Isonzo goes ever on and on | 5 Nov 1915

Third Isonzo

The battle has been suspended. Time to pick up the pieces. That first of all means looking at the casualties. For the Italians, 67,000. For the Austro-Hungarians, 40,400. The vast majority of them are wounded, sick, or totally exhausted; only 11,000 Italians and 9,000 Austro-Hungarians are dead.

And now, much as I don’t want to, we have to ask the question “what next?” The situation still appears to the Italian GHQ to be a question of Italian numbers vs enemy morale. I have no idea where this comes from. Perhaps it’s an attempt to justify continuing with their current tactics. “If we just keep punching them it won’t matter that we can’t take any of their trenches, they’ll just lose heart from how we won’t go away!”

In any case, General Cadorna has 24,000 fresh men available, and he’s managed to convince himself that these 24,000 can achieve what they’ve been failing at since May. Fourth Isonzo begins in one week. I’m looking forward to it already.


The invaders capture Nis and Kraljevo both. They’re showing no signs of exhaustion, and their supply lines are secure. The French are still trying to swim upstream from the south of the country. The Serbians are fast running out of options.


Lord Kitchener’s ham-fisted handling of the whole affair continues. In meetings with General Gallieni and Admiral Lacaze (the new Minister of the Marine), he’s being heavily leaned on to send more men to Serbia, and on the same terms as those currently there, to operate as guards for General Sarrail’s extending supply lines. In that light, quality is far less important to the French than quantity, and by the time they’re done Kitchener has swung back towards thinking that Gallipoli might be saved after all.

So now he starts working on a plan to shuffle some garrison troops from Egypt onto Gallipoli as a skeleton force to hold it until next spring, while sending three exhausted divisions over to Serbia. This might just have been a half-decent idea except for the tiny snag that Serbia is now slowly (and through no fault of their own) deflating, like a space hopper being sat on by an elephant. In any case, it’s given him enough hope to send a cable to Birdwood revoking his earlier revocation, and a cable to Admiral Keyes asking for him to travel with Kitchener back to Mudros so they can hammer out the details of forcing the Dardanelles. And you thought Gallipoli was safe from bullshit when Monro sent his report in! Ha ha ha, no.

Louis Barthas

Now comes the moment of truth for Louis Barthas. Will his men get him out of his run-in with the captain?

Around 10 o’clock the commandant and our captain, booted up to their bellies, came to pay us a visit. The captain looked at me with a suspicious eye. “So this is what you’ve done since last evening,” he said to me, “with forty men!” He didn’t press the matter further, and that’s how I got out of this scrape.

The steady rain brought on landslides which uncovered many French cadavers alongside our trench, which had been taken on September 25. They had been tossed out of the trench and insufficiently covered with a bit of dirt. It wasn’t unusual to be grabbed, while passing, by a skeletal hand or a foot sticking out of the trench wall. We were so blasé about it that we paid it no more attention than to a root we might trip upon in our path.

Indeed so. Tomorrow he’ll be relieved and sent back out of the line for a week of nothing much.

Actions in Progress

Armenian Genocide
Third Invasion of Serbia
Battle of Krivolak

Further Reading

Support the blog! Buy the book! 1914 is now available! 1915 to follow as long as y’all buy 1914!

I have a Twitter account, @makersley, which you can follow to be notified of updates and get all my retweets of weird and wonderful First World War things. If you prefer Tumblr, I’m also on Tumblr.

The Daily Telegraph is republishing its archives from the war day-by-day. Worth a look. I’m reading the paper every day, and it’s where the content for Our Advertising Feature comes from.

(If you find the olde-tyme style difficult to get along with, have a look at this reading guide.)

Leave a Reply