Julian Alps was an insuperable obstacle to such forces as the Italians could bring against it. Guns, shells, machine-guns and transport were lacking.
The Austrians were rushing troops to the Italian front, and by the middle of June Boroevich had eight divisions to put against the II. and III. Italian Armies. Rohr's Carinthian army had been reinforced by two divisions and a mountain brigade from the Russian front. Dankl's Trentino army, which was not organized in divisions, but in groups assigned to various defensive sectors, had been increased to 96 battalions, including the Bavarian Alpenkorps which had come into line by the end. of May. The Austrians were greatly inferior in numbers - they had on the front some 20 divisions against Cadorna's 35 - but they held positions which were naturally ideal for defence, and these were well fortified by art, too well for the limited means of destruction at the disposal of the Italians.
Cadorna had counted upon surprising the enemy, but this advantage had been partly denied him. When he heard of the denunciation of the treaty with Austria-Hungary he pressed for an immediate declaration of war, which would allow him to move at once and reach the positions he had designed as his first objective. A striking force was ready then - there were nearly as many troops available for immediate movement in the first week of May as there were at the outbreak of war - and he would have gained between 15 and 20 precious days. Political considerations stayed his hand, and the initial delay was lengthened by the Biilow-Giolitti crisis. Bad weather and hesitation on the part of junior generals did the rest. The operations N. of Tolmino were practically stopped by the fierce mountain storms, and the advance of the III. Army only reached Monfalcone on June 6. Nor even then was it possible to attack the plateau in force. By blowing out a bank of the Sagrado - Monfalcone canal and closing the dam across the river, the Austrians had used the flood waters of the Isonzo to inundate a great stretch of lowlying ground below the Carso. It was not until June i 1 that the dam near Sagrado was destroyed and. the flooded area ceased to be fed by the waters of the river. During the following days the Italians succeeded in throwing troops across the Isonzo near Sagrado and by June 27, after prolonged and heavy fighting, they had pushed the Austrians up the slopes S. of Monte San Michele and established the bridgehead that was necessary for a general attack on the whole front of the Carso. Meanwhile a small bridgehead had been established at Playa, a few miles N. of Gorizia. The quick-flowing waters of the Isonzo, which here run pent in a narrow gorge, were crossed on June 9, 10 and 11, with great difficulty. The bridgehead won was very limited in area, and dominated by the mountains on the eastern bank; it was long before it could be enlarged to any great extent. Attacks were made along the greater part of the front from Tolmino to the sea at the end of June and during the early days of July, but these hardly reached the standard of a methodical, organized offensive on the scale that was now clearly necessary. There was some very stiff fighting during these days, and both sides lost heavily, especially on the slopes of the Carso, where the Austrians gave ground here and there and on more than one occasion were very hard pressed to maintain their lines intact. Two fresh divisions were brought from Carinthia to strengthen the threatened line between Gorizia and the sea, while another division was brought from the Balkan front and a mountain brigade from Pola. The Italian attacks had hitherto been conducted at "long range": that is to say, the point of departure for the infantry advance was at a considerable distance from the enemy entrenchments. In many cases the attacking infantry was checked before it reached the wire entanglements; too often when the wire was reached it was found nearly intact, for the destructive power of the Italian guns was insufficient to clear the way for the infantry, and many gallant attempts with wire-cutters and gelatine tubes were inevitably condemned to failure. Gradually it became evident that the hopes of a war of movement must be given up, that only the slow processes of trench warfare could lead to success. Sporadic attacks continued during the first half of July, and though the Austrians held on to most of their positions the Italians established themselves at much better jumping-off places than those which they had occupied before.
On July 18 the Italian III. Army attacked in the most determined manner, and after three weeks' hard fighting, during which the Austrians made a great attempt to push the Italians back across the river near Sagrado, the struggle came to an end with the latter firmly established under the crest of Monte San Michele and the village of San Martino del Carso, and in possession of most of Monte Sei Busi. Similar attacks by the II. Army made little impression on the Austrian lines, and losses were heavy, but the Austrians also suffered severely, losing more than io,000 prisoners. The lesson of two months' fighting, apart from the necessity of learning the business of trench warfare, was that the artillery, and especially the heavy artillery, at the disposal of the II. and III. Armies was altogether inadequate. There were not enough heavy guns and not enough shells, and much of the ammunition was defective. The bursting charge was weak, and there were a large number of "prematures." It was essential to increase the weight of artillery fire if the infantry were to have a chance. It was clear that developments in artillery technique were necessary, and the importance of counter-battery work began to impress itself upon some of the commands. But shells were few, and observation from the air was not taken seriously, so that it was long before the advocates of counter-battery work made any headway.
After two months' preparation a fresh attempt was made to break through on the Julian front. This action was preceded by various attacks in other sectors of the front, some of which resulted in useful territorial gains, while others carried the line forward without improving the general position or even with the result of weakening it. By his main attack Cadorna hoped to turn the Gorizia positions both from the N. and the S., and as a secondary operation, after crossing the middle Isonzo, to threaten Tolmino from the S. while the bridgehead and the town were attacked from the W. and N. It was also hoped to gain ground on the southern Carso, in the direction of Trieste. Cadorna had a great numerical superiority in men. The II. Army now consisted of 12 divisions and the III. of 7, while a reserve of 5 divisions lay ready in the Friuli plain. In all, Cadorna could dispose of 312 battalions on the Julian front. When the attack began Boroevich had about half this number of troops, but within three weeks he had the equivalent of 15 divisions at his disposal. It was on the II. Army front that the Italian superiority in number was great; on the Carso indeed the Duke of Aosta had no great advantage in numbers over the Archduke Joseph, who had assumed the command in this sector in July. But the terrain on Boroevich's right was such that he could expect to hold with greatly inferior forces, especially in view of the Italian weakness in artillery. Cadorna had put upon the Julian front every piece he could collect. He reduced the guns in the other sectors to the barest minimum; he dismantled the forts at Mestre and the lines of the Tagliamento, and so was able to form 20 batteries of medium-calibre guns, of old pattern. Altogether he had been able to give to the II. and III. Armies some 300 medium and heavy guns, but many of these were obsolete. And the supply of shells was very meagre, 2 5-30 per gun per day. The III. Army had the bulk of the heavy artillery, only 125 pieces being given to the II. Army, which had to attempt, by sheer superiority in infantry strength, to make up for its deficiencies in material. Along the whole Julian front there were some 1,250 guns of all calibre, and a million shells had been collected by the date fixed for the attack - Oct. 21.
The offensive went badly, like all the Allied offensives of those days. The means were insufficient for the width of front attacked; the artillery technique was not adapted to modern requirements, nor, as was natural at this stage, had the staffs as a whole, - army, corps or divisional, - fully realized the necessity of minute preparation and strict attention to detail. And a tendency noticeable during the first months of the war, especially in the II. Army, to use men in isolated petits paquets, first one detachment and if that failed then another and another, was still observable. The attempt to cross the river between Plava and Tolmino never promised success, for the preparations were insufficient and the crossing-points not well chosen. Although some successes were obtained N. and W. of Tolmino the attack in this region was not persisted in, owing to the failure farther south. The attempt to extend the Plava bridgehead and so gain room to threaten Gorizia from the N. was equally unsuccessful. After various attempts both these actions were broken off, and the battle was concentrated upon the Gorizia bridgehead and the Carso. Sabotino had been taken by direct assault on the first day of the battle, but, owing to defective staff work and an attitude on the part of the army command that can best be described by the phrase "laisser aller," this success was not promptly backed up, and a fierce counter-attack drove the Italians off the ridge they had so gallantly stormed. All subsequent attempts to retake Sabotino failed, and the prolonged struggle for the hills about Oslavia and the battered hog-back of Podgora was little more successful. The Italians gained ground here and there, eating into the Austrian lines, but they could not break through. Farther S. the attacks of the III. Army met with similar fortune. Ground was gained, a trench here, a trench there, and the Italian line was carried almost to the summits of Monte San Michele. The attacks were renewed again and again, and the troops displayed remarkable gallantry and resolution. They were met by a resistance no less determined, and the losses on both sides were very heavy indeed. Early in Dec. the offensive died down. Cadorna's battalions were worn out by their prolonged and gallant efforts, and drafts were not forthcoming to fill their terribly depleted ranks. During the six weeks' fighting Cadorna lost nearly 140,000 men, and he had little to show in the way of tangible prize. Nor did the mere figures of the casualty list give the measure of the loss suffered. The gravest loss was that of the trained officers and under-officers, who could not be replaced. Cadorna could not claim a victory, but he had reduced the forces of Boroevich to the last extremity. He had come very near performing what he had not means to perform, and only stubborn valour and an ample supply of machine-guns saved the Austrian lines. Boroevich had his back to the wall when the Italian offensive came to an end. He had lost nearly 9,000 prisoners; his battalions were worn out and his reserves were exhausted; but Cadorna had no strength left for a further attack.
The results of the first seven months' campaigning were disappointing to those - and they were many, both in Italy and in the Allied countries - who had hoped for far greater effects from Italy's intervention. Some of the reasons for Cadorna's comparative lack of success have been indicated in the course of the narrative and some are illustrated more fully in other articles. First of all stands the fact that in May 1915 the Italian army was very meagrely provided with the material necessary to modern war. Cadorna's only chance of early success on the lines expected by the optimists lay in quick movement against an enemy unable to man the passes and defensive lines that lent themselves so well to resistance, even in face of greatly superior forces. The southern half of the Julian front offered a far better chance of an Italian success than any other sector. There was no comparison as regards terrain or communications. Yet it was the Austrian positions in this region that Falkenhayn described as "ideal for defence against superior numbers." When, for the various reasons which have been given, Cadorna's first move failed to secure the results hoped for, the Italian armies were forced into a warfare for which they were very badly prepared. It is true that they were badly prepared for any kind of warfare, and would hardly have fared better in a campaign of movement. In any case, a new technique had to be learned and the means for developing it were not available. The story of the first seven months of the Italian campaign is the story of a magnificent attempt to supplement deficiencies in skill and material by resolution and heroism. Not that resolution was always evident. Instances of the contrary have been given, and there were others: the long tale of general officers dismissed by Cadorna during the first months of the war bears witness to failures.
During these early months the Austrians, both officers and men, were clearly superior in skill to their opponents. They had the advantage of nine months' experience when Italy took the field, and they made good use of it. And their superior skill was backed by a spirit which the armies of the Dual Monarchy sometimes failed to show on the eastern front. The Slav troops which fought with reluctance against Russia displayed a very different demeanour against Italy, and, according to Gen. von Cramon, head of the German Mission at Austro-Hungarian headquarters, this was specially noticeable in the case of the Southern Sla y s, whose country was immediately threatened with invasion, and who had ambitions of their own which conflicted with those of Italy. The rest of the Habsburg peoples, moreover, were embittered by Italy's transformation from an ally to an enemy, and both Falkenhayn and Hindenburg bear witness to the fact that the Austrian army showed a very different spirit against its two main adversaries.
Many lessons were learned by the Italian army during the campaign of 1915, and the experience of these months bore fruit also in other quarters. It began to be realized in Rome that the army must have what it needed, that "conservative finance" had to give way before the imperious requirements of modern war, that every idea or estimate regarding numbers of men and supplies of munitions had to be revised in the light of new experience. The winter months were busily employed, especially in the munition factories. A great effort was necessary, for at the end of the 1915 campaign Cadorna had lost half of his small supply of middle-calibre guns through "prematures" or other accidents, and the factories, instead of augmenting his artillery strength, had so far scarcely kept pace with wastage. But the preparatory work was beginning to tell, and as far as artillery was concerned the situation was largely transformed during the winter of 1915-6. The small total of heavy and medium guns was increased sevenfold. But shells were still scarce in proportion to modern requirements, especially as these went on increasing with each month. And if Cadorna's artillery strength was greatly increased, so was that of his adversary.
The supply of men, no less than that of material, required to be replenished and augmented. In seven months the Italian losses in the field were close upon 280,000-66,090 killed, 190,400 wounded, and 22,520 prisoners. This was in addition to casualties from sickness, which were heavy, including as they did the losses from an outbreak of cholera which originated with prisoners freshly arrived from the eastern theatre of war. This outbreak was promptly tackled, and did not spread widely, but there were several thousand deaths in the isolated area. Men had to be found, not only to fill up the gaps but to make new formations, for it was clear that the war was going to make untold demands upon man-power. During the winter the gaps were filled and eight new divisions were ready in the spring, while others were in process of formation; and Cadorna had succeeded, after some difficulty, in having the classes required for drafts called up well ahead of his immediate needs. This was especially necessary, as, owing to the small annual contingent taken before the war, the bulk of each class was practically untrained. It was, moreover, necessary to instruct the trained units in the new methods which the trench warfare was evolving, if these new methods were to be carried out successfully. Unfortunately, the necessity for this methodical training was not generally, or even widely, understood, and the Italian army and nation paid heavily for the absence of properly organized training schools and camps. On the other hand, it must be admitted that, to begin with, at least, except for the drafts there was little opportunity for instruction. The men were fully occupied either in fighting or working at the trenches and shelters which had to be made out of live rock, working at roads or hutments or other necessary constructions. There was not even time for necessary rest in these first months. The front was very long in proportion to the number of men available, and if there were relatively few men required to hold the mountain positions, the number required to supply these few with food and drink and fuel and ammunition, especially in winter, was far greater than in the plains.
During the early months of 1916 there was a good deal of sharp fighting on the Julian front, especially at the Gorizia bridgehead. The long struggle of the autumn and early winter had left the Italians in possession of an irregular and unsystematized line, unsuitable for prolonged occupation, and both sides carried out numerous small operations with the object of "rectifying the front." The Austrians were the more skilful at this game, as they were in conducting raids with the object of securing information, but the work done by the Italians with sap and mine on Monte Sabotino advanced the line by more than 600 yd., and brought it close under the main Austrian trenches, eliminating the wide stretch of open ground, exposed to both frontal and flanking fire, which had led to the failure of repeated attacks. In March, when the German attacks upon Verdun were at their fiercest, and rumour said that Austrian reinforcements might be sent to increase the weight of the offensive, Cadorna opened a big demonstrative action against the Gorizia bridgehead. This was only a demonstration, but brisk fighting took place, and both sides suffered considerable loss. Meanwhile preparations for a real offensive on the Julian front were well advanced, when news came that the Austrians were preparing a big attack in the Trentino. Cadorna was slow to believe in this project, which was first reported to him by Brusati on March 22. He considered that the news was a deliberate attempt on the part of the enemy to distract his attention from the Julian front, but further information convinced him that the Trentino offensive was really intended, and meanwhile he had taken what seemed adequate measures against the threat.
It was not unnatural that Cadorna should doubt the report of a really formidable enemy offensive in the Trentino. The situation on the Russian front hardly seemed to justify an Austrian offensive on the grand scale in a sector so "eccentric" (in the literal sense of the word). Conrad, however, had calculated that he could carry out the attack in the Trentino before Brusilov's armies could move. Relying upon his advantage of interior lines and the late passing of winter on the Russian front, he made his preparations gradually and secretly throughout the winter and spring, collecting vast quantities of stores and ammunition about Trento, and sending his reenforcements piecemeal until March, when troops were hurried to the front with all speed. Conrad had proposed the plan to Falkenhayn in the previous Dec., but Falkenhayn disapproved, and in the end Conrad acted independently, stripping his eastern front, especially of guns, to a dangerous extent. According to Falkenhayn, no official intimation of the offensive was given to Germany, and Falkenhayn himself did not know the extent to which Conrad had weakened his forces in the east. On the other hand, Falkenhayn attacked at Verdun without informing Conrad, so that each would seem to have the like ground for complaint.
The Strafexpedition, as it was termed in Austria, before the event, consisted of 14 divisions of picked troops, with over 2,000 guns, including a large proportion of heavy artillery. It is clear that such a force was by itself insufficient to "knock out" Cadorna's armies, but it is equally clear that a successful drive through the Italian lines in this sector might have compelled a rectification of the whole Italian front, and might have prepared the way for a further offensive in greater strength. And in the worst event there seemed the prospect that Cadorna's programme for the summer would be seriously upset. But the Austrian staff underestimated the resistance of the Italian infantry and Cadorna's power of manoeuvre; and it was mistaken about the date on which Brussilov could attack.
To meet the Austrian attack Brusati had a sufficient number of troops, but a considerable proportion of these were untried, and he was greatly inferior in artillery. He had 850 guns of all calibres, of which 336 were heavy or medium. Apparently both Cadorna and Brusati considered that the I. Army was sufficiently strong to resist the coming attack, and, though both had underestimated the weight of fire that was actually brought to bear on the Italian lines, their estimate of the situation would probably have been justified if the troops available had been more skilfully disposed, if the defensive positions had been better chosen and adequately prepared. Cadorna has been much criticized for his hesitation to believe Italian Campaigns (1915-1918)
A week later the Austrian offensive was launched. The Italian wings in Val Lagarina and Val Sugana held firm, though some of the positions which should have been prepared had not been touched; but in the centre, between the Val d'Assa and the Val Terragnolo, where the Austrian fire was heaviest and the positio,as occupied were not suitable for defence, and where the Italian line was thin, the front was driven in. Cadorna, who had himself assumed direct control of the operations, ordered a withdrawal to S. of the Posina and E. of the Astico and Assa, while he dispatched ample reinforcements to support the retiring troops and gave orders for the concentration of a large reserve force, to be known as the V. Army, E. and S. of Vicenza. Heavy fighting went on until June 17, but a fortnight before that date the Austrians were held. By June 2 Cadorna felt himself safe, though his opinion was not generally shared. The line was holding; his V. Army was practically ready in the plains, and still untouched; and in fact, although the Austrians were to gain a little more ground at heavy cost, his confidence was fully justified. The Strafexpedition was already condemned to failure when Brussilov, answering the appeal for cooperation made by Cadorna on May 19, attacked the weakened Austrian lines in front of him on June 4, and won the great victory that came within an ace of being decisive, if Cramon may be believed. At the Allied Conference held in the preceding March Brussilov's offensive had been fixed for the first half of May. As the time drew near the delay of a month was proposed, but when Cadorna asked for Russian cooperation and pointed out that the Austrian front in the E. had been weakened in order to carry out the Strafexpedition, the answer came that Brussilov would attack on June 2. His offensive, according to Falkenhayn, was not expected by the enemy to take place until the beginning of July; and, though it was delayed by two days in order to bring more troops into line, the surprise was complete. The attack in the Trentino, based on a miscalculation, nearly ended in the collapse of Austria's eastern front and it brought no gain corresponding to the risk run and the losses suffered.
The Austrians were 10th to give up the attack that had begun so well. For a fortnight after the beginning of Brussilov's drive they struggled to break through from the mountains to the plain, but at the end of that time, having made but negligible progress, they found their left wing attacked. Cadorna had begun his counter-offensive, and after a week's pressure the Austrians withdrew, flattening the salient which their advance had made.. They withdrew skilfully and steadily, before the Italian counter-attack was fully under way, to a line considerably in advance of their old positions, including as it did Cima Dodici, both sides of the Val d'Assa and the Tonezza plateau. This advance was the sole gain made, and the immediate price paid for it, apart from the disaster on the Russian front, was a casualty list that was estimated at over ioo,000 men. Nor did the penalty end here. Cadorna refrained from knocking his head against the lines upon which his retreating enemy turned and stood. The positions which he had regained were adequate to his aims in the Trentino, which were purely defensive, and instead of persisting in his counter-offensive he rapidly swung his reserves back to the Julian front, smashed through the Gorizia bridgehead and took Gorizia, and drove the Austrians from the western regment of the Carso plateau.
Cadorna had judged rightly and Conrad wrongly, and the former's swiftness of decision and manoeuvre led to a big Italian success. But there was a moment when the situation compelled Cadorna to consider and prepare for the possible retreat of the II., III. and IV. Armies from the Julian and Cadore fronts. Ten days after the opening of the Austrian attack he had to reckon with a possible failure of the troops of the I. Army to prevent the enemy reaching the plains in force. Cadorna made his plans for such a retreat, from the Isonzo to the Piave, and his frank statement of the possibility, together with his request for the recall of a division from Albania and 'one from Libya (one division had already been recalled from Albania towards the end of April), caused natural alarm in Rome. Salandra suggested a meeting of the commanderin-chief, the four army commanders, the premier, the Minister of War and two other members of the Cabinet, a suggestion which Cadorna declined, insisting that the responsibility for military decisions lay with himself, and not, as Salandra's proposal claimed, with the premier and council of ministers. He requested that if he no longer enjoyed the confidence of the Government he should be replaced at once. Salandra replied that his proposal had been misunderstood; but when the measures taken preparatory to a possible retreat from the Isonzo line were communicated to the Cabinet he returned to the charge, maintaining that such provisions could not be regarded as being confined to the province of the military authorities, but must be subordinate to the decisions of the Government. In reply Cadorna pointed out that military exigencies might demand immediate decisions which could not wait upon the deliberations of a Government, and that responsibility must lie with the commander-in-chief. Fortunately the question was not put to the test. The Austrian offensive was now fairly held, and it was not necessary to consider further, at this time, the question of a general retreat. The incident, however, has an importance as exemplifying a difference of opinion regarding the relative functions of the Government and the supreme command, which was to grow more serious as time went on. It was difficult, if not impossible, to say where precisely the functions of each should begin and end, and at a later date the friction increased.
During July, while a gradual transference of troops from W. to E. was being carried out, and preparations for an offensive on the Julian front were being hastened, the counter-offensive on the Trentino front was continued and several positions were taken, while the Austrians were kept on the qui vine by movements in Tirol. The attacks against the new Austrian lines in the Asiago and Arsiero uplands were not very fruitful; and on July 9, with his eye on Gorizia, Cadorna gave orders to slow down the offensive and return to the idea of defence. The attack farther N., on the other hand, gave good results. It was clearly unexpected by the Austrians, and the Italians made a considerable advance in the region of the Fassa Alps, occupying the Passo di Rolle and the mountains of Cavallazza and Colbricon on July 22, and seizing the village of Paneveggio, in the Val Travignolo, at the end of the month. The Austrians made repeated attempts to recapture their lost positions, hurrying reinforcements into the Val Travignolo, but their efforts were useless, and as the summer went on the Italians gained more ground in successive sharp actions, though operations on the grand scale were never undertaken and were indeed practically excluded by the nature of the terrain and the lack of communications. But the continued threat kept the Austrians nervous, and by the autumn some three divisions of picked mountain troops were concentrated in the valley of the Avisio.
During the winter of 1915-6, in preparation for an attack on Gorizia and the Carso, the right wing of the II. Army had been transferred to the III., so that the whole front from N. of Monte Sabotino down to the sea was under the command of the Duke of Aosta. Both III. and II. Armies had been temporarily weakened by the withdrawal of troops to form the V. Army, but even at the most critical moment of the Asiago battle the Duke had eight divisions and a dismounted cavalry division at his disposal. During July he was reinforced by three divisions, and a considerable number of heavy guns, and at the end of the month four more divisions with their artillery were rapidly transported from the Vicentine plain to the III. Army front.
A further division was given to the army from the general reserve, so that the Duke of Aosta had under his direct command 16 divisions and a dismounted cavalry division. He had 1,250 guns, of which 520 were heavy or medium, and these were supplemented by nearly Boo trench-mortars (bombarde), of which 138 were of 240-mm. calibre. These bombarde had been constructed during the winter in order to make up for the deficiency in heavy artillery which the manufacturing resources of Italy were inadequate to meet. The bombarda was in fact much more than what is usually understood by the term trenchmortar. Its range was much longer, and the destructive power of its big projectile was very great. Its advantage over the big gun, given Italy's poverty in manufacturing resources, was obvious. Its disadvantages are equally obvious: its forward position and the big flame of its discharge made it a relatively easy mark for the enemy's guns. The question of ammunition supply was also complicated by the forward position. The bombarda was a pis aller, but thanks to the devotion of the bombardieri it rendered great service.
On the Carso and about Gorizia Boroevich was badly prepared to meet the Italian attack, for Cadorna's quick transference of troops to the III. Army front enabled the Duke of Aosta to throw an overwhelming force against the Austrian lines. Boroevich had only five divisions in line and one in immediate reserve between Sabotino and the sea when the Duke launched his attack, and the Austrians were taken by surprise. The Duke began with a feint. On Aug. 4, after a heavy bombardment, the Italian VII. Corps attacked the low hills E. of Monfalcone, which had already seen much stubborn fighting. They stormed the enemy lines, but were driven back again by a counterattack. The thunder of the guns continued all along the III. Army front - a far heavier fire than had ever come from the Italian side, - and on the morning of Aug. 6 the intensity of the bombardment was redoubled. The infantry attack came in the afternoon, when the VI. Corps attacked the Gorizia bridgehead and the XI. the summits of Monte San Michele. The VI. Corps, commanded by Gen. Luigi Capello, had outgrown the dimensions of an army corps, for Capello, acting under the Duke of Aosta, was in command of no fewer than six divisions. His attack was brilliantly successful. Sabotino was taken on the run, in 40 minutes, while farther S. the greater part of the Podgora ridge was torn from the Austrians and some detachments reached the river at sunset. The Austrians defended themselves with the most obstinate valour. They counterattacked frequently, and on the afternoon of Aug. 8, when they were finally driven across the river, they had gained precious time for their hard-pressed commander. Italian troops crossed the river the same night and the town of Gorizia was occupied next day without resistance, while a general attack on the Carso was breaking down the stubborn defence which had survived the loss of the summits of San Michele early in the first day's fighting. On Aug. io the Austrians were driven back across the Vallone, the deep cut that separates the San Michele - Doberdo section of the Carso from the main plateau. Only at the extreme S. of their line, on the low ridges above the Lisert marshes, did they succeed in preventing a break through their original lines of defence.
Both to the E. of Gorizia and on the far side of the Vallone the advancing Italians found themselves faced by new lines, hidden among the woody slopes beyond the town or the stony undulations of the Carso. Cadorna still hoped to go through, for it was not yet clear whether the Austrians were standing on a line which they had fully prepared, or whether they were fighting to cover a retreat to positions still farther east. Hoping to find a way round, and at the same time to prevent a concentration of force against the advance of the VI. Corps, he ordered an attack by the II. Corps from the Plava bridgehead, at the same time restoring the VI. Corps to the II. Army, and instructing the Duke of Aosta to continue his attacks on the Carso. The attack from Plava came to nothing - given the difficulties of the terrain, the artillery preparation and support, through shortages of guns and ammunition, was totally insufficient - and the VI. Corps was held up by hidden machine-gun posts. The information regarding the new enemy lines was meagre, and they were well concealed among the trees. Only the III. Army continued to make progress, and Cadorna broke off the action in the plain of Gorizia, deciding that careful preparation was necessary for an attack upon the new positions. He reenforced the artillery of the III. Army with guns taken from the II., and the Duke of Aosta carried on his attack for a few days more before it became evident that on the Carso also the enemy lines were too strong to be taken in the later stages of an offensive, with ammunition ebbing and troops already weary. The enemy troops, of course, were still more worn-out. Their reserves were all in line, and to back these were only broken units and march battalions. If Cadorna had been able to bring, immediately, a fresh weight of destructive fire to bear upon the new lines he would almost certainly have gone through. He was still handicapped by lack of material.
The loss of the Gorizia bridgehead was a serious blow to the Austrians, but the advance on the Carso was a still greater threat to their line as a whole. It gave the Italian III. Army ample room beyond the Isonzo, and an admirable line of observation posts. The Duke of Aosta's divisions were no longer attacking a formidable glacis, with every inch of their own ground under the observation of the enemy, and with no "eyes" themselves to view his country. And an advance upon the Carso, now rendered more feasible by the alteration in relative position, threatened to turn the enemy lines E. of Gorizia. To complete the scheme, it is clear, a simultaneous attack to the N. of the town was indicated. Such an attack was always in Cadorna's mind; it had been attempted more than once. But he had not been able, nor was he now able, to collect the means necessary to the simultaneous attack. His artillery strength, both in guns and shells, was altogether insufficient. He had to choose between the Middle Isonzo and the Carso, and he chose the latter, with Dornberg, the Iron Gates and the Hermada as his objectives.
This idea governed the operations on the Julian front during the rest of the year 1916. Three times Cadorna attacked on the main Carso plateau, between the Vippacco and the Brestovica valley, using the right wing of the II. Army in the Gorizia plain to support the main operation, the attack by the Duke of Aosta's left. The first attack, launched on Sept. 14 and pursued for three days, was affected by bad weather and gave disappoint ing results, though considerable progress was made. The handicap of bad weather continued, and delayed each of the two short, sharp blows dealt by Cadorna before winter closed down. In four days' heavy fighting in Oct. and three days' still fiercer struggle at the beginning of Nov., the Duke of Aosta punched out a big salient on the northern half of the Carso, driving the Austrians back to their last line of trenches and occupying the important position of Faiti Hrib. In each of these three actions the attack was broken off as soon as it slowed down. The second and third were in fact only preparatory actions, not offensives on the grand scale. Previous experience had shown that more men and more guns and shells were necessary for a successful attack on a wide front; and it had now become an axiom that only with a wide front of attack was success possible. Cadorna was ready to strike another blow if the weather had let him, but winter came early with heavy mists and much rain, and in Dec. he decided that he must reserve his strength for the following year.
The early advent of winter put a stop to other operations, in the mountain zone, which had borne considerable fruit. Good progress had been made in the region of the Fassa Alps, towards the Val d'Avision, and in Oct. an attack N. of Pasubio gained a wide stretch of high plateau which gave additional depth to the Italian defensive position and freed some 10 m. of the Vallarsa road from direct observation and worrying fire. Both here and in the Fassa Alps bad weather put an end to active military operations in the middle of Oct.; and an attack in the Asiago uplands, which was planned for the middle of Nov., had to be given up owing to the heavy snows that came a few days before the date was fixed.
The year had seen much heavy fighting, and both sides had suffered severely. The Italian casualties were nearly 120,000 dead, 285,000 wounded and 78,000 prisoners. The bulk of the latter were taken in the first days of the Austrian offensive in May, when the front lines, too full of troops, were overwhelmed, and a number of detachments were cut off in isolated mountain positions. The Austrian losses were also heavy. The Strafexpedition is said to have cost about 10o,000 men. The Italian offensives on the Julian front, from Aug. to Nov., yielded more than 40,000 prisoners to the attacking forces, and the list of killed and wounded during these months came not far short of ioo,000. If the territorial gains at the end of the year's fighting were not great, Cadorna's continued attacks, following upon the costly failure of the Austrian offensive in May, had done their work in occupying an increasing number of the enemy's troops and wearing down his powers of resistance. The Italian casualty list, as was the rule with the attackers, greatly exceeded that of the Austrians, but the advantage of man-power lay with the Entente, and the policy of attrition was generally, though not universally, accepted as indicating the only road to victory. No other policy, certainly, was open to Cadorna while the plans of the Allies were based upon this idea. His role was clearly marked out: he had to hammer when he could, with what means he could collect from month to month as the output of guns and munitions increased and fresh troops were trained, keeping always in view as an essential aim that of attracting to his front, and wearing out, the maximum number of enemy forces. Judged from this standpoint, the Italian effort in 1916 was of the greatest value to the Allied cause. Some 35 Austrian divisions, with their march battalions, were pinned to the Italian front; and Ludendorff in his Memoirs refers to the impossibility of detaching any Austrian troops from the Italian front to assist in other operations, notably to continue the operations against Rumania.
Although Cadorna was strongly opposed to the dispersal of his forces in petits paquets and had resisted the suggestion of an expedition to Libya to quell the rising which had reduced the Italian occupation to a few points on the coast, the importance of the Balkan front had not been lost sight of by the Italian Government. In March a strong force was dispatched to strengthen the Italian position at Valona. The Austrian attack on the Trentino caused two divisions to be recalled to Italy almost at once. It is worthy of note that the Albanian expedition was dispatched at a time when Italy was being criticized in the British and French press for her supposed refusal to cooperate in the Allied operations towards the Balkans. That coOperation was only delayed. When the situation on the Italian front permitted, fresh troops were sent to Albania, and in Aug. a strong force arrived in Salonika under the command of Gen. Petitti di Roreto to take part in the Allied advance upon M
"Horum omnium fortissimi sunt Belgae"
"Van hen(de GalliŽrs) allemaal zijn de Belgen de dappersten"
Julius Caesar(100 VC - 44 VC)
||Tijden zijn in GMT + 1 uur
Je mag geen nieuwe onderwerpen plaatsen
Je mag geen reacties plaatsen
Je mag je berichten niet bewerken
Je mag je berichten niet verwijderen
Ja mag niet stemmen in polls
Powered by phpBB © 2001, 2002 phpBB Group