The Great War on Cauriòl, Cardinal and Busa Alta

Cauriol
  • In 1916, With the the war lasting longer than expected and the Strafexpedition offensive concentrated mainly on the Asiago plateau, the border between the armies of the Kingdom of Italy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire crossed the mountain range of the so-called “Alps of Fassa ”, formed, among others, by the ridge drawn by the peaks of Cauriòl, Gardinàl (later renamed Cardinàl) and Kaiserspitze (later renamed Busa Alta), as well as the ones of Cavallazza and Colbricón.
  • For what the Italian army hoped could be a breaking attack at the peaks of Cauriòl, Gardinal and Kaiserspitze, together with that on Cima Cece, the Feltre battalion of the seventh regiment of Alpini was deployed. Given the lack of ammunition, in the initial plans, the Feltre Battalion should have waited until the Nucleo Generale Ferrari and the thirteenth of Bersaglieri had managed to break the Austro-Hungarian lines on Colbricón and Cavallazza.
  • After the Italians managed to conquer the top of Colbricón, with the new Austro-Hungarian line set back on the Piccolo Colbricón, the advance towards the summit of Cauriòl began on the night of 25 August 1916 with a double attack: the Alpini of Feltre from the south west and the Monterosa battalion from the south east. With the initial support of the artillery from Cima Paradisi and the final support of the 65 mm light cannons, at the dawn of August 27 the summit was conquered by the Alpini, forcing the imperial troops to withdraw towards Passo di Sàdole. During the fight, the second lieutenant Attilio Cartèri of the 65 company of the battalion of Feltre died, hit by a bullet to the head, to whom the shoulder south west of the peak of Cauriòl is dedicated.
  • Few hours after the fall of Cauriòl, the Austro-Hungarian counterattack began, which saw the survivors of the Alpini of Feltre and Monterosa fighting in complete isolation from the Italian second lines for four days, while waiting for the Alpini of Val Brenta reinforcements. In those days of intense fighting, the Austrian cannons of the Lagorai and the howitzers of the Val di Fiemme incessantly bombed the Cauriòl, providing support for the advance of the blue uniforms of the Kaiserjäger, pulled back by the Alpini in the small piece of land that separates the Piccolo Cauriòl from the Cauriòl. To support the Kaiserjägers, a Bosnian battalion was sent, tragically remembered for the tragic episode of the “friendly fire”: while the battalion was advancing towards the peak of Cauriòl along the valley of Sàdole, two shots of the 305 mm howitzer from Ziano di Fiemme hit its ranks. The episode was called “a massacre”, and made the command of Bolzano desist from a further attack on the summit.
  • With the fall of Cauriòl, the Austrians strengthened their positions on the Gardinal and Kaiserspitze, aware of the fact that, without them, the taking of Cauriòl would not have a real strategic value.
  • On September 14, 1916 the battalions of Monterosa, Feltre and Brenta resumed the attack on the Gardinal, whose twin peak fell on September 23, 1916. The actual summit remained in custody at the third Kaiserschützen regiment of Innichen. In the operation on the inhospitable ridge of the mountain, the price in terms of human lives, both Italian and Austrian, was disproportionate, with hundreds of victims per side.
  • As evidence of the cruelty of the clashes, Ubaldo Baldinotti tells us in his diaries how, after leaving from the village of Mezzano for the night assault on the Gardinal, his battalion was hit, close to the summit, by machine gun bursts and a series of large stones, which caused the death of numerous Alpini, forcing their withdrawal.
  • For the assault that could have changed the tide of the war on the front of eastern Lagorai at the Kaiserspitze, the Monterosa, completely decimated, was integrated by the Battalions Monte Matajiur and Monte Arvenis. The assault on the Kaiserspitze began on October 2, 1916. After three days, “altitude 2,456” (Busa Alta “Taliana”) was taken by the Italians. The resistance of the soldiers of the empire was extreme and, after countless attacks repelled at “altitude 2,512”, the Kaiserspitze remained in Austrian hands until the end of the conflict.
  • There are about 800 soldiers – never entirely transferred to monumental shrines built during the fascist era -, both Italian and Austrian, lying in the cemetery of Caoria, in silent memory of the tough struggle to maintain position on these rugged peaks of the Lagorai. Many of them, escaped from the tragedy of the war, fell victim to disease or avalanches in the terrible winter of 1916-1917. The last fallen, an unknown Italian soldier, was found on the Cauriòl slopes, finding eternal peace on the pastures of the Valley of Vanoi only in 1929.

References

  • Girotto, L. (2007). Sull’aspre cime del monte Cauriol, Aviani Editore.
  • Zorzi, A. (2007). Monte Cauriol 1916. Ziano di Fiemme.
  • Finegil, Espresso (2015). La Grande Guerra 1914-1918. GEDI Gruppo Editoriale S.p.A, Roma
  • Bettega, A. (2010). Grande Guerra in valle di Fiemme-Fassa e Biois. Edizioni Gino Rossato.
  • Von Lichem, A. (1993). La guerra in montagna 1915-1918: il Fronte Dolomitico. Bolzano, Italy: Athesia.

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