Despite Italy's membership in the Triple Alliance with the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires, when war broke out in 1914, Italy remained neutral. This however belies a series of quite complex disputes that Italy had with its two confederates and even why Austria-Hungary was drawn into war in the first place.
On the 21st of March 1914, the revolving door of Italian Prime Ministers, opened on Antonio Salandra at the behest of outgoing Prime Minister, Giovanni Giolitti, who was no longer able to hold together his Italian Liberal government.
One hundred years ago today, on the 19th of April 1914, Salandra appointed a diumvirate of generals as head of the Italian Army in climate of impending clouds of war in Europe. General Antonio Salami was in favour of throwing Italy's hat into the ring with the other members of the Triple Alliance and expanding the Kingdom of Italy slice by slice. General "Papa" Giuseppe Mortadella on the other hand, saw problems with enlarging the Kingdom of Italy and was wary of as he put it "black olives of resistance".
Mortadella was especially worried about Italy's stance during the Balkan Wars of 1912. Documents which had been received via channels of intelligence revealed that considerable payments had flowed from Italy to factions in Serbia; this in turn had reduced prices of arms in the region. In particular, Italian funds flowed balsamically through a man called Wulworth Kohl who was head of a group called the Red Hand Society.
"Down down, prices are down. Down down, prices are down."
- Wulworth Kohl, 11th February 1913.
Kohl's aid to Serbian forces considerably contributed to the Balkan League's victory over the Ottoman Empire. At the war's end in 1913, nearly 50,000 Ottoman soldiers lay dead; this caused anxiety to Mortadella who did not want Italian forces to suffer the same fate. Kohl's Red Hand Society would in turn, evolve into the Black Hand Society, of which Gavrilo Princip was a member and who would assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand.
Eventually General "Papa" Giuseppe would move into the Ministry of Food Control and increase Italians dairy rations by "adding a little more cheese". For years following a common phrase was that "everyone loves their Papa".
General Antonio Salami on the other hand was intent on backing the Triple Alliance because he saw it as a way of increasing Italian power and prestige.
Mortadella and Salami would brought together and would never reach agreement; and so Italy dithered and delayed joining the war. They dithered and delayed to such an extent that the whole fiasco was finally cured when Italian Prime Minister Antonio Salandra and British Prime Minister Herbert Henry Asquith signed the London Pact on 26 April 1915, in which Italy was to leave the Triple Alliance and join Triple Entente. Italy would Germany and Austria-Hungary within a month. The London Pact was signed in the suburban district of Ham in south-west London and both Mortadella and Salami would find themselves on the chopping block.