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#26 PJA

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Posted 20 June 2011 - 10:41 PM

Wasn't there a time lag between the casualty being sustained and the recording of the event ?

I know, for example, that when the British fought their great battle on the Somme in the summer of 1916, the heaviest casualties were suffered in the month of July. But they were not "tabulated" until August, with the result that the August casualty list, published at the time, was grossly inflated by inclusion of casualties that had been suffered the month before. It was only much later that the proper correlation of time and casualty numbers was sorted out.

Likewise, German casualty statistics for 1915, based on the Verluste, are inflated to 1.7 million, by virtue of the fact that nearly one sixth of them properly belonged to 1914.
The 1914 casualties are commensurately understated.

I would venture to suggesrt that the 70,000 casualties listed in your Austrian sample imply delay in recording, and that the actual total was much greater.

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#27 SMSKaiser

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Posted 21 June 2011 - 05:36 AM

Yes, of course you are right.
A German source of mine for example gives the number of men listed in the German Verustlisten for August 1914 with 175,000 men, while the official "Sanitaetsbericht" gives only some 120,000 for the month.

As i wrote, Herbert Baron Conrad was killed on the 8th of september, while the list was published only in november.

The only explanation for me is that casualty lists were not published chronologically, but sorted after units.

An example: Verlustliste Nr. 17 was published in early october. It contains a lot of men from the Tiroler Kaiserjäger Regiment Nr. 1.
As most of the early casualties must have occured during 26th of August to 11th of september for this Regiment, it is unlikely to me that the lists appeared chronologically, because,
Verlustliste Nr. 47 belongs to the 8th of September (especially Dragoner Regiment Nr. 15, as all of its casualties that day appear on that list), but still does not go farther than 70,000 casualties total.

As to the principle on HOW casualty list were sorted, published etc., i hope one of you who have a lot more experience with that might give me a clue.

#28 PJA

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Posted 21 June 2011 - 07:09 AM

Another comment, sir, that might be constructive in our attempt to interpret these casualty statistics.....

That AH tabulation I cited giving the breakdown of the losses by various fronts, indicates 1,881,275 battle casualties in the first twelve months of war, up until July 31 1915 :
243,000 dead, 910,000 wounded and 728,000 missing. The sick are counted seperately : 643,000.

The combat casualty total implies an average in excess of 150,000 per month.

Surley this average was greatly exceeded in the furious intensity of the Lemberg battles against the Russians in August and September 1914, not to mention the heavy losses against the Serbs.

By that reckoning, we might reasonably ascribe at least double the average rate for August and September 1914, and a total well in excess of 300,000 by September 8 seems a sober guess.

Editing here : I note from data in the sanitatsbericht that, up until July 31st 1915, total German battle casualties - both West and East - amounted to 1,724,563. This indicates that , of the two Central Powers, it was the Austrians who had taken greater punishment in the first year of war. The breakdown is different : more Germans had shed their blood, but far fewer had been posted as missing. The German figure for killed alludes only to those confirmed killed in action, and does not allow for men who died from wounds. The Austrian figure for dead includes men who died from wounds. But in neither case are those of the missing who were actually dead included in the count of fatalities.

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#29 kaiserknight

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Posted 25 June 2011 - 12:54 AM

WOW! Bob, We will have to start calling you "Spook" !! Very interesting life you have led.



#30 James A Pratt III

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Posted 29 June 2011 - 11:32 PM

In "The Eastern Front 1914-1917" Norman Stone the A-H empire doesn't come out looking to good. In fact, they sometimes come accross as the "keystone cops". However, from what I have got from other books ect. the armies pre-war defense budget was somewhat small for a great power and taking staggering casualties in the 1914-15 period including 3/4ths of the officer corps KIA/WIA/POW. Add to this the Allied blockade. You can see why the army and empire collapsed in 1918.

#31 James A Pratt III

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Posted 30 June 2011 - 08:27 PM

Correction: From my notes from "Isonzo: The Forgotten Sacrafice of the Great War" In 1914 the KUK Army had 22,000 of 50,000 active and reserve officers become casualties.

#32 LiamS

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Posted 03 July 2011 - 12:08 PM

Thanks for this thread I will read it in conjunction with the relevant chapter in Strachan's To Arms,I have only started that but he does indicate that this army was certainly the most undergunned of any belligerent and there is the whole backdrop of the 3 armies within the AH empire and the subsequent confusion as regards deployment,multi lingual orders (or not),where to put the 2nd army etc.There was also apparently and surprisingly much confusion and misunderstanding between Moltke and Conrad and what they were expecting of each other.

#33 SMSKaiser

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Posted 06 July 2011 - 02:38 PM

Artillery numbers is a serious argument in many publications to explain the Austrian disadvantage.
Furthermore, the artillery is often stated as to have caused up to 75% of total casualties during the war, although i cannot remember where i got this number from).

This always goes into some sort of argumentation that modern weapons would increase casualties.

In my opinion, on the contrary, the use of modern weapons, especially the increasing number of arillery, REDUCED the amount of total casualties.

As an example one might go through casualty figures of randomly chosen battles in the past.

Battle of Zorndorf 25th August 1758: 36,000 Prussians lose 12,800 men (35,5%) against 43,500 Russians with 18,500 losses (42,5%)

Battle of Wagram 5-6th of July 1809: 136,000 Austrians lose 41,250 men (30,33%) against 162,000 French with 37,500 losses (23,15%)

Battle of Spicheren 6th August 1870: 37,000 Prussians lose 5,000 men (13,5%) against 29,000 French (with 4,000 lost, 13,8%)

Finally, battle of Krasnik-Lublin 23rd August to 11th September 1914: roghly 300,000 Austrians and 40,000 Germans lose 90,000 men and 8,000 men against an equal number of Russian losing 80,000 men.

While the percentage is far higher than at Spicheren (with roughly 25-30% on each side), one has to consider that this battle lasted 20 days in which most of the troops were engaged almost all of the time.

Daily average casualties reach only 5,000 men per side approximately PER DAY, not more than 2% total casualties.
I have to admit that the "average" does not include the fact that fighting was much more intense in the early part of September, but one might get an idea on how casualties actually DECLINED, despite more artillery and better handfire-weapons.

My point here is that the number of guns had, apart from maybe psychological effect, not the importance to which especially the Austrian side refers to.

#34 wiking

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Posted 06 July 2011 - 03:25 PM

The biggest issue was probably numbers. AHs initial victories were despite their artillery disadvantage. Still the Zlota Lipa battle does seem to have been lost because AH was outgunned and outnumbered.


Thanks for this thread I will read it in conjunction with the relevant chapter in Strachan's To Arms,I have only started that but he does indicate that this army was certainly the most undergunned of any belligerent and there is the whole backdrop of the 3 armies within the AH empire and the subsequent confusion as regards deployment,multi lingual orders (or not),where to put the 2nd army etc.There was also apparently and surprisingly much confusion and misunderstanding between Moltke and Conrad and what they were expecting of each other.

Moltke was purposely vague and Conrad was just delusional, making plans without any definite commitments or planning with Germany. Frankly someone so slapdash in his command style should not have been commanding!

#35 bob lembke

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Posted 06 July 2011 - 03:41 PM

Moltke was purposely vague and Conrad was just delusional, making plans without any definite commitments or planning with Germany. Frankly someone so slapdash in his command style should not have been commanding!


I don't know the details, but wasn't Conrad mostly focused on "the old in and out" with his mistress, rather than bothersome military distractions?

Bob

#36 Heid the Ba'

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Posted 06 July 2011 - 03:58 PM

And we should not forget that, though this is of course disputed, both armies at the end of 1918 had still enough soldiers and equipment to fight through the winter. The hundreds of thousands of Austrian POW in the battle of Vittorio Veneto were to a great share captured after armistice, and i personally think that the collapse of the Central Powers really did occur in the interior.

I, for one, will dispute this. Everything I have read (admittedly only in english) baldy states that the Austro-Hungarian Army was starving and in rags. I have yet to see any reference to Austro-Hungarian troops in 1918 having anything like sufficient equipment or food.

As for VV, the reason the PoWs weren't captured until after the Armistice was that they were heading home and not in the front lines.

I accept the basics of a lot of what you say about the AH Army early in the war but to claim it could fight on until 1919 is simply nonsense. Yes, the lack of supplies was because of failures in society and manufacturing but to suggest the army was capable of continuing to fight is simply not supported by any evidence.

#37 SMSKaiser

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Posted 06 July 2011 - 04:50 PM

The biggest issue was probably numbers. AHs initial victories were despite their artillery disadvantage. Still the Zlota Lipa battle does seem to have been lost because AH was outgunned and outnumbered.


Well, there is a huge difference between the battles fought in the north (Lublin, Tomaszow), and those in the south.

The northern armies were assembled early in full strength and in the initial clashes such as the battle of Krasnik they were even superior to the Russians.

The eastern flank on the other hand got its forces peace by peace. On the outset the difference was almost 2 to 1.
This is far more than any other major battle in the initial campaigns on all fronts offered.

Inferior in numbers from the start, i would suggest that General Brudermann's forces suffered a higher percentage of it's casualties already in the beginning.

And on the other hand, the last tactial success of the August-September campaign lays with the fresh IV. Austrian Corps at the Wereszyca river, DESPITE the previous losses of the eastern group of armies.

I, for one, will dispute this. Everything I have read (admittedly only in english) baldy states that the Austro-Hungarian Army was starving and in rags. I have yet to see any reference to Austro-Hungarian troops in 1918 having anything like sufficient equipment or food.


I do not want to offend any author or effort from the "Allied/Entente" side of the war, or, more likely, the victors,
but especially in literature published in the years after the war the strength of Austria and Germany for the latter part of the war seems to me to be a bit underestimated.

Of course the troops were starved due to blockade, but what finally ended the war was nevertheless the fact that the Central Powers broke down politically.
That people were running away from the front was due to the fact that the empire ceased to exist in those days, already.

Although Germany had not any chance left to win the war, which is in Germany described in the so-called "Dolchstosslegende" by General Ludendorff,
there is no report known to me which explicitely "proves" that the Entente did defeat the Central Powers, either.

Thus, to simply turn down my thesis as "nonsense" might be a bit to fast jugded in this matter.
Experience shows that fighting during the winter months was difficult. The final breakdown, as it is presented to us, was a real close thing for the Allies to win in 1918.
4 weeks later major offensives might have been impossible.

I have to admit that I have no time at the moment to study exact frontlines during the final days of the war, but i suggest that it was well possible to recover from a major defeat in a new front line.
As far as i know, the Italians did not achieve any major break-through into the Austrian heartland at all.

#38 wiking

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Posted 07 July 2011 - 02:50 AM

I don't know the details, but wasn't Conrad mostly focused on "the old in and out" with his mistress, rather than bothersome military distractions?

Bob

As an older man it seems like he was more interested in trying to get her to divorce her husband and marry him. That and he was sick with the flu during the initial campaign, which, as someone in exceptionally good health, he was not used to and it hit him hard. He would spend hours every day writing to his lover (she was married, not him), even when he was supposed to be working! That and his utterly ridiculous lack of comprehension of reality on the ground would grind up the AH army in 1914-1915. Not for nothing did he say "if Franz Ferdinand were alive he'd have me shot!" after the August-September **** ups. That and he scape goated his friend, General Auffenberg, for his failures as CoS, ending his career.

#39 Heid the Ba'

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Posted 07 July 2011 - 08:04 AM

Of course the troops were starved due to blockade, but what finally ended the war was nevertheless the fact that the Central Powers broke down politically.
That people were running away from the front was due to the fact that the empire ceased to exist in those days, already.

This may be caused by language difficulties, but your second post stated that both the Germans and Austro-Hungarian armies had "at the end of 1918 had still enough soldiers and equipment to fight through the winter." As they were starving in the autumn and food was becoming scarcer and harder to transport I don't see how they could possibly have made it through the winter. As for Allied attacks becoming impossible through the winter months, this is irrelevant as the Central Powers had surrendered by then.

The Italians had not made it into Austrian territory in any depth by the end of the war but neither had the Allies made it any great way into Germany but yet both armies were defeated.

As I said earlier I agree with a lot of what you say but this part cannot go unchallenged.

#40 James A Pratt III

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Posted 07 July 2011 - 10:59 PM

Adding to my above posting i think the pre-war army had only 400,000 men the rest were reservists. So taking the heavy casualties they did in 1914-15 alone pretty much gutted their pre-war regular army. It also needs to be pointed out that the A-H army did not promote men from the ranks to officers! unlike the other great powers. Add to this they lacked the industry to turn out the war material they really needed. Add to this they were short of raw materials and if they had the materials like coal, they had problems getting them to the factories. For more information see:
"German Airpower in WW I" which has a chapter on the A-H air service and how inept they were
"Austro-Hungarian Army Aircraft of World War One"
"Air Aces of the Austro-Hungarian Empire 1914-1918"

one also needs to point out by the fall of 1918 they A-H army was starving and in rags according to "Isonzo" and other works whether they could have held on through the winter of 1918-19 is debateable.

#41 bob lembke

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Posted 08 July 2011 - 03:01 AM

It also needs to be pointed out that the A-H army did not promote men from the ranks to officers! unlike the other great powers.

one also needs to point out by the fall of 1918 they A-H army was starving and in rags according to "Isonzo" and other works whether they could have held on through the winter of 1918-19 is debateable.


There was a number of routes for officers to be created in the German Army, but generally (normal) enlisted men did not become real officers. My grand-father did by becoming a special class of technical officer. Also, one route to become a reserve officer was to become a special class of enlisted man (and also paying for uniforms and other expenses and not getting paid); if successful you could then become a special class of NCO and finally a reserve officer. During the war a lot of officer slots, generally platoon commanders, were filled by regular NCOs or special strange ranks like Feldwebel-Leutnant, really a glorified NCO.

The A-H Army was a mess in 1918 and a good source that I read said that late in the war generally the only unit that would actually fight in a division was the division's storm detachment.

Bob

#42 SMSKaiser

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Posted 08 July 2011 - 08:15 AM

As they were starving in the autumn and food was becoming scarcer and harder to transport I don't see how they could possibly have made it through the winter. As for Allied attacks becoming impossible through the winter months, this is irrelevant as the Central Powers had surrendered by then.


Let's not throw two different things together here.

What i meant was the possibility to simply "hould out", not the ability to win the war finally, which was definitely impossible.
By means of policy and strategy, the armistice was the better choice (at this time we should not forget that Germany and Austria hoped for peace on basis of WIlson's 14 points).

But in military matters, the Allies had not even crossed the borders, as you said.
For four years, the war was mostly fought on Allied territory, and the Allies were able to hold out.

From the tactical point of view, it was possible at several occasions to recover from decisive defeat in a more backward position.
Look at the Ottoman empire: while it's armies were totally destroyed in the battle of megiddo, they were still able to organise some sort of resistance later.
Not total military defeat ended the fighting, it was the armistice.
The Ottomans were in a far worse situation than the Austrians, by the way.

The question should be, did the lack of material in Autrian/German case make it impossible from one day to the other to completely eliminate further resistance.
In my opinion, the answer is simply NO, we cannot of course foresee how the fighting might have went on, and even trying is indeed senseless.

#43 SMSKaiser

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Posted 08 July 2011 - 08:37 AM

In "The Winter War", Mark Thompson describes the whole matter from another point of view.

The armistice was signed on 3rd November, and Austrian troops ended the fighting at once, while the Italians awaited the armistice to come into effect with a 24 hour delay, which was unknownto the Austrian troops.

According to that source, 350,000 POW were captured in this last day.
Although numbers may differ here, this throws another light on the Italian victory at Caporetto.

#44 Heid the Ba'

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Posted 08 July 2011 - 11:36 AM

But in military matters, the Allies had not even crossed the borders, as you said.
For four years, the war was mostly fought on Allied territory, and the Allies were able to hold out.

And yet the Germans and Austrians surrendered while on enemy territory, where they were defeated is irrelevant to the fact that they were. The fact that the Allies held out shows that they were not defeated.

Not total military defeat ended the fighting, it was the armistice

Semantics, without total military defeat there would have been no Armistice.

What we can forsee, as you say above, is that the defeated armies could not hold out and would continue to be defeated.

As this is likely to generate more heat than light so I will leave you to your beliefs.

#45 SMSKaiser

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Posted 08 July 2011 - 01:01 PM

And yet the Germans and Austrians surrendered while on enemy territory, where they were defeated is irrelevant to the fact that they were. The fact that the Allies held out shows that they were not defeated.


Semantics, without total military defeat there would have been no Armistice.

What we can forsee, as you say above, is that the defeated armies could not hold out and would continue to be defeated.

As this is likely to generate more heat than light so I will leave you to your beliefs.


I am sorry if this debate created any heat, but if this is the case we should probably agree on that :thumbsup:

#46 marsyao

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Posted 08 July 2011 - 04:00 PM

In "The Winter War", Mark Thompson describes the whole matter from another point of view.

The armistice was signed on 3rd November, and Austrian troops ended the fighting at once, while the Italians awaited the armistice to come into effect with a 24 hour delay, which was unknownto the Austrian troops.

According to that source, 350,000 POW were captured in this last day.
Although numbers may differ here, this throws another light on the Italian victory at Caporetto.



That was over simplified, in the first 3-4 days of the Battle of Vittorio Veneto, Italians made little headway, and both side suffered very heavy losses, and only after Oct 27, Italians managed to penetrated some part of A-H defense line, but it still was not a completely breakthrough, but now part of the A-H units started to melt away, some regiments still fought stubbornly, but soldiers of other regiment simply broke rank and went home, added into confusion, the new Czech and Croatian government ordered her solders in the A-H army went home to defend their new territory, now sensed the hopeless situation, A-H ordered its force retreated, and only after that, Italian's offensive gained the momentum,

On 29 October the Austro-Hungarians asked for an armistice. On 30 October 1918 the Austro-Hungarian army was split in two. The armistice was signed on 3 November at 3.20pm, to become effective 24 hours later, at 3.00pm on 4 November. A-H forces were ordered to cease hostilities after the signing of the armistice, but now A-H headquarter had already lost control of most of his forces, those unit actually received the order stopped fighting and tried to retreat, but many other units already disband without order, and its soldiers simply abandoned weapons and went to home, many of those A-H soldiers were overtaken by the rapid advanced Italians and took prisoner.

see "Disaster Ending In Final Victory" by Gaetano V Cavallaro




#47 James A Pratt III

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Posted 09 July 2011 - 10:10 PM

Another book you might want to look at is "The Undermining of Austria-Hungary" Mark Cornwall which deals with the propaganda war.

#48 PJA

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Posted 17 July 2011 - 06:34 PM

Artillery numbers is a serious argument in many publications to explain the Austrian disadvantage.
Furthermore, the artillery is often stated as to have caused up to 75% of total casualties during the war, although i cannot remember where i got this number from).

This always goes into some sort of argumentation that modern weapons would increase casualties.

In my opinion, on the contrary, the use of modern weapons, especially the increasing number of arillery, REDUCED the amount of total casualties.

As an example one might go through casualty figures of randomly chosen battles in the past.

Battle of Zorndorf 25th August 1758: 36,000 Prussians lose 12,800 men (35,5%) against 43,500 Russians with 18,500 losses (42,5%)

Battle of Wagram 5-6th of July 1809: 136,000 Austrians lose 41,250 men (30,33%) against 162,000 French with 37,500 losses (23,15%)

Battle of Spicheren 6th August 1870: 37,000 Prussians lose 5,000 men (13,5%) against 29,000 French (with 4,000 lost, 13,8%)

Finally, battle of Krasnik-Lublin 23rd August to 11th September 1914: roghly 300,000 Austrians and 40,000 Germans lose 90,000 men and 8,000 men against an equal number of Russian losing 80,000 men.

While the percentage is far higher than at Spicheren (with roughly 25-30% on each side), one has to consider that this battle lasted 20 days in which most of the troops were engaged almost all of the time.

Daily average casualties reach only 5,000 men per side approximately PER DAY, not more than 2% total casualties.
I have to admit that the "average" does not include the fact that fighting was much more intense in the early part of September, but one might get an idea on how casualties actually DECLINED, despite more artillery and better handfire-weapons.

My point here is that the number of guns had, apart from maybe psychological effect, not the importance to which especially the Austrian side refers to.


Interesting tour de force, Sir.

The advanced technology of the more modern warfare allows armies to engage a much smaller percentage of their manpower in combat. Black powder battles required a much greater proportion of the troops to be fighting at close quarters, with consequentaily greater per centage casualty rates. But if we consider the fate of those at the sharp end, then it might transpire that the soldiers of 1914-18 were every bit as imperilled as those of Zorndorf or Waterloo, and maybe even more so.

Compare the muzzle loading weapons of Waterloo with the lethal array deployed against the Allied soldiers who went in at Omaha and Juno 129 years later. The Waterloo weaponry seems feeble....but the casualties - both in relative and absolute terms - were very much worse at Waterloo. But if we assess the fate of the rifle companies who took the brunt in 1944, then a very different picture emerges.

Phil (PJA)

#49 wiking

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Posted 30 July 2011 - 07:33 PM

I don't think we've distilled an answer quite yet, but I'll venture a summation. AH had a decent army that was well trained in the encounter battle, but was limited by very poor funding, poor industrial support/production, poor leadership, antiquated equipment, and, increasingly, political and ethnic strife. It is rather amazing that it lasted as long as it did given the odds against it. Still, the Germans aided the AHs immensely, increasingly more so as the war went on. When led by Germans the AH army fought very well, which goes to show what it could have accomplished with competent leadership.
Ultimately it is an underrated force that was sustained by tradition, allied support, and weakness/incompetence of its opponents especially as the war went on. Its defining ability was its ability to outlast its foes despite many setbacks. However, without being allied to Germany, AH would not have lasted long.
To answer the question of the OP, AH was most certainly not the worst of the major armies, especially if Italy is included. Nevertheless, given its disadvantages its hard to rate the AH army separately from its national problems. The AH could have been much more than it was, but given all of the problems the army had to contend with, it still ranks low on the list of major armies.
Rankings in my opinion:
Germany
Britain
France
Russia
Austria-Hungary
Italy
Ottoman Empire-Serbia-Bulgaria (tied)

#50 Nigel Cave

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Posted 30 July 2011 - 09:45 PM

Dave's last sentence explains it. Those are only the A-H dead in cemetaries under German management. Do the Austrians have a large graveyard system abroad? They must have lost over 100,000 or more in Italy. The fighting on the Ionzo was miserable.

Bob


To give an example, the Italian ossuary at Rovereto (Trentino) has a significant number of Au H troops in it. Well worth a visit also for the war museum in the town's fine castle, trench lines etc in the nearby hills and of course the huge bell, cast from artllery pieces or parts thereof of all the participants in the war. The (dry) castle moat used to have a wonderful range of gun types but these deteriorated; a number have been restored and are now under shelter in a pretty good display. The museum proper is a bit of an eclectic mix and, for the most part, of the old type of museum display - none the worse for that, IMHO



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