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Austro-Hungarian Troops on the Italian Front, 1916
Austro-Hungarian Troops on the Italian Front, 1916

In this photograph from 1916, Austro-Hungarian mountain troops pose with a captured Italian machine gun after a battle in the Alps. The Italian and Austro-Hungarian campaigns were marked by many battles in at high altitude, which made fighting difficult, especially for attacking forces advancing uphill under fire. The terrain favoured th defenders, and despite many successes, the Austrians were not able to achieve a decisive breakthrough against the Italians.

The men in the photo are standing on a 45 degree incline, typical of the exhausting climbs required to reach the enemy strong points on the high ground. Some even higher and more forbidding peaks can be seen in the background.

If we zoom in on various parts of the photo we can see some interesting things about the Austrian soldiers and their equipment.

Austrian Footwear, World War 1
Austrian Footwear, World War 1

The photo above shows the footwear worn by these Austro-Hungarian soldiers. Note that the boots have nails on them to improve their grip on icy surfaces. Their legs are wrapped in cloth as insulation against the cold.

Snow Googles

The man on the far left of the photo has a pair of snow goggles on his beret to cut down on the glare of the sub reflecting on the snow and ice. Interestingly, he is not in uniform and instead is wearing a coat with oversized buttons and a tie.

Officer's Sword
Officer’s Sword

In the photo above we have a closeup of the equipment carried by the man in the center. He has a short sword handing from his belt, as well as a pistol.

None of the men is wearing a helmet or any kind of protective gear.

Mountain Warfare – WW1

The dying Austro-Hungarian Empire had precipitated World War 1 by its efforts to punish Serbia for its role in the assassination of Arch Duke Ferdinand. It soon found itself embroiled in a 3 front war, fighting simultaneously against Russia in the east, Serbia and the western Allies’ expeditionary forces in the Balkans, and against Italy. When Italy had entered the war, it had expected an easy victory against the outmatched Austrians, but instead it found itself fighting a difficult war of attrition. Despite being outnumbered and chronically short of supplies and manpower, the Austro-Hungarian Empire fended off repeated Italian offensives and even managed to put the Italians on the defensive, penetrating deep into Italian territory.