East African Campaign (World War II)

East African Campaign (World War II)

conflict=East African Campaign
partof=African Campaigns, World War II

caption=Personnel from the King's African Rifles (KAR) collect weapons (mostly "Carcano 1891" rifles) captured from Italian forces at Wolchefit Pass, Ethiopia, on 28 September 1941 near the end of the campaign (Photographer: Lt H. J. Clements).
date=10 June 194027 November 1941
place=Sudan, British Somaliland, Kenya, Eritrea, Italian Somaliland, Ethiopia
result=Allied victory, fall of Italian East Africa
combatant1=flagicon|United Kingdom|size=20px United Kingdom
*flagicon|United Kingdom|size=20px British Somaliland
*flagicon|United Kingdom|size=20px British East Africa
*flagicon|India|British|size=20px British India
*flagicon|Gold Coast|size=20px Gold Coast
*flagicon|Nigeria|colonial|size=20px Nigeria
*flagicon|Northern Rhodesia|size=20px N. Rhodesia
*flagicon|Southern Rhodesia|size=20px S. Rhodesia
*flagicon|South Africa|1928|size=20px South Africaflagicon|Belgium|state|size=20px Belgium
*flagicon|Belgian Congo|size=20px Belgian Congoflagicon|Free French|size=20px Free France
flagicon|Ethiopia|1897|size=20px Ethiopian irregulars
combatant2=flagicon|Italy|1861|size=20px Italy
* Italian East Africa
** flagicon|Italy|1861|size=20px flagicon|Nazi Germany|size=20px German Motorized Company
commander1=flagicon|United Kingdom|size=20px Archibald Wavell
flagicon|United Kingdom|size=20px William Platt
flagicon|United Kingdom|size=20px Alan Cunningham
commander2=flagicon|Italy|1861|size=20px Duke of Aosta
flagicon|Italy|1861|size=20px Guglielmo Nasi
flagicon|Italy|1861|size=20px Luigi Frusci
flagicon|Italy|1861|size=20px Pietro Gazzera
flagicon|Italy|1861|size=20px Carlo De Simone
strength1=30,000-50,000 plus several thousand co-belligerent Ethiopian patriot forces, mainly deserting askaris from Italian colonial units, commanded by local warlords
strength2=74,000 Italians [Jowett, p.4] , 182,000 Askari (Eritrean, Ethiopian, and Somali colonial troops) [Jowett, p.4]
casualties1=3,100 Killed or Wounded
casualties2=190,000 Killed or Wounded cite book|title=Collins Atlas of World War II| first=John |last=Keegan| publisher=Collins| date=2006|isbn=0-00-721465-0| location=London, p. 36]
230,000 Captured [Tucker (2005) p.400]

The East African Campaign refers to the battles fought in East Africa during World War II. The battles of this campaign were fought between the forces of the British Empire, the British Commonwealth of Nations, and several allies on one side and the forces of the Italian Empire on the other. This campaign was one of the African campaigns of World War II.

This campaign fell under the British Middle East Command. The vast majority of the British allied forces involved were from British Commonwealth nations. The Commonwealth forces included troops from the Sudan, British Somaliland, British East Africa, the Indian Empire, South Africa, Northern Rhodesia, Southern Rhodesia, Nyasaland, and British West Africa (Nigeria, Gold Coast, Sierra Leone, and the Gambia). There was even a small commando unit from the British Mandate of Palestine. In addition to the British and Commonwealth forces, there were Ethiopian irregular forces, Free French forces, and Free Belgian forces.

The Italian forces included Italian nationals, East African colonials (Eritreans, Abyssinians, and Somali Dubats), and even a small number of German volunteers (the German Motorized Company). The majority of the Italian forces were East African colonials led by Italian officers.

Background and political situation

On 9 May 1936, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini proclaimed his "Italian East African Empire" ("Africa Orientale Italiana", AOI). Mussolini's "Italian East African Empire" was formed from the newly-occupied Ethiopia and the Italian colonies of Eritrea and Italian Somaliland. Italy did not come by its East African colony easily. During the First Italo-Abyssinian War from 1895 to 1896, Italy was thwarted in its colonial ambitions when the forces of Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia soundly defeated the Italian Royal Army ("Regio Esercito") at the Battle of Adowa. During the Second Italo-Abyssinian War from 1935 to 1936, the Italians again invaded Ethiopia and, by using weapons like poison gas, were finally able to defeat the Ethiopians.

While the Kingdom of Egypt remained neutral during World War II, the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936 allowed the military forces of the United Kingdom to occupy Egypt in defense of the Suez Canal. At this time, the Kingdom of Egypt included the Sudan. However, the Sudan was a condominium between Egypt and the United Kingdom known as the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan

On 10 June 1940, when Mussolini entered World War II against the British and the French, the Italian forces in Africa became a potential threat to British supply routes along the Red Sea and through the Suez Canal. While Egypt and the Suez Canal, were Mussolini's obvious primary targets, an Italian invasion of either French Somaliland or British Somaliland were reasonable choices too. But Mussolini initially looked past both of these small, isolated colonies and, instead, looked forward to propaganda triumphs in the Sudan and British East Africa (Kenya, Tanganyika, and Uganda).

However, the Italian Central Command ("Commando Centrale") was planning for a war starting after 1942. In the summer of 1940, they were not prepared for a prolonged war or to occupy extensive areas of the African continent. [Antonicelli, Franco. "Trent'anni di storia italiana 1915 - 1945 (in Italian)" Mondadori Ed. Torino 1961]

In the early part of the war, British General Archibald Wavell, Commander-in-Chief of the Middle East Command, had a total of 86,000 British and Commonwealth troops at his disposal to handle potential conflicts in Libya, Iraq, Syria, Iran, and East Africa. Worse, his forces were spread out in Egypt, Palestine, the Sudan, British Somaliland, Kenya, and several other locations. Faced with forces spaced out along the enemy frontiers at intervals of about eight men to the mile, Wavell resolved to fight the Italians with delaying actions at the main posts and hope for the best. The delaying actions, bolstered by aggressive raids into Italian territory, were fought with skill and spirit. British and Commonwealth reinforcements only started to appear in significant numbers from July 1940 onwards.

Short of men, Wavell needed all of the local support he could find. One answer was Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia. The deposed emperor had been living in England ever since the Italians invaded his country in 1936 during the Second Italo-Abyssinian War.

In July, the British government recognised Emperor Selassie and promised to help him to reclaim his throne. But, before July, related activities were already taking place.

On 13 June, only three days after Mussolini declared war against Britain and France, a "Mr. Strong" took off in a Short Sunderland flying boat from Poole Harbour on the south coast of England. Emperor Selassie, alias Mr. Strong, was headed home. On 25 June, Mr. Strong arrived in Alexandria, Egypt. Seven days later, as "Mr. Smith," he flew to Khartoum in the Sudan. In Khartoum, Mr. Smith met Lieutenant-General William Platt. Emperor Selassie and Platt discussed plans to free Ethiopia from Italian rule. [ Barker, A. J., "The Rape of Ethiopia 1936", p. 155]

At the end of October 1940, because of the increasing Axis threat in the Middle East, the British Foreign Secretary, Anthony Eden convened a conference in Khartoum. In attendance were Emperor Selassie, South African General Jan Smuts (who held an advisory brief for the region with Winston Churchill), the Commander-in-Chief of the Middle East Command, Archibald Wavell and the senior military commanders in East Africa including Lieutenant-General Platt and Lieutenant-General Cunningham. The general plan of attack, including the use of Ethiopian irregular forces, was agreed upon at this conference. [ Keegan, John, "The Oxford Companion to World War II", p. 245]

In November 1940, the British and Commonwealth forces received an incredible intelligence advantage. The government code and cypher school at Bletchley Park broke the high grade cypher of the Italian Royal Army ("Regio Esercito") in East Africa. Later, during the same month, the replacement cypher for the Italian Royal Air Force ("Regia Aeronautica") was broken by the Combined Bureau, Middle East (CBME). From this point on, the commanders-in-chief in Cairo knew Italian plans as soon as they were issued. [ Keegan, John, "The Oxford Companion to World War II", p. 247]

Military situation

Italian ground forces

Amedeo, Duke of Aosta was the Viceroy and Governor-General of Italian East Africa ("Africa Orientale Italiana", or AOI). He had between 250,000 and 280,000 Italian troops available to him. On 10 June 1940, the Italians were organized in four command sectors: the Northern Sector (the area near Asmara, Eritrea), the Southern Sector (Jimma, Ethiopia), the Eastern Sector (near border with French Somaliland and British Somaliland), and the Giuba Sector (southern Somalia near Kismayo, Italian Somaliland). Lieutenant-General Luigi Frusci commanded the Northern Sector. General Pietro Gazzera commanded the Southern Sector. General Guglielmo Nasi commanded the Eastern Sector. Lieutenant-General Carlo De Simone commanded the Giuba Sector. The Duke of Aosta commanded from Addis Ababa in Ethiopia.

The Duke of Aosta's command included two Italian infantry divisions: The 40th Infantry Division "Hunters of Africa" ("Cacciatori d'Africa") and the 65th Infantry Division "Savoy Grenadiers" ("Granatieri di Savoia"). The Italians also had one battalion of elite mountain troops ("Alpini"), one battalion of highly-mobile infantry ("Bersaglieri"), numerous Fascist paramilitary Blackshirts ("Camice Nere") battalions, Security Volunteer Militia ("Milizia Volontaria per la Sicurezza Nazionale", or MVSN) Colonial Militia, and other smaller units.

Most of the Italian troops in East Africa (about 70%) were local East African askaris. While the askaris of the regular Eritrean battalions of the "Royal Corps of Colonial Troops" ("Regio Corpo Truppe Coloniali") were amongst the best Italian units in East Africa, the majority of the colonial troops in Italian East Africa were recruited, trained, and equipped to do no more than maintain order in the colony. The Somali Dubats recruited from border tribesmen provided useful light infantry and skirmishers but the irregular "bande" were much less effective. Ethiopian askaris and irregulars, recruited during the brief Italian occupation, deserted in large numbers after the outbreak of war. The Royal Corps of Colonial Troops included horse mounted Eritrean cavalry known as "Falcon Feathers" ("Penne di Falcon"). On one occasion a squadron of these horsemen charged British and Commonwealth troops throwing small hand grenades from the saddle.

Equipment for the Italian ground forces in East Africa was a mixed bag. The forces were equipped with about 3,300 machine guns, 24 M11/39 tanks, a large number of L3/35 tankettes, 126 armored cars and 813 pieces of assorted artillery. The most common Italian rifle in East Africa was the Carcano Mod. 91. However, the Italian faced problems with isolation of the East Africa, with very little chance for reinforcements or resupply, leading to problems especially with ammunition.

Another problem that afflicted the Italian forces was the lack of medicine for diseases endemic to the Horn of Africa area. Chief among thes diseases was malaria. It is estimated that nearly one-quarter of the Italians troops defending Amba Alagi in April 1941 had malaria during the siege. Unfortunately, the Italians at Amba Alagi had no medicine for malaria, the Italian medicine at the time being all but gone during the last months of fighting in 1941. Even the commander of Amba Alagi, the Duke of Aosta, was himself afflicted with malaria during the siege. He died of tuberculosis and malaria on 3 March 1942, a few months after his surrender.

British and Commonwealth ground forces

Initially, the British and Commonwealth forces in East Africa amounted to about 30,000 men under Lieutenant-General William Platt in the Sudan, Lieutenant-General Alan Cunningham in British East Africa, and Colonel Arthur Reginald Chater in British Somaliland. The British and Commonwealth forces were slightly better equipped than the Italians, and had access to resupply and reinforcements. However, they were vastly outnumbered by the Italian forces available in Italian East Africa . To make matters worse for the British, the Italians had at least another 208,000 men (fourteen divisions) available in Libya.

On 10 June 1940, in all of the Sudan, prior to the arrival of the Indian 4th Infantry Division and Indian 5th Infantry Division, Platt had only three infantry battalions (which were absorbed into the under-strength 5th Indian Division when it arrived) [Compton Mackenzie, "Eastern Epic", p. 21 & 30] and the machine-gun companies of the Sudan Defence Force. The three battalions were the 1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment, the 1st Battalion Essex Regiment and the 2nd Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment which in mid-September became part of Indian 29th, 10th and 9th Infantry Brigades respectively.

In Kenya, the King's African Rifles (KAR) was composed of two brigade-strength units organized as a "Northern Brigade" and a "Southern Brigade." In 1938, the combined strength of both units amounted to 94 officers, 60 non-commissioned officers, and 2,821 African other ranks. After the outbreak of war, these units provided the trained nucleus for the rapid expansion of the KAR. By March 1940, the strength of the KAR had reached 883 officers, 1,374 non-commissioned officers, and 20,026 African other ranks. The size of a KAR battalion was established at 36 officers, 44 non-commissioned officers and other ranks, and 1,050 African other ranks.Andrew Mollo, "The Armed Forces of World War II", p. 133]

Initially the KAR deployed as the 1st East African Infantry Brigade and the 2nd East African Infantry Brigade. The first brigade was responsible for coastal defense and the second was responsible for the defense of the interior. By the end of July, two additional East African brigades were formed, the 3rd East African Infantry Brigade and the 6th East African Infantry Brigade. Initially a Coastal Division and a Northern Frontier District Division were planned. But, instead, the 11th African Division and the 12th African Division were formed.

On 1 June, the first South African unit arrived in Mombasa, Kenya. By the end of July, the 1st South African Infantry Brigade Group joined the first unit. On 13 August, the 1st South African Division was formed. This division included the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Infantry Brigade Groups. By the end of the year, approximately 27,000 South Africans were serving in East Africa. The South Africans were either in the 1st South African Division, the 11th African Division, or the 12th African Division. Each South African brigade group consisted of three rifle battalions, an armored car company, and supporting signal, engineer, and medical units. [Andrew Mollo, "The Armed Forces of World War II", pp. 138-139]

By July, under the terms of a war contingency plan, two brigades were provided on rotation for service in Kenya by the "Royal West African Frontier Force." One brigade was from the Gold Coast the 2nd (West Africa) Infantry Brigade, (Ghana) and one brigade the 1st (West Africa) Infantry Brigade was from Nigeria. The Nigerian brigade, together with two East African brigades (the KAR brigades) and some South Africans, formed 11th African Division. The 12th African Division had a similar formation with the Ghanaian brigade taking the place of the Nigerian brigade.

In British Somaliland, Chater commanded the Somaliland Camel Corps and the re-inforcements that were trickling in. At the outbreak of hostilities, the camel corps had a total of 1,475 men to defend the colony. This number also includes a battalion of the Northern Rhodesian Regiment.

Ethiopian irregular forces

A significant aspect of the Allied campaign to retake Ethiopia were Ethiopian irregular forces referred to by the British as "patriots" (or "Arbegnoch"). Wavell expected that these forces would be able to tie down large numbers of Italian units throughout the colony, although Platt in Khartoum did not believe that Hailie Selassie had the support of the majority of the people and was lukewarm towards providing support to the patriot groups.David Rooney, "Wingate and the Chindits", p. 52] From August 1940 "Mission 101" under Colonel Daniel Sandford had been operating successfully in Gojjam province. Its role was to send "Operational Centres" - small groups of officers and NCOs - to supply arms and training to the Ethiopian patriots and coordinate attacks on Italian forces. Sandford, after serving with distinction in World War I, had spent the rest of his career in Ethiopia and the Sudan and had become a close friend and adviser to Hailie Selassie.Rooney, David, "Wingate and the Chindits", p. 53]

Hailie Selassie with the encouragement of Sandford had arrived in Khartoum in July 1940 to a cold reception from Platt. However, Anthony Eden's Khartoum conference in October agreed to boost supplies and support to the Ethiopian irregular forces. [Rooney, David, "Wingate and the Chindits", p. 49] Part of the increased support saw the posting in early November of Major Orde Wingate (who had spent five inter-war years with the Sudan Defence Force and was later to gain fame in Burma with the Chindits) to Khartoum as a staff officer with the brief of liaising between Platt, "Mission 101" and the Emperor. Here he impressed Hailie Selassie with his drive and enthusiasm.

However, Platt's poor opinion of Hailie Selassie, Sandford, and Wingate meant that he paid little attention to the operation and the resulting lack of clear areas of responsibility and chains of command (together with Wingate's naturally abrasive manner) meant that for the whole campaign there was friction and animosity between Wingate and the other commanders. [Rooney, David, "Wingate and the Chindits", pp. 53, 54]

Wingate formulated a plan for action in Ethiopia which he presented to Wavell and senior staff in Cairo in early December 1940. The plan included the formation of a small regular force under Wingate to act as a spearhead for military operations in Gojjam. He argued that:

This force, was named Gideon Force, after the biblical judge Gideon, and was composed of the Frontier battalion from the Sudan Defence Force and the 2nd Ethiopian Battalion. These forces were equipped with four 3-inch mortars (in place of artillery) and 15,000 camels to provide transport and carry supplies. Although he did not formally take command until 6 February 1941, Windgate set off with "Gideon Force" into Gojjam in January 1941. [Rooney, David, "Wingate and the Chindits", pp. 55-56]

Gideon Force was able to travel relatively freely throughout the countryside. At any time during its brief history, the Italian East African Empire was only nominally under Italian control. It is estimated that as much as one third of Ethiopia remained under the control of Ethiopian nobles.Del Boca, "Italiani in Africa Orientale: La caduta dell'Impero"]

The Italians had not endeared themselves to the Ethiopians. On 22 May 1936, when General Rodolfo Graziani was made Viceroy of Ethiopia, the Italians may have possibly chosen the man least likely to pacify the country. On 6 June, Mussolini cabled Graziani: "All rebels captured are to be shot." This gave the new Viceroy, infamous for his pacification of Libya, all the power he needed. [ Barker, A. J., "The Rape of Ethiopia 1936", p. 135] Soon, Graziani's reputation for brutal repression earned him the title: "the Butcher of Ethiopia." Amedeo, the Duke of Aosta, replaced Graziani as Viceroy in 1937. But he was unable to undo much of the damage Graziani's brutality had already done.

For their part, the Ethiopian patriots gave the Italian troops every reason to fear losing to them. The Ethiopians did not often take prisoners.

Very important to the success of the operations in north west Ethiopia, Emperor Haile Selassie I crossed the border from Sudan to join the force of Ethiopian patriots. Sizeable patriot forces were already concentrated in the provinces of Gojjam, Shoa, Gimma, Galla-Sidama, and Harage. [Barker, A. J., "The Rape of Ethiopia 1936", p. 135]

Italian air power

ln June 1940, the Italian Royal Air Force ("Regia Aeronautica Italia") in East Africa had between two-hundred and three-hundred combat ready aircraft (see [http://www.niehorster.orbat.com/019_italy/40-06-10_airforce/aaoi.html Italian East Africa Air Command] ). While some of these aircraft were outdated, in relative terms these were some of the best aircraft available to either side in East Africa in 1940. The Italians had Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 and Savoia-Marchetti SM.81 bombers and Fiat CR-42 fighters. In addition, the Italian aircraft were often based at better airfields than their British and Commonwealth counter-parts. When the war began, Italian pilots were relatively well trained and confident of their abilities. But, cut off from Italy as they were, problems with lack of fuel, munitions, spare parts, and replacements eventually wore the Italian air capability down.

British and commonwealth air power

The roughly one-hundred aircraft available to the British and Commonwealth forces at the beginning of the campaign were dispersed as follows: In the north (Sudan) were two Royal Air Force (RAF) bomber squadrons at Port Sudan (one of these squadron was equipped with obsolete aircraft) and the RAF Army Co-operation Squadron on the Sudan frontier. In the south (Kenya) were No. 12 Bomber Squadron of the South African Air Force (SAAF) (equipped with Junkers Ju 86 bombers), No. 11 Bomber Squadron of the SAAF (equipped with Fairey Battles), No. 40 Army Co-operation Squadron SAAF (equipped with Hawker Hartebees), No. 2 Fighter Squadron, SAAF (equipped with Hawker Furies), and No. 237 (Southern Rhodesian) Army Co-operation Squadron (equipped with Hawker Hardys).

Unlike the Italians, the aircraft available to the British and Commonwealth forces got better with time. But, as can be seen above, much of the equipment initially available tended to be older and slower. Even so, the British and Commonwealth forces managed to make do with what they had. The South Africans even pressed an old Valencia biplane into service as a bomber. [cite journal | quotes = | last = | first = | authorlink = | coauthors = | date =4 December, 1944 | year = | month = | title = Roll Out the Barrel | journal = Time Magazine | volume = | issue = | pages = | issn = | doi = | id = | url = http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,796959,00.html | language = | format = | accessdate = 2007-08-31 | laysummary = | laysource = | laydate = | quote = ]

Italian Red Sea Flotilla

The Regia Marina (Royal Navy) maintained presence in the Red Sea region with its "Red Sea Flotilla". Most vessels were stationed in the port of Massawa in the Italian colony of Eritrea. However, lesser port facilities existed at Mogadishu in Italian Somaliland and also at Assab in Eritrea. The Red Sea Flotilla included seven destroyers organized into two squadrons, five motor torpedo boats (MTB, or in Italian; "Motoscafo Armato Silurante", MAS) organized into one squadron together with eight submarines organized into two squadons.

The Italian naval squadrons were viewed by the British as a threat to Allied convoys heading from the Gulf of Aden to the Red Sea. [ [http://www.regiamarina.it/redsea.htm Portail d'informations Ce site est en vente! ] ] But, as Italian fuel supplies in Massawa dwindled, so did the Italian fleet's opportunity for offensive action in the Red Sea.

The Red Sea Flotilla and its homeport of Massawa did however represent a link between Axis occupied Europe and the naval facilities located in the concession zone in Tientsin in China. These Chinese facilities were maintained by Italy.

British Eastern Fleet

The British Eastern Fleet faced the Italian Red Sea Flotilla. Until World War II, the Indian Ocean had been considered a "British lake". The Indian Ocean was ringed by significant British and Commonwealth possessions. Much of the strategic supplies needed by the United Kingdom in both peace and war had to pass across the Indian Ocean. These included: Persian oil, Malayan rubber, Indian tea, and Australian and New Zealand foodstuffs. In war, Britain relied upon the loyalty and manpower of Australia and New Zealand and these had to be transported. Safe passage for British cargo ships was critical.Despite this, the Royal Navy had tended to station its older ships in the east and used the China Station and the Far East Station as sources of reinforcements for other theatres. Even when gravely threatened, the Eastern Fleet largely consisted of older capital ships that had been deemed too slow or too vulnerable to be of use in the Atlantic Ocean or the Mediterranean Sea.

Opening moves

Starting in June 1940, the Italians tested the resolve of the British and Commonwealth forces along the borders of the Sudan and Kenya and in the shipping lanes of the Red Sea.

On 13 June, early in the morning, three Italian Caproni bombers appeared and bombed the Rhodesian air base at the fort located at Wajir in Kenya. The Rhodesian aircraft were still warming up and preparing to take-off on a dawn patrol. The Capronis bombed the fort, the landing-ground, and nearby housing. The King's African Rifles (KAR), then garrisoning the fort, lost four killed and eleven wounded. Two Rhodesian aircraft were badly damaged and a large dump of aviation fuel was set on fire. Following this, the air base at Wajir received regular visits from the Italians every second or third day and the Rhodesian pilots were made to realize the significant shortcomings in speed and fire-power of the Hawker Hardys they themselves flew.

At dawn on 17 June, the Rhodesians struck back and supported a successful raid by the KAR on the Italian desert outpost of El Wak in Italian Somaliland, some ninety miles northeast of Wajir. The Rhodesians bombed and set alight the thatched mud huts and generally harassed the enemy troops. But, since the main fighting at that time was centered around Italian advances towards Moyale in Kenya, the Rhodesians concentrated on that town. In conjunction with the South African Air Force, the Rhodesians undertook the task of reconnaissance and bombing in that disputed area.

Early in July, Italian forces in Eritrea crossed the Sudanese border and forced the small British garrison holding the railway junction at Kassala to withdraw. The Italians also seized the small British fort at Gallabat, just over the border from Metemma, some convert|200|mi|km to the south of Kassala. Even the villages of Ghezzan, Kurmuk and Dumbode on the Blue Nile were conquered. Having taken Kassala and Gallabat, however, the Italians decided to venture no further in the Sudan -- because of lack of fuel -- and they proceeded to fortify Kassala with anti-tank defences, machine-gun posts, and strong-points. Ultimately, the Italians established a brigade-strong garrison at Kassala.

In Kenya, after heavy fighting, the Italians occupied "Fort Harrington" in Moyale. At the end of July, Italian forces reached Debel and Buna. These small villages, nearly one-hundred kilometers from the Ethiopian-Kenyan border, were to be the deepest points inside Kenya reached by the Italian army.

In the first days of August, an Italian force of irregular Eritreans raided,Port Sudan [Cernuschi, Enrico. "La resistenza sconosciuta in Africa Orientale"] as a prelude to the Italian campaign to conquer British Somaliland.

French Somaliland

Initially, an Italian force was assembled to capture the port city of Djibouti, the major French base in French Somaliland (modern Djibouti). The French commander, Brigadier-General Paul Legentilhomme, had some 7,000 men in seven battalions of Senegalese and Somali infantry. Legentilhomme also had three batteries of field guns, four batteries of anti-aircraft guns, a company of light tanks, four companies of militia and irregulars, two platoons of camel corps, and an assortment of aircraft. But, after the fall of France in June 1940, the Vichy French government's neutrality allowed the Italians to shift their focus to the more lightly defended British Somaliland. [ Mockler, "Haile Selassie's War: The Italian-Ethiopian Campaign, 1935-1941", p. 241.]

On 18 June 1940, Legentilhomme left French Somaliland and joined the Free French. But French Somaliland, the colony Legentilhomme once commanded, remained Vichy until 28 December 1942. [cite journal | quotes = | last = | first = | authorlink = | coauthors = | date =6 October, 1941| year = | month = | title = Story of a Siege| journal = Time Magazine | volume = | issue = | pages = | issn = | doi = | id = | url = http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,790256,00.html| language = | format = | accessdate = 2007-08-31 | laysummary = | laysource = | laydate = | quote = ]

The Italian invasion of British Somaliland

On 3 August 1940, approximately 25,000 Italian troops invaded British Somaliland. The Italians were commanded by General Guglielmo Nasi. [cite journal | quotes = | last = | first = | authorlink = | coauthors = | date =14 August, 1940| year = | month = | title = War Without Water | journal = Time Magazine | volume = | issue = | pages = | issn = | doi = | id = | url = http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,764398,00.html | language = | format = | accessdate = 2007-08-31 | laysummary = | laysource = | laydate = | quote = ]

The Italian force attacking British Somaliland in August included five colonial brigades, three Blackshirt battalions, and three bands ("banda") of native troops. [Compton Mackenzie, "Eastern Epic", p. 23] The Italians had armoured vehicles (a small number of both light and medium tanks), artillery, and, for the moment, superior air support.

The Italians were opposed by a British contingent of about four-thousand men consisting of the Somaliland Camel Corps (commanded by Colonel Arthur Reginald Chater), elements of the 2nd (Nyasaland) Battalion King's African Rifles (KAR) and the 1st Battalion Northern Rhodesian Regiment, the 3rd Battalion 15th Punjab Regiment, and the 2nd Battalion Black Watch. [ Mockler, "Haile Selassie's War: The Italian-Ethiopian Campaign, 1935-1941", pp. 243-45.] Compton Mackenzie, "Eastern Epic", p. 22]

The Italians advanced in three columns, with the western column advancing towards Zeila, the central column towards Hargeisa, and the eastern column towards Odweina in the south. Lieutenant-General Carlo De Simone commanded the strong central column. Colonel Chater, used his camel corps to skirmish with and screen against the advancing Italians as the other British and Commonwealth forces pulled back towards Tug Argan.

Battle of Tug Argan

On 5 August, within two days of the invasion, the towns of Zeila and Hargeisa were taken. The occupation of Zeila effectively sealed British Somaliland off from French Somaliland. Odweina fell the following day and the Italian central and eastern columns combined to launch attacks against the main British and Commonwealth positions at Tug Argan.

On 7 August the British and Commonwealth forces in British Somaliland received reinforcements with the arrival of the 1st Battalion 2nd Punjab Regiment. On 11 August, a new commander, Major-General Reade Godwin-Austen, reached Tug Argan.

But, early on 15 August, Godwin-Austen concluded that further resistance to the Italians would be futile in Tug Argan. He contacted the British Middle East Command headquarters in Cairo, Egypt. Godwin-Austen requested and received permission to withdraw his forces from British Somaliland. The determined effort of the Black Watch battalion, which covered the retreat, allowed the entire British and Commonwealth contingent to withdraw to Berbera with reduced losses. By 17 August, most of the contingent was successfully evacuated from Berbera to Aden. Rather than evacuate, the Somaliland Camel Corps was disbanded.

Aftermath of the Italian invasion of British Somaliland

On 19 August 1940, the Italians took control of Berbera and then moved down the coast to complete their conquest of British Somaliland. The British colony was annexed to Italian East Africa. [ Mockler, "Haile Selassie's War: The Italian-Ethiopian Campaign, 1935-1941", pp. 245-49.]

British and Commonwealth losses in the short campaign were relatively low: [Compton Mackenzie, "Eastern Epic", p. 23]
*38 killed in action (KIA)
*71 wounded
*49 missing

By contrast, the Italians losses were almost ten times that of the British:
*465 KIA (mostly colonial troops)
*1,530 wounded
*34 missing

The British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, criticized General Archibald Wavell concerning the loss of British Somaliland. It was Wavell's Middle East Command which was responsible for the loss of the colony. Because of the low casualty rate, Churchill fretted that the British had abandoned the colony without enough of a fight.

In response to this criticism, Wavell claimed that Somaliland was a textbook withdrawal in the face of superior numbers. He pointed out to Churchill that "A bloody butcher’s bill is not the sign of a good tactician." According to Churchill's staff, Wavell's retort moved Churchill to greater fury than they had ever seen before. [ Mockler, "Haile Selassie's War: The Italian-Ethiopian Campaign, 1935-1941", p. 251.]

The conquest of the British Somaliland was the only campaign Italy achieved victory in without the support of other Axis troops during World War II.The main insights from this campaign are the following:

*The invasion of British Somaliland showed that Italian forces could co-ordinate columns separated by many miles of desert.
*British forces showed good discipline in the retreat and were able to salvage most of their forces.
*The invasion of British Somaliland was the first campaign the Italians won in World War II.
*British Somaliland was the first British colony to fall to enemy forces in World War II.
*After the first months of the war were over, Mussolini boasted that Italy had conquered a territory the size of England in the Horn of Africa. Even if the Italians had nothing to show for their offensive efforts except for the colony of British Somaliland, the Sudanese border outposts of Karora, Gallabat, Kurmak and Kassala, and the area in Kenya around Moyale and Buna.

Action at sea

The Italian Red Sea Flotilla saw early action as they attempted to make their presence known. But they introduced themselves at a high cost. In mid to late June, four of the eight submarines based in Massawa were lost. On 15 June, the Italian submarine "Macalle" ran aground and was a total loss. On 16 June 1940, the Italian submarine "Galileo Galilei" sank the Norwegian tanker "James Stove" approximately convert|12|mi|km south of Aden. On 18 June, the "Galileo Galilei" captured the Yugoslav steamship "Dravo" but, in the end, released it. On 19 June, the "Galileo Galilei" was on patrol off of Aden and encountered the armed trawler "Moonstone". During a gun duel, the commander of the "Galileo Galilei" was killed, and the submarine was then captured by the armed trawler. On 23 June, in the Gulf of Aden but off of French Somaliland, the Italian submarine "Evangelista Toricelli" was sunk by the British destroyers "Kandahar" and "Kingston" with assistance from the sloop "Shoreham". During this action, the British destroyer "Khartoum" suffered an internal explosion and sank in shallow water off Perim Island. The British destroyer was a total loss. Later on 23 June, the Italian submarine "Luigi Galvani" sank the Indian patrol sloop "Pathan" in the Indian Ocean. However, on 24 June, the "Luigi Galvani" was sunk by the sloop "Falmouth" in the Gulf of Oman.

During the time between the Italian conquest of British Somaliland and the Allied counter-offensive, much attention shifted to the naval sphere and to the activities of the Italian Red Sea Flotilla. Fuel and parts shortages continued to hamper the ability of the Italian flotilla to interfere with either convoys or even individual vessels of the vessels of the British Eastern Fleet.

On 13 August, the Italian submarine "Gauleo Ferraras" tried to intercept the British battleship "Royal Sovereign" in the Red Sea. "Royal Sovereign", coming from Suez, escaped the Italian ambush and made it safely to Aden.

On 6 September, the Italian submarine "Guglielmo" waited for prey south of the Farasan Islands. The "Guglielmo" succeeded in torpedoing and sinking only one ship, the oil tanker "Atlas".

Between 20 October and 21 October, the Italian submarines "Guglielmo" and "Gauleo Ferraras" tried to intercept a large British Red Sea convoy coming from the Indian Ocean and sailing to Port Sudan and Suez. The BN7 convoy included 31 cargo vessels escorted by the New Zealand cruiser "Leander" the British destroyer "Kimberley" and five sloops. The convoy also had an air escort provided by 50 fighters and bombers based in Aden. The "Guglielmo" and "Gauleo Ferraras" did not succeed in intercepting the convoy. Later, the same convoy was intercepted and attacked by three Italian destroyers.

On 21 November, the British Red Sea convoy BN7 was attacked by the Italian destroyers "Pantera", "Leone" and "Francesco Nullo"' The convoy escorts drove the Italian destroyers off. Two of the convoy escorts, the New Zealand cruiser "Leander" and the British destroyer "Kimberley" drove the Italian destroyer "Francesco Nullo" ashore with their combined gunfire. The "Francesco Nullo" was destroyed the next day by Royal Air Force (RAF) Blenheim light bombers.

The armed merchant cruiser "Ramb I" broke out of Massawa with the colonial ship "Eritrea" and the armed merchant cruiser "Ramb II" The "Ramb I" and "Ramb II" were known as auxiliary cruisers or merchant raiders, armed ships which disguised themselves as noncombatant merchant vessels. "Ramb I" and "Ramb II" were relatively modern and fast. They had been transformed into auxiliary cruisers with the installation of four 120 mm guns and some 13.2 mm anti-aircraft machine guns. The "Eritrea" was similar in concept, but, while older and slower, was able to carry more cargo. The "Eritrea" was armed with four 120 mm guns, two 40 mm guns, and two 13.2 mm machine guns. On 27 February 1941, the "Ramb I" was located off of the Maldive Islands in the Indian Ocean by the New Zealand cruiser "Leander" and was sunk. Both the "Eritrea" and the "Ramb II" evaded detection and reached Kobe, Japan. [ [http://www.regiamarina.net/others/redsea/redsea_us.htm Red Sea ] ]

Britain applies initial pressure

The Indian 5th Infantry Division started to arrive in the Sudan in early September 1940. Soon after, a surprise attack was staged to take back Gallabat. The attacking force comprised William "Bill" Slim's Indian 10th Infantry Brigade of the Indian 5th Infantry Division. Slim was accompanied by a squadron of 12 medium and light tanks, a field regiment of artillery, and supported by the RAF. [Compton Mackenzie, "Eastern Epic", p. 33] The attack began with the successful capture of Gallabat on 6 November. This was followed by an assault on Metemma, on the other side of the ravine forming the border. However, Lieutenant-General Luigi Frusci, acting Governor of Eritrea and commander of the Italian forces there, was not prepared to relinquish the Italian-held positions in the Sudan. The Italian defenders occupied strong prepared positions and, once Slim's attack began, were supported by a fierce onslaught from the counter-attacking Italian Royal Air Force ("Regia Aeronautica"). Italian aircraft appeared from Gondar in great strength. The Italian airmen shot down seven RAF Gloster Gladiators whilst losing five Fiat CR-42s and, for forty-eight hours, proceeded to methodically bomb the 1st Battalion Essex Regiment and the 3rd Battalion 18th Royal Garwhal Rifles. The Italians did this until the British and Commonwealth troops were compelled to withdraw from the positions they had just won. The 10th Indian Brigade re-occupied the ridge west of Gallabat three days later but the operation against Metemma was not continued. [Compton Mackenzie, "Eastern Epic", pp. 33-34]

For the next two months, the 10th Indian Brigade and, after them, the 9th Indian Brigade (who relieved the 10th Brigade in December) simulated the activities of a full division. The brigades blazed lines of communication east from Gedaref and created dummy airfields and stores depots to convince Italian Intelligence that Platt's main thrust would be towards Gondar rather than Kassala. [Compton Mackenzie, "Eastern Epic", p. 43]

On 16 October, "Gazelle Force" was created in the Sudan as a mobile reconnaissance and fighting force. It comprised three motor machine-gun companies from the Sudan Defence Force, the 1st Duke of York's Own Skinner's Horse (the reconnaissance regiment from the Indian 5th Infantry Division), and some mobile artillery. "Gazelle Force" was commanded by Colonel Frank Messervy. [Compton, Mackenzie,"Eastern Epic", p. 32]

Throughout November, December, and early January, Lieutenant-General William Platt continued to apply constant pressure on the Italians all along the border with the Sudan. He applied this pressure by continuous patrolling and raiding with both his ground troops and his air force. During this time, better British aircraft started to replace some of the older models. The British and Commonwealth air forces were now starting to get Hawker Hurricanes and more Gloster Gladiators. The Hurricanes were superior to the Italian Fiat CR-42 fighters and the Gladiators were at least their equal. Both the Hurricanes and the Gladiators were capable of playing havoc with Italian Savoia-Marchetti bombers.

On 6 December, a large concentration of Italian motor transport was bombed and strafed by Commonwealth aircraft a few miles north of Kassala. The same aircraft then proceeded to machine-gun from low level the nearby positions of the Italian Blackshirts and colonial infantry. A few days later, the same aircraft bombed the Italian base at Keru, fifty miles east of Kassala. The Commonealth pilots had the satisfaction of seeing supply dumps, stores, and transport enveloped in flame and smoke as they flew away.

One morning in mid-December, a force of Italian fighters paid a visit to a Rhodesian landing-strip near Kassala. The Italians strafed some Hawker Hardys caught on the ground. As a result of the Italian attack, several aircraft were destroyed. However, while successful, the attack resulted in no casualties.

Italians adopt a defensive posture

After the conquest of British Somaliland, the Italians adopted a more defensive posture. Throughout late 1940, the setbacks suffered by Italian forces elsewhere in the Mediterranean Sea, in the Western Desert, in the skies over Britain, and on the Albanian border with Greece prompted the new Italian Chief-of-the-General-Staff in Rome, General Ugo Cavallero, to adopt a new course of action in East Africa. In December 1940, he argued to the Italian High Command that the Italian forces in East Africa should abandon offensive actions against the Sudan and against the Suez Canal. Instead, Cavallero argued that Italy should focus on defending the Italian East African Empire. Compton Mackenzie, "Eastern Epic", p. 42]

Amedeo, Duke of Aosta, also requested permission to withdraw from the Sudanese frontier. In response to Cavallero and the Duke of Aosta, the Italian Supreme Command ("Commando Supremo") in Rome issued orders for the Italian forces in East Africa to withdraw to better defensive positions.

Orders were sent to Lieutenant-General Luigi Frusci for him to withdraw his forces from Kassala and Metemma in the lowlands along the Sudanese border with Eritrea. Instead, Frusci was ordered to hold the more easily defended mountain passes on the roads running eastward from Kassala to Agordat and from Metemma to Gondar. However, Frusci chose not withdraw from the lowland. He argued that withdrawal would involve too great a loss of prestige. Furthermore, Kassala was an important railway junction. By holding it, the Italians prevented the British from using the railway to carry supplies from Port Sudan on the Red Sea coast to the base at Gedaref.

Information of the Italian withdrawal was quickly decrypted by the British and, knowing the Italian plans, Lieutenant-General William Platt was able to start his offensive into Eritrea on 18 January 1941, three weeks ahead of schedule. [ Keegan, John, "The Oxford Companion to World War II", p. 247]

Allied counter-offensive

After the fall of British Somaliland, General Archibald Wavell's plan for the counter-offensive by British and Commonwealth forces included a "northern front" led by Lieutenant-General William Platt and a "southern front" led by Lieutenant-General Alan Cunningham. A third front would be created by the forces which re-took British Somaliland by sea.

Simply put, Wavell planned for Platt to advance southward from the Sudan, through Eritrea, and into Ethiopia and for Cunningham to advance northwards from Kenya, through Italian Somaliland, and into Ethiopia. While Platt advanced from the north and Cunningham from the south, Wavell planned for a third force to be landed in British Somaliland in an amphibious assault and to then re-take that colony prior to advancing into Ethiopia. According to the plan, all three forces were to ultimately join forces at the capital of Italian East Africa, Addis Ababa.

The capture of Italian East Africa would remove land-based threats to supplies and reinforcements coming from Australia, India, South Africa, and British East Africa and passing through the Suez Canal for the campaign in North Africa and open the overland route from Cape Town to Cairo.

Emperor Salassie returns to Ethiopia

On 18 January 1941, Emperor Selassie crossed the border near the village of Um Iddla. Two days later he joined Gideon Force which was already in Ethiopia. The standard of the Lion of Judah was raised again. [ Barker, A. J., "The Rape of Ethiopia 1936", p. 156]

The crossing was made some convert|450|mi|km northwest of Addis Ababa, the capital Emperor Salassie had been forced to flee when the Italian General Pietro Badoglio captured the city from the Ethiopians on 5 May 1936 during the Second Italo-Abyssinian War.

Emperor Selassie and Gideon Force under Major Orde Wingate conducted a campaign for the next three months in the Ethiopian province of Gojjam where they initially faced opposing forces of about 25,000 men.David Rooney, "Wingate and the Chindits", p. 58] Emperor Selassie and Gideon Force rallied Ethiopian patriots wherever they went using powerful loudspeakers which had been supplied to the patriot forces to announce the presence of the emperor and inducing local tribal leaders and Italian askaris to desert the Italian cause. Using surprise and bluff, this relatively small force disrupted Italian supply lines and provided important intelligence to the more conventional British and Commonwealth forces.

In March, there was a furious clash between Colonel Daniel Sandford and Wingate. Sandford maintained in a signal to headquarters in Khartoum that the resources being absorbed by Wingate for the "comparatively slow advance of [his] conventional forces" was "paralysing Patriot activities by diverting rifles, ammunition and pack saddles exclusively to Wingate's force, instead of giving equal priority to the Patriots" which would have a greater impact through swift and dispersed action not just in Gojjam but with the assistance of "Mission 101", in other provinces as well. This was followed by a signal of rebuttal from Wingate to Platt who had to rebuke them both. [David Rooney, "Wingate and the Chindits", p. 62] The dispute overflowed into Wingate's formations leading to the mutiny of the 2nd Ethiopian Battalion at the start of April. Wingate had to leave his sick-bed (he was suffering from an attack of malaria) to dismiss the battalion's commander, after which it rallied to its new leader and performed well for the rest of the campaign. [David Rooney, "Wingate and the Chindits", p. 63]

On 6 March 1941, Ethiopia's "Patriots" won their first victory when they took Bure. There was no resistance. Bombed by the Royal Air Force and besieged by Sudanese and Ethiopian irregular forces, the 6,000-man Italian garrison had slipped out in the night. The Italians in Burye had resisted for a week. But an attack on their communications by the guerrilla leader Haile Yusuf forced them to withdraw. However, the Italians did destroy one Ethiopian battalion blocking their retreat.fact|date=November 2007

The American United Press Agency reported:fact|date=November 2007 "The East African war has turned into a race to Addis Ababa between the army of Abyssinian volunteers and the mechanised South African troops who stand in such remarkable contrast to each other. The South African troops are advancing from Mogadishu toward Harar, which lies about convert|30|mi|km from the Djibouti-Addis Ababa railway line."

In less than three months, Gideon force and an ever growing army of Ethiopian patriots were advancing on the Italian fortifications at Debre Marqos, the capital of Gojjam. Because of the critical situation to the south the Duke of Aosta ordered the withdrawal from Debre Marqos and on 4 April 12,000 people (including 4,000 women) under their commander, Colonel Maraventano, began the convert|200|mi|km|sing=on trek to Safartak and then beyond to Dessie. On 6 April Hailie Selassie entered Debre Marqos and was formally greeted by Wingate, "Gideon Force" and Ras Hailu the powerful local patriot leader. [David Rooney, "Wingate and the Chindits", p. 64]

While Debre Markos and Addis Derra were being captured, other Ethiopian patriots under Ras Abebe Aregai consolidated themselves around Addis Ababa in preparation for Emperor Selassie's return. In response to the rapidly advancing British and Commonwealth forces and to the general uprising of Ethiopian patriots, the Italians in Ethiopia retreated to the mountain fortresses of Gondar, Amba Alagi, Dessie, and Gimma. [ Barker, A. J., "The Rape of Ethiopia 1936", p. 156]

From Debra Marqos, Wingate followed the retreating Italians and undertook a series of harrying actions. In early May most of "Gideon Force" had to break off in order to provide a suitable escort for Hailie Salassie's formal entry into Addis Ababa. Following the ceremonials Wingate returned to "Safforce", the main "Mission 101" force which was harassing Maraventano's column. By 18 May the column was dug in at Agibor.

Both sides by this time were short of food, ammunition, water and medical supplies. Wingate sent a message of complete bluff to Maraventano telling of very substantial forces about to join him and playing on the likely imminent withdrawal of British troops leaving the Italian column at the mercy of the Patriots. By 21 May, having referred the matter to higher authority in Gondar which had left the decision to him, Maraventano indicated an intention to surrender with the formal honours taking place on 23 May. Wingate accepted the surrender of 1,100 Italian and 5,000 colonial troops, 2,000 women and children and 1,000 mule men and camp followers. By this time his force contained only 36 regular soldiers to make the formal guard of honour at the surrender, the rest of his force being patriots. [David Rooney, "Wingate and the Chindits", pp. 70-71]

On 18 May, a small part of Gideon Force led by the explorer Wilfred Thesiger blocked a force of 2,500 retreating Italians. On 24 May, thinking he faced superior numbers, the Italian commander agreed to surrender to Thesiger.

Campaign in Eritrea

On 12 January, Amedeo, Duke of Aosta, sent his elite Savoy Grenadiers Division to defend Keren. The Italian force at Keren soon included three colonial brigades and the Savoy Grenadiers. The Savoy Grenadiers included one battalion of highly-mobile infantry ("Bersaglieri") and the Uork Amba Battalion, the one battalion of elite mountain troops ("Alpini") in East Africa. Lieutenant-General Platt's attack from the Sudan to take Eritrea could only begin once re-inforcements arrived from Egypt, in the meantime he continued to conduct harrying raids on Italian positions. The arrival of an Australian division in Egypt allowed General Wavell to release the Indian 4th Infantry Division from Operation Compass in the Western Desert.

The arrival of the Indian 4th Infantry Division, together with intelligence concerning the Italian plans, greatly aided Platt's plans. The main British attack on Eritrea, originally scheduled to start on February 8 with an attack against the railway junction at Kassala, was brought forward to January 18. [Compton Mackenzie, "Eastern Epic", p. 43] However, the aggressive skirmishing in the previous month had prompted the Italians to withdraw from Kassala and Tessenei on 17 January to concentrate in the Keru - Biscia - Aicota triangle where the mountains began.Compton Mackenzie, "Eastern Epic", p. 44]

Platt's forces advance into Eritrea

On January 19, 1941, Lieutenant-General Platt's two divisions, the Indian 4th Infantry Division, commanded by Major-General Noel Beresford-Peirse and the Indian 5th Infantry Division, commanded by Major-General Lewis Heath, entered Kassala making for the heavily fortified town of Agordat to the east. On that first day, as the British and Commonwealth troops passed through Kassala, the Italians were already dug in among the jagged foothills of the Eritrean Plateau on the approaches to Agordat.

The troops of Major-General Beresford-Peirse cut off the Italian 41st [http://www.niehorster.orbat.com/019_italy/40_organ/brig_aoi_40.html Colonial Brigade] while the Italians were still on the lowlands. 700 men and the brigade's commander were captured before they made it to the defensive positions in the jagged foothills. [ Keegan, John, "The Oxford Companion to World War II", p. 247]

As the Indian divisions crossed the Eritrean border in the west, "Briggs Force", operating independently from the main force and under Platt's direct command, advanced eastwards from the Sudan and entered Eritrea from the north through the border town of Karora. "Briggs Force" was four battalions under Brigadier Harold Rawdon Briggs — two battalions from Briggs's own Indian 7th Infantry Brigade (from the Indian 4th Infantry Division), together with two battalions from the French "Brigade of the East" ("Brigade d'Orient") — one Senegalese colonial battalion and one Free French battalion.

After capturing Italian positions near Karora, "Briggs Force" fought its way to the northern defences of Keren and linked up with the main force in March.


Advancing east from Kassala towards Agordat, the Indian 4th Infantry Division took the northern road via Keru and the Indian 5th Infantry Division took the southern road via Barentu. Within nine days, the forces of Beresford-Peirse and Heath had advanced 100 miles (160 kilometres) and broken through the Italian positions in the foothills to capture Agordat on February 1. On 21 January, during the advance of the 5th Indian Division, Brigadier William "Bill" Slim was wounded by aerial strafing. Slim's command of Indian 10th Infantry Brigade was assumed on a temporary basis by Lieutenant-Colonel Bernard Fletcher, commander of the brigade's 2nd Highland Light Infantry battalion, until March when Brigadier Thomas "Pete" Rees took over. [ Compton Mackenzie, "Eastern Epic", pp. 44-49]

On 31 January, the Italian garrison at Metemma in northern Ethiopia, having been under increasing pressure for three weeks and realising that Platt's main thrust would not be coming from the Gallabat direction withdrew towards Gondar. This withdrawal allowed the Indian 9th Infantry Brigade of the Indian 5th Infantry Division to occupy Metemma. Brigadier Mosley Mayne, 9th Brigade's commander, sent units along the road towards Wahni to harry the retreating Italian forces fighting lively engagements convert|20|mi|km and convert|45|mi|km east of Metemma. Progress on the road was difficult because of the thickly laid minefields and it was during this period that 2nd Lieutenant Premindra Singh Bhagat of the Royal Bombay Sappers and Miners won the first Victoria Cross for the British Indian Army in World War II for a "...continuous feat of sheer cold courage" clearing 15 minefields and convert|55|mi|km of roads in 48 hours of unbroken effort. [Compton Mackenzie, "Eastern Epic", pp. 50-51]

By 31 January, Amedeo, Duke of Aosta, reported that the Italian military forces in East Africa were down to 67 operational aircraft with limited fuel.


The key action on the northern front then took place at Keren in Eritrea. [cite journal | quotes = | last = | first = | authorlink = | coauthors = | date =7 April, 1941| year = | month = | title = Last Act in East Africa | journal = Time Magazine | volume = | issue = | pages = | issn = | doi = | id = | url = http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,765414,00.html | language = | format = | accessdate = 2007-08-31 | laysummary = | laysource = | laydate = | quote = ] While General Frusci was in overall command of the Italian forces in Eritrea, the Italians at Keren were commanded by General Nicolangelo Carnimeo. Keren is convert|60|mi|km further east of Agordat towards the Red Sea coast. [Compton Mackenzie, "Eastern Epic", pp. 52-64] On 5 February, the Battle of Keren began. The battle started with assaults by elements of Indian 4th Infantry Division ("Gazelle Force" and Indian 11th Brigade) on the Italian positions in the mountains leading to Keren. Initially the resolute Italian defenders prevailed with heavy casualties on both sides. Further heavy attacks took place over the next ten days. But the Italians held and there was no break through.

Platt decided to regroup and concentrate his forces before attacking again. Planning for a set-piece battle he disbanded "Gazelle Force" (with Messervy taking over Indian 9th Brigade) and brought Indian 5th Infantry Division (which had been mopping up at Agordat) to the front. On 1 March, his command was expanded by the arrival "Briggs Force" from the north. Although it lacked the artillery for a major offensive, "Briggs Force" drew off a significant part of the Keren garrison. This aided Platt's main offensive which was being launched from the south west. "Briggs Force" also posed a threat to Massawa to the east. This threat obliged the Italians to maintain a reserve on the coast. [Compton Mackenzie, "Eastern Epic", p. 56]

On 14 March, by the time the next assault on Keren commenced, Platt's force of about 13,000 men faced a re-inforced Italian defense of about 23,000 men. Once again, both sides fought with determination and both sides suffered heavy losses. It took until 27 March for Keren to fall. [ Compton Mackenzie, "Eastern Epic", pp. 64-70] In the account of the battle written in "Eastern Epic", an official history of the British Indian Army in World War II, Compton Mackenzie wrote:Quotation|Keren was as hard a soldiers' battle as was ever fought, and let it be said that nowhere in the war did the Germans fight more stubbornly than those [Italian] Savoia battalions, Alpini, Bersaglieri and Grenadiers. In the [first] five days' fight the Italians suffered nearly 5,000 casualties - 1,135 of them killed. Lorenzini, the gallant young Italian general, had his head blown off by one of the British guns. He had been a great leader of Eritrean troops [Compton Mackenzie, "Eastern Epic", p.60]

The unfortunate licence of wartime propaganda allowed the British Press to represent the Italians almost as comic warriors; but except for the German parachute division in Italy and the Japanese in Burma no enemy with whom the British and Indian troops were matched put up a finer fight than those Savoia battalions at Keren. Moreover, the Colonial troops, until they cracked at the very end, fought with valour and resolution, and their staunchness was a testimony to the excellence of the Italian administration and military training in Eritrea.Compton Mackenzie, "Eastern Epic", p. 64]

Casualties at Keren were relatively high for both sides. The British and Commonwealth forces had more than 4,000 men killed, wounded or missing.Brett-James, Anthony, "Ball of fire - The Fifth Indian Division in the Second World War", Chp. 4] The Italians suffered about 3,000 men killed and several thousand men wounded, injured, or sick. Much of the Italian garrison was captured.

Keren was decisive in terms of the strategic objectives of the Allied forces (to the extent that when Wavell was created an earl he chose as his second title the viscounty of Keren and of Winchester). While hard fighting lay ahead before the campaign would come to an end, the fall of Keren broke the resistance of the Italian forces and led to the almost immediate capture of Massawa on the coast. This made it possible to safely use the Red Sea for ships bringing munitions and supplies to the North African theater.


After Keren fell, Indian 5th Infantry Division set off eastwards in pursuit of the retreating Italians and towards the Eritrean capital of Asmara, some convert|50|mi|km away. They left the Indian 4th Infantry Division behind to mop up in Keren. After mopping up, the Indian 4th Infantry Division returned to Egypt (leaving behind for a little longer the formations it had detached to "Briggs Force").

The retreating Italians fought minor skirmishes but mounted no major stand. On 1 April, Asmara was declared an open town. Three days later, after resupply along the lengthening road to the Kassala railway junction on the Sudanese border, 10th Infantry Brigade of Indian 5th Infantry Division set off east again towards Massawa. Massawa was some convert|50|mi|km away, convert|7000|ft|m lower, and on the coast. On 10th Brigade's left flank was "Briggs Force" which had advanced cross-country from Keren and were approaching Massawa from the north along the coast.


Rear Admiral Mario Bonetti, commander of the Italian Red Sea Flotilla and the commander of the garrison at Massawa, had been ordered by Mussolini to defend the town to the last man.Compton Mackenzie, "Eastern Epic", p. 66] The Italians had 10,000 troops and 100 assorted tanks and armoured cars to defend Massawa. About 1,000 of the defenders at Massawa were veterans from Keren and another bloody battle seemed likely.

From 1 March to 4 March, the remaining Italian submarines at Massawa escaped destruction by sailing south. The "Guglielmo", the "Gauleo Ferraras", the "Perla" and the "Archimede" planned to break out, sail south, navigate past the Cape of Good Hope, turn north, and sail north to Bordeaux, France, via the west coast of Africa. On 29 March, the "Perla" was refueled by the German auxiliary cruiser "Atlantis" in the Indian Ocean. The other submarines were refueled by the German fleet tanker "Nordmark" in the South Atlantic between 16 April and 17 April. All four Italian submarines arrived at Bordeaux between 7 May and 20 May. [Rohwer, Jurgen, :Chronology of the War at Sea 1939-1945: The Naval History of World War II," p. 61]

Elements of 5th Indian Division coming from Asmara and "Briggsforce", cutting across country from Keren, converged on Massawa. After some initial strong opposition, the Italian ground forces defending Massawa, lacking fuel, ammunition, and food, crumpled and resistance collapsed. French units from "Briggsforce" took Montecullo and Fort Umberto on April 7 and the Allies pressed into Massawa on 8 April.De Gaulle, p. 155] Colonel Monclar of the 13th French Foreign Legion Demi-Brigade captured the Italian admiralty building and accepted the surrender of 10,000 Italian naval personnel, bringing the unit's tally to 14,000 Italian prisoners.

The harbour facilities themselves were a prize the British were hoping to use in order to ease the maintenance backlog of naval ships needing repair in Alexandria. In the week preceding capture, Massawa harbour was thoroughly wrecked by Italian sabotage of machinery in shore facilities, the sinking of two large floating dry docks, and the calculated scuttling of sixteen large ships in the mouths of the north Naval Harbour, the central Commercial Harbour and the main South Harbour, blocking access in and out. Scuttled, too, was a large floating crane. The harbour was rendered useless until repairs and salvage efforts could clear it sixteen months later. [cite book|authorlink=Edward Ellsberg|first=Edward | last=Ellsberg|title=Under the Red Sea Sun| year=1946| publisher=Dodd, Mead and Co.|location=New York]

On 11 April, Major-General Heath was promoted to command the Indian III Corps in the Far East. Command of the Indian 5th Infantry Division was assumed by Mosley Mayne who had previously commanded the division's 9th Brigade. Bernard Fletcher, who had for two months until March had temporary command of 10th Brigade, was promoted and given command of the 9th Brigade. [ Compton Mackenzie, "Eastern Epic", pp. 47, 65-66] Before Massawa fell, Bonnetti had ordered the remaining six Italian destroyers and the remaining motor torpedo boat (the other four boats were no longer operational) to put to sea from Massawa on a "do or die" mission. Four destroyers had been ordered to attack the fuel tanks at Port Sudan. Two of these destroyers, "Daniele Manin" and "Nazario Sauro", were sunk by shore-based Swordfish airplanes (of the Fleet Air Arm) from the carrier "Eagle". The other two destroyers that were headed to Port Sudan ran aground near Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The remaining two destroyers had been ordered to attack Suez, but were sunk prior to reaching their objective. Before being scuttled by its crew, the Italian motor torpedo boat (MTB) "MAS-213" torpedoed and damaged the cruiser "Capetown". The cruiser was escorting a convoy off Massawa.

The remaining Italian port facilities at Assab, within easy striking distance of British aircraft based in Aden, held out for several weeks after the fall of Massawa.

eaborne assault on British Somaliland

On 16 March 1941, Operation Appearance was launched. Staged from Aden, two battalions from the Indian Army and one Somali commando detachment were landed on both sides of Berbera by British naval "Force D" (cruisers HMS "Glasgow" and "Caledon", destroyers HMS "Kandahar" and "Kipling", auxiliary cruisers "Chakdina" and "Chantala", Indian trawlers "Netavati" and "Parvati", two transports and ML 109). [Rohwer, Jurgen, :Chronology of the War at Sea 1939-1945: The Naval History of World War II," p. 54] The two Sikh battalions (which had been part of the defending force evacuated in August 1940), made the first successful Allied landing on an enemy-held beach during World War II. The 2nd Battalion 3rd Punjab Regiment and the 3rd Battalion 15th Punjab Regiment re-captured British Somaliland from its Italian occupiers.

When the Sikhs landed, an Italian colonel (suffering from malaria together with half of his troops) [Antonicelli,Franco "Trent'anni di storia italiana 1915 - 1945"] waited with the 60 men who constituted the Berbera garrison. The garrison had been low on food and water for weeks. The Italians stood in formation on the beach and waited to surrender to the arriving British force. The British promptly "secured" Berbera. A British officer present at the Italian surrender later wrote: "War can be very embarrassing". [ Mockler, "Haile Selassie's War: The Italian-Ethiopian Campaign, 1935-1941," pp. 365-66.]

On 20 March, Hargeisa was captured. The British and Commonwealth forces in British Somaliland spent the next months clearing the colony of the last remnants of its former invaders. The Somaliland Camel Corps was re-founded in mid-April and, in addition to looking for Italians, re-acquired its job of rounding up local bandits.

From British Somaliland, British and Commonwealth forces advanced westward into eastern Ethiopia. In late March, they linked up with advancing forces from the Southern Front around Harar and Diredawa in Ethiopia. The link-up meant that Cunningham's forces could be re-supplied more efficiently through the port of Berbera as they advanced into Ethiopia.

Some Italians, under the orders of Colonel Di Marco, started a guerrilla war in the Ogaden area that is reported to have lasted until the summer 1942.

Campaign in Italian Somaliland and southern Ethiopia

Cunningham's forces on the southern front included the South African 1st Division, the 11th African Division, and the 12th African Division (the latter divisions were composed of East African, South African, Nigerian, and Ghanaian troops under British or South African officers). The South African division was led by Major-General George Brink. The 11th African Division was commanded by Major-General H. E. de R. Wetherall. The 12th African Division was commanded by Major-General Reade Godwin-Austen.

In January 1941, Cunningham decided to launch his first attacks across the Kenyan border directly into southern Ethiopia. He hoped that this action would cause Ethiopians in southern Ethiopia to rise up in rebellion against the Italians. Cunningham sent the South African 1st Division (composed of two South African and one East African brigades) and an independent East African brigade into the Galla-Sidamo Province. From 16 January to 18 January 1941, they captured El Yibo and on 19 January, an advance force of the South African division captured Jumbo. [cite journal | quotes = | last = | first = | authorlink = | coauthors = | date =3 March, 1941| year = | month = | title = Jumbo on the Juba | journal = Time Magazine | volume = | issue = | pages = | issn = | doi = | id = | url = http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,851060,00.html| language = | format = | accessdate = 2007-08-31 | laysummary = | laysource = | laydate = | quote = ] From 24 January to 25 January, Cunningham's troops fought on the Turbi Road. His hopes that the Ethiopians would rise up, however, were not realized. [ Keegan, John, "The Oxford Companion to World War II", p. 247]

Cunningham kept his force in southern Ethiopia until the attack ground to a halt in mid-February. From 1 February, they captured Gorai and El Gumu. On 2 February, they took Hobok. From 8 February to 9 February, Banno was captured. On 15 February, the fighting was on the Yavello Road. From 15 February to 18 February, they captured Mega. Moyale, in Kenya, was re-captured on 18 February.

On 24 January, Cunningham's main force, including the 11th African Division and the 12th African Division, invaded Italian Somaliland from Kenya. Earlier in January, the Italians had already decided that the plains of Italian Somalia could not be defended. Most of the Italian forces were already being withdrawn to the better defensive terrain of the mountains of Ethiopia. Cunningham encountered few Italians east of the Juba River.

On 14 February, the first objective Kismayu, was captured. Kismayu is located where the Juba River empties into the Indian Ocean.


On 25 February 1941, the motorized Nigerian Brigade of the 11th African Division advanced up the coast and occupied Mogadishu, the capital of Italian Somaliland. Meanwhile, the 12th African Division pushed up the Juba River in Italian Somaliland towards the Ethiopian border town of Dolo. [cite journal | quotes = | last = | first = | authorlink = | coauthors = | date =10 March, 1941| year = | month = | title = Exchange of Somalilands | journal = Time Magazine | volume = | issue = | pages = | issn = | doi = | id = | url = http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,790025,00.html | language = | format = | accessdate = 2007-08-31 | laysummary = | laysource = | laydate = | quote = ] On 1 March, the 11th African Division began a fighting pursuit of the retreating Italian forces north from Mogadishu. The division pursued the Italians towards the Ogaden Plateau. By 17 March, the 11th African Division completed a seventeen day dash along the Italian built "Imperial Road" ("Strada Imperiale") from Mogadishu to Jijiga in eastern Ethiopia,

By early March Cunningham's forces had captured most of Italian Somaliland and were advancing through Ethiopia towards the ultimate objective, Addis Ababa. On 26 March, Harar was captured. [cite journal | quotes = | last = | first = | authorlink = | coauthors = | date =31 March, 1941| year = | month = | title = Key Towns| journal = Time Magazine | volume = | issue = | pages = | issn = | doi = | id = | url = http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,765354,00.html | language = | format = | accessdate = 2007-08-31 | laysummary = | laysource = | laydate = | quote = ] On 29 March, Dire Dawa fell. During this time there was a link-up with the forces advancing from British Somaliland and Cunningham's supply route became much improved.

The liberation of Addis Ababa

On 6 April 1941, Addis Ababa was liberated by Cunningham's force. In 53 days, Cunningham had advanced convert|1725|mi|km from Kenya to reach the Ethiopian capital. The highly disciplined Police of Italian Africa ("Polizia dell'Africa Italiana") stayed in the city to maintain order and keep the peace.

Emperor Haile Selassie made a formal entry to the city on 5 May. This was five years after being forced to flee when the Italians captured his capital on 5 May 1936 during the Second Italo-Abyssinian War. Since then, 5 May has been observed in Ethiopia as Liberation Day, a national holiday.

On 13 April, Cunningham sent a force under Brigadier Dan Pienaar comprising 1st South African Brigade and Campbell's Scouts (Ethiopian irregulars led by a British officer) to continue the northward advance and link up with Platt's forces advancing south. [LondonGazette|issue=37645|startpage=3530|date=10 July 1946|accessdate=2007-11-23 Wavell's official despatch: "Operations in East Africa November 1940 - July 1941]

On April 20, after a rough battle, Pienaar's force captured Dessie on the main road north from Addis Ababa to Asmara. Pienaar was some convert|200|mi|km south of Platt's forces gathering at Amba Alagi.Compton Mackenzie, "Eastern Epic", p. 68]

Amba Alagi

Wavell's strategic priority was for Platt to push southwards from the Sudan to Addis Ababa and for him to meet up with Cunningham pushing northwards from Kenya. A major obstacle for Platt was located at Amba Alagi, located between Asmara and Addis Ababa. Amba Alagi is a convert|12000|ft|m|sing=on high mountain.

The Italians decided to defend the area around Amba Alagi in force. They drove galleries into the solid rock to protect their troops and to hold ample ammunition and stores. In this mountain fortress, the defenders, under command of Amedeo, Duke of Aosta, thought themselves to be impregnable. [Compton Mackenzie, "Eastern Epic", p.67]

Platt gave newly-promoted Major-General Mosley Mayne and the Indian 5th Infantry Division the task of taking Amba Alagi. Mayne was only able to deploy a single expanded brigade, the Indian 29th Infantry Brigade, for this action. His attacking force was therefore inferior in numbers to the Italian defending force. Mayne's limited deployment was due to the demands on the British for internal security and for protecting their lines of communication. The supply route to Amba Alagi extended nearly convert|250|mi|km south of Asmara and some convert|400|mi|km from the main rail head at Kassala.

On 3 May 1941, Mayne sent in a feint attack from the east while, in the early hours of 4 May, the main attack was made from the northwest over the hills. The hills were fiercely defended by the Italians. On 11 May, Pienaar's brigade group arrived from the south and was put under Mayne's command. By 14 May Amba Alagi was surrounded. [Compton Mackenzie, "Eastern Epic", pp. 69-70] With the arrival of Pienaar, the 7000 Italian troops of
Amedeo, Duke of Aosta were directly attacked by 9000 British troops and more than 20000 Ethiopian irregulars.

A final assault was planned for 15 May, but a fortuitous artillery shell hit an Italian fuel dump and ruptured a vessel containing oil. This caused oil to flow into the remaining drinking water of the Italian defenders. The lack of drinkable water then forced the Italians to surrender. [ Compton Mackenzie," Eastern Epic", p. 70]

On 18 May, Amedeo, Duke of Aosta surrendered his embattled forces at Amba Alagi and received full military honors. While the Duke of Aosta faced defeat in East Africa, his brother, the Duke of Spoleto was being made the King of Croatia after the successful invasion of Yugoslavia. [cite journal | quotes = | last = | first = | authorlink = | coauthors = | date =26 May, 1941| year = | month = | title = Long Enough for Aosta| journal = Time Magazine | volume = | issue = | pages = | issn = | doi = | id = | url = http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,765685,00.html | language = | format = | accessdate = 2007-08-31 | laysummary = | laysource = | laydate = | quote = ]

The Duke of Aosta had endured the last months of fighting while suffering a severe attack of malaria (and died of TBC and malaria a few months later) [Antonicelli, Franco."Trent'anni di storia italiana 1915 - 1945 (in Italian)". Mondadori ed. Torino,1961] .

The campaign in Italian East Africa was all but over.

Italian last stands

In spite of the Duke of Aosta's surrender at Amba Alagi on 18 May 1941, some Italian forces continued to hold out. The port city of Assab and the strongholds of Gondar and Jimma remained under Italian control. Both Gondar and Jimma started with garrisons of roughly 40,000 men.Jowett, p.7]

Operation Chronometer

On 10 June, Operation Chronometer was launched and a battalion from the Indian Army was landed at Assab, the last Italian-held harbour on the Red Sea. [Rohwer, Jurgen, :Chronology of the War at Sea 1939-1945: The Naval History of World War II," p. 78] By 11 June, Assab had fallen. On 13 June, two days after the fall, the Indian trawler "Parvati" became the last naval casualty of the campaign when it struck a magnetic mine near Assab.


An Italian force under General Pietro Gazzera, the Governor of Galla-Sidama and the new acting Viceroy and Governor-General of Italian East Africa, continued to resist at Jimma in southwest Ethiopia. Gazzera had replaced the Duke of Aosta as Viceroy and Governor-General of Italian East Africa.

However, even before Cunningham moved against him, Gazzera was faced with a growing irregular force of Ethiopian patriots (or "Arbegnoch"). Many of his units started to melt away. His colonial troops were especially prone to defection. On 21 June 1941, Gazzera abandoned Jimma where about 15,000 of what was left of his command surrendered. On July 3, Gazzera and his last 7,000 men surrendered [Jowett, p.7] when they were cut off by Belgian Major-General Auguste-Éduard Gilliaert, the commander of the Free Belgian Forces in East Africa.

On 28 September, the 3000 man garrison of Wolchefit Pass surrendered to the King's African Rifles. [Jowett, p.7]


The force at Gondar, under General Guglielmo Nasi, the acting Governor of Amhara, held out for almost seven months. Gondar was the capital of Begemder Province in northwest Ethiopia, about convert|120|mi|km west of Amba Alagi. After General Gazzera surrendered, Nasi became the new acting Viceroy and Governor-General of Italian East Africa. But, like Gazzera, Nasi faced not just conventional forces (from Platt's command), but also an ever increasing force of Ethiopian patriots.

While the Italian Royal Air Force ("Regia Aeronautica") in East Africa had been worn down quickly by a lop-sided war of attrition, the Italian pilots held on to the bitter end. On 24 October 1941, the last Italian aircraft of the campaign was shot down.Andrew Mollo, "The Armed Forces of World War II", p. 91]

On 27 November 1941 General Nasi and his last 23,500 men surrendered Gondar [Jowett, p.7] to a combined force of British and Commonwealth troops and a force of Ethiopians. The Italians received full military honors.


With the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden coastlines cleared of Axis forces, American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was able to declare that these areas were no longer combat zones. As a result, ships of the United States were able to proceed to the Suez Canal. This helped to relieve the enormous strain on the shipping resources of the United Kingdom. [ Keegan, John, "The Oxford Companion to World War II", p. 247]


Ethiopia was administered by the United Kingdom as a United Nations Trust Territory until 1944. In January 1942, with the final official surrender of the Italians, the British, under pressure from the American administration, signed an agreement with Emperor Haile Selassie I acknowledging Ethiopian sovereignty. Selassie named Makonnen Endelkachew Prime Minister. Selassie reigned until 1974.


The Italian colony of Eritrea was placed under British military administration for the remainder of World War II. In 1950, Eritrea was made part of Ethiopia. The unification of Eritrea and Ethiopia proved to be unacceptable to the Eritreans and led to the Eritrean War of Independence. The unification ended in the early 1990s. Eritrea became independent on a "de facto" basis in 1991. Eritrea was recognized as being independent "de jure" in 1993.


Italian Somaliland was placed under British military administration for the remainder of the war. In 1948, it was decided that the Ogaden border region would be awarded to Ethiopia. In 1949, the United Nations brought the Italians back to administer Somalia for ten years. In 1960, what had been Italian Somaliland became independent and, days after it became independent, it joined with what had been British Somaliland to create the independent state known as the Somali Republic.

French Somaliland

After the British and Commonwealth forces occupied Italian East Africa, the Vichy forces in French Somaliland were isolated. Instead of blockading the port, the Royal Navy scrupulously allowed Vichy ships to supply Djibouti's garrison, ensuring the area remain in passive obedience to Vichy, but also forestalling, to Free French consternation, a spontaneous rallying of the isolated garrison to de Gaulle's forces. The Vichy French continued to hold the colony for over a year after the Italian collapse. In December 1942, after a 101-day British blockade, French Somaliland fell. [Time Magazine, [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,790256,00.html Story of a Siege] ] Free French and Allied forces then occupied the French colony. [Time Magazine, [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,851401,00.html Mighty Invasion] ]

A local battalion from French Somaliland participated in the liberation of France in 1944.

In 1977, French Somaliland became independent as the Republic of Djibouti.

Italian guerrilla actions, 1941-1943

Between November 1941 and September 1943, scattered Italian units (totalling an estimated 7,000 men) ["Enrico Cernuschi. La resistenza sconosciuta in Africa Orientale" Rivista Storica, dicembre 1994] fought a guerrilla war from the deserts of Eritrea and Somalia to the forests and mountains of Ethiopia. They supposedly did so in the hope of holding out until the Germans and Italians in Egypt (or even possibly the Japanese in India) intervened.

Amedeo Guillet was one of the Italian officers who fought with the Italian guerrillas in Ethiopia. [ [http://www.comandosupremo.com/Guillett.html Comando Supremo: Amedeo Guillett ] ] Other Italian officers were Captain Francesco De Martini in Eritrea, Colonel Calderari in western Ethiopia/Somalia, Colonel Di Marco in Ogaden/British Somaliland, "blackshirt centurion" De Varda in Somalia/Ethiopia and Major Lucchetti in Ethiopia.

The Italian guerrilla was even waged by civilians. In August 1942, Dr. Rosa Dainelli successfully sabotaged the main British ammunition dump in Addis Ababa.

Hostilities in East Africa officially ceased in September 9, 1943 when the Italian government signed an Armistice with the Allies, but even then some Italian soldiers continued their guerrilla war until October 1943, being unaware of the Italian armistice.

Victoria Cross recipients

The following is a list of recipients of the Victoria Cross (VC) during this campaign:
* Eric Charles Twelves Wilson (Somaliland Camel Corps) - Received during the Italian invasion of British Somaliland
* Premindra Singh Bhagat - Received during fighting on the Northern Front
* Richhpal Ram - Received during fighting on the Northern Front
* Nigel Gray Leakey (cousin of Louis Leakey and sergeant in the 1/6 battalion King's African Rifles) - Received during fighting on the Southern Front

ee also

* Battle of Kufra (1941)
* Military production during World War II
* Military history of Italy during World War II
* North African campaign
* Western Desert Campaign
* Syria-Lebanon campaign
* West Africa Campaign (World War II)
* Battle of Madagascar
* László Almásy
* German Motorized Company
* South African Irish Regiment
* 81st (West Africa) Division
* 82nd (West Africa) Division
* Colonial heads of Italian East Africa
* Ethiopian aristocratic and court titles
* dubats (Somali irregular units in Italian colonial forces)
* Zaptie
* East African Campaign (World War I)
* Italian Empire


*cite book| last = Jowett| first = Philip| title = The Italian Army 1940-45 (2): Africa 1940-43| publisher =Osprey| date = 2001| location = Westminster, MD: ISBN 978-1-855329-865-5
* This is the official history.
*Wavell, Archibald, "Official despatch: Operations in East Africa November 1940 - July 1941", LondonGazette|issue=37645|startpage=3527|endpage=3599|date=10 July 1946|accessdate=2007-11-23
* "Italian invasion of British Somaliland", The National Archives [http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/displaycataloguedetails.asp?CATLN=6&CATID=5431546&SearchInit=4&CATREF=wo+106%2F2336 Ref WO 106/2336] .
* "War Diary HQ Somaliforce Jul–Aug 1940", The National Archives [http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/displaycataloguedetails.asp?CATLN=6&CATID=1519532&SearchInit=4&CATREF=wo+169%2F2870 Ref WO 169/2870] . This file contains many reports, photographs of defensive positions and maps.
* "Revised Notes on the Italian Army (with amendments 1–3 incorporated)", The War Office.


External links

* published in a Supplement to the London Gazette Issue #37645 on 10 July, 1946
* [http://www.niehorster.orbat.com/019_italy/40-06-10_army/army_aoi.html Italian East African Armed Forces, 10 June 1940]
* [http://www.niehorster.orbat.com/019_italy/40_organ/brig_aoi_40.html 1940 Colonial Brigade, 10 June 1940] Italian colonial Brigades
* [http://www.niehorster.orbat.com/019_italy/40-06-10_airforce/aaoi.html Italian East Africa Air Command, 10 June 1940]
* [http://www.togdheer.com/history/worldwar.shtml Somalihome Online] — The Invasion of British Somaliland
* [http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/ww2/A1057547 BBC — WW2 People's War] : East African Campaign
* [http://stonebooks.com/history/somaliland.shtml Stone & Stone] : The Invasion of British Somaliland
* [http://www.battlefront.co.nz/Article.asp?ArticleID=116 Battlefront]
* [http://www.inilossum.com/2gue_HTML/2guerra1940-8.html Photos of the italian conquest of Somaliland (and the war in A.O.I.)]
* [http://www.regiamarina.it/eng_index.htm Regia Marina] - The Italian Royal Navy
* [http://www.comandosupremo.com Comando Supremo Italy at War] — The Italian War Effort 1940-1945
* [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0054678/ The Best of Enemies] - 1962 film about the East African Campaign

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