Feature Articles - The Minor Powers During World War One - Italy

The Italian King Vittorio Emanuele Italy had, in the years leading up to the war, been allied with Germany and Austria-Hungary in the "Triple Alliance".  However, when war came, Italy declared her neutrality.

Eventually, Italy entered the war on the allied side on 23rd May 1915 by declaring war on Austria and claiming the regions of the South Tirol (Alto Adige) and an area on the Isonzo river and the town of Trieste.

Despite initial Italian successes, the Italian front quickly bogged down into a stalemate, which remained through most of 1916.  Gains of a few miles for the cost of tens of thousands of lives in battles that lasted for days on end were common.

Italian troops also served in the Balkans on the Salonika front (see Greece) and also against the Turks in Palestine.  Many Italians also served on the Western front and many are buried in the German military cemetery at Douai.

Italian troops entrenched along the IsonzoBy late 1917, the Austro-German forces were gaining the upper hand and British and French troops were rushed to Italy.  Later in 1918, Americans arrived as well.  The Fighting continued to be fierce among the mountain peaks of the Alps and along the Isonzo.  But pressure in the Balkans was beginning to tell and by October 1918 the Austro-Hungarian government was talking peace to the allies.

On November 3rd, Italian troops entered the city of Trento (Trent) and captured 300,000 Austrian soldiers, including the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein.  Fighting ended on the Italian Front on 4th November 1918.

In the Versailles negotiations, Italian territorial demands were granted in Europe, but in Africa her demands were mostly for British and French lands and were refused.

Four years after the war, after an attempted communist revolution, Mussolini and his blackshirts marched on Rome and took power.

615,000 Italians were killed in action or died of wounds during World War I.

"Bully Beef" comprised cans of boiled or pickled beef used by the British Army.

- Did you know?

Minor Powers