Testimonies

Passchendaele has entered in the British collective memory as the tragic symbol of the Great War on the Western Front, as well as the military débâcle  par excellence. The reasons for this consideration of a battle, although concluded with good local successes and lower losses compared to Somme, can be sought in a series of social, psychological and military variables. It should first be noted that in England the patriotic enthusiasm around the war had long since weakened, so that in January 1916 the British government had been obliged to introduce compulsory military service. The influx... read all
In France between 1914 and 1918, 8 million men were forced to leave their homes to carry out their duty towards their homeland. Their departure caused upheaval in their lives and in the organization of daily life of society as a whole. The women left behind were forced to compensate for the men’s absence. They threw off their traditional roles and duties and, despite their unequal legal standing, replaced their husbands, sons or brothers running farms, workshops or shops as well as in the factories. The ability of a large number of women to take on new responsibilities and successfully manage... read all
Between the end of May and the beginning of June 1917, the French Army on the Western Front was rocked by a wave of rebellion and unprecedented acts of disobedience. A spirit of protest inflamed numerous units, fuelled by the general circumstances in the spring of 1917 - marked by the failure of the great Nivelle Offensive -, the echoes of the Russian Revolution and civilian demonstrations. Units on leave did not want to return to the front line, and those who were already there refused to leave the trenches. Disordered and fragmented, the protest movement faded quickly. However, it left an... read all
Loss of the element of surprise The Austrians do not know the exact day that of the attack on the Plateau: but they certainly know that there will be an attack. (Colonel Angelo Gatti, 4 June 1917.)   It cannot be ruled out that there may be a surprise attack in Trentino in three or four days' time. The generals who will be in charge have come to witness the recent action at the behest of the Commander. It was an excellent idea. In the event of an attack to the north, I will be leaving. (The journalist Rino Alessi in a letter sent from... read all
During the Great War the trench became the greatest symbol of the tragic wartime experience of millions of men. The First World War in fact saw soldiers entrenched as the norm, thus significantly altering modes of confrontation: there were no more brutal but short battles, but rather long and violent fighting over large spaces and against an often invisible enemy. In the Karst region and along the Isonzo, the Italians, initially at a disadvantage to their adversary on account of the lack of weapons, poor knowledge of the territory and the unfavourable positions they held, beginning in the... read all
After the February Revolution in Petrograd, the political exiles came back. The April 13, 1917 (16 according to the Gregorian calendar, used in Russia since 1918) arrived Vladimir Lenin. He brought with him the "April Theses", which represented a vote of no confidence to the provisional government. The day after his return (April 17), Lenin showed the thesis during the Pan-Russian Congress of Soviets, in front of nearly 800 members of the Russian Social Democratic Workers' Party. The speech was later published in an article entitled: "The tasks of the proletariat in this revolution." Lenin... read all
The Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich Romanov wrote thusly to Tsar Nicholas II in December 1916: "Strange though it may be, the Government itself is the organ that is preparing the revolution. The nation does not want it. But every wrong order, prohibition or restriction pushes the people towards it." In mid-February, in a report to the Tsar, the president of the Duma, Mikhail Rodzianko said: "in the capital the mood is very anxious, the strangest rumours are spreading among the people." After the first day of unrest, on 25 February (12 March according to the Gregorian calendar)... read all
The Hindenburg Line was conceived as an impressive line of strategic retreat, behind which bleed the Allies, waiting for the German industry and the situation at the front would lay the favourable conditions to launch the final assault on the Anglo-French. It was built through a salient of the German front, so the Deutsches Heer would have shortened their front fifty kilometres, taking the availability of thirteen divisions and fifty heavy artillery batteries. The new line was long 140 km and could seat about twenty divisions, two every 7 kilometres. The telephone wires were buried... read all
It is known that in the war propaganda, the image of woman was presented in the name of reaffirmation of the traditional roles of mothers, sisters and wives, obedient and in solidarity with the destiny of the fatherland; as part of fulfilment of "male desire"; or even exalted in allegorical representation of the patriotic ideal of the nation itself. The testimonies of the women's world offer us a fragmented picture, which varies depending on the social extraction of the writer. The letters of women of peasant extraction leave always transpire discomfort and pain... read all
Georges Caubet, born in Toulouse and a schoolteacher since 1908, was called up on 4 August 1914 to serve as sergeant of the 67th division of the French army. His diaries preserve the memories of the most significant moments of his military experience including his part in the initial stage of the Battle of Verdun in February-March 1916. He was captured in June 1918 and ended the war as a prisoner in Germany. On his return to France, he went back to teaching and wrote his own account of the war for posterity entitled « Mémoires d'un sergent ». The passages below taken from his... read all
The figure of the wild, insane, oblivious, stunned soldier that recognises no one and has become unrecognisable, was a product specifically of the Great War, a new phenomenon of the conflict being waged. The soldiers that “went mad” seemed to be making an attempt to put themselves beyond the reach of any human relationship, hiding and escaping into catatonia. They all seemed to be hounded by constant, relentless terror, which was rekindled at the first opportunity and involved the whole body. The subjects examined had in common a lengthy experience in the trenches and had been incessantly... read all
Lyrics of O Gorizia tu sei maledetta (In english “Oh Gorizia you are cursed), folk song of anonymous author, referring to the battle that led to the Italian conquest of the city, between 7 and 10 August 1916. The song is characterized by strongly anti-military tones. The last verse, often, is not mentioned, because of allegations of insulting the state institutions. Gorizia in popular song O Gorizia, you are cursed / for every heart that feels consciousness; painful there was the departure / and the return  for many it was not.... read all
The Somme Offensive, was a battle fought by the army of the British Empire against the German Empire. The first day of the offensive was the worst day in the history of the British Army, which had almost 60.000 casualties, mainly on the front section between the road from Albert to Bapaume and Gommecourt, where the attack was defeated and few British troops reached the German front line. The British Army on the Somme was a mixture of the remains of the pre-war regular army, the Territorial Force and the Kitchener Army, which was composed of Pals battalions, recruited from the same places and... read all
Fritz Weber (1895-1972), an officer of the Austro-Hungarian army, was in the garrison of Fort Verle (now in Trentino), he fought on the Asiago Plateau, the Pasubio and the Karst. From his work, Das Ende einer Armee is taken this testimony related to the early days of Strafexpedition. May 1916, from Mount Verle to Monte Verena. In our rear they are preparing a major offensive. We, however, we are doomed to keep the first line, until it is not launched the attack. Meanwhile, although it is at the beginning of May, it snows again (...) and it is... read all
Irish side The April 24, 1916 - Easter Monday - from the steps of the General Post Office on O'Connell Street in Dublin, Patrick Pearse proclaimed the Republic of Ireland. It started the Easter Rising of 1916 . POBLACHT NA h-EIREANN - THE PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT OF THE IRISH REPUBLIC TO THE PEOPLE OF IRELAND Irishmen and Irishwomen: In the name of God and of the dead generations from which she receives her old tradition of nationhood, Ireland, through us, summons her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom. Having organized and... read all
Arnaldo Berni (1894-1918), from Mantua, sergeant, then captain of Alpini stationed in Valtellina (Battalion "Tirano"). He died in one of the last battles between Italians and Imperials on Mount San Matteo. His experience is described in an extensive collection of letters to the family. February 1916, a letter to parents. The avalanche has killed twelve other victims on ramps of Spondalunga. There are also some wounded and missing (...) For the funeral of the twelve men buried by the snow even the commanders of the area came over: a colonel, a major and... read all
Compared to the Western Front, the operations around Gallipoli involved a relatively small number of troops for a short time, about a year. Nevertheless, the Turkish and Allied troops engaged a fierce battle for a few square kilometers of land, in trenches often separated by a few tens of meters. Despite the disastrous outcome, the operations in the Dardanelles represented a true founding myth for Australia and New Zealand, whose troops were concentrated within the ANZAC. The sacrifice of these soldiers, often volunteers and thousands fallen in combat or for disease, contributed to create a... read all
The Socialist International was a union between all the socialist parties of the world, trying to give life to the principle of “proletarian internationalism”. Hegemony in the International was in the hands of the powerful and well-organized German Social Democratic Party (SPD). In front of the “arms race” and the worsening of tensions, the International launched repeated appeals for peace and for the maintenance of internationalist solidarity. In the summer crisis of 1914, all the socialist parties in the belligerent countries decided instead to join, for different reasons, the war effort.... read all
Fritz Weber, Austrian writer and journalist, was born in 1895 and died in Vienna in 1972. He participated in the Great War and told of his experiences in many books. As artillery officer, he served for the entire duration of the conflict on the Italian front, first over the Plateau and then on the Isonzo. At the conclusion of the war, he was deployed on the Piave Front and participated in the last battle fought by the imperial Austro-Hungarian army. No doubt, Fritz Weber’s most successful book is Das Ende einer Armee: the original edition published in 1931 received great editorial acclaim,... read all
From the circular of the Supreme Command of 15 July 1915 dictating the tactical lines for the attack The troops with bayonets erupt with the maximum violence possible through the gaps opened in the fences to conquer the trenches closest to the adversary. Thus they move toward the main objective, reinforced by other troops arriving in intermittent waves. The main target was the occupation of the trenches rather than the following enemy lines of defence.   From the report of an officer of the 16th Infantry Regiment, engaged in the area of Mount Sei Busi... read all
On 9 September 1914, German Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg presented a plan to the Reich’s political and military leaders, known as the “September Plan.” This text summarizes the political objectives that Germany proposed to reach with the war, which seemed would end quickly with a victory. The plan was drafted during the development of the battle of the Marne and then in view of a decisive defeat. Their author was the Chancellor’s political counsellor, Kurt Riezler. It proposed adding a large area to German hegemony in political, military and economic terms in the western part of... read all
Giovanni Boine (1887-1917): Class struggle is gangrene and war is the drug Among the most authoritative writings in magazines before the war are those of Boine. In the aftermath of Italy's entry into the First World War, he published a sort of "bible" of the good soldier as part of the Voce movement. In the text, the writer expressed his distaste for socialism, class struggle and liberal democracy, while supporting the need for war as a drug for the rebirth of the nation.
“Extreme precept of the extinction of patriotism. (…) The social struggle has taken over the... read all
Herr Otto Hahn The birth of the military chemical units In the middle of January I received orders to go and see Gahimrat Haber (Fritz Haber), who was in Brussels on behalf of the Ministry of War. He explained to me that the Western Front, which were all bogged down, could be got moving again only by means of new weapons. One of the weapons contemplated was poison gas, in particular chlorine, which was to be blown towards the enemy from the most advanced positions. When I objected that this was a mode of warfare violating the Hague Convention, he said... read all
With a degree in engineering from Turin Polytechnic and becoming a military engineering officer, he became interested early on in possible military applications of the aircraft and in 1911 participated in the Italo-Turkish War in Libya, during which was recorded the first use of aviation in battle and the first experiment with aerial bombing in history. Commander of the army Aviation Battalion from 1913 to 1914, he strove actively to improve the aircraft and for the development of aviation for bombardment. In autumn 1914 he supported this improvement entrusting to Gianni Caproni an order to... read all
PRIVATE A. V. SIMPSON
2nd/ 6th Battalion (T. F.)
The Duke of Weellinghton's
(West Riding Regiment)
England was so unprepared for the war that he had to have an appeal for cast off clothing for the troops. (…) No khaki uniform available for us for some time, and regulation decreed that a man using his civilian overcoat was to be paid three-pence a day clothing allowance, and six pence a day if he used his civilian suit. The nation's offering of old clothing was distributed among the new enlisted volunteers (…). I was given an old “Ulster”, a sort of big... read all
Omówienie Ważnym zagadnieniem Europy początku XX w. była sprawa narodów pozbawionych państwowości. Ich sytuacja układała się różnie, w zależności od tego w jakim znajdowały się państwie. Od wojen napoleońskich do powstania styczniowego sporo mówiło się o sprawie polskiej. Po wojnie francusko-pruskiej (1870-1871) sprawa polska stała się drugorzędnym problemem, stając się wewnętrzną kwestią trzech państw zaborczych Powołanie trójprzymierza i trójporozumienia doprowadziło do trwałego rozbicia sojuszu zaborców. Rację miał więc Fryderyk Engels, iż Polska była cementem spajającym Święte... read all
Ivan Stanislavovic Bloch, who was born in Radom in 1836 and died in Warsaw in 1902, lived in the part of Poland under Czarist domination. A Jew converted to Calvinism, he was a successful businessman and banker. Already very rich and sensitive to the closelink between the economy and society, he retired from business to devote himself to his studies. He had been struck by the Franco-Prussian war of 1870/71, which had showed new features compared to previous wars. He devoted himself to a study of the relationship between war and the economy. The impressive work, entitled ... read all
Are defined as “Francs-tireurs” those irregular combatants who, without uniform, make disruptive actions against a regular army. They are civilians, or disbanded soldiers, to whom the law of war does not recognize the status of fighter. Already in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 French civilians had taken up arms to attack the Prussian troops behind or so considered not suited to military traditions. The mobilization of French civilians was the result of the revolutionary tradition and republican. The commands Prussians considered the “Francs-tireurs” as a serious danger because... read all
Christmas Truce: A German testimony Leutnant Johannes Niemann, 133rd Royal Saxon Regiment We came up to take over the trenches on the front between Frelinghien and Houplines, where our regiment and the Scottish Seaforth Highlanders were face to face. It was a cold starry night and Scots were a hundred or so meters in front of us in their trenches where, as we discovered, like us they were up to their knees in mud. My Company Commander and I, savouring the unaccustomed calm, sat with our orderlies round a Christmas tree we had put up in... read all
With the passage of time, as it became more evident that the war would not be decided by a great victory on land, the submarine war assumed increasing centrality in reflection and discussion between German leaders. In February 1916, in a letter sent to Secretary of State Zimmermann, Chancellor von Bethmann-Hollweg expressed concern about the contradiction between the inevitability of lengthening and radicalizing the submarine war and the increased risks of involvement of the United States of America in the war.In contrast with the positions of the high-ranking military... read all