4/6/1917 Tenth Isonzo ends with an Austro-Hungarian surprise

Italian troops have been attacking on the Isonzo. This tenth offensive has made some progress at heavy cost but the Austro-Hungarians have been able to contain the Italian advance. The battle appeared to be winding down, but it turns out the Austro-Hungarians have a surprise in store for the Italians. At the height of the battle, when an Italian breakthrough appeared to be a real possibility, the Germans permitted the Austro-Hungarians to transfer two divisions from the Eastern Front to the Isonzo. Now they use these to stage a counter-attack on the Italians.

The Austro-Hungarian counter-attack successfully recovers some of the ground lost. More striking though are the losses it inflicts on the Italians. They suffer some 22,000 casualties in the fighting. Of these some 10,000 are taken prisoner, with rumours of entire regiments (including officers) surrendering without firing a shot. The numbers who surrender suggest that a crisis of morale is building in the Italian army.

Cadorna is furious at the success of the Austro-Hungarian counter-attack. He writes to Prime Minister Boselli to denounce the defeatist prattling of the politicians that has led to his soldiers throwing down their arms. He is also furious at the men who surrender and wishes that he could ask Boroevic, his Austro-Hungarian counterpart, to have them flogged.

Thus ends the Tenth Battle of the Isonzo. In its three weeks the Italians have taken some 150,000 casualties, including 36,000 killed. Austro-Hungarian losses are lower, with perhaps 75,000 total casualties but only 7,300 killed.

Now Cadorna begins preparations for the eleventh battle. The Austro-Hungarians surely cannot take much more of this.

image source:

Luigi Cadorna (The Italian Monarchist: Marshal of Italy Luigi Cadorna)

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