Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

heavy howitzers sheltering behind precipices rising sheer up several thousand feet, and fighting with Austrian guns ten miles distant, and beyond one, if not two, high ranges of hills. One imagines that the Austrians must have many twelve-inch howitzers to spare, for there are, to give an example, a couple near Mauthen, beyond the crest of the Carnic Alps, and other heavy artillery in the same district hidden in caverns.

In these caverns, which are extremely hard to locate, they are secure against shrapnel and cannot be seen by airren. I fancy the Austrians use galleries with several gun positions, which are used in turn.

"This style of fighting compels the Italians to follow suit, or at least it is supposed to do so, and then, as no road means no heavy guns, there comes in the Italian engineer, the roadmaker, and the mason, and in the art of roadmaking the Italian is supreme.

“They are very wonderful, these mountain roads. They play with the Alps and make impossibilities possible. Thanks to them, and to the filovia, or air railway on chains, it possible to proceed from point to point with great rapidity, and to keep garrisons and posts well supplied. The telephones run everywhere, and observing stations on the highest peaks enable Italian howitzers to make sure of their aim. I am not quite sure whether the Italians do not trust too much to their telephones and will not regret the absence of good flag signalers. When large forces are operating, and many shells bursting, the telephone is often a broken reed. The motor lorries, with about a one and one-half ton of useful load, get about wherever there is a road, and the handy little steam tractors, which make light of dragging the heaviest guns up the steepest gradients, are valuable adjuncts to the defense. At the turns of bad zigzags, the Italians have a remarkable drill for men on the dragropes, and in fact all difficulties have been overcome.

"I recall some Italian batteries mounted at an elevation of about 9,000 feet, of which each gun weighed eleven tons, the carriage five tons, and the platform, which was divided into sections, thirty tons. These guns, the battery officers declared, were brought up from the plains by a new mountain road in

P_War St. 5

geven hours, and placed in position on these platforms five hours later. It is all a question of roads, but the filovia can carry 400 kilos, and any gun under that weight can get up to a peak by way of the air.

"It is all very marvelous and very perfect, and the Italians are also adepts at trench building, and make them most artistically. The only objection I can see to the mountain road is that, when the enemy gets a hold of the territory which they serve, he has the benefit of them. This is true of Trentino operations now, and the enemy has many more roads at his disposal than the old maps show. Sometimes I wonder whether the Italians do not immerse themselves a little too much in these means of war and lose sight a little of the ends, but over nine-tenths of Italy's frontier the war is Alpine, and it must be allowed that Italian soldiers have brought the art of mountain fighting to a degree of perfection which it has never attained before.

"The Italian Alpine group varies in strength and composition. It usually has the local Alpine battalions reenforced by the mountaineers of Piedmont, and completed, when necessary, by line infantry, who usually act in the lower valleys, leaving the high peaks to the mountaineers. Artillery is added according to needs-mountain, field, and heavy-while there are engineers in plenty, and the mule transport is very good.

"The Alpini wear a good hobnailed boot for ordinary service, but for work on the ice the heel of the boot is taken off, and an iron clamp with ice nails substituted. For mountaineering feats they often use scarpe da gatto, or cat shoes, made of string soles with felt uppers, which are more lasting than the Pyrenean straw sandals. The Gavetta, or mess tin of the Alpini, is very practical. It is of the same shape as ours, but a little deeper, and has a reserve of spirit at the base and a spirit lamp, enabling the Alpini to make coffee or heat their wine. They use racquets or skis on the snow, and carry either the alpenstock or the ice ax,

"I did not realize before coming here that trench warfare, and the close proximity of hostile trenches, had become as usual in the mountains as in the plains. The defenses are, of course, not continuous over such a long, and in parts, impassable line, but

[merged small][ocr errors]
[graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][subsumed][ocr errors][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][merged small]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

tend to concentrate at the passes and other points of tactical importance. But here the adversaries draw together, and one often finds lines only separated by twenty yards.

“The Alpini are usually as much deprived of the power of maneuvering as their comrades in the plains, and all that is left for them is to act by surprise. They have a system of attacking by infiltration forward, not so very dissimilar from Boer methods, and they have a number of devices and surprises which repay study.

“Their enemy is worthy of them, for the chamois hunters, the foresters, the cragsmen of the Austrian Alps are no mean antagonists, as all of us know who have shot and climbed with them. Very fine men, they shoot quick and straight, and when an officer of Alpini tells us not to dally to admire the scenery, because we are within view of an Austrian post within easy range, we recall old days and make no difficulty about complying.

"The Germans trained their Alpine corps here before it went to Serbia, and the Italians made many prisoners from it-Bavarians, Westphalians, and East Prussians. So at least I am told by officers of Alpini who fought with it, and it is certainly proved beyond all doubt that German artillery has been, and is now, cooperating with the Austrians on the Italian front.

"The Alpini hold their positions winter and summer on the highest peaks and have made a great name for themselves. They have lost heavily, and the avalanches have also taken a serious toll of them. One parts with them with regret, for they are indeed very fine fellows, and the war they wage is very hard.

“One point more. Pasubio is not one of the highest peaks in Italian hands, but snow fell there in the end of May and will fall again at the end of August. The time allowed for big things in the Alps by big armies is strictly limited. Also we must remember that there are winter defenses to be made in the snow, and summer defenses to be made in the earth and rock. The Austrians were clever in attacking the other day, just as the snow defenses had crumbled and the summer defenses had not been completed. The barbed-wire chevaux-de-frise are often covered by snow in a night and have to be renewed. When the

« AnteriorContinuar »