The Revenge - Die Rache

Edited by Jim Haugh-Pennsylvania/USA

 

June 12th 1915 :  

 The sun rose early in the morning, it was a clear sky and very quiet although occasionally one could hear a rifle shot. Italian heavy artillery had not yet started firing because both sides were enjoying breakfast.  

Unknown to the Italians, behind hill “Costa Alta” within Austrian defence lines (at Millegrobbe) a small group of Austrian soldiers and officers were very busy.  

 

 

Mortar batteries from Russia hastily being transported to the next railway station bound for Trento

 

 

Mortar battery stopped in Trento on the way to Lavarone .

 

With the help of many volunteers, heavy shells were being moved, and powder cans loaded. Two Austrian observation officers were looking at topographical maps while communi cat ing on a field telephone.

One officer raised his head…. heavy winds were coming  from the South. He looked at his trajectory tables and thought …”it’ll  be difficult but we’ll do our best”..

 

A rare photo of the mortar at Millegrobbe which destroyed Fort Verena in his original position  

At the same time, two Italian officers in the observation turret of Fort Verena were getting bored, not much was happening.

Every day, hundreds sometimes over a thousand, medium and heavy shells bombarded Austrian fortifi cat ions, yet the forts couldn’t be destroyed. When Italian infantry attacked, it seemed like every hole in the mountain opened up a mouth fire!

There was little if any territorial gain, and the losses in human life were staggering. In his binoculars, an officer viewed the heavy destruction inflicted on the Austrian forts, almost all of Luserna’s gun turrets were destroyed………only one of the four appeared to be operational.

 

Back side of heavily damaged Fort Luserna  

Destroyed turrets of Austrian Fort Luserna ,the concrete roof still intact

 

 

Destroyed osservation turret of Austrian Fort Vezzena  

 

 

Austrian Fort Sommo Alto after heavy bombardment,but still intact

 

 

Austrian Fort Verle after heavy Italian shell firing, still, the Fort defended itself with great success against any enemy attacks

 

 

Austrian Fort Verle, the entire area was completely destroyed by heavy Italian shelling  

 

He put down his binoculars , looking to his comrade he said “What’s that, do you hear it?”

 

From the other side something was coming over, there was a deep roar in the air, seconds later, the sound changed into a high whistling…….

There was no time to ask ,no time to discuss.no time for explanation.  

Suddenly, there was a tremendous explosion in front of Fort Verena , it shuttered like being in an earthquake. Flying rocks, stones, a fiery heat blast followed by rising smoke made one of the officers cry to heaven. It was an incredible blast and the first time either of the officers had seen anything like it.

 

Plant and section of Italian Fort Verena  

 

The first shot fell short. The  Austrians busied themselves making elevation adjustments.

 

Soon a second M11 was sighted in and fired.

Once again, the mountains amplified a sound like a huge hornet buzzing its way to Fort Verena .

Seconds later, the shell impacted behind the fort……..too far!

 

On both sides soldiers were raising their heads from the trenches. This was a new sound, never heard before!

And now it was becoming regular, every three or four minutes!

 

One hit against Fort Campolongo then another to Fort Verena .

 

The two Italian Forts were 5 Km from each other yet the impact of the shells was easy to observe..

They came closer and closer………..

 

Someone said it was the fifth shell someone said it was the seventh, but there was a direct hit on Fort Verena . It hit behind the third turret and penetrated 2 meters of concrete like paper , it travelled down to the gallery  then  exploded!!!!!!!….:

Forty men died instantly together with their commander captain Umberto Trucchetti, (2/3 of the squad died in less than a second!),  Ammunition started to explode in the casemates almost blowing the fort in half!! Survivors were fleeing in shock.

 

 The terrible hit of the M11 shell behind the 3.turret of Fort Verena -The turret is blocked, the front armament and protection of central axial bearing is destroyed,behind the turret the big hole where the M11 shell penetrated into the fort

 

 

Austrian officers on the roof of Fort Verena after taking it during 1916 summer campaign, turrets are blocked and  front armament destroyed

 

 

Austrian pioneers disarmed Fort Verena , in the back is  the central gun turret hit by a M11 heavy shell and completely destroyed.

 

 

Italian Fort Campolongo , the turrets were blown out, hit directly by M11 shells.

The pic shows the Fort from behind

 

On both sides soldiers were climbing out of their trenches, no one was even thinking about shooting…. everyone was still in shock.

On the hill of Costa Alta the two Austrian officers were smiling, and thinking “job well done”. The mortar being perfectly adjusted, it was time for a coffee break!..

 

Over at Millegrobbe the squad of mortar No.1  were still busy working, (shell weight was 384 kilos).

Same thing for the squad of mortar No.2 lo cat ed nearby at Vezzena, and firing against  Italian Fort Campolongo . For them, there wasn’t time for coffee!.  

 

An Italian squad of volunteers comanded by an unknown officer caught hold of their senses and quickly armed the two remaining turrets of Fort Verena . They opened a heavy and wild fire against the presumed positions of the unknown guns but with no effect. The long range cannons of  Fort Verena were not able to hit  the mortar positions.  The Austrians strategically lo cat ed them in places that couldn’t be reached by cannon fire. The Italians needed mortars or howitzers but didn’t have any.

.  

The Austrian mortars continued with their systematic destruction of the Italian forts.

 

With the M11’s sighted in, Forts Verena and Campolongo were hit every time. Quickly, the squad of Fort Campolongo started to disassemble the remaining intact 149G Guns from the turrets, then back to the trenches for cover!

In half a day both forts were silenced forever never again to be rearmed. 

(Prior to this, Fort Campolongo was still under construction and the turrets weren’t installed.

The turrets were ordered in 1914 from German Krupp steel facilities, but due to a neutrality declaration by the Italian government (The Italian side was an allied of Germany and Austria ), the German government stopped delivery of the turrets

so Fort Campolongo was used only as magazine and observation position.)

 

Four 149G cannons and 6 guns of 280mm relo cat ed near the Fort

were used as target practice for the second Austrian mortar M11 Battery.

On the same day, fire was directed against Italian artillery positions, Most were  destroyed or heavily damaged in a very short time.  

 

Italian commanders were totally caught off guard by the Austrian mortar batteries and it’s precision fire.

The entire fortifi cat ion belt of sector 3 ,section of Asiago –line Agno/Assa was completely destroyed with heavy losses of men and material by only four 30,5cm/M11 mortars!!.

 

The Italian defences built 1912-15 were state of the art modern construction made to defend against all the weapons known to Italian command. Roof armament was standard 2 meters of concrete without steel

Reinforcement.

Unfortunately the concrete was weak because it was mixed with large stones and rocks and any heavy shells especially the M11’s could easily penetrate it.

 

 Italian forts with  their 149G cannons couldn´t hit Austrian mortar positions behind the hills, it was a strategic error to arm these forts with cannons instead of howitzers.  

 

 

Reloading the M11,there was a little bit of time to make some small talk,the main destruction work was already done  

 

During 1915 and spring 1916 all Austrian forts were repaired and reinforced with better concrete roofs, now up to 5 m of thick. New armament and heavy turrets arrived but they were still fitted with 100mm howitzers.

 

The Italians started  building new mobile field artillery positions.

Until May 1916 artillery duells between both sides continued, until the big Austrian offensive, called the “Strafexpedition” or “punishment expedition”. The offensive rolled off the entire Italian line and brought Austrians from the mountains down to Asiago, where they were finally stopped by Italian defenders. Austrian logistics were too poor to advance and German reinforcements had not arrived.

 

During the May 1916 campaign Austrians had a few new surprises. To assist the mortars they brought the “Barbara”,a 380mm Howitzer and “Gudrun” a 420mm Howitzer. The weapons were mobile and transported by a Porsche Road tractor.

 

“Gudrun” during transport with Porsche Road tractor  

They were lo cat ed nearby the M11 positions at Millegrobbe and Vezzena.

“Gudrun´s” position was Malga Laghetto and with her heavy shells finished off Fort Campomolon and it’s artillery positions in a short time.  

 

Heavy 380mm Howitzer “Barbara”,ready to fire

Total grossweight of this arm was 81,7 tons,it was assembled from three pieces like the M11 Mortar

Maximum firing range was 14600 m

 

 

 

“Howitzer “Barabara” during loading procedure,the shell weight was 740 Kg! In front of the gun the prepared powder cans, one gunner is adjusting elevation for the next shot

 

Howitzer “Gudrun”,caliber 420mm nearby Malga Laghetto in the Lavarone district,the biggest mobile Austrian howitzer  

Loading  “Gudrun”

Shell weight was 1000Kg!!

Firing range 14700 m

Grossweight was 113 tons

 

 

 

 

 

Transport of heavy 420mm shells for “Gudrun”

 

 

 

A 420mm/M14 howitzer being fired. It was lo cat ed near Trento at Rovereto. The fire was against Italian positions at Mt. Pasubio , called “mount of blood” , due to heavy losses during war

 

“Barbara” and the M11-Mortars supported the attack against Italian lines at Mount Verena and Mount Campolongo .

Within one day all Italian defence positions were completely destroyed, Austrians advanced with small losses and captured all Italian Forts and positions.

The Italian front broke completely and everyone retreated to Asiago.

 

The Italians never recaptured their Forts, only when an armistice was signed November  3rd 1918   did Austrian troops leave the positions.  

 

Technical data of Italian Forts:

 

 

Armament of Fort Verena :  

4 turrets with 149G Cannons,2 cannons type 75A and 6 machine guns

 

Armament of Fort Campolongo :  

4 Turrets 149G cannons and some smaller artillery devices.Machine guns

 

Armament of Fort Campomolon (still under construction and not finished)  

4 cannons 149G in field positions and 3 Batteries of 280mm cannons (6 guns).Also 4 cannons type 75A and some machine guns

 

Nearby all Forts were lo cat ed other batteries of medium and heavy calibers up to 280mm.

Edited by Jim Haugh /Pennsylvania-USA,Cortesy of Jim Haugh

 

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7 Gemeinden

Ulrich Mößlang Optik Heydenreich der  Tauchbrillenspezialist  und  zertifizierter Sport-Optiker  
  
Fernkampfwerke, Bunker, Infanteriestützpunkte, Stellungen und Festungen der Österreicher und Ex Forte der Italiener aus dem ersten Weltkrieg in den Alpen, Dolomiten, Verona, Venezien und Friaul.  Denkmäler in München, Bayern und dem Rest der Welt.