“Viva, viva il Generale Dia!”
The refrain of the stornelli was onomatopoeic, and was intended to represent the sound of gunfire.
“Bim Bim Bom,
Bim Bim Bom,
Al rombo del cannon.”
* * * * *
What a theatrical country Italy is! I remember being out in the streets of Tiarno one evening with a stream of song issuing from almost every house, and looking up at the full moon riding high over the towering peaks that locked in our valley and all but shut out the night sky. I could hardly believe that it was neither a stage setting nor a dream.
I remember another day, when I did a great climb above Bezzecca to carry out a front line reconnaissance, and arrived limp and perspiring to lunch at the Headquarters of an Italian Artillery Group, high, high up, looking out upon a glorious and astounding view. And in the afternoon I took my first ride on a teleferica, or aerial railway, slung along a steel rope across the deeps, seated on a sort of large wooden tea tray, some six feet long and two and a half across, with a metal rim some six inches high running round the edge. I was quite prepared to be sick or at least giddy. But I was pleasantly disappointed. My journey took about a quarter of an hour; walking it would have taken about three hours of very stiff climbing. The motion is quite steady, except for a slight jolt as one passes each standard, and, provided one sits still and doesn’t shift one’s centre of gravity from side to side, there is no wobbling of the tea tray. And looking down from time to time I saw tree tops far below me, and men and mules on mountain tracks as black specks walking.
* * * * *
There were various theories to account for our being sent to the Trentino. One was that an Austrian attack was feared there, another that an Italian attack was intended, but that the intention was afterwards abandoned, a third that the whole thing was a feint to puzzle the Austrians. But in any case we did not remain there long. By the beginning of August we were back on the Plateau. On the return journey, which was again by road all the way, we were given three days’ rest at Desenzano and I was able to spend half a day in Verona.
SIRMIONE AND SOLFERINO
“Leave is a privilege and not a right,” according to a hack quotation from the King’s Regulations. This quotation has done good service in the mouth of more than one Under Secretary of State for War, heading off tiresome questioners in the British House of Commons. Leave was a very rare privilege for the British Forces in Italy. In France, taking a rough average of all ranks and periods, British troops got leave once a year. In my Battery in Italy, the majority were without leave home for nineteen months. How much longer they would have had to