Since it joined the war Italy has launched a series of offensives along the Isonzo. Most of these have been bloody failures but the last offensive, the sixth, saw the Austro-Hungarian pushed back as the Italians surged forward and captured Gorizia. That success was unexpected. The Italians were hoping only for minor gains and were unprepared to exploit their breakthrough, allowing the Austro-Hungarians to fall back and establish new defensive lines.
In preparation for another attack Italian artillery has been blasting the enemy for the last few days. However the bombardment’s effectiveness has been diminished by poor weather, which had made it difficult to observe the enemy lines. The Austro-Hungarians have also carefully camouflaged their positions, so the Italians are more or less firing their guns blind and hoping for the best.
Now Cadorna sends the infantry forward. The Austro-Hungarians are being pressed by the Russians in Galicia and the Romanians in Transylvania, so he hopes that this Italian assault will be the hammer blow that breaks their resistance.
Unfortunately the battle goes more like the first five Isonzo battles than the sixth. Italian troops emerge from their trenches and begin to move forward, adopting close-order formations like something from the Napoleonic Wars. Then the Austro-Hungarians open up with their hidden field artillery and machine-guns, cutting great holes in the Italian columns. To one Austro-Hungarian officer the Italian attack looks like “an attempt at mass suicide”.
Gains are minimal and often lost to Austro-Hungarian counter-attacks. The sixth battle is revealed as an aberration as the Isonzo returns to its normal pattern of bloody stalemate.
image source (MetroPostcard)