Category Archives: Italy

Italian 8 Inch Mortar WW1

Italian Artillery World War 1Italian soldiers pushing a large 8 inch mortar into position somewhere on the Austrian front. Most of the fighting between Austria and Italy took place on the mountainous frontier region between the two countries, which made moving and supplying men and materials difficult. Here the Italian troops are relying on brute strength to get this giant and apparently outdated, clumsy mortar into a firing position. The hills and mountains in the background give an idea of how hard it must have been to get the cannon this far.

Italian Infantry Charge

Italian Infantry ChargeThis is a really interesting photo of a group of Italian soldiers charging an Austrian position. The date of this photograph is not known but it is likely early in the war, since there are no visible trenches. Early on both sides relied on tactics of maneuver and movement, often charging enemy positions head on with fixed bayonets. Military doctrine held that these charges would sweep the enemy away. Courage and fighting spirit were considered more effective weapons than guns and steel. But in fact these charges often resulted in the attackers being massacred, as they were mowed down by machine gun fire.

 

Contrary to the military doctrine developed by the generals, in actual practice the weapons of world war 1 favoured defence over offence. Barbed wire, trenches, land mines, and machine guns allowed entrenched troops to hold out against attacks and inflict heavy losses on the attackers. Soon both sides realized this and there came into being a vast network of trenches stretching all along the western front and the Italian front.

It is also interesting to note that these Italian soldiers are not wearing any helmets or protective gear. And they are advancing in a very close formation, making them easy targets for a well placed mortar shell or a machine gun nest.

Italian Caproni Bomber

World War 1 Bi Plane Bomber

Photo of an Italian bomber aircraft.

This is a photograph of an Italian Caproni Heavy bomber during World War 1. The Caproni aircraft corporation was founded in 1911 and produced the first airplane of Italian design and manufacture. During the war it designed and built a number of successful daylight bombers, of which this photo is an example.

The aircraft features an open cockpit (which would have limited the operation efficacy of the aircraft during bad weather and limited it to relatively low altitudes), two motors and heavy double wheels to support the weight of large (by the standards of the day) bomb payloads.

I am not sure which variant of the Caproni bomber this is, but it is likely the Caproni CA 1 developed in 1914. The Ca.1 entered service with the Italian Army in the middle of 1915 and first saw action on August 20, 1915, attacking the Austrian air base at Aisovizza. A total of 162 of these planes were built.

Bizarre World War 1 Tactics: The Pole Vaulting Soldiers

World War 1 was an odd combination of rigid and unimaginative strategy (such as suicidal human wave attacks against enemy trenches) and technical innovation and creative ways to kill the enemy (the tank, the airplane, the flamethrower, etc). Sometimes these innovations were quite bizarre, as in the case of this Italian solution to getting past enemy barbed wire.

The standard approach was to try to blow the enemy’s barbed wire to bits with artillery bombardments, or to cut it using special tools. Later in the war, tanks were used successfully to plow through barbed wire.

These Italian troops came up with a unique and surprisingly athletic solution to breaking through the Austrian trenches. Instead of cutting the wire, they would leap over it using a pole vault.

This 1918 article from Leslie’s Weekly, reproduced below, shows elite Italian shock troops training to attack the Austrians. In one picture, an Italian soldier is using the latest flamethrower. That’s fairly mundane compared to the photo in the middle of the page showing leaping soldiers pole vaulting over the enemy trenches.

bizarre world war 1

I am not aware of this method every being used in actual combat, and I suspect that the pole vaulters would have been shot to pieces long before they managed to reach the enemy trenches. I can not even imagine what kind of military genius decided to create a platoon of pole vaulters. Perhaps the plan was to make Austrians die from laughing.