Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Front Among Rocks and Ice - The Great War in the Dolomites, part one.

The Front Among Rocks and Ice - The Great War in the Dolomites, part one.

"The front among rocks and ice" were the words of the war veteran Gunther Langes. In my opinion this is the best brief description of the war in the Dolomites - a lonely frontline, not so famous as the Western Front.

Certainly most of us have heard something about this front and the conditions there. But do we really know what the term "high altitude mountain war" means? The term "high altitude" is not an exaggeration here - it was a mountain warfare at the elevation of 3000 meters over the sea level, or higher. 

And no one has planned it at the beginning. The Italian plan was short and simple - to cross the mountain passes quickly, advance to the valleys and march towards Vienna. This was the plan, but the reality was much different...

There is nothing better than photos, to show the specific of the Italian Front. I hope that those pictures would help you to understand the extreme conditions of the war in the Dolomites. The photos were found in the internet and I added some explanations there, based on some books and articles of the Italian front.

The famous group of mountains called Drei Zinnen / Tre Cine di Lavaredo (2.999m)
Position 1 - Italian searchlight, position 2,3 - Italian cannon.

Trofana III (3.237m), Trofana II (3.243m) 
Position 1 - six Italian cannons and two searchlights.

Trofana I (3.225m)
Position 1 - tunnel, at the end of it the charge of 35.000kg of the explosives; position 2 - "August", Italian post and the way to it; position 3 - "Scudo", Italian post with machine gun and snipers, the way is the rope ladder; position 4 - Italian post at 2.900m, machine gun and mortar, the way to that post.
At the top of Trofana I - two Italian cannons and a searchlight.

Trofana I, general view.
Position 2 - Forcella di Rozes, an Austro-Hungarian post. Almost all Italian positions at Trofana were higher than the Austro-Hungarian ones.

Kleiner Lagazuoi (2.756m)
Position 1 - the debris made by Austro-Hungarian mine, 23.000kg of the explosives, 14.1.1917; position 2 - the debris made by Italian mine, 33.000kg of the explosives, 20.6.1917; position 3 - to place the Italian mine, a 1100m long tunnel was made.

Sasso di Stria,(2.477m)
This was a fortified Austro-Hungarian post, unfortunately there was no safe way to get there. As the casualties of the supply-carriers were higher than the casualties in the fight, a special tunnel was made for the purpose of supplying the positions.

To be continued...


Sunday, February 5, 2012

The war graves - part two.

The war graves - part two.

In the previous post I’ve mentioned some graves in memoriam – the symbolic graves, erected for the soldiers who were buried far away from their homes, mostly at the battlefields thorough the Europe and Asia. 

This is one of them, dedicated to the soldier whose grave is in Nabrezina, Italy.

Certainly there were thousands of such soldiers and one can find a single grave in memoriam almost everywhere. But there is a special memorial that can be found at Prague municipal cemetery, called „hroby v dáli“ (the faraway graves). This is a symbolic grave dedicated to the citizens of Prague who died at many battlefields of the Great War and were buried there. 

The faraway graves - main board with a special prayer. 

Prague WW1 war cemetery with "The faraway graves" on the cemetery wall (in the background).

The names of dozens battlefields or cemeteries could be found there: Tarnow (Poland), Bitloje (Serbia), Pietra Rossa (Italy), Rybno (Galicia, now Ukraine), Gorica (Slovenia)…

General view of the WW1 cemetery. 


There is another interesting symbolic grave nearby. Erected in 1936 in memoriam of Czech seamen in the Austro-Hungarian fleet.

This is the end of our walk through Olšany Cemetery, so there is the last photo from there -        a grave of another soldier from the Great War, with his portrait on the tomb. What rivets our attention is a kind of a poem dedicated to this young soldier:

Dear son and young hero,
Being in warmth memory of all, you have gone far away
You have been heavily wounded on the field of glory and honor, and after the nine months of suffering
You’ve given your young life to the altar of your homeland

Your country was calling you! Believing in your duty
Young and loved by everyone, you have sacrificed your young life
Our memories drizzle on your grave with warmth tears
You’re dead but still alive in our hearts, and the hearts of all that knew you

I hope my translation of it is good enough and I hope you've enjoyed this short walk. Maybe those photos inspired you to visit your local cemetery? The graves from the Great War are almost everywhere and they shouldn't be forgotten.