Life in Italy During World War I

Italy from 1915 to 1918
Italy from 1915 to 1918
WWI soldiers gear


The period from 1915 to 1940 in Italy was mostly important due to the country's role in the First World War and its consequences, which were to bring to the Second World War. The country had launched a campaign and had fought many bloody battles in order to get certain powers and provinces in return. 

The Italian campaign was the series of wars which were fought between the armies of Italy and Austria-Hungary from 1915 to 1918. Italy had joined the Triple Entente countries in hopes of getting a few territories including Dalmatia, Trieste and Istria. Even though Italy had initially hoped to launch a surprise attack in order to be able to move quickly to capture many cities in Austria, these hopes were quickly dashed. In the end the country had to resort to trench warfare as was common in France and the rest of the Western Front.



The Italian Campaign


At the beginning of the War,   Italy remained neutral until August 1914, although it had been a member of the Triple Alliance along with Germany and Austria-Hungary. The country had first claimed that it had only made the alliance for defensive purposes. It was a common knowledge at the time that Italy had a rivalry with Austria-Hungary since 1815. In 1815 the Napoleonic wars ended, which had resulted to the Vienna Congress in which several regions of Italy had been annexed to Austria.

During the first few months of the war, several diplomats had tried to woo Italy to join the war on the side of the allies, which resulted in the London Treaty of 1915. Italy then cut off its alliance with Germany and Austria-Hungary. In May 1915, Italy declared a war and entered the war on the side of the allies.

The Early Battles

WWI historical reenactment

When Italy entered the World War, it started with an attack that targeted at capturing Gorizia town located close to the Isonzo River. However, at the time the army of the country had not been equipped with proper ammunition, vehicles or artillery. There army only had around 600 vehicles for its troops. Like most other countries, Italy mainly used horses for transportation and this proved to be a setback for the army since it was very slow.

Luigi Cadorna, who had been a commander at the time, had almost no experience, which resulted in his unpopularity among his team. Then in 1916, four other battles had been fought at the same location. The Italians launched the sixth battle of Isonzo in August, 1916. Italy gained much more success this time compared to its previous attacks. However in the end, nothing much resulted from the attack.

Italy did eventually capture the town of Gorizia, and it lifted the spirits of the army. In the later battles on the Isonzo River, nothing much was gained except that both armies were greatly exhausted. Between 1915 and 1917, Italy launched an attack every three months, which was much more than what had been demanded of it on the Western Front.

The discipline of the army had also known to be stricter with unthinkable punishments handed down to the troops.

Germany's Arrival

After the tenth attack of Italy on the Isonzo area, nothing much had been gained. Italy then directed an attack on Austria east and north of Gorizia. The Italian army managed to break the lines and captured the Bainsizza plateau. Just when the Italians thought that they were quite close to victory, they experienced another drawback. The supply lines were not able to keep up and Italy was forced to withdraw.

WWI French cannon

The German army provided reinforcements to the Austrian Army after which the 11th battle of Isonzo had been fought. The Austrians were desperately in need of help by this time and German soldiers rushed to their help. They introduced various tactics and war strategies to the Austrian soldiers. However, the soldiers had been engaged in several attacks back to back and were left with almost no energy, which resulted in no gains even after the attack.

In 1917, the Germans and the Austrians launched an attack on Caporetto with a large supply of artillery and supplies. The armies easily entered the border and on the first day itself successfully reached the Tagliamento River, covering a distance of 12 miles.

The End of the War

The year of 1918 marked the end of the war for Italy. Two important battles that had been fought by Italy during the later stages of the World War had been the Battle of Piave and the Battle of Vittorio Veneto.

The Battle of Piave began with an attack close to Tonale Pass, which the Italian armies easily repulsed. The Italian army was able to easily move two of its armies in the direct path of the Austrians. Another prong had been led by Svetozar Boroevic Von Bojna and had experienced some success. However, their supply lines had been bombed and the Italian reinforcements soon arrived in the area.

WWI trench

No other offensives were launched after the Battle of Piave. The army of Italy had suffered considerable losses in the battle and considered launching an attack at that point quite dangerous. Armando Diaz, who had been the general at that time, decided to wait for more reinforcements on the Western Front. In October of 1918, the country finally had been able to gather enough soldiers to be able to launch an attack.

Vittorio Veneto, located close to Piave had been the target of the attack. The Austrian armies had fought quite fiercely but Italians successfully overwhelmed them. On 3rd November, that same year, Austria surrendered. The treaty of Saint Germain annexed Zadar, Istria, Trieste, Trento and Alto Adige to Italy in return.

Since the end of the War in 1918, until almost 1940, Italy had experienced an era of relative calm which was only changed once the Second World War commenced.