The attack on the Isonzo Front

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

2 July (Friday). During the night, military engineers made various attempts to blast the wires in front of the fences in front of the 4th battalion. The best results are not obtained with wire-cutters, since the enemy there fights with well-aimed rifles, with several sharp-shooters hidden among the underbrush ahead of their own trenches. There are about fifteen wounded and we only managed to make a break of a couple of metres in the first line of the fences, which were composed of a single wire.

 

After the war, the farmer Massimo Imanone from Asti remebers the first attack

(...) meanwhile the Major General Demichele arrived, Commander of the 63rd and 64th Cagliari Brigade. He gave the order to advance instantly, under an infernal fire of rifles and machine guns. Under the discipline of duty, soldiers trembled in silence following the order. The terror and fear of the first victims on the Field was indescribable. The second attack began at midday; that was when I saw our battalion commander fall – Lieutenant colonel Henzingher Cavaglier Francesco.

 

From the journal of the soldier Cesare Barbieri (63rd Regiment)

We left to conquer another outpost, considered very important. We managed to occupy it, but from that moment the Austrians began to besiege it hand to hand, causing deaths and injuries. There were few who escaped, without any shelter, hungry and thirsty.

 

The commander of the Cagliari Brigade asserts the attack order

Despite the assurances received, we did not yet see, more than an hour after the order was received, any real drive in the advance of the regiment except some patrol squads. The commanders placed themselves at the head of the respective divisions and gave the impetus that was evidently lacking(...).We must advance at any cost, according to the peremptory orders of the High Commanders, for the good name of the Brigade.

 

From the contemporaneous memoirs of the soldier Giovanni Pistone, farmer

20 July 1915. In the first surge we arrived in front of the trenches at approximately 10 metres, but there were only a few of us, a lieutenant and a sergeant, maybe some corporals. All together we were 40; we stopped and the lieutenant sent an order to call in reinforcements, but none arrived (...). After a short time our artillery began the bombardment and shot the large pieces, well ahead, in the second enemy lines, but the fear was that if they shot at a shorter range to take out the machine guns, they would put us in danger. Then in the end a decision had to be made: become prisoners or attempt to flee. Each of us did the best we could, since there were no more orders; some tried to retreat but were captured. Moreover, it was a very open place and it was daylight.

 

From the Austrians, an officer report on the second battle of Isonzo

The replacements encountered difficulties and delays due to intermittent enemy attacks carried out at night between 31 July and 1 August at pressure points along the front; the defenders, already exposed throughout the day to the shots of the heavy artillery, had no relief even by night. Those three days of relative calm still cost the VII Corps approximately 4000 men.

 

From the journal of Callisto Tirelli, soldier from Trieste in the Austro-Hungarian army

We went by road to the trenches. On 17.X.15 there was combat on Mount Sei Busi. It seemed the end of the world. My battalion of 900 men fought for three hours; we went to rest at Opachiasela. The Major who had just arrived took roll call; we were more than 230 men, some dead and some injured in combat, waiting to be replaced by the 18 Dalmatian Regt. Their turn had come to see that desolation on the field of battle, there were dead bodies, 5 days old, that no one could bury; this great combat caused many deaths and wounded on both sides; poor Austrians, poor Italians.

 

Bibliography:

Lucio Fabi, Gente di trincea. La grande guerra sul Carso e sull’Isonzo, Milano, 1994, pp. 59ss.