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Remembered Today:

Italian Front 1915-1918


phil andrade
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Why is so little reference made to the struggle on the Italian Front?

The fighting there was as intense and bloody as anything in that war, and the conditions were appalling.

I know little about it. The names Isonzo, Asiago, Carso, Trentino, Piave come to mind, and images of snow, ice, mountains, mud, avalanches etc.

Forgive me if I'm wrong...maybe you folks have already discussed this theatre of the war, and feel that there's not much more to be said.

I would like to learn more about it. Any suggestions/recommendations?

Phil.

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There have been several threads - some fairly recently - discussing what to read. Most, however, focus on the British involvement. It's a fascinating front to walk - especially at altitude, and there is plenty to see and some fine museums and preserved forts.

Before Italy committed to the war the British were subsidising a propoganda newspaper to sway the Italians to joining our our side. It was edited by a chap called Benito Mussolini. I wonder what became of him!!!!!!!!

Don't forget Rommel at Caporetto. The book that stimulated my interest in the front was Norman Gladden's "Across the Piave".

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Some books on the Italian Front, mainly focussing on the British involvement

Allen W & M Hardie “Our Italian Front” London: Black 1920 203p.

Cassar, George H The Forgotten Front, the British Army in Italy 1917-1918; London, 1998

Crosse, EC The Defeat of Austria as seen by the Seventh Division London 1919 N&M

Crutwell, C The War Service of the 1/4 Royal Berkshire Regt (TF) Oxford 1922 Leonaur?

Dalton, Hugh With British Guns in Italy London 1919 (2005 Reprint by N&M Press) (ISBN: 1845740211) Lieutenant R.G.A.

Dopson, FW The 48th Division Signals in the Great War Bristol (private) 1938

Edmonds, JE Official History of the War Military Operations Italy 1915-1919 London (Reprint 1986)

Eberle, VF My Sapper Venture London 1973

Falkenhayn, Erich Georg Anton Sebastian von “General Headquarters, 1914-1916, and its Critical Decisions” London 1919.

Falls, Cyril 'Caporetto' [mine doesn't have an ISBN] covers that battle.

Gario, G.”Italy 1914-1918” 1937

Gladden, Norman Across the Piave IWM London 1959

Goldsmid, CJH Diary of a Liaison Officer in Italy 1918 London 1920*

Greenwell, Graham. “An Infant in Arms”. 1935.

Halpern, PG The Naval War in the Mediterranean 1914 -1918 London, 1987

Hemingway, Ernest A Farewell to Arms (ISBN: 0684801469)

Herwig, HH The First World War, Germany and Austria-Hungary 1914-1918 London Arnold 1997 some useful info about Italy front.

Hoffman C A M “War Diaries Vol 1” translated by E S Hutton, London 1929.

Hussey, AH The Fifth Division in the Great War London, 1921

Italian Government “Military and Financial Effort of Italy during the War according to the Figures Supplied by the General Staffs of the Army, Navy, Tresury and Ministry of Transports” Rome 1919

Italy: Esercito: Comando Supremo “The Battle of the Piave” London 1921

Italy. Ministero della marina “Italian navy in the World War 1915-1918 Facts and Figures” Rome 1927

------------------------------------ “The Italian Fleet in the European War” Milan 1916

Jones H A “The War in the Air Vol. 6, Italy” London 1937

Lambert, A Over the Top London 1922 7 (Reprint by Naval & Military Press 2002)

Lettau, JL In Italy with the 332nd Infantry Youngstown, Ohio 1921

Lusso, Emilio Sardinian Brigade

Mackay, F Asiago, 15/16 June 1918 The Battle in the Woods and Clouds Barnsley, 2001

Mackay, F Touring the Italian Front; British, American, French & German Forces in Northern Italy, 1917-1918. 2003

Monelli, Paolo "Toes Up' memoir

Pirocchi, Angelo Italian Arditi Elite Assault Troops 1917-20 (ISBN: 1841766860) Illustrator: Vuksic, Velimir

Powell E A “With the Italians” London: Heinemann 1917 203p.

Price, Julius M “Six Months on the Italian Front 1915-1916” London: Chapman and Hall 1917 300p

Raab, David “Battle of the Piave: Death of the Austro-Hungarian Army, 1918” Dorrance Publishing 2004

Salandra, Antonio “Italy and the Great War: From Neutrality to Intervention” Authorised translation by Zoe K Pyne from the Italian volumes La Neutralita Italiana (1928) and L'Intervento (1930) London 1932

Schindler,J R Isonzo, The Forgotten Sacrifice of the Great War Westport 2001, Praeger 2001: is a very good up to date book on this front. I have read it and would highly recommend it.

Seth, Ronald Caporetto, The Scapegoat Battle; London McDonald 1965

Stark Freya “Traveller's Prelude” London 1950.

Smith N Caporetto : 12th Battle of Isonzo.

Speakman H From A Soldier’s Heart Abingdon Press USA 1919

Trevelyan George Macaulay “Scenes from the Italian War” London: Nelson 1919 255p. “Scenes from Italy's War” Boston, Jack 1919

Villari Luigi “The War on the Italian Front” London: Cobden-Sanderson 1932 124p.

Vivian, Herbert “Italy at War” New York 1917

Walker, G Goold, The HAC in the Great War 1914-1919 London 1930,(Reprint 1986)

Wells H G “Italy, France and Britain at War” New York 1917. Gutenberg has it

Wilks, J & Wilks, E The British Army in Italy 1917-1919 Barnsley 1998

Wilks, J & Wilks, E Rommel and Caporetto October, 1917 Barnsley 2001 (ISBN: 0850527724)

Not all of the comments are mine - this bibliography is constantly expanding, for instance I think I've just found a Czech infantryman's diary for the Isonzo front. A number of British unit and regimental histories have sections on the Italian Front. The Italian Front has been discussed on the forum before, search on Isonzo and Caporetto. However, there isn't a huge amount on the Italian - Austrian war before Britain sent troops, in English at any rate. I believe that books in Italian are still written on their part in the Great War.

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The little bookshop in Asiago carries a wide and fascinating range of volumes in Italian on the war. I have a lovely and inexpensive volume which shows all the colour schemes used for gas shells on that front. It comes with its own little designer anorak!

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The little bookshop in Asiago carries a wide and fascinating range of volumes in Italian on the war. I have a lovely and inexpensive volume which shows all the colour schemes used for gas shells on that front. It comes with its own little designer anorak!

Good point! While we were in Muran (in the Tirol) for holidays this year we noticed all the book stores there carried a great selection of books related to the war in the Alps--in fact the selection at smaller bookstores was better than anything carried at the largest bookstores here in Germany in relation to the Great War. We were also able to get maps of the battlefields and the bookstore owner we spoke to was very knowledgable on the subject. They have a long tradition with "battlefield tourism" for this front, started and promoted by the iconic Luis Trenker.

Little reference to this front at GWF does not equate to little interest in the subject elsewhere :rolleyes:

Paul

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Thanks folks, especially Greenwoodman for that exhaustive list of books!

Apparently, the battlefields of the Isonzo are largely in what is now Slovenia. It's supposed to be superb walking country - my daughter and son in law took a holiday there three years ago, and were delighted with the scenery. They emphasised how the relics of the Great War very were visible, and recommended that I should go there.

I once visited an Austro-Hungarian military cemetery in Verona, which had been overlooked and uncared for for generations, but is now being looked after. Five or six thousand graves, roughly evenly divided between Slavic and Germanic names. I was taken back by the distance from the frontline, and supposed that Verona was a railhead and that many POWs were taken there. The death rate among prisoners taken by both sides in this theatre was outrageous.

I loved that comment about anoraks !

Phil.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I'm reading a book at the moment called "The White War" by Mark Thompson, about the Italian Front.

It's a really good read but I would have like more detail about the conditions at the front, particularly the more high altitude alpine sectors.

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Apparently, the battlefields of the Isonzo are largely in what is now Slovenia. It's supposed to be superb walking country - my daughter and son in law took a holiday there three years ago, and were delighted with the scenery. They emphasised how the relics of the Great War very were visible, and recommended that I should go there.

I have been to Slovenija about 18 times, worked there, had an apartment, studied there, and, also climbed there, climbing the highest mountain in the Julian Alps in Slovenija and all Jugoslvija twice. It is a great place to visit generally, and in particuar re: the Great War. I drove thru Kobarid in Slovenija about 8 times before I realized that it was Caparetto; there in an exellent new WW I museum there. I have posted a lot of detail about this, WW I sites, etc. in several threads over the last couple of years in this Forum, you can find them with a search. Try "Slovenija", an odd and correct spelling, to zoom in on the threads.

I once visited an Austro-Hungarian military cemetery in Verona, which had been overlooked and uncared for for generations, but is now being looked after. Five or six thousand graves, roughly evenly divided between Slavic and Germanic names. I was taken back by the distance from the frontline, and supposed that Verona was a railhead and that many POWs were taken there. The death rate among prisoners taken by both sides in this theatre was outrageous.

I climbed Triglav, the highest mountain in Jugoslavija, twice with a lady friend, a professor of physical culture, an extremely Alpine person, although not a technical climber. When I wanted to expand to Switzerland, she insisted that I bring along a friend, a Slovene climber. I hardly knew him, but trusted her implicity. We drove out of Slovenija headed west across Italy, and he insited that we visit an Italian WW I cemetary. Very dramatic. He pointed out all the Slovene (Slavic) names, and bitterly recounted how the Slovenes were forced to fight against each other by the Italians and the Austrians. I later learned that his father was a Russian POW brought to work on the alpine war roads and who never left. I knew the gentleman when he was 95. There was an avalanche that killed about 300 Russian POWs working on a road; there is a Russian-style Orthodox wooden chapel near the site to honor them.

Tony (my guide) actually turned out to be an internationally registered guide, and actually the most well-known Jugoslav climber of say 20 years, one of the first climbers to climb the North Wall of the Matterhorn, and who lost a finger stranded overnight on top of a peak of the third highest mountain in the world. We have each saved each other's lives (in my case after I almost killed him, but corrected my stupid mistake), one hour apart, the sort of thing that bonds people.

Phil.

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Thank you for that interesting and inspired post, Bob.

Your ability to combine dramatic and hardy outdoor pursuits with a contemplative appreciation of the Great War excites my admiration!

I think that must be one of the best ways to enjoy history - great scenery, rigorous excercise, superb company aided and abetted by good food and wine. In these respects, the theatre of war where Italian fought against Slav and Teuton probably has more to offer than any other of the Great War's battlefields.

Am I right in saying that not all the battles fought on the Italian front took place in mountainous scenery? I recollect reading that the Trentino sector was more like the Western Front, with predominantly flatter terraine., but maybe I'm confused.

One of the features of the fighting that must have been particularly unpleasant was the rocky nature of the ground, especially on the Carso Plateau. High explosive and shell fragments were bad enough without jagged splinters of rock tearing through the air.

Phil.

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Apparently, the battlefields of the Isonzo are largely in what is now Slovenia. It's supposed to be superb walking country - my daughter and son in law took a holiday there three years ago, and were delighted with the scenery. They emphasised how the relics of the Great War very were visible, and recommended that I should go there.

Phil.

Phil.

Whilst I haven't done any battlefield tours in Slovenia I can agree that the scenery is terrific. Also the people are extremely friendly and Ljubljana is one of the prettiest capital cities you can find - definately a country worth visiting.

I upset a few American friends on the Forum a while back by suggesting the Italian decision to enter the war on the Allies side was more important than the entry of the USA. Whilst my comments were rather tongue in cheek the fact that, pre-war, Italy was 'expected' to be an ally of the Germans meant a swing of some 140 Divisions in favour of the Allies when they entered the war on our side.

Of course we had to send a number of Divisions to Italy in their support but the Germans and Austro-Hungarians had to divert more - units which could have been better used on the Western and Eastern fronts. Who knows what the impact would have been on France if Italy had attacked them in the south. To be honest I don't know enough about the front to give any definitive answer - but I suspect I am not alone in that regard! :)

I have only seen a few photos of the CWGC cemeteries in Italy but they all seem to look spectacular.

Neil

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Am I right in saying that not all the battles fought on the Italian front took place in mountainous scenery? I recollect reading that the Trentino sector was more like the Western Front, with predominantly flatter terraine., but maybe I'm confused.

Most of the front for most of the war was in mountainous terrain, often the line followed the highest crests, but as the front snaked south to the Adriatic the terrain was of course of lower altitude, but still hilly, I believe. Also, after the great German/Austrian victory in November 1917 the front pushed forwards onto the Italian plain; for example, I think that the UK units sent there were largely not in mountainous terrain.

One of the features of the fighting that must have been particularly unpleasant was the rocky nature of the ground, especially on the Carso Plateau. High explosive and shell fragments were bad enough without jagged splinters of rock tearing through the air.

I have read some detailed descriptions of the fighting in the Alps and the conditions were horrible. It was almost impossible to dig trenches or construct shelter, men instead scraping together miserable piles of stones to huddle behind. And of course at altitude the conditions in summer are winter-like, so you can imagine what they were like in winter, especially without any shelter. Perhaps you have seen the pictures of hundreds of crazy people trying to pull fieldpieces up to high positions, sometimes up vertical icy cliffs, with ropes.

Phil.

Bob

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Yes, Bob, those pictures of soldiers struggling to manhandle artillery up those slopes and over those crags did make an impression on me. As for evacuation of wounded and sick, the mind reels. All in all, one of the most challenging and inhospitable places imaginable to fight a war in. I have read that the Austro-Hungarian soldiers on this front displayed a fierce resolve that was sometimes lacking when they fought against the Russians.

Another aspect I find myself contemplating : was there a disproportionate share of this warfare that fell upon the population of Northern Italy? The North South divide in the nation is all too apparent today, and there is much resentment. My guess is that reluctance to fight was pronounced in soldiers from the South, and I guess desertion rates were high in units that contained large proportions of Neapolitans or Sicilians. Perhaps I do them an injustice.

Phil.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Its interesting to note how both world wars had long and costly campaign's in Italy and neither of them received much media attention or historical coverage postscript. It is perhaps the nature of the slow progress and many failures on the part of the Allies that have pushed the campaigns into obscurity. While this view is somewhat true, it totally ignores the triumphs and persevering nature of the common soldier.

I believe I have a Great grandfather who fought in the Italian Army but I haven't researched him yet.

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  • 5 months later...
  • 3 weeks later...
  • 7 months later...
.......................

It's a really good read but I would have like more detail about the conditions at the front, particularly the more high altitude alpine sectors.

Unfortunately there is very little written or translated in English about the highest fights of the war, over the glaciers of Marmolada, Adamello and Ortles-Cevedale. Tenths or even houndreds of books exist in Italian and probably as many in German. Some are of really high quality, both historically and for their iconography.

To have an idea of higher mountains warfare I can only suggest two articles available on the web:

Hosted at the excellent "An Unfortunate Region" website is my little contribution http://www.xs4all.nl/~aur/layout/frames.ht...ields/Italy.htm

At http://www.worldwar1.com/itafront/avalan.htm you can find an interesting article on avalanches as the worst killers of the alpine front, written by former paratrooper, Iraq veteran, mountaineer, skier and history teacher Richard Galli.

I am working on a new article about the "highest battle of the Great War": the capture and loss of Monte San Matteo, 3680 m, August-September 1918.

I can't promise to have it completed before a few months: I write in my spare time and English is not my mother tongue...

In the picture here below: sitting in the ruins of an Italian hut at Punta Zita, 3400 m, one of the starting points for the attack at San Matteo.

Regards,

Franz

post-50322-1255643808.jpg

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  • 12 years later...

looking for war diaries for italy 15 th Sep - 31 Dec 1918 royal engineers 48th ds coy

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have you checked the National Archives search engine? They do have gaps for some RE units. The Royal Engineers musum is the other likely option.

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  • 7 months later...

A piece on today's BBC Radio 4's 'From Our Own Correspondent' ,12th November '22 ***  mentioned the problems experienced by firefighters  due to  the detonation of Great War munitions during the recent wildfires on the  route of the "Walk of Peace" on the Italian/Slovenian boarder .     

*** Run forward to approx 22min 22sec; given as being 'available for over a year'

NigelS

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On 12/11/2022 at 22:58, NigelS said:

A piece on today's BBC Radio 4's 'From Our Own Correspondent' ,12th November '22 ***  mentioned the problems experienced by firefighters  due to  the detonation of Great War munitions during the recent wildfires on the  route of the "Walk of Peace" on the Italian/Slovenian boarder .     

*** Run forward to approx 22min 22sec; given as being 'available for over a year'

NigelS

I was there in August, just after the fires, and locals told me they regularly heard UXOs exploding. A Slovenian fire crew nearly got taken out by a shrapnel round going off near them. Scary stuff.

47CAA14E-3486-4624-A806-5A8AE9A79E61.jpeg

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