The White War by Mark Thompson
Life and death on the Italian front 1915 1919.
Mark Thompson was born in Sheffield and lives in Oxford. He is the Author of: A Paper War a much praised account of the fall of Yugoslavia, Forging War his second book was chosen as a book of the year in the Guardian and Observer. He worked for the UN in Croatia for much of the 1990’s. He brought a lot of knowledge and skill to the White War and by his own admission he did not research and reference original documents and interviews but rather distilled his work from many other printer materials on this subject. This in no was diminishes his first rate insight into a little reported section of the First World War
Italy was dragged unwilling and unprepared into this war, which was against the Austria Hungarians in the mountains of the Dolomites. Its own generals and politicians thought that a new war would be the final step in the founding of Italy as a state. She had been born some 80 years previously under the banners of the red shirted followers of Garibaldi and for many, time had not moved on at all. The Generals at first had only one tactic against the massed troops bedded into the mountains , and that was to mass frontal attack which caused so much slaughter the Austrians during the many unofficial truces asked the Italian solders not to keep coming forwards en masse as they were getting ill from killing them ! Later on the Italian Sappers were tunnelling vertically through the rock of these mountains and managed to reduce their height by several metres .
The Italian troops were divided Into North and south , the Northerners mainly educated and political aware ready to die under the cry of “ Trento and Trieste!” and so many were obliged that the blood count was even higher than that on the Western front. The Southerners for the most part were from peasant stock and went because they were told to by Mussolini's newspapers’ and conscription. The whole army was starved of decent food and rations even in winter they were not give hot meals on the front and after a while to encourage them when it came to the murderous assaults Decimation was brought back in from the legionary times . This front is also where an unknown Erwin Rommel made his name fighting against Mussolini.
Mark Thomson gives us an insight into the psychology of the troops and the Generals rewards us with the full tactical situation, he tells us of the political state of the nation during and after the war .This is a must read for the ardent student of warfare, so much so that this is not a new publication but has been revived owing to interest from BBC4 and other warfare scholars I give it 4 mushrooms.