16/3/1916 The Fifth Battle of the Isonzo begins to peter out

Italian troops are attacking along the Isonzo line, hoping to take Gorizia and do something to relieve the pressure on the French at Verdun. But the Austro-Hungarian lines are holding. As with previous Isonzo battles, the Italians are making little progress and paying for every metre gained with gallons of blood. As well as the terrain and the dogged resistance of the enemy, the Italians must also deal with the harsh weather conditions: spring has yet to reach the Isonzo.

Now the offensive begins to wind down, Italian commander General Cadorna accepting that his men will not be making any major gains. Local assaults on the Austro-Hungarians will continue but all hope of a breakthrough is abandoned.

On the Austro-Hungarian side, this latest Italian failure convinces Conrad that the time will soon be ripe for his great offensive, the one he hopes will knock Italy out of war.

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Italian soldier in captured Austro-Hungarian position on the Carso plateau (Wikipedia)

11/3/1916 Italy attacks along the Isonzo

The German offensive at Verdun has put the French under considerable pressure. To relieve it, Joffre is looking for his Italian and Russian allies to launch diversionary offensives on their fronts. Italy’s Cadorna wanted to wait until the spring thaw is further advanced but he could not resist Joffre’s pleading. So it is that Italian artillery has been pounding the Austro-Hungarians for the last two days along the Isonzo line. Now the infantry surge forwards.

The Fifth Battle of the Isonzo proceeds like its predecessors. The Austro-Hungarians offer dogged resistance. The Italians suffer heavy casualties and make minimal gains. What gains the Italians make are often lost to enemy counter-attacks. That an advance of a hundred metres up Mount Sabotino is seen as a major victory gives an idea of the static nature of the Isonzo’s bloody stalemate.