Italy - success on the unknown front
The Great War 1914-18
When Italy declared war on Austria on the 23rd May 1915, the Italian army of 300,000 men was still in the process of being reorganised, up-dated and re-equipped by Field Marshal Luigi Cadorna, resulting in an increase to around 875,000 troops on full mobilisation.
Italy had only become a unified state following a series of military actions between 1848 and 1871 when Rome became the country's capital city. Two of these actions were wars against Austria, fought in 1859 and 1866, which led to Italian independence from Austria. In 1915, however, the forces of Italy were to face a powerfully armed enemy and conduct campaigns in some of the most treacherous terrain enduring the harshest conditions. Italy mobilised 5.6 million men of which over 462,000 were killed and almost 954,000 wounded.
The role of Italy during WWI is largely overlooked and yet some famous figures served in the army, such as Benito Mussolini, the future General Badoglio and Ernest Hemingway, who drove an ambulance as a volunteer for the Italian army. Much of the fighting took place in the towering peaks of the Alps, but battles were conducted in the open, such as the series known as the Isonzo battles. Other campaigns included the Piave Offensive and Vittorio Veneto which were joined by British and French troops. The Italian army was strong and fought as well as it could and to visit the scenes of the fighting is to understand the scope of the war in Europe.