TL-191: Pax Romana - Neutrality for the Kingdom of Italy (1914-1944)

Interesting thread (also if I don't like HT).
Italian neutrality, expecially in the First Great War seems odd, if not compensate by at least Tunisia and(may be) Corsica.

In the secondo Great War, seeing the amount of damage and violence, and having not a fascist party in power, it's more understandable.

Imho Mussolini could still become Presidente del Consiglio, but with the socialist. Before to turn, and founding Partito Fascista, he was a journalist of a socialist newspaper... So...
Yes. So far I believe the opinion on Italy remaining neutral during TL-191's Great War from 1914-1917 is split, though some have said that it would have been odd and unlikely. The "compensation for more territory" issue has also come up with regards to Italy's neutrality. If Italy is going to remain neutral, someone has to make sure Italy gets something out of that neutrality. That's the idea I'm getting from all this.
 
I found this pic of the proposed Italian carrier the "Aquila" and I imagined the Italians making said carrier in TL-191 and then making a larger carrier afterwards so I increased the length of the Aquila here, a simple alteration.
Needs a name, any suggestions?
cv-aquila_1943-nc90 larger than OTL BY ONE QUARTER.png
 
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I go with Vittorio Emanuele II, the grandfather of the current king in the TL (at least the one reigning during the second great war) or maybe the name of an important city like Milano (Milan) or Roma (Rome)
 
IMVHO this is a very probable OOB of Regia Marina at the eve of the second great war, it take in consideration (or at least try) budget and different political system

aircraft carrier: 1 (A)

A - OTL Project by Admiral Bonfiglietti in OTL 1929, 15.000ton, max speed 28/29


Progetto Bonfiglietti 3-kQ7C--680x150@LaStampa.it.jpg


Battleships: 8
Montecuccoli Class : 4 (modernizated on the same manner of the Count of Cavour and Caio Dulio)
Count of Cavour Class: 2 (Modernizated as OTL)
Caio Dulio Class. 2 (modernizated as OTL)

Heavy Crusier: 7
Venezia Class: 3 (roughly equivalent to the Trento)
Genoa Class: 4 (roughly equivalent to the Zara)

Light Crusier: 12
Alberto da Giussano Class 10
Colleoni Class:2 (B)

B - originally part of the same class and batch of the Alberto da Giussano, they were transformed in specializated Anti Aircraft Crusier in the late 30's

Destroyers: 50/60 of various class
Torpedo Boat: 60/70 of various class
 
Italy and the great wars
(part 1)



Corteggiamento_italia.jpg





The Giolitti Goverment [1]

At the time of the July Crisis Italy was governed by Giovanni Giolitt, by many considered the ‘Great Old Man’ of the italian politics and in the role of Presidente del Consiglio for the fourth time. He was currently supported by a shacky alliance of Socialist and Liberals (Giolitti own party), the general weakness of this goverment, even if was capable of achivieving great results like institution of universal suffrage (limited to the males of at least 21 years) and the first step for the creation of a pension system for the retired workers. The reason for this weakness were multiple, from internal division in the socialist party, between moderate and revolutionaries to the economic and social consequence of the war against the Ottoman Empire to conquer Lybia, passing trough the increasing desire of the catholics to return openly to the political life of Italy.

Initially the communication that the heir of the Austro-Hungarian throne was dead, killed by a serbian nationalist was considered good, after all he had been a notorious anti-italian and there were a great faith that, after so many recent warscare, diplomacy resolved the situation as done before. Unfortunely such belief quickly reveled themself as incorrect as the entire world quickly become engulfed by the fire of war.



The July Crisis

The suprise of the italian goverment for the peremptory ultimatum given to Serbia by Austria-Hungary was total, everybody in Rome and the rest of Europe understood that Belgrade had no choice to refuse and accept war unless they opted to become an Hapsburg satellite without even firing a shoot.

Russia, the long time austral-hungarian rival for the dominion of the Balkans, still fuming for the humiliation of the Bosnian crisis annexation and the failed attempts to capitalize the Ottoman defeats in the recent wars, pledged to help their Serbian Slavic brothers and from there the domino of the linked alliance started, starting one of the most destructive war in the history of man.

The Italian position was complicated, from one side it was in an alliance with A-H (plus Germany and the USA) but not only Italy had a long history of conflicts with her (and still claim part of her territory) she considered an Austrian dominance of the Balkans as contrary to her interest and while she was ready to accept a change of the status quo in the region in favor of Wien this was needed to be compensated per art. 7 of the Quadruple Alliance Treaty and she pointed to the Italian speaking region of the Empire for that, especially if direct military support was demanded.

On the other side, the Austro-Hungary leadership was categorically against give up any part of her territory for whatever reason and while under German pressure accepted the validity of the art.7, but stated that was valid only in case of Italian participation in the war and in any case never involved any austro-hungarian cession of territory to their supposed ally.

For this reason the Italian government and military higher up were excluded from any talk regarding the crisis and the imminent military conflict for the explicit desire of Wien, a move that was a clear breach of the Alliance treaty and will have give to the Italians a reason and a justification for remain neutral and so to not being forced to give up any part of her territory.

At the same time any hope that the war was just a limited affair quickly evaporated with the Russian and French mobilization, not even considering the quick deterioration of the situation in North America with news of numerous border clash between the USA and the CSA.
With that development and the sober report by the Chief of Staff General Cadorna that the army was still not ready for a major conflict due to still not had replenished the equipment loss from the war in Libya and even postponed critical modernization program due to financial matter, neutrality was the only politics possible for Giolitti, at least for the oment


Italy strategic option

1 – Enter the war on the side of the Quadruple Alliance as per treaty, but from the start was clear that in this scenario no adequate compensation will be received by Italy and as the foreign minister Sidney Sonnino simply put: at beast Italy will just be the first vassal of the German Empire and not even that if A-H had something to say about it. Giolitti and the King quickly understood that even if the alliance was victorious, the motivation to give to the italian sufficient compensation simply not existed and this lack of trust in their allies was important in the decision as due to the huge import of raw material necessary for keep the Italy going on they will absolutely need the support of Germany and Austria-Hungary.
2 – Mantain neutrality, but there were the risk that a victorious A-H will have blocked any political and economic access of Italy in the balkan region and stopped any aspiration to finally obtain the irredente lands and in the worst case there were the fear of a possible vengeance from A-H to eliminate an historical adversary.
3 – Negotiate neutrality with the rest of the Quadruple, while the risk and consequence of this option don’t really differ from the above scenario, at least it was thought that obtaining Trentino was a possibility and maybe something more
4 – Join the war at the side of the Entente, but this option had the pre-requisite that the negotiation with Wien failed and no agreement for the italian compensation it’s reached


A country divided...but not too much

The Great war caused untold and unthinkable changes in the world and Italy even if not directly afftected by her was also engulfed by the consequences of this event. The decision if remain neutral or partecipate divided the nation in two camps and even the various political parties were not immune by this division.
The socialist party while officialy supported neutrality but many of his most prominent members like Benito Mussolini agitated for war, expecially with the american and german own socialist parties supporting the effort. The Catholic were also divided, the great majority was for staying out of the conflict but many supported helping A-H, a catholic nation, against the slavic orthodox.

The most vocal faction was the Associazione Nazionalista Italiana that wanted Italy in the war without even considering on which alliance, their general objective was to finally fullfill the objective of Risorgimento and liberate the irredente (Italy had claim against both France and Austria-Hungary) but it was also a very eterogenous group, with member like the poet Gabriele D’Annunzio, recently returned from Paris where he took refuge to escape from the creditor (the British and the French were extremely generous with their financial aid to anyone they though capable of sway the italian pubblic opinion) and the founder of futurism Filippo Tommaso Marinetti see in the war l’unica igiene del mondo – the only hygiene of the world, necessary to keep the fire of civilization so to forge the population and eliminate the weak.

The period between the start of the war and, in the words of D’Annunzio, the ‘black days of March’ was characterizated by an intense work of propaganda by the interventionist but also by numerous act of political violence, at one point even the personal home of Giolitti was ransaked by a mob; so while the interventionist faction was smaller than the neutralist it seemed much more stronger and intense in the support of her objectives.
Nevertheless the real popular support for them was always scarce, the bulk of the people don’t have any desire to go in a war that will have see her bear the bulk of the sacrifices





Negotiation with both sides


Almost immediately Sonnino, explained the Italian position to his nominal allies, making clear the importance of the art.7 of the Quadruple Alliance treaty. The Austrian initial answer was a declaration of intent regarding her unwillingness of occupy permanently Serbia or part of it but also stated that there will be not talking about eventual compensation without a DoW by the Kingdom of Italy towards the Entente. This position it’s a clear demonstration on how optimistic was the general mood in Wien as the war was expected to be a short one, this belief was only strengthened by the German victories on Belgium, North France and with the Russian defeat at Tannemberg.
On the other side, it was the Russian foreign minister, in early September, to made the first contact with the Italian government, offering Trentino, Trieste and Vlore but Sonnino and Giolitti considered such offer insufficient as their objective was the control of the Adriatic and that clearly clashed with the interest of Serbia, at the time a Russian client; so thing remained unchanged.
The failed first invasion of Serbia, the Russian capture of Lemberg and the possible menace at Wien itself and the failed capture of Paris instead made clear that the conflict will have been a long one.

Italy answer to such development was to increase the preparation for war, regardless against whom and to continue his diplomatic offensive with both side.
The russian success against A-H brought a new round of negatiation between Rome and Wien, even thanks to the increased pressure from Berlin towards the Hapsburg leadership and the arrive in February at Rome of Count Von Bulow, a German diplomat with the mission to reach an agreement with Italy regarding her situation.
This sudden moves caused an irate reaction from Austria-Hungary that put a stop to the talking and sent a formal protest to the German Kaiser itself.

At the same time, the discussion with the representative of the Entente were going extremely well as they were ready to give to Italy basically everything she demanded in exchange to her DoW against the Quadruple; this change of policy started at January with the realization that without help Serbia will have fallen and that A-H was the weak link of the Alliance.

Unfortunately Giolitti was a staunch neutralist, seeing the level of destruction just some months of war caused and painfully aware of how much was unprepared the Italian army and how contrary of the war was the majority of the population. Naturally as an old schemer, he used this contact with the Entente as a motivation for both Berlin and Wien to come to an agreement and let news of them come to the ear of the Alliance members intelligence services.

As consequences, the 17 March the Hapsburg foreign minister Count Bertchold, send an official dispatch to Sonnino, saying that he was ready to talk about the Italian compensation and two week after a formal Austrian proposal regarding the cession of Trentino, control of Albania and some other minor border adjustment as compensation and to maintain a benevolent (see favorable) neutrality towards the rest of the Quadruple alliance arrived to the desk of Giolitti.

By the end of the month after one of most heated debate ever happened in the Italian deputy chambers and the consternation of the entente governments, the agreement was approved and signed, Italy will have remained neutral.


Many in the interwar period had ridiculed Giolitti and the King for the trust given to the Austrian, for being such naive in believing that they had respected such treaty or that Germany, even with the personal guarantee of the Kaiser regarding the upholding of the treaty, will have supported us. But has been painfully clear that not for a moment the Italian officials had believed the word of the Austrian government was worth the ink used for the treaty and communication between officials of the Hapsburg foreign minister to their German counterpart that openly proclaimed how there were not intention of keep the word given, were intercepted almost immediately. The reason why Giolitti chose to accept this agreement even when the Entente was ready to give him all Italy demanded, was the preparation of the army and the country for such war and the understanding that even if victorious, the cost will have been too high for nation, putting her very survival at risk, plus the staunch belief that in the end some other type of compensation will have been granted to Italy by the victorious Quadruple, maybe Tunisia, maybe Nice and Savoy.

It’s worth to note that to finance the modernization program of the armed forces and in general obtain more fund for the government program, it was for the first time used in Italy the issue of bond linked to the public debt and so guaranteed by the state and more importantly anyone had the right to bought them, even the women and without the permission of the husband. A major rise of the tax was also proposed but immediately refused, this created some problem in the government because the minister at the finance of the time was ready to gave his resignation over such politics, Giolitti with his usual capacity of compromise put a stop at the crisis by allowing a slight rise of the tax for a limited time.
 
Italy and the Great Wars


(part 2)








Life during wartime


The war had severe consequences on the international trade, much more difficult for Italy to export merchandise and import raw material necessary for the industry and the food for the population, for this reason almost immediately Giolitti not only created a government of national unity formed by socialist (the moderate socialist led by Turati, people like Gramsci and Mussolini were on the verge of leaving the group to create their own party), liberals and moderate Catholics but started program of rationing and for increase the internal production of food and material.


The food situation was also problematic due to the mobilization of the army to defend the nation from a possible attack from one of the neighboring nations, that because the soldiers recalled were almost exclusively young farmer from the south; sure many rules were employed to lessen the burden from the poor families, the mobilization was partial plus there were a rotation of the personnel involved, at least in theory and there were many days of leave granted so to allow the soldiers to go back to their farm for the harvest, nevertheless it put a heavy burden to the most poor group of Italians.
On the other hand industries like Fiat and Ansaldo seen a great expansion due to the commission from both side (as example it’s thought that at least a quarter of the steel helmet of both France and A-H were built in Italy under license), there were factories were the average worker week was of 70/75 hours making employer and employee rich (but also starting an inflationary cycle that eroded part of this new richness).


While from the other hand a rationing system was created to limit public consumption of meat, dairy product and other valuable product; other government measure brought the 'pane comune' on the table of the Italians, basically by order of the ministry there various bakery were ordered to produce only 1 type of bread instead of the numerous regional variant and done with flour of inferior quality (later this become a staple of the Italian diet but produced with higher quality materials). Not only that but is also is limited the selling of food in restaurant and bakery or butcher’s shop, this to safe precious food but also to have material to sell at greatly increased price to Austrian buyer, journals now had only 4 pages and books were in smaller size than before and even electricity was rationed and a series of controlled blackout created to save resources.
This naturally created a lot of social tension, people had the money but lacked the goods to buy, at least in the quantity and quality desired and in this scenario ta very active and prosperous black market rise to at least alleviate the situation, while part of the new money available was used to buy the national bonds issued by the government to finance both a program to rearm the army and the navy in case Italy was involved directly in the war but also various program of public utility like the draining of swamp or the building of new infrastructure.


As said above, this was a period of social tension and the numbers of protest, riots and fight for the scarcity of food and coal were too numerous to list and in one occasion (Turin July 1917) when a women protest for the lowering of the food ration was repressed with the force with at least a dozen women dead, this started a city wide battle against the authorities, things gone so badly that many thought were the prelude for a revolution.
Luckily for the nation, cooler head prevailed and in an extremely uncharacteristic manner, the government officially admitted to have mismanaged the situation and offer amnesty and reparation for everyone involved and the discharge of the local prefect and the general in command of the city garrison; that development seemed to be the result of intense and at times angry negotiation between the King, TTurati Giolitti and Don Luigi Sturzo (as an unofficial representative of the catholic) to resolve the situation without spreading the revolt or cause further bloodshed.





Not so safe neutrality

Even if neutral doesn’t mean that Italy don’t suffered attack during the war, both the border with France and A-H seen various incident during the years of war, usually limited to patrols trespassing and being forced to return home but in various occasion not before some fire exchange; numerous were also the overflight by foreign aircraft, many time due to navigational error but other time very intentionally as both Paris and Wien want to be sure that Italy was not planning a sneak attack against them, by the end of the war at least 1000 of such incident happened.


By any standard the two most serious event involved ships; the first was the so called ‘Seydlitz affair’, called in such manner as it refer to the pursuit of the German battle cruiser Seydlitz and the light cruiser Weser, together forming the German mediterrean division, in September 1915.
The German ships primary mission was to intercept French transport from North Africa and directed in the mainland, but the first sortie was a partial failure as the squadron, after departing Pola the 4 September and having eluded the entente squad at Corfù and successfully shelled objectives in Algeria, while was going back at her base was intercepted near Malta by the British cruiser Erin and Agincourt and after a brief but intense fight they were forced to retreat after having suffered minor damage.
Their return route in the Adriatic was cut by MN and RN ships, so the division commander Konteradmiral Behncke fearing to be intercepted by another and larger force and low on supply (especially coal) decided to enter Italian waters and seek temporary asylum under neutrality law.

So, the German ships arrived in Messina the night of the 14 September, while the British squadron assembled stayed out of the Italian waters as they were ordered to respect that nation neutrality.
While the Italian authorities not refused at Behncke asylum, were also strict on the rule, no more than 24 hours and with just enough coal to return home (even if the presence of German merchants blocked in the port permitted the acquisition to more coal), at the same time a sizable British force was forming just out the Sicilian port waiting for the two enemy ships to come out to play.
The German commander, with the two only option for a safe base being Pola, with the risk of being bottled for the remaining of the war and Constantinople with his dangerous route decided for the second and at midnight of the 16 he departed from Messina with the cover of the night unfortunately the British light cruiser HMS Weymounth intercepted them by chance less than an hour after they left the Italian waters and engage the division, giving time to the rest of the squadron to reach them and paying this act of bravery with his destruction.
In the following battle, both Seydlitz and Weser were sunked with only a handful of their personnel successfully recovered, while except for the previously mentioned light cruiser, the much more numerous British force suffered only lightly damage; the fires of the battle were clearly visible from Messina and many fishermen ships were caught between the warring vessel, with a couple of them almost being hit by straying shell, that Sicilian sailors while inadvertently in dangerous waters were also instrumental in rescue what few German sailors survived the destruction of their ships, as the dark of the night and the scarcity of moonlight made the rescue operation very difficult.





The other incident happened in October 1916 as a consequence of the Battle of the Otranto Straits, when the A-H navy attempted one of her few sortie of the war, with the objective to engage the Entente fleet in Vlore, beat her and finally open the straits permitting to the Kriegsmarine to leave the Adriatic and enter the meditterean.

The night between the 16 and 17 October a fleet comprising the bulk of the austro-hungarian naval forces under the command of admiral Horthy (1), from the start of the war the entire Hapsburg navy had been imprisoned in her own bases and all the previous attempt to break the blockade ended in failure, with only a handful of ships being successful in leaving the Adriatic sea to engage Anglo-french objective in the wider mediterrean theater; this time it was decided that for the honor of the navy, the entente forces need to be defeated; as secondary objective the ships had order to bombard enemy position in Albania and Corfù.The original plan was to use one of the old per-dreadnought battleships with a screen of destroyers to bombard target in Albania, so to make the enemy ships get out from the fortified port to engage them and once that happen spring the trap, all while a couple of destroyers masked as British ships had launched an attack to the fishing ships used to keep the anti-submarine net in position.

Unfortunately the battleships Budapest was hit just before reaching his target by a torpedo launched by a french submarine (that escaped successfully) and with that happening a general alert was sent, making the austro-hungarian lose the element of surprise, to make thing worse, the main fleet position was spotted by entente planes at the first light of the day.


Admiral Horthy decided to abort the operation and return to the Pola as the strategic situation was drastically changed, but the Budapest due to the hit by the torpedo was much more slower than his escort and was soon in range of the enemy artillery, as a group of destroyers had reach them; the first battle was inconsequential as even with at least a hundred shell used no single hit was achieved for both side.
After laying smoke and being left behind from his escort due to the reduced speed, the Budapest changed route and tried to reach Italian waters due to report of ships from Durazzo leaving the port to cut her escape route.
Leaving aside the game of cat and mouse between the Budapest and the Entente ships, the event relevant to the violation of the Italian neutrality was the battle between the old austro-hungarian battleships and the British cruiser Dartmouth, Bristol and Chester as it happened inside the Italian territorial waters.

Probably due more to human error than a desire to ignore international law, nevertheless the following battle ended with the destruction of the Budapest started a series of heated diplomatic exchange between Rome and London with the addition of numerous menace from both side and dangerous movement of ships and men, till more prudent and cool head prevailed and decided to DE-escalate the crisis before was too late.








(1)


3 dreadnoughts, 7 per-dreadnoughts, 3 light cruiser, 10 destroyers and 3 submarine
 
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