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Italians in France 1918


TwoBob

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Apropos of not much, I have visited the Italian Cemetery on the Aisne, about 10 miles south of the Chemin des Dames. Can't help you much with your research, but you might want to visit as it is very interesting.

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Hello,

Has someone details on the Italian units fighting east of the Marne in 1918?

Thanks

Bob

Bob,

It was the Italian 2nd corps, comprising the 3rd and 8th Infantry Divisions. If you want more information, check out the following french website, http://batmarn2.club.fr/index.htm (Under LES ITALIENS DANS LA 2ème BATAILLE DE LA MARNE)

I have further details of the brigades and regiments they were formed of if you are interested.

Martin

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The Italian cemeteries at are Chambrecy (which is not far from Reims) and at Soupir on the Aisne/Chemin des Dames. Both are well worth a visit although they are not the most attractive, being gravelled and with few flowers, etc.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Maurizio forwarded the following details:

"The Italian II Corps deployed in the river Aube area in April 1918. It had around 53,000 men and was organized on two divisions, 3rd and 8th. The Corps had previously distinguished itself in the taking of Gorizia

(1916)and in the offensives against Cima Kuk,Monte Santo and the Vallone Chiapovano in May-August 1917.

After Caporetto, it had fought at the Tagliamento and Piave rivers and at the Montello. Fully replenished, had been sent to France.

Corps fighting troops included :

- 1 "Reparto d'Assalto" (Arditi);

- 4 MG companies;

- 2 batteries 149mm;

- 3 batteries 105mm;

- 2 squadrons Cavalleggeri di Lodi;

- 1 Inf.march Rgt with 2 MG companies;

- 2 "Squadriglie" airplanes plus lots of support stuff and MPs.

The 3rd Division was on 2 Bdes of 2 Rgts each.Both Bdes had a replacements battalion added.Also there were 4 MG coys and 10 * 75mm batteries.

The 8th Division was similarly organized."

Robert

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On 17th June a composite battalion in the area of the River Ardre was relieved by the 1st Battn, 19th Regt. of the Brescia brigade.

Edwin

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Could anyone just enlighten me as to what the Italians were actually doing in France in 1918? If my understanding serves me correctly, the British had already sent soldiers to the Italian front from 1916(?) in a bid to shore up the Italian war effort against the Austrians. The Italian campaign was beset by calamitous defeats, heavy casualties and only towrds the end did they manage to deliver some telling blows against the Austrians. Thus, when they were already finding it tough keeping their own front together and relying on British, American and French back up, whay did they see fit to send men to the Western Front and what did they think they would gain from doing so? Did they already have an eye on influencing the peace perhaps?

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Could anyone just enlighten me as to what the Italians were actually doing in France in 1918? If my understanding serves me correctly, the British had already sent soldiers to the Italian front from 1916(?) in a bid to shore up the Italian war effort against the Austrians. The Italian campaign was beset by calamitous defeats, heavy casualties and only towrds the end did they manage to deliver some telling blows against the Austrians. Thus, when they were already finding it tough keeping their own front together and relying on British, American and French back up, whay did they see fit to send men to the Western Front and what did they think they would gain from doing so? Did they already have an eye on influencing the peace perhaps?

Stuart,

From what I remember from reading the British Official History of the Great War volume on Italy, the Italians went to France as part of the inter-allied agreement to support each other if attacked.

Remember that from late 1917 (post Caperetto) and at the time of the German 1918 spring offensives there were at least 4 British Divisions in Northern Italy with about the same number of French Divisions providing a strategic reserve against a renewed Central Powers offensive (the US 332nd regiment arrived later in 1918). It may be that the British and French insisted on some level of reciprical support once the Italian Army had recovered sufficiently.

To get a fuller appreciation of what went on and why, it may be useful to read the British Official History.

Martin

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Remember that from late 1917 (post Caperetto) and at the time of the German 1918 spring offensives there were at least 4 British Divisions in Northern Italy with about the same number of French Divisions providing a strategic reserve against a renewed Central Powers offensive (the US 332nd regiment arrived later in 1918). It may be that the British and French insisted on some level of reciprical support once the Italian Army had recovered sufficiently.

Martin, thanks for the information, but I still think something is missing here. If the British needed the extra help in the summer of 1918 (which is when it appears that the Italians arrived on the Western Front) then why did they not withdraw one or more of the four British divisions serving in Italy? Surely this would have made more sense than bringing in foreign aid which could only have added more problems for the British in them being non-English speakers?

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Martin, thanks for the information, but I still think something is missing here. If the British needed the extra help in the summer of 1918 (which is when it appears that the Italians arrived on the Western Front) then why did they not withdraw one or more of the four British divisions serving in Italy? Surely this would have made more sense than bringing in foreign aid which could only have added more problems for the British in them being non-English speakers?

Stuart,

The British 5th Division was returned from Italy following the first German 1918 offensive. From what I can recall from my reading of the British Official History, the British and French still had concerns about the ability of the Italian Army to resist another Austro-Hungarian attack and so kept their divisions there. The transfer of the Italians to the Western Front could then be seen as compensating for this given the number of German Divisions facing the Allies there.

It is also interesting to consider how successful the assault crossing of the River Piave in October 1918 would have been without the British 7th and 41st Divisions' contribution.

Martin

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So in effect keeping quality British troops in Italy to help hold off Austria-Hungary, and bringing lesser quality Italian troops to the Western Front to make up the numbers?

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Sometimes military considerations are overridden by political requirements. One might equally well ask what Russian divisions were doing in France after the defeats on the Eastern front, or indeed, why Portuguese troops were sent at all. All of these troops performed their duties to the best of their abilities but one does wonder what their presence really signified.

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Sometimes military considerations are overridden by political requirements. One might equally well ask what Russian divisions were doing in France after the defeats on the Eastern front, or indeed, why Portuguese troops were sent at all. All of these troops performed their duties to the best of their abilities but one does wonder what their presence really signified.

Exactly, that's the point that I too was driving at. With all due respect and all that to the Italians, I'm not sure what use theu would have been. Same as it says above applies to the use of Portuguese troops who as I understand it were actually rather poor. Correct me if I'm wrong with that last statement but didn't the Germans open part of their Spring Offensive on the Pork and Beans because of their known weakness. I also read an article a while back about Spain's neutrality during the Great war. Part of the article suggested that the British were hoping that the Spanish would remain that way as the British could do without trying to incorporate poorly trained, ill equipped non-Engilsh speaking troops into the fighting in the Western Front.

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I would have to deprecate the use of offensive, derogatory references to soldiers who fought, were wounded and died in the fields of a far off land. Many of them would have been entirely bewildered as to why they were there. If there was a lack of enthusiasm for last ditch stands, I think I would have to sympathise. In much the same way I feel my hackles rise when I read of an English officer referring to " bare arsed highlanders who were far too ready to charge in both directions". I hope that here on the Forum, we can rise above cheap jibes and unthinking slights.

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Whilst "cheap jibes and unthinking slights" should be risen above when used in an offensive context, to the best of my knowledge "Pork and Beans" was widely used and was not meant to be outrightly rude or offensive. I'm sure the 61st division did not appreciate being called the "sixty worst" either, but nobody has complained about that on here. If everyone on here was as sensitive to allegedly "unthinking slights" then there would be a constant state of feuding on this forum. Respectful humour with a sprinkling of appropriate period-expressions helps to make this an informative and enjoyable forum. Let's not let overt and "over the top" political correctness denude it of that and reduce it to anodyne discussions. We are all here because we respect the acts and deeds of everyone form every country who fought in the Great War. Let's keep that in context before judging the remarks of others.

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  • 1 year later...

All

Rejuvenating a thread from last year. I came upon this article from the NY Times which puts a totally different spin on the role played by Abricci's 2nd Corps on the Marne in July 1918.

http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/...amp;oref=slogin

Any views ?

Regards

Dave

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The story of Italian participation on the Western Front captures my imagination. I did make a visit to one of their cemeteries in the Aisne sector : apparently it is by no means the largest, and if I remember correctly, the fighting in which the Italians participated in the summer of 1918 was remarkable for its intensity. I think that about ten thousand Italians were killed or died on the Western Front. This is a striking figure, given the brevity of their committment there, and certainly represents a high proportion of the number of Italians deployed. July 1918 ( or was it June?) was the period which witnessed the greatest effort by the Italians, and from what I remember reading they made an excellent account of themselves, fighting a desperate defense against the last German attacks in the Marne region.

As to the reasons for their participation there, I can only assume that, in order to present a creditable presence in coalition warfare, and especially to be taken seriously when sharing the spoils of victory, the Italians needed to demonstrate that they could punch their weight, and were willing and able to send token contingents to fronts other than their own. Supposition on my part, I confess, but it seems feasible.

Phil.

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Just read the section on the Western Front in Villari's "War on the Italian Front".

In Jan 1918, some 60000 men were sent in Labour battalions for organising defensive works on the WF. Some of them were caught up in the March/April offensives, picked up abandoned arms and joined in. Most were C3 physical category.

In return for the assistance offered by the French to Italy after Caporetto, it was decided to send fighting troops in the form of II Army Corps. Entrained 18/04/18, concentrated at Mailly. To Aire sector 13/05/18. 03/06/18 Gen Albricci requested of General Petain that his force be employed on more active service. 07/06/18 transferred to the Ardre sector on the Montagne de Reims, containing the Varigny and Bligny salients, the Marne crossing at Epernay and the Ardre Valley. And caught two and a half German Divisions on 17/07/18 [Well he did ask!].

8 Div almost destroyed in first assault, 3 Div forced to withdraw. 3 Div and French units under Abricci, did well defending Epernay, even finishing off with an advance on the 18/07/18. 3 Div 2,135, 8 Div 6,792 losses.

Into quiet sectors to recuperate, but at the end of Sep Abricci again requested a part in the fighting, and on 29/09/18 the Italians captured Chavonne. They went on to Soupir Wood, the Aisne canal, Chemin des dames Ridge. 10/10/18 they crossed the Aisne and the Aisne-Oise canal. Occupied positions on Chemin des dames Ridge 11-12/10/18. Eventually held up beyond Sissonne. 11/11/18 they were on the banks of the Meuse. At the Arde, they lost 9500 killed and 5,168 at Chemin des Dames and Sissonne.

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At the Arde, they lost 9500 killed and 5,168 at Chemin des Dames and Sissonne.

Do these figures actually mean "killed", Richard, or are they the total casualties, i.e.killed, wounded and missing?

If 14,668 had been killed, then the total casualties would have been in excess of fifty thousand.

Phil.

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Villari records the first totals I gave for the two divisions as losses, and definitely wrote "killed" for the campaign totals. Your choice :) A booklet called the "Military and Financial Effort of Italy during the War" gives 12020 killed in operational zones (Italian and Western Fronts) 01/10/18 to 11/11/18. Wounded for the same period 27970 and 4250 PoW.

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Villari records the first totals I gave for the two divisions as losses, and definitely wrote "killed" for the campaign totals. Your choice :) A booklet called the Military and Financial Effort of Italy during the War" gives 12020 killed in operational zones (Italian and Western Fronts) 01/10/18 to 11/11/18. Wounded for the same period 27970 and 4250 PoW.

Thanks, Richard.

Phil.

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All

The NY times article makes ref to an Italian Bn being cut off at Marfaux and being supplied by air. Have not seen this in any other reference material on the 2nd Marne.

Any ideas ?

Regards

Dave

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Conversely, I have been quite struck with the number of German references I've found to Austro-Hungarian units on the Western Front in late 1918, especially artillery (possibly due to the fact that I am studying largely from the perspective of a German Field Artillery Regiment, possibly due to the German-acknowledged quality of the KuK artillery arm).

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