Primary Documents - Conrad von Hotzendorf on the Battle of the Piave River, 14 June 1918

Conrad von Hotzendorf Comprising the final Austro-Hungarian attack on the Italian Front during the First World War, the Battle of the Piave River proved a disastrous failure and virtually heralded the disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian army.

Launched by Austria-Hungary in the face of sustained German demands to launch an offensive across the Piave River (nearby to several key Italian cities), the battle was fought from 15-22 June 1918.  With its army demoralised and equipment and other supplies perilously low, and with army unit strengths depleted, the outcome of the attack proved a great contrast to the previous autumn's spectacularly effective success at Caporetto.

The comprehensive failure of the Austro-Hungarians served merely to hasten the disintegration of the army, which effectively ceased to exist as a single cohesive force.  Its dismantling was finalised by the Italians at the Battle of Vittorio Veneto some four months later.

Reproduced below is the official address given by Conrad von Hotzendorf as encouragement to Austro-Hungarian forces on the eve of the battle.

Click here to read an account of the battle given by the official French observer Henri Kervarec.  Click here to read the report written by the official German observer, Max Osborn.  Click here to read an account of the battle given by G.M. Trevelyan, head of the British Red Cross in Italy.  Click here to read the report by the commander of British forces in Italy, Earl Cavan.

Conrad von Hoetzendorff's Official Address, 14 June 1918


For months and months, resisting victoriously amidst the glaciers and the snows, accomplishing faithfully your duty in the tempests of winter, you have looked down upon the sunny plain of Italy.

The time to go down into it has come.  Like a whirlwind, you will overthrow the false and perjured ally of the past, as well as the friends she has called to her help.  You will prove to the world that nobody can resist your heroism.

Your fathers, your grandfathers, and your ancestors, have fought and conquered the same enemy with the same spirit.

I am sure you will not fall below them, and even that you will rise above them.  Heart and soul with you, I shall follow your movements, which will be an irresistible rush towards victory.

Confiding firmly in you, I cry to you: "Overthrow everything before you."


Source: Source Records of the Great War, Vol. VI, ed. Charles F. Horne, National Alumni 1923

'White Star' was a German mixture of chlorine and phosgene gas, so-named on account of the identification marking painted on the delivery shell casing.

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