12/10/1916 Eighth Isonzo ends as Cadorna squanders his chance of victory

That Italians are attacking again along the Isonzo. This is their eighth major offensive here since their government made the unwise decision to bring them into the war. Italian assaults on the Carso plateau have been repulsed, but further north initial progress has been striking: Italian troops have managed to advance several kilometres, capturing a number of artillery pieces.

Yesterday the Italians made more progress, but they lack the reserves to fully exploit their successes. Then an unexpected counter-attack by Austro-Hungarian troops (spearheaded by a unit of Czech troops, normally considered the Habsburgs’ least reliable nationality) unnerves Cadorna. There has also been a change in the weather, with a fog descending over the battlefield that appears to favour the defenders.

So Cadorna orders a halt to the offensive. He wants his men to regroup and prepare to launch a ninth offensive before the winter descends and makes further operations more or less impossible.

The Austro-Hungarians are astonished that the Italians have called off their attacks. Their casualties were mounting and they were finding it increasingly difficult to hold back the enemy. It looks to them like the Italians have halted their attack just as they were on the brink of a major victory. Knowing that this period of quiet is just a lull before the next battle, Boroevic orders his men to prepare new defensive positions and lobbies Conrad for the reinforcements he desperately needs.

The Italians and Austro-Hungarians have each suffered around 25,000 casualties in this short battle.

10/10/1916 The Eighth Battle: Italy attacks again on the Isonzo

Another battle of the Isonzo begins, the Eighth. The Italians are attacking the Austro-Hungarians once more on the Carso plateau and also further to the north. The Austro-Hungarians have been subjected to a heavy artillery bombardment since the start of the month, intensifying to what the Italians are calling “annihilation fire” yesterday. Unfortunately the shelling is still considerably less intense than a typical pre-assault bombardment on the Western Front, meaning that many Austro-Hungarian positions are still relatively intact.

Now the Italian infantry move forward. The Austro-Hungarians hold them on the Carso, but further to the north they have less luck. Here the Italians manage to push them back several kilometres. The battle hangs in the balance: after the repeated batterings they have received, the Austro-Hungarians may be about to crack. If Cadorna can keep up the pressure, he might just be able to achieve the great victory that has thus far eluded him.

image source:

Italian troops with captured Austro-Hungarian gun, from the Seventh Battle (Wikipedia)

30/9/1916 The guns start firing for the Eighth Battle of the Isonzo

Italy has attacked seven times along the Isonzo without any great success, apart from the capture of Gorizia in the sixth battle. Despite the recent failure of the seventh offensive to make any significant gains, Cadorna remains confident that the Austro-Hungarians are close to breaking point. He has his men prepare for another assault on the enemy. And today the Italian guns start firing on the Austro-Hungarians, in preparation for the eighth battle.

image source:

Italian troops in their trench (Imgrum)