War on The Eastern Front: The Italian Theatre

Notable Aircraft

Aviatik-Berg (Lohner) D-I Ba 115 - 1917
Austrian Aviatik (Berg) D-I

The Aviatik D.I, a single-engine, single-seater biplane was the first wholly Austro-Hungarian designed fighter in the Austro-Hungarian Air Service

Albatros D-III (Oeffag) Series 153 - 1917
Albatros D-III (Oeffag) - 1916

The Austro-Hungarian version of the Albatros D-III was produced under license by the firm Oeffag. It had several minor external differences identifying it from the German made fighters. In the autumn of 1916, Oesterreichische Flugzeugfabrik AG (Oeffag) obtained a licence to build the D.III at Wiener-Neustadt. Deliveries commenced in May 1917.

Hansa-Brandenburg D.I (Type KD)
Hansa-Brandenburg D.I

The Hansa Brandenburg D-I was a German fighter aircraft of World War I. It was built for Austria-Hungary, some aircraft serving to the end of the war. The D-I was a single seat, single engined biplane, of wooden construction, with plywood fuselage skinning and fabric wing skins. The wings featured an unusual “Star-Strutter” arrangement of interplane struts, where four Vee struts joined in the center of the wing bay to result in a complicated "star" arrangement. The interplane struts themselves were fabricatd from steel tubes.

Hanriot H.D.1
Italian Hanriot HD1

The Hanriot HD1 was considered by the Italians to be a better all-round fighter than even the SPAD S.XIII and it became the standard Italian fighter — equipping 16 of the 18 operational Italian fighter squadrons by November 1918.

Ansaldo A.1  Balilla
Ansaldo A.1 Balilla - 1917

The Ansaldo A.1, nicknamed "Balilla" after the Genoan folk-hero was Italy's only domestically-produced fighter aircraft of World War I. Arriving too late to see any real action, it was however used by both Poland and the Soviet Union in the Polish-Soviet War.

The War In Italy

To those people who did not fight in Italy, it was considered to be a side show to the main event in western Europe (not to mention in Russia and the middle east). It was hardly that. While the aerial fighting was not as intense or on as large a scale as it was over the Western Front, it was equally as deadly. The flights of aircraft used by each side were smaller, primarily because they had fewer aircraft with which to operate.

The opponents of the British combat pilots were primarily from Austria-Hungary, who, while very proffient at their trade, were equipped with inferior aircraft to the Germans on the Western Front. Both sides in Italy developed outstanding aces, Barker and Baracca for the British and Italians and Brumowski, Linke-Crawford and Kiss for the Austro-Hungarians.

The British aircraft in Italy were arranged into one Corps Squadron of Airco RE8s doing photo-reconnaissance, bombing, artillery spotting and a multitude of other duties. The three Scout Squadrons (28th, 45th, and 66th) were to provide escorts for the RE8s, to intercept enemy aircraft from entering Allied lines, to shoot down observation balloons, and to carry out offensive patrols behind enemy lines. These were accomplished with good effect by the Sopwith Camels, as they almost always flew with four 20 pound Cooper bombs under their lower wings, and their twin Vickers machine guns. They were to attack any worthwhile military target: bridges, troops, trucks, guns, trenches, ammo dumps, buildings, etc. in order to make life miserable for the Austro-Hungarians.

RAF RE.8 - 1916
Airco RE8

During World War I, the R.E.8 was the most widely used British two-seater biplane on the Western Front. A descendant of the R.E.7, it was initially developed for reconnaissance work but also saw service as a bomber and ground attack aircraft.

Sopwith Camel - 1917
Sopwith Camel

An agile, highly maneuverable biplane, the Sopwith Camel accounted for more aerial victories than any other Allied aircraft during World War I, credited with destroying 1,294 enemy aircraft.

Conditions on the Italian Front

Conditions in Italy were a far cry from the squalid desolation of France. In Italy, the trenches made hardly a mark on the landscape, and had not been in existance long enough to look like the cratered face of the moon. Their new landing field was backed by snow capped Alps, located above the Piave River.

The major discomfort for British airmen was that they had to live in tents. To the North lay a long range of snow-capped mountains, in front of them was the beautiful, bucolic Venetian Plain and 40 miles to the South East lay the Gulf of Venice. More than one British pilot met an untimely end while gazing at the beautiful scenery instead of keeping an eye out for Austrian aircraft while on patrol.

One British pilot wrote:

“Flying in Italy was a holiday by comparison with that in France. It was a different type of warfare entirely. It was more of a gentleman's war. The scout pilots we encountered in Italy didn't seem to have the same viciousness that we met up with on the Western Front where it was a blood for blood affair. They were not so aggressive in Italy.”