[Footnote 1: For a full and lucid account see the official Report by the Comando Supremo on the Battle of Vittorio Veneto, 24th October—2nd November 1918.]
At dawn on the 24th, the same day that the British Divisions had crossed to the Grave di Papadopoli, the Italian Fourth Army had attacked in the Grappa sector, where fighting was desperate and progress slow for several days. On the evening of the 26th the Piave was bridged in three sectors, and on the 27th three bridgeheads were in being; the first on the Upper Piave, in the hands of Alpini and French Infantry of the Italian Twelfth Army; the second on the Middle Piave, in the hands of Arditi and other troops of the Italian Eighth Army; the third further downstream, in the hands of our two British Divisions and the Italian Eleventh Corps. For a while the situation had been critical owing to the gap between the second and third bridgeheads. But by the 28th fresh Divisions had crossed the river at all three bridgeheads, and spread out fanwise, linking up the gaps in the line. The same day on the Asiago Plateau the enemy at last fell hurriedly back to his Winterstellung, and British troops occupied the ruins of Asiago itself. During the next two days the advancing troops on the plain swept steadily eastwards. On the 31st the enemy’s line in the Grappa Sector completely collapsed, with great losses of men and guns. On the 1st of November an attack was launched along the whole of the Italian Front, from the sea to the heights of the Stelvio, amid the glaciers and the eternal snows on the Swiss frontier, and on this day Italian, British and French troops carried at last, after strong resistance, the whole northern ridge of the Asiago Plateau, at which we had gazed with eyes of desire for many long months.
On November the 1st a reconnaissance by car was ordered, to test the practicability and the need of accelerating the forward movement of our guns. Leary and I and two others started early in a car, adequately armed and carrying a day’s rations and a flask in which rum had been mixed accidentally with florio (marsala). This most original mixture, which we christened “florium,” was excellent, more thirst-quenching than rum, more sustaining to the spirit than florio.
That day we travelled 76 miles at the least, in a great curve, through liberated country. We had everywhere an astounding reception, never to be forgotten. Everywhere we passed, we were wildly, deliriously, cheered by the civilian population. Old men ran up to us waving their hats, old women clapped their hands, young girls waved and threw flowers at us, little boys ran shouting after us, all crying “Evviva! Evviva! Liberatori! Viva gl’ Inglesi!” The radiant joy of them, and their smiles, never far from tears, were the manifestation of a form of human emotion, singularly pure and indescribably moving.