We must be losing our sanities. With no desire to surrender to Italians, or to fight for Austria. Caught in the crossfire: Driven to death by Austria, and killed by Italy.
Ivan Matičič

Despite the fear of permanent injury and illness, the majority of soldiers suffering minor wounds fully enjoyed their stays at military hospitals. It gave them the opportunity to escape from the front lines and, at least for a while, improve their chances of survival. However, not everybody was blessed with such an opportunity. As a result, some would inflict self-injury or infect themselves on purpose in spite of the risk of detection. Feigning various illnesses was particularly common in the army, and, immediately after the start of the war, also successful. As the situation on the battlefields became more severe and there was a lack of soldiers, avoiding the front lines became trickier.

The desire to end the pain and suffering of war grew year by year, and the number of soldiers who would, first secretly and then publicly, ponder how to avoid this situation they had been forced into grew and grew. Desertion was one of the options at their disposals, however, it was punishable by the most severe of sanctions – execution. Simultaneously, desertion was considered cowardly and dishonourable; it stood for abandoning your comrades as well as the Emperor. Desertion was scarce during the first years of the war. However, during the last two, when the monarchy had begun to crumble, the number of deserters increased. Because generally, deserting soldiers lacked the courage to return home and risk apprehension and repercussions, they would gather at various less frequented locations without enemies, government spies or unwanted witnesses. In the territory of present-day Slovenia, the meeting point of the so-called “zeleni kader” (green staff) was at the Trnovski gozd Plateau, with its headquarters at Lokovec. Here, in the comfortable seclusion of trees, they were able to live their parallel military lives, with the exception of avoiding continuous enemy fire, hunger and other woes pestering them before desertion. While deserters risked everything by abandoning their posts, finally, everything worked out fine for them. Both the monarchy and the army they had betrayed, were dissolved. As a result, deserters could return after the expiry of the war to their homes and live normal lives without repercussion.

At the front lines, soldiers were often captured by the enemy. Initially, becoming a POW was one of the worst fears of Austrian soldiers based on the horrible stories told by the officers. The first POWs captured at the Russian front were despatched to the rear to work in different farms and slave on different building projects as well as in mines and factories. Captured soldiers usually avoided execution. However, many did succumb to hunger, disease, fatigue and the appalling living conditions. Russian soldiers imprisoned by the Austrians were not much better off. They were delegated the most physically demanding assignments and were only provided miserable rations while residing in pathetic conditions. Socialising with the locals was strictly prohibited and persecuted. The beginning of the Isonzo Front saw the arrival of the first Italian POWs while numerous Austrian soldiers found themselves imprisoned in Italian camps.

At first, most soldiers did not surrender voluntarily, but were captured during combat or collected by medical personnel. Regardless, POWs included many soldiers who had planned their surrenders, or defected voluntarily. One of the main reasons behind defections of Austro-Hungarian soldiers were the intolerable conditions and the general shortage of food. In particular at the Italian front, hunger was the most principal factor as it was well established that the Italian army was thoroughly stocked with various foodstuffs and other necessities. This along with the turbulent political atmosphere in the monarchy was soon taken advantage of by the Italian propaganda apparatus, dropping among soldiers and civilians along the front different leaflets, calling for their surrender or defection. Many were fooled by the enticing promises and propaganda, however, the world which the Italians had advertised was not as beautiful as portrayed. Many were sent back to the front, this time among the ranks of the former enemy, while others were faced with strenuous physical labour and imprisonment in camps. Furthermore, many prisoners of war from both sides would return home a further two years after the end of the war.