Act I Scenes 27-28


In the Vatican. Hear the voice of Pope Benedict[1] praying.

– – In the holy name of God, our heavenly Father and Lord, for the sake of the blesséd blood of Jesus, the price of mankind’s salvation, we beseech all those who have been appointed by Divine Providence to the governance of the warring nations, to put an end to the fearful carnage that has dishonoured Europe for more than a year. It is the blood of our brothers which has been shed on land and at sea. Europe’s most beautiful landscapes, the gardens of our planet, are planted with broken carcasses and ruins. Before God and mankind you carry the horrifying responsibility for peace or r war. Hear our prayer, hear the fatherly voice of the Vicar of our supreme and everlasting judge, Jesus Christ, to whom you must answer. The abundance of riches with which the Creator has endowed the lands in your governance, enables you, unquestionably, to let this struggle continue. But at what price? Let the thousands of young lives daily extinguished on the battlefield answer – –



New Free Press editorial office. The voice of Moritz Benedikt dictating.

– – And the fish and lobsters and spider crabs of the Adriatic have not had such good times as these in a very long while. In the southern Adriatic they dined on almost the whole crew of the Leon Gambetta[2]. The inhabitants of the mid Adriatic found sustenance in the Italians we could not rescue from the motor vessel Turbine[3], and in the northern Adriatic the denizens of the deep had an ever more bountiful table laid. The submarine Medusa[4] and two torpedo boats have now been joined in the depths by the battle cruiser Amalfi[5]. Our showcase collection of marine spoil, previously restricted to maritime minnows, has gained a heavyweight addition, and more bitter than ever must be the Adriatic’s taste to Italy, its bed littered more and more with the broken bodies of Italian shipping, while dead Italian liberators on the Karst Plateau[6] waft the breath of decomposing flesh over its blue waters – –


[1] Pope Benedict XV, Giacomo della Chiesa (1854-1922), elected Pope 3 September 1914 after the death of Pius X; his attempts to act as an intermediary for peace were roundly ignored by all the warring parties.

[2] The Léon Gambetta was a French armoured cruiser; on 27 April 1915, close to Cape Santa Maria di Leuca, the south-easterly tip of Italy, she was torpedoed by an Austro-Hungarian submarine, U-5, under the command of Captain Georg Ludwig Ritter von Trapp (better known from the Von Trapp Family Singers and ‘The Sound of Music’); of 821 men on board, 684 were lost, including all commissioned officers.

[3] Turbine, Italian Nembo class destroyer (joint British-Italian design, launched 1901); sunk on the 24 March 1915 by the Austro-Hungarian cruiser Helgoland and three destroyers, Csepel, Tátra and Lika.

[4] The submarine Medusa was sunk by an Austro-Hungarian submarine, UB 15, off Porto di Piave Vecchia, in the northern Adriatic 10 June 1915; the first recorded sinking of a submarine by a submarine.

[5] The Amalfi, a Pisa class battle cruiser, sunk in the northern Adriatic; she was torpedoed by German submarine U26 (for some reason disguised as Austro-Hungarian submarine UB14) on 6 July 1915.

[6] The Karst Plateau (Kras, Slovenian; Carso, Italian), between south-western Slovenia and north-eastern Italy, was the scene of repeated fighting between 1915 and 1917; usually referred to as the Battles of the Isonzo after the river that runs through the area. In 1915, short of rifles, artillery shells, even cutters for the barbed wire, Italian tactics were no more sophisticated than a frontal assault on the Austro-Hungarian lines; there was appalling hand-to-hand fighting with bayonets, swords, knives, iron bars, bare-handed strangulation. In July and August there were 91,000 casualties; and 48,000 were Austrian and Hungarian.