Italy and World War One

Italy and World War One

The Triple Alliance had seen Italy siding with Austria-Hungary and Germany in the years immediately preceding World War One. While many believed that Italy should have joined these nations upon the outbreak of war, the country did not, making for a negative experience during the war.

In the years leading up to World War One, Italy, Austria-Hungary and Germany teamed up as part of the Triple Alliance. What Italy should have done, many believed, is join these two nations upon the outbreak of war in 1914. Because Italy opted not to, the country’s experience of World War One was poor, as reflected by the Versailles Settlement of 1919.

Instead of joining these countries on the outbreak of war, Italy held its decision back until it saw how the conflict was progressing. On 26 April, 1915, Italy entered the war on the side of Britain, France and Russia.

Triple Alliance
Triple Alliance

While the Italian Government had been supported by the vast majority of socialists for withholding Italy from the war initially, the nationalists did not agree with this decision. Mussolini, for example, changed his stance from being anti-war to calling the battle a “great drama” in late 1914. “Do you want to be spectators in this great drama? Or do you want to be its fighters?” he said. He was therefore pleased when Italy entered the way on 26 April, 1915.

Italy made the decision to enter the war following the signing of the top secret Treaty of London in 1915. This document had seen Italy offered a number of sections of land in the Adriatic Sea region by Britain. These territories included Istria, Tyrol and Dalmatia and were far too tempting a prospect for Italy to turn down. It was in the interest of both the French and the British that Italy joined the war effort on their side, in order that a new front could be secured to the south of the Western Front. However, while the plan may have been positive in theory, the military success it required from Italy to come to fruition never came.

Italian troops only managed to travel 10 miles inside Austrian territory between 1915 and 1917, and then came the battle of Caporetto in October 1917. Within this conflict, the Italian military were forced to fight against the entire Austrian Army as well as a number of German troops. This battle was a disaster for Italy and the country saw 300,000 men lost in the fighting.

By the time 1918 rolled around and the war came to an end, more than 600,000 Italians were dead, 950,000 were injured and 250,000 had been left permanently disabled from war wounds. The war had also had a major impact on Italy’s economy, despite the fact that it had only been involved in the action for three years. Italy suffered huge inflation and unemployment in the aftermath of World War One and was pinning all it hopes on what would eventuate at Versailles.

However, the country did not get what it was expecting at Versailles. In fact, the Italian leaders were seen to be humiliated and disrespected by America’s Wilson, Britain’s Lloyd George and France’s Clemenceau and this further undermined their power and that of the country as a whole.

The Italians felt great resentment that they did not receive what they felt had been suggested at the Treaty of London and the seeming failure of the Italian Government to stand up to the British, French and American leaders as Versailles was seen as unforgivable in the eyes of Italian nationalists.

See also: Italy in 1900

MLA Citation/Reference

"Italy and World War One". HistoryLearning.com. 2015. Web.