On the Battlefield of Caporetto – Exploring the Kolovrat I THE GREAT WAR Special


I’m Indy Neidell, and this is another exciting edition of the great war on the road. Now you can see mountains and valleys and things behind me because I am standing right now in Slovenia Just a few dozen meters from the Italian border and we are obviously on the Italian front That’s what we’re gonna look at today in several different specials, and I have a special guest today, Can you tell all those people at home, who you are and what you do? Hi, my name is Leon, I’m from the foundation “The Walk of Peace” from Kobarit. We are on a Soča frontline and today we will visit the third Italian line of defense, trenches, bunkers and other historical places. So let’s get going. Let’s go. So here it was like the net of trenches because it was the top of the mountain. We have a lot of trenches, mostly they are not cleaned or
renovated because the area is too big and like always we don’t have enough money to pay the people to clean the area. Who does the maintenance for them? We have a crew of three people. We have six outer museums. And they start in March. Till the end of October they cut the grass, bushes, trees… Okay, and then of course the snow is coming. How high up are we now? Here, we are at 1100m. With the top it’s 1114m. Actually, this is the lowest point, so now we can see the Italian lowland. Wow. Okay, you got that Toni? The Italian lowland And the border stone Okay, so we can go stand over here. We are in Italy here, so you’re in Italy and I’m in Slovenia and we fight Okay, oh my god. My German crew is in Slovenia My special guest star is in another country Wow, that’s amazing, huh? Oh, yeah you can see all the way to all the way to the lowlands and If you are lucky another 100 meters further we can see the Italian seaside about to Trieste. Well if you look back over there to the mountains back there You can see all the clouds on the mountains further So okay, are we going further up or? Please! Okay. Okay now we’re on the left, what mountains are those in the sun? Actually they were a frontline. What you can see now where the clouds are, this is Mount ** Okay, and on the top there were Austro-Hungarians Where there is the tree line, there were Italian. So the Italian must attack all the time towards top all right, okay? Let’s say for it for Austrians, Austro-Hungarians, it was much easier to defend themselves because they shoot towards down And in the clouds there is mount *** and the highest mountain 2244 meters and This on the first couple of offensive these two mountains were crucial because the Italians try all the time to size the top, they reach the top of current, but the Austrians didn’t retreat from the whole top so That looks impossible to fight on. It’s very steep. If you go there. It’s really steep, but we can really not imagine it what kind of condition they fight, they climb up and they shoot up and the Austrians they just throw the bombs down like freefall. Now where would Bovec be from here? Bovec is here in this direction Tolmin is down there you can see So like during Caporetto, then you had the pincer movement, you had some troops coming down here… and ok that’s interesting I’m just trying to get, you know, my picture so that people at home because they’ve heard all these names and now they can actually see what we’re seeing. Okay Well, there’s Tolmin down here, yeah? Which we have mentioned many, many times. From Tolmin actually in October 1917 The Germans start to advance from Tolmin up from the south. From the north down from Bovec the Austro-Hungarians, and they get together in Kobarid. So we stand in this third line of defense which is very important because here the Soca and the mountains they make 90 percent angle from the west towards south. And here on the Italian trenches they collide together. And when the Germans arrived and seize this position so called Bavarian and Württemberger, so they have free free view down towards the Italian lowland. And the Italians which were behind them in this area So the Germans they took them in the back, so all of the front line collapsed. And there were two waves the first Italian which start to retreating more or less in panic and then behind them the Germans Which at all the time they try to have the contact with the enemy they didn’t give them the time to reorganize which we saw was a problem like at Gorizia , what the Italians should have done. Now this is a fantastic view over here, at least we don’t get all the clouds today for some reason now Where is the sea? The seaside is just… look over here and you can see the line. Yeah, so from here there the Italians, which this site is on their site is at the beginning of the war, They have the nice control over all the area. This is all down to seaside, the edge of Julian Alps, the Soca- Valley, so they have nice control from here. It was strategical point Brilliant strategic point, – now where exactly is Gorizia from here? Gorizia is here, in this direction right there So Gorizia, and down here is Udine. And on this end we can see Mount Matajur. famous mountain which was the end of the third line It finished the third line, the Italia third line. When the Germans and of course Erwin Rommel with his troops had seized the top, the frontline collapsed completely. – Because Von Below wanted no Italians in the mountains. – Exactly. We’ve talked about that, and a couple times about Rommel. You said something interesting though before about another German? Actually Rommel was not the first German to reach the top of the mountain Actually one day before it was already taken by German troops. Not completely on the top but on a small head of Malaklava. So but they didn’t meet Italian resistance, so they retreat in a valley, so then Rommel just finished the work. But just picture that you’re an Alpino and you’ve got a machine-gun faucet You don’t need that many men to defend some of this stuff. This is really impressive especially when you get good cloud cover. Now we can’t even see over… across there now and that’s Regular weather this is not special? It’s five minutes clouds five minutes sunny We got rained on ten minutes ago, and now it’s sunny. That’s really amazing Okay, so shall we move on? Let’s go towards trenches. Okay, cool. This is a whole built area. So what are we looking at here? We have the trenches so we can imagine what we saw, that the soldier didn’t suffer because of the mud. We have, on this area, we have a lot of rain, but because of geological structure All the water goes into the mountains into the earth, so there was no water, no mud. But they didn’t have enough water, the soldiers. kind of Like in South America I mean it’s not so high So they had all the water, all the drinking water to bring up here? Exactly. And we have here a trench which is renovated It’s a steel roof which is original. On this steel roof, the soldier they put about 1/2 meter of earth, so they were somehow protected if the enemy shoot on them, and of course the enemy couldn’t count on them So most of these trenches was covered not only this part. We want the people to have an idea how it was Okay well after you So we’ll see here the Italian machine gun position. So because the Here in the mountains, the Italians, they made some kind of these positions like here To make a cross fire, in the case of the attack. You can really command the valley. Here they have all these Fiat-Revelli or Villar Perosa, the most famous Italian machine guns, Which can shoot up to six hundred bullets per minute So here is the entrance to the Italian observation point underground. We can go in and get a nice view. Okay let’s go in. Either the Germans when they reached the top they have made a report about the Italian line, that they were good prepared, very good done but unfortunately the morale and the Italian soldiers were unprepared for this kind of attack. The Italians had the problem with the phosgene gas. Yes this is true Actually the gas was used on the Soca front only twice. On Mount San Michele and on the Karst region, and here in October 1917. In this October 1917, in a period of six hours and they’ve shot about 2 million of grenades, of which 10% was full of gas. Chlorine and Phosgene. But in the mountain the gas didn’t work because its weight made it sink down and in the mountains always it is obviously too windy so the concentration didn’t reach enough high level to kill the soldiers, but it Promulgated the panic, so the Italians start to just to abandon their positions. It is a staggeringly beautiful view from here, you know Yeah, we can imagine it a hundred years ago. The soldier was not trained like today. They were not professionals. A lot of them they just look down there, and for them it made no sense why they must fight. The soldiers that were fighting here let’s say the Italians for example they there were Alpini, but they weren’t all trained. That means some of them were some guys from the south from like Sicily. About at least half of the soldiers on this front were from the south of Italy. – So they didn’t know snow and mountains? – No exactly they were uneducated, untrained. and of course unappropriated dressed and their equipment was really poor. – That must have been really really awful. Crazy So this is some sort of like a dormitory or something? Okay now how many beds? Would you maybe have in here? – I think four, four or six persons, but actually here In this position they didn’t sleep here in these places because they have the barracks and tents on other side of the future but in the first line they sleep mostly And they survived most of their time in the underground places because only there was a safe place And we can imagine ourselves, in such a big place ten-fifteen persons so and without the water. That’s the thing that keeps coming back to that the lack of water. There the water like, already hundred years ago. It was very crucial for both sides. Here on the right You know and we’ve seen the water thing on some of the other fronts. I know when we talked about Passchendaele that Even though it became just a muddy swamp when the rains came you couldn’t you do anything with that water because of the human waste and the dead bodies and it was as hard to bring water up as it was artillery and of course on the Mesopotamian front they ran out of water because they and in the Libyan front and the Persian front water was always always always a problem Now we talked a lot about the the dugouts and tunnels and everything blasted into the rock some stuff to really change the scenery. Here in the upper social valley we have a number approximate number more than six hundred of such underground bunkers, which was they’re all dug into the rock. First year in the war with stick and hammer and then they brought a drilling machine. And at most of them, they have double entrance or double exit, so it in the case if this gets bombed They have still have the exit and of course all the other bunkers They are made like in letter L or T so the soldier in the case of the explosion of the bomb in front of the bunker, they were covered, they were save. Well, let’s go in. And this is this is very very scooby-doo. Like that crazy ghost is after us again scooby-doo. Sorry. This is concrete, the floor right? – On the floor is concrete because here the soldiers and the engineer units they had the time So they prepared very well And you can see that they have a lot of small holes in them, so it was not so slippery Because after a rain like today, the water comes through, and we’re 1100m high, it can be very easily covered with ice. Would they try to collect as much of the rain waters as they could? Yes absolutely. Especially in the first line or on the high mountains where everything was necessary to be transported to the top with cable cars, on horseback or mostly on soldier’s backpack. And what’s in here here? – We don’t know exactly. Either it was a generator, or it was a Phone central. We don’t know exactly, but the place was made especially for this. This is amazing the Engineering on the rock here now. There’s some stairs back there that we’re gonna go up. Yeah, okay? Look at this. Oh wait. What’s this? – Oh? This is the sign of italian engineer units, so the two axes and the fireball is the sign of these units and the number one probably we don’t know if this is this the Battalion or platoon. – Where these common? Would you find these a lot? – A lot. Especially, like we have these underground bunkers, which they they have the name of the commander like So we can go here up on the right side. The stairs and all is very tiny, intended for small Italian soldiers. So here there was the Italian Machine gun position which will be destroyed in October 1917, but from here They have a nice view down to the Soca to the first line to the church of San Daniele Where would be the most advanced Italian position. That’s the most advanced Italian position. It’s great that it cleared up, and that’s Tolmin down there. And here we have view on the second line, the Italian second line of defense was on this top of this hill. Even in nice weather, though. It’s pretty daunting. This is was made to protect the soldiers in the case of bomb explosions. Okay tight Small people we can imagine that the Italian was a little bit smaller. Here we have one more Machine gun position that was destroyed. Was hit by a German right? Yeah, just all the way from there. That’s a long way to fire. Yeah well It’s impressive, and this is the other stairwell. Now these are interesting This is concrete? They are the shields made from concrete. Pretty rare normally both sides they have made them with steel. But from concrete pretty rare and what is most interesting in the last year, they did try to steal it Collectors and they thought they want to have it at home. So here one and on the end another to date What is the law about you know what’s protected and what’s not protected I mean We have a law that says, that everything that is more than forty years old is under archaeological protection, what is in the earth. Officially you cannot go with the metal detector Because if they find you or police they will give you a fine. – Some people do though. – Absolutly. Okay, so now we’re looking at again Bovec all the way up, Tolmin all the way there. Now I mean this is massive I mean even I mean it’s a shame with the clouds But so where were they actually where was the Italian front line. It was high in a mountain. Okay, which was Exactly all the way up there that was the front line Which began on the Soca front on Mount Rombon, and went up in the mountains and here slowly down to the Soca. So this was really high mountain War zone. – And it’s really impressive and you know it’s really easy to come and come and see this there’s loads and loads of places to stay and Of course your “walk of peace”. Now you have a website of course do you? – Of course we have our website where we have all the information we have the books, the guiding books about the Soca front line and We can organize the tour, the guiding tour in different areas. We have six outdoor museum in upper Soca Valley like this today. Thank you, and just even walking around I mean you guys can see it through a computer or TV or something, but this is absolutely amazing And I warmly recommend coming here and walking around what there is and and meeting Leon. He’ll take you up Thank you very much for your welcome. No really great. Okay, and If you would like to see our episode about mountain warfare You can click right here for that do not forget to subscribe. See you next time

100 thoughts on “On the Battlefield of Caporetto – Exploring the Kolovrat I THE GREAT WAR Special

  1. Wouldn't they have been able to supplement their water supply by collecting rain and other moisture? It seems a likely climate for it…

  2. I've always wanted to throw some kind of a paper plane or a similar thing from the top of the maountain and watch in fall…T_T

  3. Loved this special, awesome place, Slovenian mountains are beatiful! Looking forward to Kobarid museum special!

  4. Hi Great War team i was wondering when the Mackensocks would ship? i've been waiting since July 28th. Is the campaign still ongoing?

  5. Amazing Trenches. I've slept in the Grottos between the Solarie refuge and the trenches with my school. The view of the Tolmino valley is amazing by nightfall

  6. A beautiful location. Those abandoned trenches remind me of those on the approach to Weathertop in Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and the screened-from-view trail used long before by the Men of the West. That's in Book One, Chapter XI, "A Knife in the Dark." In military terms that's called concealment or, if the protection is thick enough to stop bullets, cover.

    Thanks for these on-location episodes and the excellent local guides.

  7. The terrain just begs the question, did Luigi even check the terrain before starting battle? Or was he back in Rome drinking grappa by the liter? (Grappa would explain his complete lack of command ability.)

  8. Hello, Indy and team! Huge fan and college history student here. I was wondering if you guys could do a special on E.D. Morel during the Great War.

  9. 11:14 A lot of Sicily (and also other parts of southern Italy) is mountainous as soon as you go inland away from the cost. At times (especially in early autumn) parts of it it look no different than the lower parts of the northern Italian Alps. The climate would still have been quite a change, but I believe many of them would've have had some experience with rough mountainous terrain.

  10. Great special episode! It is really interesting to see the actual geography and remaining buildings on sites I've only seen maps of before. Thank you for your excellent series, wich from the first episode to this one is an information gold mine about the 14-18 war.

  11. My Grandpa fought in WW1, US Army Infantry rifleman. He said he killed 28 German soldiers with trench club and 1 German soldier with a trench knife. He said he preferred the trench club over the knife. Was this common for trench raiders?

  12. a lot out there talk about the French made the "White flag" but I think the Italians Mastered use of the White flag and Running the Wrong Way, a lot more than the French did. 😛

  13. I don't understand how can 200,000 soldiers surrender willingly in union, this also happened in ww2 on a much larger scale on the eastern front. Was it just top down leadership and the generals word to surrender was accepted with no backlash?

  14. hmmm 1114 meters = 3500 feet.  I get altitude sickness at 2290 meters.  I don't think I would have have made it on this battlefield

  15. This was actually the easiest part of that front on which to fight, and yet attacks mostly had to go uphill in that terrain. No wonder it was mostly a stalemate on the Italian front.

  16. Why do you say Caporetto and Kobarid, but never Karfreit, the Austrian name? It was a place in Austria Hungary at the time, so why not use the historical name? Same with Gorizia/Görz btw.

  17. at 3:02 where he say name of mountain and in subtitles is * it is mount Krn (2244), therejust few metters below is Batognica (2164) where there were really heavy fights and each side would not move. They were 85m from each side and interesting here it is, italians wanted to blow up Austro-Hungarians, but also A-H decided to do the same and the found underground italian trench and they blow whole mountain. I am not sure but i think mountain is now low 20m cose of explosion.

  18. re: Time Ghosts (the ad ran at 17:24) I have long thought the Russian Revolution would be fantastic material for The Great War treatment. I think if a team got cracking right now, doing background and week by week episodes in reserve until it gets released, I think that would be awesome. Sadly I don't have any more money to devote to this cause than what I give to The Great War. It's a good idea, though, and perhaps there is a way to get preliminary work started on it?

  19. Nice video! Such a beautiful landscape. Will you also be visiting Monte Grappa? If so, can you make a video about it too?

  20. I was there on the day you uploaded this – trying to fing my great grandfather's grave (he died in September 1915) in Soca.

  21. Mio nonno era lì, mentre scappava mise il piede su una bomba e la bomba non scoppiò. Per questo sono qui e per questo sto scrivendo questo commento 100 anni dopo, a 50 anni.

  22. I am from the U.S.A. I love all the informative shows you guy's/gals put and the great hard work. Keep going. Long live this show.

  23. So happy to support you all with Patreon. Content like this is very unique and entirely captivating–good job on capturing the feeling of being there.

  24. At 6:53 Said Imgane die bring a Alpino Soldier. 🇮🇹🇮🇹🇮🇹🇮🇹🇮🇹🇮🇹🇮🇹🇮🇹🇮🇹🇮🇹🇮🇹

  25. Great way to explore this front and also Kobarid museum check: www.IsonzoBattlefields.com They use the guides from the museum and Pot Miru, the foundation that restores and maintains these sites (www.potmiru.si).

  26. I visit this place nearly every year.. really beautiful.. also the museum in Kobarid is great! Must have seen it a dozen times up yet but still love visiting it!

  27. Hey man, i live in udine, you where so close!! too bad i did not know, next time you may come to Udine, there are lots of intresting museum and monuments about ww1

  28. "We found more than eight hundred bodies of soldiers of the 87th Infantry Regiment in shelters and caves". Lt. Fritz Weber , Austro-Hungarian Army… And that's because the gas could not arrive to trenches.

  29. Another great episode! It is always nice when you include local guides or other experts in your episodes. It’s nice for them to receive such broad exposure through your show. Thanks for all you do!

  30. My grandfather was Austro Hungarian officer. As a leutnant, he was at Drina River (Goražde – Bosnia an Herzegovina) where he was wounded. Then he was, as oberleutnant, transfered to Soča river front. He was CO (Commanding Officer) at Railway Station in Prvačina (now Slovenia). I never met him, but I've been thinking to donate his six medals to Museum in Kobarid. His father was a solider too (17 years of Service, Battle for Custozza, medal). He – Grandfather – was Slovenian, died peacefully in 1967.

  31. Wow, what absolutely beautiful country. It is hard to imagine it as a battlefield, though I suppose almost every miserable expanse of mud, bodies, and barbed wire started off as something beautiful once.

  32. My grandfather's first cousin was killed at Monte Nero. Giovanni Battista Brunero-Manera. Too young and too ill prepared.

  33. I am frome Slovenija and my Grand grandgrand father fought here and i never wisit the place that is a great shame on me

  34. without germans, the austrian would collapse within one year!! but the biggest mistake was, to hear to the ally,they promised italian land when they will attack the austrian-hungaric emper! a french general said, we need another front or we loose the war against the german, with the italian attack against the austrian,hungaric imperium,the german was forced to send many troops from the western to the Austrian front!!

  35. I wouldn't think those concrete shields would offer much protection. A modern round like a 308 would shatter that into a fine powder.

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