THE ISONZO FRONT IN THE FIRST WORLD WAR: GLASS AMPOULES FOUND IN THE VICTINITY OF THE VILLAGE KRED
Objective: To identify the contents of ampoules stored items at the WW I Kobarid Museum, Slovenia. Sources and methods: Analysis of ampoules from the Kobarid Museum using pharmacopoeial methods. Results: The contents of the unlabelled ampoules were identified as calcium hypochlorite, a decontaminant for mustard gas (Yperite). Conclusion: The Isonzo front/Soška fronta was opened on May 24 1915 by the Kingdom of Italy according to a secret London Treaty. In exchange for the opening of this front, the Kingdom of Italy would be granted large tracts of territory in the wesster provinces of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and along the Adriatic coast. The ensuing trench-warfare during the eleven Isonzo battles ended with the 12th battle known as the Kobarid/Karfeit/Caporetto break-thru in October 1917. The joint German and Austro-Hungarian forces waged a massive gas-attack with dichloroarsine and phosgene, which was later disclosed as the horrifying overture to the general disordered retreat of the Italian troops to Piave. The possibility of a chemical attack was underestimated by the Italian high command as shown by the ineffective gas-masks issued to the troops. Hovewer, a recent find of ampoules with calcium hypochlorite at the village of Kred, now exhibited at the Kobarid WWI Museum, leads to the conclusion that the Italian IVth army’s command, located in Kred, considered decontamination measures against Yperite necessary.
Key words: First World War; Isonzo/Soška front; Caporetto/Kobarid break-thru; gas-war; calcium hypochlorite; Yperite.