First World War - Mass Grave in Trentino

Operation Avalanche" is deadly. Almost 100 Austro-Hungarian soldiers die during this manoeuvre in the First World War in Trentino. Now a mass grave has been discovered, thanks to the diary of a contemporary witness.

In the past, corpses from the First World Wars were found rather by chance - and especially after glaciers melted - but now archaeologists from the province of Trento are researching with the help of this old diary. Thanks to the clues, they discover a first grave above the Tonale Pass at the beginning of August, a shell crater with twelve bodies.

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The World War I Grave in the Italian Alps


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More than 100 years after their deaths, scientists recover the remains of twelve fallen soldiers from the First World War in Trentino

Besides bones and skeletal remains, personal equipment such as crampons, boots, remains of gas masks and tools were also found. However, the items are so rotten that it is no longer possible to identify the fallen.

A scientist at the excavation on the mountain
Photos: Provincia autonoma di Trento/ Archivio Ufficio Stampa PAT

The investigations go to Sergio Boem, grandson of an Italian officer in the First World War in Trentino. Boem had discovered information about a mass grave in the diary of his grandfather Ubaldo Ingravalle. Since then, Boem has been researching the history of the Italian Alpine battalion "Val Camonica" himself (his book: "Sui prati del Tonale 94 stelle alpine" ).

According to Boem, one of the largest mass graves of the First World War could lie above the Tonale Pass in Trentino. According to the diary, 94 Austro-Hungarian soldiers (from present-day Hungary and Romania) are said to lie there in a grave twelve metres in diameter.

The "Avalanche" enterprise on 13 June 1918 was a futile attempt by the then Austria-Hungary to influence the course of the war in its favour.

The remains of the fallen World War II soldiers from Trentino are currently being examined at Durham University in Great Britain. They will then be buried in a military cemetery in Trentino.

The recovery of the mortal remains

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Cover photo: Provincia autonoma di Trento/ Archivio Ufficio Stampa PAT

Sources: own research; Autonomous Province of Trento: "Passo del Tonale: recuperati i resti di dodici soldati austroungarici in una fossa comune".