Italian 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 Here the Italian troops are relying on brute strength to get this giant and apparently outdated, clumsy mortar into a firing position.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.
Category Archives: Austria
Photograph shows Austrian soldiers on a dusty road on the Eastern Front. Some are on horseback while others are on foot, leading pack horses loaded with equipment and supplies. The troops in this picture are members of an Austro-Hungarian telephone communications division. It was their job to lay down and maintain a field telephone system to allow the commanding officers to communicate with forward troops and receive updated information about the situation.
World War 1 was interesting for its unusual blend of old and new technologies. It was a war in which horses and cavalry men fought along side tanks and aircraft. In the field of communications, as well, the armies of the main combatants made use of what was then cutting edge technology such as telephones but they also relied on antiquated communication systems such as homing pigeons.
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.
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.