WWI troops' barracks on Italian mountain emerges as ice melts

WWI troops' barracks on Italian mountain emerges as ice melts

Alpine barracks of the White War warriors emerges through melting ice: Clothes, postcards and canned food of WWI troops are seen for first time in more than 100 years after lost mountain camp thaws out

  • The White War, which ended in November 1918, took place between Austro-Hungarian Empire and Italy
  • Wooden barracks belonging to Austro-Hungarian troops on Mount Scorluzzo were locked up after conflict
  • Researchers entered the 9,000ft-high den for the first time in 2015 after ice encasing it melted
  • Artefacts they found are set to be preserved in a new museum opening in Lombardy town of Bormio in 2022 

The cramped space was home to 20 World War One soldiers shielding from the bitterly cold terrain of an Italian mountain.

The men, from the Austro-Hungarian army, were engaged in fierce fighting with Italian troops in a battle known as the White War, which ended in November 1918.

After the three-and-a-half-year conflict, the men’s wooden barracks, which were inside a cave and overlooked the Stelvio Pass on Mount Scorluzzo, in Lombardy, were locked up and became encased in ice.

Then, in 2015, researchers were able to enter the 9,000ft-high den for the first time after its ice prison melted completely due to global warming.

Inside, they found newspapers, tinned food, straw beds, clothes and lanterns and the remains of animals eaten by the men who were once based within it.  

Now, the refuge has been fully excavated and the relics it once held are to go on display in a new museum which is set to open in the Lombardy town of Bormio in 2022, according to The Guardian.

Scroll down for video.  


Barracks belonging to Austro-Hungarian troops who fought in the White War in the Italian mountains in the First World War have emerged after the ice encasing them melted. Inside, newspapers, tinned food, straw beds, clothes and lanterns and the remains of animals eaten by the men who were once based within it

The men, from the Austro-Hungarian army, were engaged in fierce fighting with Italian troops in a battle known as the White War, which ended in November 1918. After the three-and-a-half-year conflict, the men’s wooden barracks, which were inside a cave and overlooked the Stelvio Pass on Mount Scorluzzo, in Lombardy, were locked up and became encased in ice Pictured: Excavators working in the unearthed barracks

 Then, in 2015, researchers were able to enter the 9,000ft-high den for the first time after its ice prison melted completely due to global warming

A video filmed by the excavating team showed them working inside the barracks, along with the items they recovered 

Historian Stefano Morisini, who coordinates heritage projects at Stelvio national park, told the newspaper: ‘The barracks is a time capsule of the White War that helps us to understand the extreme, starving conditions that the soldiers experienced.

‘The knowledge we’re able to gather today from the relics is a positive consequence of the negative fact of climate change.’

Marco Ghizzoni, who works at the White War museum in Lombardy, said a corpse is found ‘every two or three years’, usually in areas where there was fighting.

 The White War is the name which was given to the fighting in the high-altitude part of the Italian front which took place the First World War between troops from Italy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Pictured: Hungarian workers in the Dolomites, north-east Italy, carrying ovens for the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s shelter

The excavators also found bottles during their work to recover artefacts from the barracks, which had lain encased in ice for nearly 100  years

The men’s barracks overlooked the 9,000ft-high Stelvio Pass, on Mount Scorluzzo in Lombardy, northern Italy 

The White War took place over three-and-a-half years in the high altitude portion of the Italian front. Pictured: Italian troops are seen during the conflict

The White War is the name which was given to the fighting in the high-altitude part of the Italian front which took place the First World War between troops from Italy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The majority of the hostilities took place in the Dolomites, the Ortles-Cevedale Alps and the Adamello-Presanella Alps. Pictured: Italian troops in the conflict

More soldiers are reportedly believed to have been killed by avalanches, hypothermia or falling down mountains than in actual fighting during the White War.

The war had been frozen in time until the melting of ice in the 1990s uncovered weapons, letters, diaries and even the bodies of soldiers.

Astonishing photos taken in 2014 showed more bodies and weapons which had been uncovered after ice melted. 

One image showed the muzzle of a gun, complete with its original strap, poking out of the ice.

Mount Scorluzzo stands at more than 10,000 feet high in Lombardy, northern Italy

Astonishing photos taken in 2014 showed more bodies and weapons which had been uncovered after ice melted

The finds have previously been looted by opportunistic thieves, meaning archaeologists have to act quickly when new relics emerge.

In 2012, researchers discovered that two soldiers found side-by-side had been shot in the head.

Other remains have been found almost every year before that dating back to 2004, when a major discovery of three Austrian soldiers buried in the ice made global headlines. 

The effects of climate change are said to be visible across the Italian Alps. One of the country’s largest glaciers – Forni – has retreated 1.2miles in the past century.

One image from 2014 showed the muzzle of a gun, complete with its original strap, poking out of the ice

More soldiers are reportedly believed to have been killed by avalanches, hypothermia or falling down mountains than in actual fighting during the White War. Pictured: An illustration of Austro-Hungarian troops caught in an avalanche in 2016

What was the White War?

The White War is the name which was given to the fighting in the high-altitude part of the Italian front which took place the First World War between troops from Italy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

The majority of the hostilities took place in the Dolomites, the Ortles-Cevedale Alps and the Adamello-Presanella Alps.

Nearly all of the conflict zone lay at an altitude higher than 6,500feet. Some fighting took place at nearly 13,000 feet, on Mount Ortler.   

In winter, soldiers had to contend with temperatures as low as -35C (-31F), along with regular avalanches and snow storms.  

Ultimately, more than a million men from both sides were killed on the Italian front.

The White War is the name which was given to the fighting in the high-altitude part of the Italian front which took place the First World War between troops from Italy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Pictured: Barbed wire denotes the edge of No Man’s Land on the Italian front in the First World War 

Hazardous: The Italian front, marked by the red line, stretched for hundreds of miles over the Alps

It ranged across more than 400 miles, with battles lasting almost the entire length of the First World War. 

Although the two sides had been allies until the time when war broke out, old enmities quickly showed and in April 1915, Italy changed sides by signing the Treaty of London in secret.

Russia, France and Britain – all part of the Triple Entente – persuaded Italy to leave the Triple Alliance, which it had until then maintained with Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

The brutal mountain war stretched on until October 1918 and the Battle of Vittoria Veneto, which saw the final defeat of Austro-Hungarian troops and a crucial victory for those on the Western Front.

Historians have been collecting material from the mountains ever since, with regular finds since the early 1990s. 

Discoveries have included clothes, shoes and a remarkably intact letter from a soldier to his lover.

On the peak of Punta Linke, historians uncovered an entire cableway station concealed beneath the ice, with soldiers’ letters still pinned to the walls.

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