Saturday, 20 March 2010

Avalanches And The Military

I found this fascinating article in THE TIMES (UK edition) on 24 Feb, and felt it was worth sharing.
The deadliest avalanches in history have been in Italy, during the the First World War. The western battlefronts stretched across the Alps into the Tyrol region, where the Austrian and Italian armies faced each other in sever weather winters. "Some had ice on their faces: the conducting office said that three or four of them were frozen to death nightly," wrote one British officer visiting the Italian lines.
Avalanches were another threat. "Entire platoons were hit, smothered, buried without a trace, without a cry, with no other sound than the one made by the gigantic white mass itself," described an observer. One of the worst was in December 1916, when an intense snowfall storm dropped huge snowfalls followed by days of avalanches. About 10,000 soldiers were killed as whole companies of men, guns and animals were buried.
Some historians believe than avalanches were set off deliberately using artillery fire,a although the risks to the attacking side would have been suicidal. Over the war about 60,000 soldiers died in the avalanches - a third of all deaths in the higher parts of the Alps battlefront. Even today, the bodies of soldiers are revealed in thawing glaciers and snowfields.
Here's a link to some more info on this subject.

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