Monday, September 3, 2012

Man and munitions in the melt

Amateur historian Dino De Bernardin was walking in the Dolomites close to his home in northeast Italy. Today the mountain range is popular among skiiers, but 95 years ago it was a battleground between Italian and Austro-Hungarian troops. De Bernardin - a collector of World War I memorabilia - is well aware of the area's history, but it hit home with a discovery he made in August 2010 (1st image):
"At first I saw a bundle of rags poking out of the melting ice and then when I got closer to have a look I recognised the material as military leggings that were common among First World War soldiers. I dug away at the ice and then I saw the bones of the skeleton slowly emerging and I could see he was still wearing boots although they had practically rotted away and it was then that I realised I had found the corpse of a soldier....It’s difficult to say what happened to him and how he died. But from talking to the police we think he was probably hit by shrapnel from a grenade or he could have stepped on a mine as the bones were not all in one piece - death in war is never pleasant. The head is also missing, the torso has been split in half and the legs are damaged. But what struck me was how well preserved the uniform and the boots were - you could still see the nails in the soles and these factors for me suggest it is an Italian soldier."
More than 9,000 soldiers died in the mountains from combat, avalanches, or the cold. The battleground still holds reminders of those days: barbed wire fences, gas masks, helmets, berets, and guns, some of which were carried up to altitude by horses and donkeys. Due to a heat wave this summer, a glacier on the Ago de Nardis peak partially melted and exposed a 100 sq m field covered with more than 200 pieces of 85-100 mm caliber ammunition (2nd image, more photos here). The shells, each weighing 7-10 kilos, were spotted by the police alpine rescue unit when their metal points protruded from the ice and were extricated by bomb disposal specialists.
Related posts:

No comments:

Post a Comment

You may add your comments here.