Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Who Were the Arditi?

Depiction of an Arditi Assault Near Mte Grappa

The Italian Reparti d'assalto (Assault Units), known as the Arditi, of the First World War were the most elite force in the Italian Army. In Italian the word "ardito" [singular form], means something like brave, bold, or audacious. Organized in the summer of 1917, by a Col. Bassi, these special forces units were assigned the tactical role of breaching the enemy defenses and attacking in depth in order to prepare the way for a broad infantry advance. 

The Arditi were not infantry troops but were considered a separate combat arm. Some Italian historians consider them to be the modern world's first true "special forces". In contrast, the Austrian and German "Sturmtruppen" although having a similar combat role, were regular infantry units. 

Arditi Celebrating a Successful Operation

For volunteering, however, they received higher pay, more and better food, extra rations of grappa, and lived in nicer barracks when not in the field. They did not serve in the trenches  or carry backpacks. They were given truck transport and rarely marched long distances. Discipline was more relaxed and leave was granted more often. 

Like most special forces units, the Reparti d'assalto were relatively small, totaling approximately 600 men and officers, versus an Italian infantry battalion which usually contained about 1,000 men and officers.  Excerpted from an article by John Farina, whose grandfather served with the Arditi.  

Read John's full article at:

1 comment:

  1. A unit not mentioned often in contrast to the Alpini and Bersagali