25/6/1916 Conrad halts the Trentino Offensive

Austria-Hungary’s Conrad took a bold gamble when he launched his Trentino Offensive against Italy. His hope was that his men would be able to storm down from the Trentino uplands to the coast, cutting off the main Italian army on the Isonzo. If all went according to plan, Italy would be forced out of the war and the prestige of Austro-Hungarian arms would be restored. Conrad depleted the Russian front to supply men for Trentino, gambling that the battered Russians would be in no fit state to launch a major offensive.

Conrad’s plans have gone awry. The offensive shook the Italians, but the Austro-Hungarians never made it down to the coastal plains. Perhaps given time they would have done, although they were already beginning to suffer from exhaustion and over-extended supply lines. However the final nail in the Trentino Offensive’s coffin was Brusilov’s Offensive in Galicia. This has so shattered the Austro-Hungarians there that Conrad has to send every man he can spare to staunch the Russian tide. This has forced him to halt his attacks on the Italians.

The offensive has cost the Austro-Hungarians nearly 100,000 casualties, while the Italians have suffered approximately 147,000. Now the Austro-Hungarians withdraw to prepared positions, abandoning much of their recent gains.

Asiago in ruins after the battle (Wikipedia)

8/6/1916 Austria’s embattled Conrad begs Falkenhayn for German reinforcements

Not long ago it must have seemed to Austria-Hungary’s Conrad that he was on the brink of a great military triumph. His Trentino Offensive was pushing back the Italians and threatening to surge down from the mountains to the coast, cutting off the Italian army. But now his army is the one in crisis. Brusilov’s offensive in Galicia has smashed his forces there, netting the Russians a huge bag of prisoners and leaving the Eastern Front close to collapse.

Conrad has no option but to divert men from the Trentino Offensive, sending them east in a desperate attempt to plug the gaps in his line. But the Italians sense his weakness and begin to counter-attack in earnest, recapturing lost ground. And Conrad knows that the collapse in Galicia is so total that the men he is sending there will not be able to hold back the Russian onslaught. He accepts the inevitable, travelling to Berlin to beg Falkenhayn for German reinforcements. Falkenhayn had always seen the Trentino Offensive as a waste of time; now he insists that Conrad bring it to a halt as the price for German assistance.

image sources:

Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf (World War One – 100 Years Ago)

Erich von Falkenhayn (The Great War Blog)

6/6/1916 Good news for Italy, bad news for Italy’s prime minister

The Brusilov Offensive has come at a good time for Italy. The success of the Russian onslaught forces Austria-Hungary’s Conrad to start sending some of his men east instead of using them to reinforce those attacking Italy. The Trentino Offensive is already running out of steam, but now the new threat from the east shakes the Austro-Hungarians’ morale. Emboldened Italian troops make their first serious counter-attacks against the enemy.

For Prime Minister Salandra however there is no respite. In Rome parliament meets. Deputies are angry that the Austro-Hungarians were able to take the Italians by surprise. Salandra sympathises and tries to blame Cadorna, the army commander. But the deputies rally behind the general and denounce the prime minister. Salandra loses a confidence vote and is forced out of office.

1/6/1916 Good news for Cadorna as Russia prepares to attack

Italy is facing an Austro-Hungarian onslaught in the Asiago plateau, one that threatens to sweep down to the coast and cut off almost the entire Italian army. Despite being caught by surprise, General Cadorna has managed to keep his job as commander of the Italian army, for now at least. And today he receives a piece of good news. The Russians have been planning an offensive later in June against the Austro-Hungarians in Galicia. Today Cadorna is informed that the Russians have brought the offensive forward and will be attacking on the 4th of June.

Previous Russian offensives have not been great successes, so Cadorna does not expect too much from this latest Russian effort. Nevertheless, he hopes that it will prove something of a distraction for the enemy, relieving the pressure his army is under.

30/5/1916 Italy’s Cadorna fights for survival

The Austro-Hungarians’ Trentino Offensive has shaken the Italians. Conrad’s men are increasingly exhausted by the fighting and are outrunning their supply lines, but he still hopes that they will be able to break through to the plains and reach the coast, cutting off the main Italian army along the Isonzo.

On the Italian side, Cadorna is desperately trying to stop the onslaught. He has formed a new army to block the enemy’s route to the sea. Half-trained conscripts are being handed guns and sent to the front. Cadorna has also secured the recall of the troops that were sent to Albania in pursuit of Italy’s ambitions there.

The Austro-Hungarians are not Cadorna’s only enemies. The success of the Austro-Hungarian assault, combined with the Italian army’s clear lack of preparation for it and the series of failed assaults along the Isonzo, has led to Prime Minister Salandra thinking that it might be time to get rid of Cadorna. The King accepts that Cadorna will have to go, if Salandra has full cabinet support for his ouster.

However, when Salandra meets the general, he finds him assured and confident, predicting that the Austro-Hungarian offensive will be contained. Salandra is gripped by indecision, worrying as to who will replace Cadorna and whether the current time of crisis is the right one to change military commanders. Cadorna keeps his job, for now at least.

image sources:

Luigi Cadorna (Encyclopaedia Britannica)

Antonio Salandra (Spartacus Educational)

28/5/1916 Austria’s Punishment Expedition brings Italy to the brink

Austro-Hungarian forces are continuing their advance against the Italians. The Austro-Hungarians are advancing from the Trentino uplands, hoping to break through to the plains and reach the coast, cutting off the Italian forces on the Isonzo. Now they seize the key town of Asiago. The lowlands are not far away.

Italy’s Cadorna is rushing every man he can to face the Austro-Hungarians, but the enemy seems unstoppable. He warns the government that if the enemy’s progress continues, he will have to withdraw to the gates of Venice itself. In desperation, Italy’s leaders beg the Russians to bring forward the offensive they have planned for mid-June. If italy’s allies do not come to her aid it looks disturbingly like Austria-Hungary will succeed in knocking her out of the war.

image source:

General Luigi Cadorna (Wikipedia)

20/5/1916 Austria’s Punishment Expedition presses on against Italy

Austria-Hungary’s Trentino offensive against the Italians continues. Conrad hopes that his men will be able to advance from the mountains to the coast, cutting off the main Italian army on the Isonzo. Austro-Hungarian troops continue to surge forward, advancing now into the Asiago plateau.

The Italians are making desperate attempts to improvise new defensive lines. Cadorna is also summoning reinforcements to throw in the path of the enemy. Yet the Austro-Hungarian advance appears unstoppable. It seems they can sweep through any newly prepared Italian position.

Nevertheless, the Austro-Hungarians are feeling the strain of the fighting. The men are exhausted and their rapid advance has stretched their supply lines. But still they push on, hoping for the final victory that will bring this war to an end.

image source:

Strafexpedition 1916 (by Tuomas Koivurinne on DeviantArt)