War and the future: Italy, France and Britain at war eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 183 pages of information about War and the future.
report, “the mine responded perfectly both in respect of the calculations made and of the practical effects,” that is to say, the Austrians were largely missing and the Italians were in possession of the crater of the Castelletto and looking down the Val Travenanzes from which they had been barred for so long.  Within a month things had been so tidied up, and secured by further excavations and sandbags against hostile fire, that even a middle-aged English writer, extremely fagged and hot and breathless, could enjoy the same privilege.  All this, you must understand, had gone on at a level to which the ordinary tourist rarely climbs, in a rarefied, chest-tightening atmosphere, with wisps of clouds floating in the clear air below and club-huts close at hand....

Among these mountains avalanches are frequent; and they come down regardless of human strategy.  In many cases the trenches cross avalanche tracks; they and the men in them are periodically swept away and periodically replaced.  They are positions that must be held; if the Italians will not face such sacrifices, the Austrians will.  Avalanches and frostbite have slain and disabled their thousands; they have accounted perhaps for as many Italians in this austere and giddy campaign as the Austrians....

3

It seems to be part of the stern resolve of Fate that this, the greatest of wars, shall be the least glorious; it is manifestly being decided not by victories but by blunders.  It is indeed a history of colossal stupidities.  Among the most decisive of these blunders, second only perhaps of the blunder of the Verdun attack and far outshining the wild raid of the British towards Bagdad, was the blunder of the Trentino offensive.  It does not need the equipment of a military expert, it demands only quite ordinary knowledge and average intelligence, to realise the folly of that Austrian adventure.  There is some justification for a claim that the decisive battle of the war was fought upon the soil of Italy.  There is still more justification for saying that it might have been.

There was only one good point about the Austrian thrust.  No one could have foretold it.  And it did so completely surprise the Italians as to catch them without any prepared line of positions in the rear.  On the very eve of the big Russian offensive, the Austrians thrust eighteen divisions hard at the Trentino frontier.  The Italian posts were then in Austrian territory; they held on the left wing and the right, but they were driven by the sheer weight of men and guns in the centre; they lost guns and prisoners because of the difficulty of mountain retreats to which I have alluded, and the Austrians pouring through reached not indeed the plain of Venetia, but to the upland valleys immediately above it, to Asiago and Arsiero.  They probably saw the Venetian plain through gaps in the hills, but they were still separated from it even at Arsiero by what are mountains to an English eye, mountains as high as Snowdon.  But the Italians of such beautiful old places and Vicenza, Marostica, and Bassano could watch the Austrian shells bursting on the last line of hills above the plain, and I have no doubt they felt extremely uneasy.

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