from ‘the War Illustrated Deluxe’ volume V page 1584
'General Count Luigi Cadorna'

Personalia of the The Great War

two portraits, from Spanish and Britsh war-time magazines


General Count Luigi Cadorna, like the great Cavour, belongs to Piedmont. Born in picturesque Pallanza, on September 4th, 1850, he passed from childhood to youth, and from youth to manhood, while modern Italy was in the making. He represents the second of three successive generations of the Cadorna family whose names are inscribed indelibly on the banner of Italian freedom.


General Cadorna's Spartan Boyhood

While he was still a boy Luigi was sent to the Military College at Milan, a college noted for the simplicity of life imposed on the students within its walls, and for the rigour of its discipline. Thus early initiated into the truth of Tasso's lines:

By toil and travail, not by sitting still In pleasure's lap, we come to honour's bowers, he remained at Milan for a period of about eight years. Thence he passed, in 1868, to the Military Academy at Turin, where he greatly distinguished himself, with the result that when he was given his sub-lieutenancy he was immediately attached to the General Staff, and in this capacity he took part with his father in one of the most momentous events in modern European history—the entry of the Italian troops into Rome, which practically completed the campaign for Italian unity, and put an end to long centuries of Papal temporal power.

The Bersaglieri who crossed the Tiber, and burst with so dramatic an effect through the Porta Pia on September 20th, 1870, were led by General Count Raffaele Cadorna, who lived long enough—he died in 1897, at the age of eighty-three—to see his son rise to a position of distinction in the profession of arms, to see his country take her rightful place in the councils of Europe, and to witness also the utter explosion of Count Metternich's fallacious, if cynical, dictum that "Italy is but a geographical expression."

His Unique Study of Italy's Alpine Ramparts

After serving for a time in the artillery, Luigi Cadorna transferred to the infantry; and when, in 1875, he gained his captaincy, he was already laying the foundation of his study of Italian frontier conditions, being convinced that the day would come when Italy and Austria would have to settle the problem of "Italia Irredenta"—Italy's unredeemed territories—by the arbitrament of fire and sword. His holidays and all his other leisure he devoted to a mastery of the topography of the mountains and passes which divide the Peninsula Kingdom from her old-time oppressor Austria.

As the years went on his knowledge of the Alpine ramparts became so exact that it was commonly said he could name every village, road and pass in the vicinity of the Austro-Italian boundaries without the aid of a map or plan of any kind. He published a series of monographs, in which he incorporated the results of his special topographical studies, and these monographs became standard text-books in the Italian Army.

Appointed Chief of the Italian Staff

On obtaining his majority, in the 62nd Regiment, Luigi Cadorna introduced the study of tactics on lines which so warmly commended themselves to the authorities that they were generally adopted. Appointed Colonel of the 10th Bersaglieri, one of the "crack" light infantry corps of the Italian Army—a corps similar to the French Chasseurs and the German Jaegers-he was for something like seven years Chief of Staff to General Pianelli, who commanded the Fifth Army Corps at Verona. In 1898 he was promoted major-general, and in 1905 lieutenant-general, with the command of the troops at Ancona, whence he was transferred to Naples, to become, in 1909, commander at Genoa and commander-designate of an army corps in the event of war. In the fateful year 1914, with unanimous approval, General Cadorna was appointed Chief of Staff in succession to the late General Polho.

Gifted with a fine physique, a soldier to the finger-tips, with heart and soul in his profession, possessing the unlimited confidence of his King and country and all under him, carrying his years lightly, like Joffre and Kitchener "a silent martinet," General Cadorna has borne himself with distinction at the Council board as well as in the field. On one occasion, when the defences of Genoa were being seriously debated by a special commission, he spoke for four hours without map or note, trusting alone to his wonderful memory, and the plans he advocated were adopted.

Achieving the "Impossible" at Manoeuvres

Two examples drawn from the history of the Italian peace manceuvres may be cited as showing how he won the confidence of superiors and subordinates alike. One of the commanders initiated a movement which, it was quickly seen, could be defeated only by a force outflanking him across a section of the Alps. Cadorna, at the head of his Bersaglieri, achieved the "impossible." He scaled the frowning peaks, and, springing a surprise on his adversary, won the day for his own side.

On another occasion, of more recent date, he set himself first of all to get entangled in what appeared to be a hopeless position. Orders miscarried, reinforcements were to all intents and purposes inexplicably delayed. Then, with one of those "lightning touches" for which he had made himself famous, he carried out an orderly and successful retreat which electrified all concerned, and provided the tacticians with food for thought and discussion for many a day to come.

It is hardly too much to say that when the war-cloud burst over Europe Italy was, comparatively speaking, unprepared. She was still suffering from the Tripoli affair. It fell to the lot of General Cadorna to bring order and efficiency into being. How admirably he accomplished his herculean task is a matter of history. When Italy entered the field in May, 1915, it was with a thoroughly reorganised army, increased to double its normal size, and with an efficiently armed artillery.

Deeds of Valour and High Adventure

The advantages possessed by Austria were enormous. The strategic situation all along the Trentino and Carnic Alps was in her favour. She held all the passes, she controlled all the valleys, she commanded all the roads giving access to Italy. By the end of the year, however, the situation was entirely reversed. Eastward, along the Isonzo, where the Italian frontier was entirely open, the Austrian line of defence had been broken and forced in many places, and many a deed of valour and high adventure had been added to the glories of Italian military history. The story of the conquest of Monte Nero, for instance, has yet to be fully told, and that of the enormously difficult advance to Gorizia; while the indirect results in favour of the Allies of the Italian offensive remain to be generally appreciated.

Lord Kitchener, on his return from his visit to the Italian Headquarters in November, 1915, when on behalf of King George he personally handed to General Cadorna the insignia of a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath, telegraphed "the cordial greetings of a soldier" to the Italian General Staff, to General Cadorna himself, and to the whole Italian Army, adding these words: "I have carefully followed its operations, and can only express my admiration for the skill of its leaders, its general efficiency, and the tenacious bravery with which the whole Army is fulfilling the task confided to it."

General Cadorna and Lord Kitchener

General Cadorna's reply concluded thus: "I am happy to have the opportunity of personally knowing the illustrious general who has known how to create formidable English armies, which with the Allies are fighting in the firm confidence of final victory for the triumph of civilisation against the common enemy."

Count Cadorna, who has travelled in England, Belgium, France, North Africa and in other parts of the world, married in 1881. He has a son and three daughters. The son, when war broke out, was a subaltern in the cavalry regiment which his grandfather, Count Raffaele Cadorna, commanded in the campaign against Austria in 1866.


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