Chief of Staff
App Esercito Italiano
Timeline of War on the Italian front
Italian operations in brief
The Royal Army prepares for war
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The Italian attempts to give the Army efficiency have reached positive results in spite of difficulties and discontinuity in the strengthening process.
The alliance with Austria and Germany led to neglect the defensive position on the eastern and north-eastern border; that situation was dangerous because the conceptual and spiritual orientations of the new Austrian Chief of General Staff could not exclude a forceful behaviour against the Italian Army.
In 1908 Austria annexed Bosnia-Herzegovina, violating the defensive Triple Threat; particular military measures were adopted by Austria along the Italian border; the Wien Government started to carry out restrictive actions towards its population with Italian origins. All those actions were linked to the hard hostility of the General Conrad against Italy.
In June 1908 the General Alberto Pollio succeeded to Tancredi Saletta as Chief of General Staff of the Italian Army. The international political situation suggested that the disagreements between the European Powers were leading to a military solution. So the General Pollio had to prepare the Army to a conflict where it would have been involved inevitably.
Several concrete measures have been taking: the balanced force was increased; fortifications with unbroken barrier were installed along Tagliamento, Carnia and Cadore; artilleries were modernised; some supplies of munitions and weapons for a war were created; the national railway system was improved because the Army in the countryside could only gather along the Piave river.
In addition to the technical logistic problems there was the operational one that needed a revision of the tactical doctrine in view of the last events in Europe. That was an innovative operation through which the General Pollio was able to realize an Italian doctrine especially regarding the idea of an offensive conflict against defensive positions; in doing that he reviewed and updated the rules for the use of Big Units as well as the tactical and technical regulation for the different weapons, using originality, a realistic sense and a balance between theory and concrete chances.
The following organisational and strengthening problems have been faced and defined:
the defensive organisation of the Austrian border according to the political situation of the alliance. That decision adjusted to the conditions determined by the Austrian attitude and it represented a development in the Italian political orientations at an international level; the two-year stop for all the armed forces was adopted (except for the Gendarmerie), with the extension of the compulsory military service for all the citizens;
the regular budgetary allocations were increased through special allocations (that were about 553 millions);
the machine gun was added in the weaponry of the infantry and the cavalry;
the modern mechanical drawn substituted gradually the animal drawn;
there was a first organization of the aviation;
the different artillery categories (the field artillery, the horse artillery, the mountain artillery, the heavy artillery and the siege artillery) were modernised.
country services were planned.
That complicated program was hardly undertaken by the General Spingardi and the General Pollio; it was not precisely completed at the outbreak of the war because of unpredictable and new situations, but the two Generals succeeded in giving the Army a structural organization thanks to which it could face the enemies in the battlefields and defeat them. The Spingardi-Polio reforms, that were ratified by the 1909-1910 laws, led to:
the permanent establishment of 4 Armed Commands that were previously provided only in case of mobilisation;
the legal recognition of the Supreme Joint Commission for the State Defence and of the Army Council that was the advisor authority of the Ministry of War, consisting of the Undersecretary of the War Department (Army), the Chief of the General Staff of the Army, the Lieutenant Generals, the General Executive Directors of the different services;
the increase of one Alpine Regiment, from 7 to 8, on a total of 26 Battalions with 78 companies;
the establishment of the 4
Cyclist Battalion in the 12 Bersaglieri Regiments;
some changes in the cavalry rules, passing from 24 regiments on 6 squadrons to 29 regiments on 5 squadrons, and from 1 to 3 divisions;
the artillery strengthening through:
the creation of 12 field regiments; in that way, the category amounted to 36 regiments: 12 Army Corps on 6 gun batteries and 24 divisions on 5 batteries;
the reinforcement of the horse regiment, from 6 to 8 batteries on 4 parties;
the establishment of a 2
mountain regiment on 12 batteries (the 3
one was established in February 1915);
the unification, as fortress artillery, of 10 regiments consisting of 33 groups (18 fortress groups and 15 coastal groups). The 10
regiment of the category was defined as siege regiment;
the establishment of the first two heavy artillery regiments, on 5 groups each of them with 2 batteries (3 groups of howitzer and 2 of cannons): on the whole 20 batteries;
the institution of the Supreme Technical Course and the Artillery Technical Service (Law 10 July 1910);
the creation in 1914 of the first aerostatic sections in order to observe the battlefield and in particular the area of the artillery shot in the karsts area and in the Veneto Plain, where there were no land observatory positions with good possibilities.
adjustment of the Engineers Corps:
the railwaymen Brigade became a regiment (the 6
Engineers Corps) with 6 railwaymen companies, 2 automotive companies and a deposit;
a specialist Engineer Battalion is created, with 5 specialist companies, a radiotelegraphy section, a photographic section, an aviation section and a train company.