THAT LAST BRIDGE: 31 OCTOBER, 1917, CORNINO, HAUPTMANN EMIL REDL
THE 4TH BOSNIAN REGIMENT ACROSS THE TAGLIAMENTO
On 31 October, 1917, Austrian and German troops spread in the flats of Friuli after the breach of Caporetto – Kobarid. Udine, the Italian headquarter, surrenders without resistance.
The Commander in chief of the Italian Army, generalissimo Luigi Cadorna and his staff have already left anyways, as quickly as possible, Friuli’s main city.
Now the Austrians need to cross river Tagliamento and defeat the second Italian defensive line. That is about 40km behind the first one, on the Isonzo – Soča. If they make it, the Austrians can cut off the 2nd and 3rd Italian Army’s retreat. However, there is only one way to succeed: conquering the river’s bridges, and of course, as the Italians retreat, they blow up one bridge after another.
Except in Cornino. Here, the vanguards of the 55th Austrian infantry division, which arrived on October 29th, finds a finely intact bridge. However, the flooding Tagliamento is about 1,5 Km wide: wading it is impossible.
The Italians are firmly controlling the Clapat islet, and that is the nature-made pillar of the two-spans metal bridge that connects the two banks of the river. It is a dominant position, and the 33rd Italian infantry regiment holds it with many machine-gun posts, keeping the eastern bank of the Tagliamento under fire.
The 15th and 16th companies of the 4th Bosnian Regiment lead by Hauptmann (captain) Emil Redl (born in Gorizia) are ordered to attack.
It is October 31st, 4AM: in the dark of the night, the Bosniaken of “Gorizian” Redl attack.
Avery tough battle ensues: the crossfire of Italian machine-guns claims many lives: Hauptman Redl and his Bosniaken reach Clapat, only to be stranded on a sandbank.
At midmorning the Bosniaken prevail. They get rid of the machine-gun pits and force the Italians to retreat.
Obviously the Italians counterattack quickly, using the troops deployed on the western bank of the river.
The Italian counterattack is covered by armed trucks, but is fails under the fire of Clapat’s new defenders. With their hand grenades, the Bosniaken destroy the armed trucks, while the Italian infantry is mowed by the fire of machine-guns. Once again the Italian draw back, on the other bank of the Tagliamento. The blow up the last bridge’s western arch.
On 2 November, at 6 AM, after a company of Austrian military engineers and one of sappers reach the Captain Redl’s Bosniaken – now firm on Clapat – starts the construction of a temporary bridge.
At noon, the new bridge is complete: the Austrians start crossing it, as the Italians, posted on the other bank, open fire.
Many lose their life, but later that evening the 2nd and 4th Bosnian Battalions are firmly standing on the Tagliamento’s western bank. The town of Cornino is captured that night.
At dawn, on November 3rd, 1917, the Imperial and Royal army has Cornino firm in hand. The Italians have lost the Tagliamento, all they can do is retreating, off to the Piave.
The efforts of Captain Emil Redl and his Bosniaken proves decisive. Captain Redl is soon awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Military Order of Maria Theresa directly by Emperor Karl I.