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We ourselves were out of the first stages of that great defence. We had no ammunition, and we were terribly short of gun stores, though the bare guns had all been saved. And our men were very short of steel helmets and box respirators, and the boots and clothing of many were in a pitiful condition. But a small supply of ammunition came through from France, and it was decided to send one Section of the Battery into action on the Piave and the remainder back to Ferrara to refit. All gun stores and men’s equipment were to be pooled, and those going back were to be stripped for the benefit of those going forward. I remember very vividly our Battery parade on the morning of the 4th of November, when we had to take from some men their greatcoats and even their caps, tunics and boots, in order to make up some sort of equipment for the Right Section which was going forward with the Major. I was put in command of the Left Section, stripped bare for its journey to Ferrara.
The evening before our departure I walked up and down the avenue outside our Villa and talked with Venosta, who had done splendid work in the retreat. He had heard from the survivors of a Cavalry Regiment, who had passed back along the road an hour before, that a Turkish Division was in Udine, and Turkish cavalry in Palmanova. Bulgarians also were said to be on this Front, raping, after Serbs, Greeks and Rumanians, Italians also. It was said that Turks had been on Faiti and Volconiac at the end. I had no sure evidence of this, but, if it was true, the Turks’ notorious incapacity for an offensive would help to explain our surprising escape. What we had needed, all through the days of the retreat, was enough rain to swell the rivers and make heavy the roads. What we had got, after the first three days, was brilliant sunshine. The stars in their courses seemed to be fighting against Italy. “Dio uno ed unno!” said one Italian bitterly.
FERRARA, ARQUATA AND THE CORNICE ROAD
We reached Ferrara at 5 a.m. and drove in lorries from the railway station past the Castello of the d’Estes to the Palestro Barracks, the Depot of the 14th Regiment of Italian Field Artillery. Here we were to be lodged by the Italian military authorities. We were received with every consideration and great hospitality. Our men had excellent quarters in the Barracks. Our officers were invited to have their meals in the Italian Artillery officers’ Mess, which was a large and comfortable place and where the food was not only good, but very much cheaper than could have been got outside. The Colonel also offered to put riding horses at the disposal of any of us who should care to ride. I was much struck by the sensible lack of ceremony of this Italian Mess, by comparison with similar Depot Messes in our own Army. There was no waiting in the anteroom