British soldiers on the Italian front

Networld: preserving WWI heritage

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The British and French managed to convince Italy to join their side, and fighting on the Italian front started in May 1915. The disasterous Battle of Carpetto (Kobarid, or the 12th Battle of Isonzo) in October 1917 had pushed the Italian front back almost 60 miles from the Isonzo River to the Piave River. The Italian front was on the verge of collapse and to prevent that from happening, both the British and the USA sent troops to Italy despite the urgent need for fresh troops at the Western Front.

On the British side, the three infantry ivisions were relocated to strengthen the Italian front: the 7th, 23rd, and 48th. Four RAF squadrons were fighting on that front as well, to help gain air superiority. Initially, these forces were to make sure that the Central Forces did not break through the front along the Piave river. The Central Forces tried but were not able to advance beyond the Piave river. This effort depleted the already low numbers of troops. With the British and US troops supporting the Italians, moral came to a desastrous low, and units becgan to brake away. In particular units made up mainly from Sovenian, Hungarian, and Czech troops withdrew, aiming for independence of their countries after the war.

In 1918, the Italian forces strenghtened by the other Allied forces crossed the Piave and routed the Central Forces back toward the old Isonzo lines. This broke the will of the enemy and on November 3, 1918, the Armistice of Villa Giusti ended the involvement of Austria-Hungary in WWI. This was also the first step of dismantling the Hapsburg Empire and establishing the new independent states.

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© Robert Dulfer (2017)