11/7/1916 Italy explodes its mine under the Austro-Hungarian Castelletto

The Italians want to advance in the Dolomites but their way is barred by the Castelletto, a rocky outcropping that the Austro-Hungarians have turned into an impregnable fortress. A novel solution has been found: over the last few months the Italians have dug a 500 metre tunnel under the Austro-Hungarians, so they can explode a mine to blast the enemy from the Castelletto.

In the early hours of this morning the mine is exploded. King Vittorio Emanuele of Italy is present to watch the detonation of 33 tonnes of gelignite, the largest mine explosion in military history. The huge blast shatters the mountain top and is felt as an earthquake 10 kilometres away.
The survivors of the Austro-Hungarian garrison on the Castelletto regroup and prepare to fight for their lives. Then they enjoy an astonishing stroke of good luck. Italian assault troops emerge from the tunnel to storm the Castelletto, but then they fall over dead, killed by noxious clouds of carbon monoxide created by the explosion. Italians attempting to climb up the mountain are repulsed by rifle fire and by falling rocks the explosion has dislodged. The Austro-Hungarians hold the Castelletto. There will be no Italian advance through the Dolomites.

image sources:

The mine explodes (MetroPostcard)

Castelletto mine crater (1418 – Documenti e Immagini della Granda Guerra)

Plaque (World War I Bridges)

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