The stele erected by the Municipality of Trieste in the cemetery of Servola, in memory of the victims of the air bombing of April 21th, 1916.
A little known page of the First World War, whose centenary is just being celebrated, revolves around the air raids that the city of Trieste, first port of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, had to suffer from Italy.
To Trieste, the centenary of the war of “liberation” war is moved one year ahead. Only on May 24th, 1915, Italy took action, denying its alliance to the central Empires and siding with the Powers of the Entente (United Kingdom, France, Russia).
Trieste has been the main target of the Italian offense. The occupation of the first Austrian-Hungarian port would have meant bending the Empire on its knees. The ones portraying themselves as “liberators” from the Austrian oppressor had no shame as for proceeding through terroristic attacks agains an “open” city causing numerous victims among the harmless, civil population.
This was the presentation ticket of a State which, through the brutal violence of its foreign policy, had reached a suffered-for national unity. Of which Trieste had to represent the final step.
From a postcard of the era (in Triestin, the local dialect) we can assume the idea of the Triestine population as for the hated enemy, embodied by the King of Italy (Vittorio Emanule III):
EL RE BOMBA !!! – THE BOMB KING!!!
Vittorio, el re bomba – Vittorio, the bomb king
El sarià ciamà, – He would be called,
Sto nome grazioso – This pretty name
El ga merità. – He has deserved.
Vittorio i canoni – Vittorio the cannons
Del suo militar, – Of his soldier,
Sun done e sun fioi – On women and children
Ga fato sparar – Has had shouting
Adosso ai Zivili – Right on civilians
Le bombe ghe romba, – Had bombs rumbling,
Le bombe li mazza – They’re killed by bombs
Del ludro re bomba ! – of the jerk bomb king !
Vittorio dall’alto – Vittorio from above
Su cese e ospedali – On churches and hospitals
El fa butar bombe, – Has bombs thrown,
Copar amalai ! – Killing the ill !
E dai aeroplani – And from aircrafts
Adosso le piomba: – Now they fall:
Xe degni regali – they’re gifts worthy
Del bravo re bomba ! – of the good bomb king!
CHRONOLOGY OF ITALIAN AIR RAIDS AGAINST TRIESTE FROM MAY 24 1915 TO OCTOBER 1917 (from the Austrian bulletin of war with comments from the Triestine newspapers of the time)
July 7th, Italian Aviators drop bombs against Trieste, without causing relevant damage.
From the “Osservatore triestino” – “Triestine Observer” of July 7th, 1915:
Since in the last times attacks of enemy aircraft vehicles have often taken place, it is an absolute necessity that the already emitted ordinance which orders to keep dark all the windows of the city during the evening is respected in the most strict possible way.
Violators of this disposition are exposing themselves to the most serious punishment.
We do alto warn you that at the sight of enemy aircrafts, for the sake of the safety of the population, it is absolutely necessary avoiding any screaming or exclaiming.
October 26th, 1915 … Italian air raid (against Trieste) on the 24th, without material damages, yet, it killed three people and wounded a significant number…
October 29th, 1915. An Italian aircraft has dropped bombs against the castle of Miramar.
Novembre 5th, 1915. An Italian airship has dropped a significant number of bombs against Miramar.
March 15th, 1916. Italian pilots dropping bombs against Trieste, causing no damage.
April 18th, 1916. Above Trieste, two enemy aviators joined in throwing bombs killed two people of the civil class and wounded five more.
April 21st, 1916. Yesterday, in the afternoon, seven Italian aircrafts dropped twenty-five bombs on Trieste. Nine people of the civil class, among them being five children, were killed and five more wounded. The Convento dei Salesiani, inside the church in where, assisting to the Divine office, there were 400 children, has been destroyed. With this air raid, the enemy has lost any right to beg for mercy for their cities.
May 26th, 1916. In the night, an airship dropped a wide number of bombs against Trieste, but these neither wounded anyone nor caused any damages.
August 16th, 1916. On the morning of August 15th, seven enemy hydroplanes, most of them French, protected by three French battle aircrafts and covered by enemy torpedo boats and motor boats standing in the open sea, attacked Trieste. Our aircrafts went up to fight these. Involved in the air battle, flight lieutenant Banfield forced an enemy aircraft to get down in the middle of the gulf; the aviators were probably wounded. He then run after a second aircraft and had it suddenly crashing at Miramar; the aviators laid dead; the aircraft, Sba 308, completely smashed, was recovered by us. Enemy aviators dropped several bombs on the port without causing notable damages to it. As far as it is known to us, two people were killed, one more was severely wounded, another one only suffered minor wounds.
September 14th, 1916. In the afternoon of September 13th, a squad of enemy aircrafts consisting in 18 Caproni, protected by other 3 aircrafts, committed a raid agains Trieste. To support the operation, in the gulf there were 6 torpedo boats and two motor boats ready, all belonging to the enemy. Several bombs were dropped, but nothing more than slight damage occurred, as for the military, then, nothing at all. As far as we know, a man suffered minor wounds. Flight lieutenant Banfield, engaging in air combat, forced an enemy defense aircraft to land and retreat behind enemy lines. Our aircraft and our defensive anti-aircraft warfare hit the torpedo boats of the enemy.
October 14th, 1916. Again, enemy aviators dropped bombs the old port of Trieste and nearby Miramar without causing no damages. They were chased by our hydroplanes and in such fight one of the enemy aircrafts was forcer by flight lieutenant Banfield to swoop right behind enemy lines.
February 11th 1917. Italian aviators drop bombs against Trieste…
March 11th, 1917. Last night, Italian aviators dropped bombs against the cities of Muggia, Isola and Pirano.
March 20th, 1917. Trieste has once again been the target of enemy bombs.
April 9th, 1917. The morning of April 8th (Easter) enemy aircrafts dropped bombs against Barcola and Sistiana. No damage.
June 2nd, 1917. From May 31st to June 1st… enemy air raids agains Trieste killed a boy. Material damages did not occur. During the chasing in the night our victorious flight lieutenant Banfield succeeded in shooting an enemy aircraft down within the combat ray of the enemy. We lost no aircraft.
June 2nd, 1917. Italian aviators bombed Trieste and other parts of Istria a woman and a boy were killed.
August 20th, 1917. Enemy explorers bombed the open city of Trieste killing many inhabitants.
From “Lavoratore” – “Worker” of August 20th, 1917
A magnificent sunny day, the sky wonderfully blu, cobalto sea, lovely countryside: a voluptuous Summer Sunday made for a walk. All the streets were crowded with people, the light-colored vests of women and children stood out. Around 7 in the afternoon, a dark rumble, repeated, echoing in the valleys, rising the alarm in the whole population. The blasts repeated themselves with intervals at least seven times. People rushed, crowded along the seashore and on the piers, gazing at the sea to see where those sinister bolts were from… plumes of smoke were seen going up in the sky. The rumor that there had been a fire spread fast, yet, it remained unconfirmed. But unfortunately, here had been several victims: two adult women, two girls and two boys, all dead, among whose only two little sisters were identified as Gisella and Eleonora Laurencich of, 10, respectively, and 14 years. We have seen their mother, overwhelmed with sorrow, being unable to part from the horribly mutilated corpses, calling the girls by name and with sweet words. A heartbreaking scene.
Several were wounded, and precisely: Carlo Bandas 9 years old, with a serious wound to his left hip. A two years old infant girl, of whom the name is unknown, with serious injuries to the face and the loss of an eye. Sixteen years old Ms. Blasevich, with a complex fracture to her right leg, amputated at the hospital; soldier Kancion, with a complex fracture to his jaw and the jaw area: the mother of the Bandas boy, with injuries to her right tight; a woman about 20 years old, her the name is unknown, wounded to her heart, in very critical conditions; a K.u.K Lieutenant, with a very serious wound to his stomach, entering in very depth. a woman, passed away as she had been transported to the hospital, not identified yet. Some houses and mansions were damaged.
The Lieutenant, together with the cons. aulico [consigliere aulico, a member of the Austrian Hofkriegsrat the Court Council of War] doctor Mahkovec, reached the place, comforting the wounded ones, among them, poor Mrs. Laurencich, that had lost her daughters, leaving to her some money.
The wounded were all transported to the city hospital, where they received the primary care from the director, doctor Gortan and then surgically cures by doctor D’Este.
Among the persons with minor injuries, there even is the niece of the Swedish Counsel, Mr. de Lesson.
We invite the population to keep calm and to not panic. TRIESTE IS AN OPEN CITY, meaning it has no fortifications and so it cannot be bombed.
August 27th, 1917. Trieste has once again been bombed today in the morning at 9 by a squadron of Italian airships. In the inner city, about 20 bombs fell and caused quite a significant amount of material damages. Two inhabitants were killed. Several wounded.
August 29th, 1917. Trieste has again been devastated by enemy aviators. The bombs dropped on the city did not cause damages worth mentioning.
August 30th, 1917. Trieste was bombed by enemy aircraft yesterday for the second time, today in the morning for the third time in 48 hours. Many inhabitants fell victims of the attacks. Many private houses were damaged.
August 31st, 1917. Trieste was attacked yesterday at noon for the fourth time by enemy aviators but without them causing any damage worth mentioning.
September 1st, 1917. Trieste was once again picked as target for the attacks of Italian aviators. The palace of the Bishop was damaged.
September 2nd, 1917. Even yesterday the open city of Trieste was devastated many times by Italian aviators which dropped against it a total of 70 bombs.
September 3rd, 1917. An air squadron proceeding against Trieste was driven off by our hydroplanes before reaching its target.
From the “Osservatore triestino” – “Triestine Observer” of September 5th, 1917
Once again, I am repeating my invitation to the inhabitant of Trieste to immediately, carefully observe the following precautionary measures in case of attacks by enemy aircrafts:
As enemy aircrafts appear, which anyone can distinguish well since our defense fire follows that, the people finding themselves in the streets will shelter themselves in the front door of houses. These frontiers shall be held open until the closing time in order to be absolutely accessible. To persons in seek of shelter, at any moment, the will be granted access at any times. In case of immediate threaten whoever does not reach a shelter in time should lay on the ground.
During air raids, it is absolutely forbidden gathering on streets and squares.
Do not go on top of roofs nor on the balconies. Sitting nearby the windows is dangerous due to the ascending, oblique dispersion produced in the explosion of the bombs.
Being the housing attics and upper floors most exposed, their occupants should go downstairs, during the air raid, to either the lower floors or in the lobby of the house. As for lower houses, be advantaged by the already existing basements.
At the same way, you should teach to little kids how should they behave in the streets and at home.
Non exploded bombs must be left on the ground without touching them and rather, inform to the nearby guarding station the place where these are located. I expect that, by strictly following the directions given from case to case, by the organs of the Authorities, the population of Trieste can concur to reduce at the minimum possible the danger coming from above in case of aircraft raids.
Trieste, on September 1st, 1917
K. u. K. Lieutenant
Dr. baron de Fries-Skene m.p.
September 4th, 1917. Trieste has again been attacked by Italian aviators.
September 5th, 1917. Trieste was re-attacked twice by Italian aviators.
September 6th, 1917. Trieste has again been the target of two Italian air raids.
September 7th, 1917. Attacks of enemy aircrafts against the open city of Trieste are becoming to be the happening of each day.
September 12th, 1917. Day by day, the attacks of Italian airplanes against Trieste are repeated.
September 24th, 1917. A new aircraft attack against Trieste was attempted, but it was stopped by our aircrafts and anti-aircraft warfare.
On october 24th, with the Austro-German breakthrough of Caporetto (Kobarid) and the consequent defeat of the Italian Army precipitously retreating behind the Piave, the nightmare of Italians bombing Trieste ends.