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Brave Black Country boys buried on the Italian front

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: July 19, 2014

  • Grave of 2nd Lt George Addison of Wolverhampton

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IN OUR April 3 edition we told the story of Wednesbury soldier Albert Harrison, decorated for bravery while fighting in Italy in the WWI. In response we have received these pictures of British war graves in Italy, emailed to us by Bugle reader Glyn Rees.

Two years ago Glyn was holidaying near the Cavalletto British Cemetery in northern Italy and he decided to visit. He took the steep rough track to the cemetery, which is often inaccessible in winter due to the mountain snows.

"The cemetery is kept in good order and is in a peaceful setting. I paid my respects and signed the visitors book," said Glyn.

Among the 100 First World War burials Glyn found two of Black Country men. They were Private Charles Hartley Fisher, 1/8th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment, son of Fanny E. Fisher of West Bromwich, who died August 3, 1918, aged 21, and 2nd Lieutenant George Mellsome Addison, 5th Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment, son of George and Annie Blanche Addison, of Ruardean House, Cannock Road, Wolverhampton, who died August 9, 1918, aged 24.

Glyn has no connection with either man but recognised them as fellow Black Country men.

While the great Commonwealth war cemeteries of the Western Front are famous and visited by thousands every year, the 10 cemeteries in Italy are not so well known. The Italian Front, where many British fought and died, is relatively unknown.

In 1914 Italy was one of the Central Powers, allied with Germany and Austria, but decided to stay out of the war. However, in May 1915 the Italian government was persuaded to side with Britain and France and declared war on their erstwhile allies.

In November 1917 Britain and France were forced to send troops to Italy after the Italians' catastrophic defeat at the Battle of Caporetto, which saw the Austrians advance over 90 miles in four days, to within striking distance of Venice. The Allies resisted a further assault in June 1918 and launched their counterattack in October. The Austrian army collapsed and signed an armistice on November 3.

The two Black Country soldiers died in August 1918, in the aftermath of the Battle of the Piave River, June 15-23, 1918. Perhaps they died of wounds sustained in that battle or they succumbed to one of the outbreaks of influenza that struck the Italian front that year. They were buried at Cavalletto, the site of an advanced operating station where the most urgent cases from the front were treated, as the journey from the mountains to the main hospitals on the plain was too long and arduous.

Do you know anything about 2nd Lt GeorgeAddison or Pte Charles Fisher? Are you a relative with a picture of them? Have you a family story from the First World War? Contact dshaw@blackcountrybugle .co.uk, call 01384 567678, or write to 41 High Street, Cradley Heath, B64 5HL.

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