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Encyclopedia > East African Campaign

The East African Campaign refers to the battles fought between British Empire and Commonwealth forces and Italy in Italian East Africa during World War II. This campaign is often seen as part of the North African Campaign. The vast majority of the Allied forces were from India, South Africa, Nigeria and Ghana. The British Empire in 1897, marked in pink, the traditional colour for Imperial British dominions on maps. ... Flag of the Commonwealth of Nations The Commonwealth of Nations is a voluntary association of independent sovereign states, most of which were once governed by the United Kingdom and are its former colonies. ... Italian East Africa (Italian: Africa Orientale Italiana) was an Italian colony in Africa. ... World War II was a truly global conflict with many facets: immense human sacrifice, fierce indoctrinations, and the use of new, extremely devastating weapons—the atom bomb being the ultimate. ... The North African Campaign, also known as the Desert War, of World War II took place in the North African desert during 1940-1943. ...

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Image File history File links Download high resolution version (642x801, 114 KB) Egypt-Libya 11 June 1942-12 February 1943 was prepared in the U.S. Army Center of Military History by Clayton R. Newell File history Legend: (cur) = this is the current file, (del) = delete this old version, (rev... Image File history File links Download high resolution version (642x801, 114 KB) Egypt-Libya 11 June 1942-12 February 1943 was prepared in the U.S. Army Center of Military History by Clayton R. Newell File history Legend: (cur) = this is the current file, (del) = delete this old version, (rev...


Political situation

Italy conquered and occupied Abyssinia in 1936 and eventually created Italian East Africa (in modern-day Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia). Italian troops in Italian East Africa numbered about 250,000, most of them Local East African askaris recruited by the Italian Army. The Second Italo-Abyssinian War, also called the Rape of Ethiopia, lasted seven months in 1935-1936. ... 1936 was a leap year starting on Wednesday (link will take you to calendar). ... Italian East Africa (Italian: Africa Orientale Italiana) was an Italian colony in Africa. ... Categories: Military stubs ... Ariete Tanks of the Italian Ariete Tank Brigade on exercise Three Bersaglieri ride in a Dardo The Italian Army has recently become a professional all-volunteer force of some 112,000 active duty personnel, around 70% male, 30% female. ...


When Benito Mussolini joined the war against the Allies in 1940, Italian forces became a potential threat to British supply routes in the Red Sea and the Suez Canal. British Commonwealth troops in Egypt and Sudan were outnumbered by Italian forces in Italian East Africa and Libya. Therefore, the British government recognised Haile Selassie in July 1940 and promised to help him. Benito Mussolini created a fascist state through the use of propaganda, total control of the media and disassembly of the working democratic government. ... When spelt with a capital A, Allies usually denotes the countries that fought together against the Central Powers in World War I and against the Axis Powers in World War II. // Other uses In general, allies are people or groups that have joined an alliance and are working together to... 1940 was a leap year starting on Monday (link will take you to calendar). ... Conshelf II in the Red Sea (Sudan) Location of the Red Sea The Red Sea (Arabic البحر الأحمر Baḥr al-Aḥmar, al-Baḥru l-’Aḥmar; Hebrew ים סוף Yam Suf; Tigrigna ቀይሕ ባሕሪ QeyH baHri) is a gulf or basin of the Indian Ocean between Africa and Asia. ... 1881 drawing of the Suez Canal The Suez Canal (Arabic, Qanā al-Suways), west of the Sinai Peninsula, is a 163-km maritime canal in Egypt between Port Said (BÅ«r SaÄ«d) on the Mediterranean Sea and Suez (al-Suways) on the Red Sea. ... Haile Selassie Haile Selassie (Power of Trinity) (July 23, 1892 – August 27, 1975) was the last Emperor (1930–1936; 1941–1974) of Ethiopia, and is a religious symbol in the Rastafarian movement. ...


The Italian Invasion of British Somaliland

The Italian Invasion of British Somaliland
The Italian Invasion of British Somaliland

On August 3 1940, approximately 175,000 Italian troops — about 70% of them African — under the Duke of Aosta (a Field Marshal) and General Guglielmo Nasi invaded British Somaliland. The defending force was a small contingent of only four battalions. The Italians advanced in three columns, with the western towards Zeila, the central towards Hargeisa, and the eastern towards Odweina in the south. Image File history File links File history Legend: (cur) = this is the current file, (del) = delete this old version, (rev) = revert to this old version. ... August 3 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia /**/ @import /skins-1. ... Note: This article is about the military usage of the word marshal. For other usages, see the end of this article. ... The British Somaliland Protectorate was a British protectorate in the north part of the Horn of Africa, later part of Somalia. ... Saylac (also Seyla`, Seelaac, Zeila, Zeyla, Zeylac, Zayla, Séyla‘, Seylac, 11. ... Hargeisa Hargeisa (Somali: Hargeysa) is a city in northwestern Somalia; it is also the capital and largest city of the self-declared Republic of Somaliland which was formed in 1991. ...


Within two days both Zeila and Hargeisa were taken. The occupation of Zeila effectively sealed British Somaliland off from French Somaliland and Hargeisa is on the main road towards the capital of Berbera. Odweina fell the following day and the Italians central and eastern columns combined to launch an attack against the main Commonwealth positions at Tug Argan. The Republic of Djibouti (جيبوتي) is a country in eastern Africa, located in the Horn of Africa. ... Berbera is the capital of Saaxil, a region in Somalia and now part of the Republic of Somaliland. ...


The Commonwealth forces had received minor reinforcements and a new commander, General Alfred Godwin-Austen, but it was not enough. Within a few days the Allies were forced to withdraw from Tug Argan to Berbera, from where they were sucessfully evacuated to Aden, leaving the Italians to take control of Berbera on August 19 and then full control of all of British Somaliland. Port of Aden (around 1910) Aden is a city in Yemen, 105 miles East of Bab-el-Mandeb. ... August 19 is the 231st day of the year (232nd in leap years) in the Gregorian Calendar. ...


Commonwealth losses in the short campaign are estimated at 260: 38 killed in action (KIA), 102 wounded and 120 missing. The Italians lost about 2,050: 465 KIA, 1,530 wounded and 34 missing. Winston Churchill criticized General Archibald Wavell, whose Middle East Command was responsible for the campaign, for the rapid defeat of the Commonwealth forces. Churchill in particular was worried that the territory had been abandoned without a fight, because of the low casualty rate. To this Wavell pointed out that this was a textbook withdrawal in the face of superior numbers and said to Churchill “A bloody butcher’s bill is not the sign of a good tactician”. The Right Honourable Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, KG, OM, CH, FRS (30 November 1874 – 24 January 1965) was a British statesman, best known as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. ... Archibald Percival Wavell, 1st Earl Wavell (May 5, 1883 - May 24, 1950) was a British Field Marshal and the commander of British Army forces in the Middle East during World War II. He led British forces to victory over the Italians, only to be defeated by the German army. ... During World War II The British Middle East Command was based in Cairo with responsibility for the Middle East theatre which included North Africa, East Africa, Persia, the Middle East, and the British forces in the Balkans and Greece. ...


After this victory, the Italians soon began a series of minor raids in to Sudan and Kenya, including the capture of Buna and small territorial advances.


Insights from the campaign

1. This campaign shows Italian forces were capable of co-ordinating columns separated by many miles of desert.


2. British forces showed good discipline in the retreat and were able to salvage most of their forces.


3. This is the only campaign the Italians won unaided in World War II.


Sources Used

Major Sources

“The Italian Invasion of British Somaliland 1st-18th August 1940”, by Lt Col JEB Barton. Section 5 Chapter M


Other Sources

“Italian invasion of British Somaliland”, UK PRO Ref WO106/2336.


War Diary HQ Somaliforce Jul-Aug 1940, UK PRO file WO169/2870. This file contains many reports, photographs of defensive positions and maps.


“History of the Second World War: The Mediterranean and the Middle East Volume 1”, by ISO Playfair. HMSO London 1954. This is the official history


“Revised Notes on the Italian Army (with amendments 1-3 incorporated)”, The War Office


Allied counter-offensive

A Second World War Map of Italian East Africa in 1941
A Second World War Map of Italian East Africa in 1941

After their offensives petered out, the Italians adopted a passive attitude, waiting for the inevitable counterattack. Attention then shifted to the naval sphere. The Italians had a small squadron based at Asmara in Eritrea, which consisted of a small number of destroyers and submarines. Image File history File links An Italian Second World War map of Italys possessions in East Africa This work is copyrighted. ... Image File history File links An Italian Second World War map of Italys possessions in East Africa This work is copyrighted. ... Mushroom cloud from the nuclear explosion over Nagasaki rising 18 km into the air. ... Asmara is the capital city and largest settlement in Eritrea, home to a population of around 500,000 people. ...


While the Italian naval squadron was not used aggressively, it was viewed as a threat to Allied convoys heading from the Gulf of Aden to the Red Sea. As the Italian supply of fuel decreased, so did their opportunity for action. The squadron made one major attempt to attack a convoy, but was roundly defeated. Following that attack, most of the squadron's surface ships were sunk, with the escaping submarines making an epic voyage around the Cape of Good Hope to return to Italy. The Gulf of Aden is located in the Indian Ocean between Yemen on the south coast of the Arabian Peninsula and Somalia in Africa. ... Conshelf II in the Red Sea (Sudan) Location of the Red Sea The Red Sea (Arabic البحر الأحمر Baḥr al-Aḥmar, al-Baḥru l-’Aḥmar; Hebrew ים סוף Yam Suf; Tigrigna ቀይሕ ባሕሪ QeyH baHri) is a gulf or basin of the Indian Ocean between Africa and Asia. ... The Cape of Good Hope headland seen from the north 1888 Map of the Cape of Good Hope Triangular Postage Stamp The Cape of Good Hope is a headland in South Africa, near Cape Town, traditionally— and incorrectly — regarded as marking the turning point between the Atlantic Ocean and the...


An important aspect of the Allied campaign to retake Ethiopia was irregular forces. Major Orde Wingate, later to gain fame in Burma with the Chindits was a major mover behind the Ethiopian "patriots" as they were known by the British. The irregulars, formed into the Gideon Force, disrupted Italian supply lines and provided vital intelligence to British Commonwealth forces. Irregular soldiers in Beauharnois, Quebec, 19th century Irregular military refers to any non-standard military. ... Major General Charles Orde Wingate (1903-1944) was a British major general and creator of two special military units during the World War II. Beginnings Charles Orde Wingate was born February 23 1903 in India to a military family. ... The Chindits (Officially in 1942 77th Indian Infantry Brigade and in 1943 3rd Indian Infantry Division) were a British jungle Special Forces unit that served in Burma from 1943 until 1945 as part of the Fourteenth Army during the Burma Campaign in World War II. They were formed into long... The Gideon Force was a British-led African guerrilla force fighting the Italian occupation forces in Abyssiania (modern-day Ethiopia) during the World War II. Leader and creator of the force was British major Charles Orde Wingate. ...


Northern front

The Allied push to take Ethiopia began once reinforcements arrived from Egypt. The arrival of an Australian division in Egypt had released the Indian 4th Infantry Division — under Lieutenant General William Platt — from Operation Compass in the Western Desert and it was sent to attack the Italian forces from Sudan. On January 19, 1941, the 4th Division and the Indian 5th Infantry Division advanced into Ethiopia. Within nine days, Platt's forces had advanced 160 kilometres and captured the heavily fortified town of Agordat. The 4th Indian Division, of the Indian Army, is an infantry division dating back to before independence. ... Lieutenant General is a military rank used in many countries. ... Operation Compass was a World War II Allied military operation in the Western Desert Campaign. ... The Western Desert Campaign was the primary early theatre of the North African Campaign of World War II. It is sometimes referred to as the Egypt-Libya Campaign. ... January 19 is the 19th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar. ... 1941 was a common year starting on Wednesday (link will take you to calendar). ... Agordat is the capital of the Gash Barka province of Eritrea. ...


Southern front

On January 24, the Commonwealth's Southern Force, comprised of the South African 1st Division and the 11th and 12th African Divisions (Nigerian and Ghanaian troops under British officers), commanded by Lieutenant General Alan Cunningham invaded Italian Somaliland, capturing most of it by February 25. The Allies' southern campaign received air support from the South African Air Force. Alan Cunningham, British Army Officer Sir Alan Gordon Cunningham (1st May 1887 _ 30th January 1983) was a British Army officer noted for victories over Italian forces in the East African Campaign during World War II. He was the younger brother of the renowned Admiral Andrew Cunningham. ... Italian Somaliland was an Italian colony that lasted, apart from a brief interlude of British rule, from the late 19th century until 1960 in the territory of the modern-day East African nation of Somalia. ... SAAF flag The South African Air Force (SAAF) is the Air Force of South Africa. ...


Seaborne assaults

In March, a combined Indian-Free French force was sent by sea from Sudan to northern Eritrea. Following this, in April, an amphibious assault was also made on British Somalialand, staged from Aden. The Free French Forces (Forces Françaises Libres in French) were French fighters who decided to go on fighting against Germany after the Fall of France and German occupation and to fight against Vichy France in World War II. General Charles de Gaulle was a member of the French Cabinet in...


The capture of Addis Ababa

The three thrusts converged on the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, which fell early in 1941; Haile Selassie entered the city on May 5, which afterwards was observed in Ethiopia as Liberation Day, a national holiday. The Italians made a final stand around the town of Golkar, until the Duke of Aosta surrendered on May 16. Nevertheless, some Italian forces continued fighting on in the province of Begemder until November. average temperature and precipitations per month Addis Ababa (Amharic አዲስ አበባ, new flower) is the capital of Ethiopia. ... Haile Selassie Emperor Haile Selassie I (Power of Trinity) (born Lij Tafari Makonnen, July 23, 1892 – August 27, 1975), styled His Imperial Majesty (or HIM), was the Emperor (1930–1936; 1941–1974) of Ethiopia, and is the religious symbol for God incarnate among the Rastafari movement. ... May 5 is the 125th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (126th in leap years). ... A liberation day is a day, often a public holiday, that marks the liberation of a place, similar to an independence day. ... May 16 is the 136th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (137th in leap years). ... Begemder was a province in the north-eastern part of Ethiopia, with its capital city at Gondar. ...


Political settlement

With the surrender of the Italians, the British, under pressure from the US administration, signed an agreement with Haile Selassie acknowledging Ethiopian sovereignty in January 1942.


External links

  • Somalihome Online - The Invasion of British Somaliland
  • BBC - WW2 People's War - East African Campaign
  • stone&stone: The Invasion of British Somaliland
  • Battlefront
  • Comando Supremo: Invasion of British Somaliland - Order of battle


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