The Great War
James Mowbray

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The Italian Front

1915 | 1916 | 1917 | 1918
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3. The Italian Front (Italy only entered the war on the Allied side on 23 May 1915)

1915 .. return to top

    23 May
    Italy declares war on Austria (as the result of secret commitments by the Entente to grant "Italia irredenta" post-war to Italy)

    23 June-7 July
    First Battle of the Isonzo The Italians attack in the Gorizia area along the Isonzo River, not far from Trieste, on the Adriatic Coast and are repulsed due to extensive Austrian fortifications along the mountain ridges in the area

    18 July-3 August
    Second Battle of the Isonzo General Luigi Cadorna, the Italian Commander in Chief tries again, without success. He breaks off the attack when he runs out of artillery ammunition, and has made essentially no gains (in these two battles Italy lost 60,000 men and Austria 45,000)

    18 October-4 November
    Third Battle of the Isonzo The Italian Army, in spite of being heavily reinforced in preparation for the offensive, is again repulsed

    10 November-2 December
    Fourth Battle of the Isonzo The Italians try again, in what amounted to a continuation of the third battle, again with no success for 117,000 losses in the third and fourth battles (Austria lost 72,000 men)

1916 .. return to top

    11-29 March
    Fifth Battle of the Isonzo This battle was terminated by the Austrian counteroffensive, which ran

    15 May-17 June
    Austrian Trentino (Asiago) Offensive destroyed the Italian First Army, forced the end to Italian offensive operations temporarily, and cost the Italians 147,000 casualties (for 81,000 Austrian); terminated by Italian defensive stand and the impact of the Brusilov Offensive in Galicia (for which see above)

    6-17 August
    Sixth Battle of the Isonzo Through use of interior lines Cadorna shifted troops and caught the Austrians by surprise, taking Gorizia and boosting Italian morale, suffering from the Trentino debacle, but it cost Italy 51,000 more casualties, and the Austrians 40,000 men

    14-26 September
    Seventh Battle of the Isonzo Made no gain, nor did

    10-12 October
    Eighth Battle of the Isonzo Which also made no real progress, but was followed by

    1-14 November
    Ninth Battle of the Isonzo together these three battles attrited the Austrians 63,000 men, but cost Italy 75,000

1917 .. return to top

    Anglo-French consultations with Cadorna predicated on the assumption that Germany might come to the aid of Austria in light of German success elsewhere in the East, and the likely availability of German troops; French and British work out plans for rapid reinforcement of Italian Front in event of a crisis

    12 May-8 June
    Tenth Battle of the Isonzo Designed to support the Anglo-French offensives on the Aisne and at Arras, Cadorna started too late, and suffered huge losses in 17 days (157,000 Italian casualties for 75,000 Austrian losses)

    18 August-15 September
    Eleventh Battle of the Isonzo On the northern part of the Isonzo Front the Italians captured the Bainsizza Plateau, a strategically important feature, but out ran their logistics and were forced to stop; the Austrians were on the verge of collapse, and asked for German help

    24 October-12 November
    Battle of Caporetto (Twelfth Battle of the Isonzo) An Austro-German offensive employing Hutier tactics destroyed Second Army in situ, forced a 60 mile retreat on the Third and Fourth Armies, and trapped Carnic Group in the mountains, cutting it off; the Italians lost 40,000 casualties, and 275,000 prisoners, while the Austro-German force lost 20,000 total; an Anglo-French force under British General Plumer arrived 11 divisions strong to help Cadorna stabilize his line along the Piave River; whereupon he was replaced by General Armando Diaz

1918 .. return to top

    15-22 June
    Austrian Offensive (Battle of the Piave, 15 June) The Germans had moved their troops to the Western Front and directed the Austrians to finish the Italians alone; Conrad and Borojevic, the two Austrian Army Group commanders wrangled over who would command the attack, so the Archduke Joseph, senior commander, decided to let both attack, beyond mutual supporting distance, and splitting the reserves between them, so neither had the where-with-all to do the job; Diaz, forewarned by deserters, snubbed the offensives after limited gains

    Italian counteroffensive opened with

      23 October
      Battle of Monte Grappo in which Italian Fourth Army was initially checked, and

      24 October-4 November
      Battle of Vittorio Veneto in which the Italian Eighth Army was checked trying to cross the Piave, while the French managed to force a crossing; the British, in Italian Tenth Army commanded by Frederic Lambert, Earl of Cavan (XIV Corps Commander in France, supported with his own corps HQ) forced a crossing of the Piave, split the front open, and drove forward; Austrian resistance began to collapse all along the line: Sacile was reached 30 October, Belluno fell on 1 November, the Tagliamento was forced (2 November), Trento fell to the British under Cavan on 3 November, and Allied naval forces seized Trieste with an assault from the sea;

    3 November
    Austria signed an armistice to be effective the next day (4 November) and the war in Italy was over

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