The 'Campaign for East Africa', sometimes known as the 'Campaign for Abyssinia', was fought in East Africa between Allied (mainly of the British empire) and Italian forces (10 June 1940/27 November 1941).
The British Middle East Command had troops from the UK, South Africa, British India, Uganda, Kenya, Somaliland, West Africa, Northern and Southern Rhodesia, Sudan and Nyasaland, and these were supplemented by men of the Force Publique of Belgian Congo, Imperial Ethiopian Arbegnoch (Amharic for 'patriots, i. e. resistance forces) and a small Free French unit.
Italian East Africa was held by the Comando Forze Armate dell’Africa Orientale Italiana (Italian East African Armed Forces Command), with Italian units of the Regio Esercito, Regia Aeronautica and Regia Marina. The Italian forces included about 250,000 men of the Regio Corpo Truppe Coloniali (Royal Corps of Colonial Troops), led by Italian commissioned and non-commissioned officers. With the British in control of the Suez Canal, the Italian forces were cut off from supplies and reinforcement once hostilities had begun.
On 13 June 1940, there was an Italian air raid on the RAF base at Wajir in Kenya and the air war continued until the Italian forces had been pushed back from Kenya and Sudan through Somaliland, Eritrea and Ethiopia in 1940 and early in 1941. The remnants of the Italian forces in the region surrendered after the 'Battle of Gondar' in November 1941, although small groups continued to fight a guerrilla war in Ethiopia against the British until September 1943, when the Armistice of Cassibile ended the war between Italy and the Allies. The 'Campaign for East Africa' was the first Allied strategic victory in the war, and only a very small numbers of Italians escaped the region to fight in other campaigns, and the Italian defeat greatly eased the flow of supplies through the Red Sea to Egypt. Most of the Commonwealth forces were transferred to North Africa to participate in the 'Campaign for the Western Desert'.
On 9 May 1936, the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini had proclaimed the formation of Africa Orientale Italiana out of Ethiopia (recently defeated in the 2nd Italo-Abyssinian War) and the Italian colonies of Eritrea and Somaliland. On 10 June 1940 Mussolini declared war on the UK and France, which made the substantial Italian military forces in Libya a major threat to the altogether smaller British forces in Egypt and the Italian forces of Africa Orientale Italiana a lesser danger to the British and French colonies in East Africa. Italian belligerence also closed the Mediterranean to Allied merchant shipping and endangered British sea lanes along the coast of East Africa and through the Gulf of Aden, the Red Sea and the Suez Canal. (The kingdom of Egypt remained neutral during World War II, but the terms of the Anglo-Egyptian treaty of 1936 allowed the British to occupy Egypt and the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan.) Egypt, the Suez Canal, French Somaliland and British Somaliland were also vulnerable to invasion from June 1940, but the Italian general staff had planned for war after 1942, and as a result in the summer of 1940 Italy was far from ready for either a long war or for the occupation of large areas of Africa.
Generale d’Armata Aerea Principe Amedeo, Duca d’Aosta, was appointed viceroy and governor general of Africa Orientale Italiana in November 1937, with his headquarters in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital. On 1 June 1940, as commander-in-chief of the Comando Forze Armate dell’Africa Orientale Italiana, Aosta had about 290,476 metropolitan and local troops including naval and air force personnel. By 1 August, mobilisation had increased the number to 371,053 troops. On 10 June, the Italian army was organised in three corps-level and one divisional-level commands: the Settore Nord (northern sector) in Italian Eritrea with Generale di Corpo d’Armata Luigi Frusci in command at Asmara; the Settore Sud (southern sector) with Generale d’Armata Pietro Gazzera in command at Jimma, the Settore Orientale (eastern sector) with Generale di Corpo d’Armata Guglielmo Nasi in command at Addis Ababa, and the Settore Giuba (Giuba sector) with Generale di Corpo d’Armata Carlo de Simone in command at Mogadishu.
Aosta had two metropolitan divisions in the form of Generale di Divisione Giovanni Varda’s 40a Divisione fanteria 'Cacciatori d’Africa' and Generale di Divisione Antonio Calierno’s 65a Divisione fanteria 'Granatieri di Savoia', one battalion of Alpini (elite mountain troops), one Bersaglieri battalion of motorised infantry, several Milizia Coloniale 'Blackshirt' battalions, and a miscellany of smaller units. About 70% of Italian troops were locally recruited askari. The regular Eritrean battalions and the Regio Corpo Truppe Coloniali (Royal Corps of Somali Colonial Troops) were among the best Italian units in Africa Orientale Italiana and included Eritrean Penne di Falco (falcon feather) cavalry. Most of the Italian colonial troops were recruited, trained and equipped for repression of colonial insurgency, although the Somali dubats from the borderlands were useful light infantry and skirmishers. Irregular bande were hardy and mobile, knew the country and were effective scouts and saboteurs, although sometimes confused with shiftas, marauders who plundered and murdered at will.
Once Italy had entered the war, a 100-strong company was formed from German residents of East Africa and also from stranded German sailors.
The Italian forces in East Africa were equipped with about 3,313 heavy machine guns, 5,313 lighter machine guns, 24 M11/39 medium tanks, 39 L3/35 tankettes, 126 armoured cars, 824 pieces of artillery, 24 20-mm anti-aircraft cannon, 71 81-mm (3.2-in) mortars and 672,800 rifles. From June 1940, the Italians had little opportunity for reinforcement or supply, which led to severe shortages, especially of ammunition. On occasion, foreign merchant vessels captured by German merchant raiders in the Indian Ocean were brought to Somali ports but their cargoes were not always of much use to the Italian war effort. On 22 November 1940 the Yugoslav steamer Durmitor, captured by the German merchant raider Atlantis, put in at Warsheikh with a cargo of salt and several hundred prisoners.
The Comando Aeronautica Africa Orientale Italiana, commanded by Generale d’Armata Aerea Pietro Pinna Parpaglia at Addis Ababa, had three sector commands corresponding to the land fronts: these were the Comando Settore Aeronautico Nord, Comando Settore Aeronautico Est and Comando Settore Aeronautico Sud. In June 1940, the Commando Aeronautica Africa Orientale Italiana had 323 aircraft in 23 bomber squadrons with 138 aircraft, comprising 14 squadrons with six aircraft each, six Caproni Ca 133 three-engined light bomber squadrons, seven Savoia-Marchetti SM.81 three-engined medium bomber squadrons and two Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 three-engined medium bomber squadrons. Four fighter squadrons had 36 aircraft, comprising two squadrons each of nine Fiat CR.32 single-engined biplane aircraft and two squadrons each of nine Fiat CR.42 Falco single-engined biplane aircraft. There was one one reconnaissance squadron with nine IMAM Ro.37 single-engined biplane aircraft. The aircraft totals comprised 183 first line aircraft and 140 reserve aircraft, and of these 59 were operational and 81 were unserviceable.
On the outbreak of war, the Comando Aeronautica Africa Orientale Italiana had 10,500 tons of aviation fuel, 5,200 tons of bombs and 8.62 million rounds of ammunition. Aircraft and engine maintenance was conducted at the main air bases and at the Caproni and Piaggio workshops, which could repair about 15 seriously damaged aircraft and engines each month, along with some moderately and lightly damaged aircraft and could also recycle scarce materials. The Italians had reserves for 75% of their front-line strength but lacked spare parts and many aircraft were therefore cannibalised to keep others operational. The quality of the units varied. The SM.79 was the only modern bomber and the CR.32 fighter was obsolete, but the Comando Aeronautica Africa Orientale Italiana had a cadre of highly experienced veterans from the Spanish Civil War. There was also the nucleus of a transport fleet, with nine Savoia-Marchetti S.73, nine Ca.133, six Ca.148 (a lengthened version of the Ca.133) and one Fokker F.VII aircraft, and these were employed for internal communications and carried urgent items and personnel between sectors.
From 1935 to 1940 the Regia Marina laid plans for an ocean-going Flotta d’evasione (escape fleet) equipped for service in the tropics. The plans varied from three battleships, one aircraft carrier, 12 cruisers, 36 destroyers and 30 submarines to a more realistic two cruisers, eight destroyers and 12 submarines. Even the lower establishment proved too expensive and in 1940 the Flottiglia del mar rosso (Red Sea flotilla) had seven older fleet destroyers, the 5a Divisione cacciatorpediniere with the 'Leone' class destroyers Pantera, Tigre and Leone and the [e[3a Divisione torpediniere with the 'Sauro' class torpedo boats Francesco Nullo, Nazario Sauro, Cesare Battisti and Daniele Manin. There were also Orsini and Acerbi, which were two old local-defence torpedo boats and a squadron of five World War I motoscafi armati silurante motor torpedo boats. The Flottiglia del mar rosso had eight modern submarines (Archimede, Galileo Ferraris, Galileo Galilei, Torricelli, Galvani, Guglielmotti, Macallé and Perla).
The flotilla was based at Massawa in Eritrea on the Red Sea, and had been established to link Axis-occupied Europe and the naval facilities in the Italian concession zone at Tientsin in China. There were also limited port facilities at Assab in Eritrea and at Mogadishu in Italian Somaliland. When the Mediterranean route was closed to Allied merchant ships in April 1940, the Italian naval bases in East Africa were well placed for attacks on convoys en route to Suez up the east coast of Africa and through the Red Sea. The finite resources in Africa Orientale Italiana were intended to last for a war lasting about six months, and the primary task of the the submarine force was denial of the Red Sea route to the British.
The British had based forces in Egypt since 1882 but these were greatly reduced by the terms of the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936. A small British and commonwealth force garrisoned the Suez Canal and the Red Sea route, which was vital to communications with the British Indian Ocean, Far Eastern and Australasian components. In the middle of 1939, General Sir Archibald Wavell was appointed to lead the new Middle East Command with responsibility for the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern theatres. Wavell was responsible for the defence of Egypt through the commander of the British Troops Egypt, for the training of the Egyptian army and for the co-ordination of operations with the British naval command in the Mediterranean, Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham, the commander of the East Indies Station, Vice Admiral R. Leatham, the commander in India, General Sir Robert Cassels, the inspector general of African Colonial Forces, Major General Douglas Dickinson, and the air commander in the Middle East, Air Chief Marshal Sir William Mitchell. (French divisions in Tunisia faced the Italian 5a Armata on the western Libyan border until the Franco-Axis armistice of 22 June 1940.) In Libya, the Italian army had about 215,000 men, and in Egypt the British had about 36,000 men, with another 27,500 training in Palestine. Wavell had about 86,000 men at his disposal for Libya, Iraq, Syria, Iran and East Africa.
The Middle East Command was established before the outbreak of war to control land operations and co-ordinate with the naval and air commands in the Mediterranean and Middle East. Wavell was allowed only five staff officers for plans and command of an area of 3.5 million sq miles (9.065 million km²). From 1940 to 1941, operations took place in the Western Desert of Egypt, East Africa, Greece and the Middle East. In July 1939, Wavell devised a strategy to defend and then to dominate the Mediterranean as a base from which to attack Germany through eastern and south-eastern Europe. The conquest of Italian East Africa came second only to the defence of Egypt and the Suez Canal. In August, Wavell ordered the rapid development of plans to gain control of the Red Sea. He specified a concept of offensive operations from Djibouti to Harar and then Addis Ababa or Kassala to Asmara then Massawa, preferably on both lines simultaneously. Wavell reconnoitred East Africa in January 1940 and the theatre was formally added to his responsibilities. He expected that the Somaliland colonies could be defended with minor reinforcement. If Italy joined the war, Ethiopia would be invaded as soon as there were sufficient troops. Wavell also co-ordinated plans with South Africa in March. On 1 May 1940, Wavell ordered British Troops Egypt to mobilise discreetly for military operations in western Egypt, but after the June debacle in France Wavell had to follow a defensive strategy.
After Italian operations in Sudan at Kassala and Gallabat in June, Prime Minister Winston Churchill blamed Wavell for a 'static policy'. Anthony Eden, the secretary of state for war, communicated to Wavell that an Italian advance toward Khartoum should be destroyed. Wavell replied that the Italian attacks were not serious but went to Sudan and Kenya to see for himself and met the Ethiopian emperor, Haile Selassie, at Khartoum. Here Eden convened a conference at the end of October 1940 with Selassie, South African General Jan Smuts (an advisor to Churchill), Wavell, Major General W. Platt (Sudan Defence Force) and Lieutenant General A. G. Cunningham (East African Forces). A plan to attack Ethiopia, including support for Ethiopian irregular forces, was agreed. In November 1940, the British gained an intelligence advantage when the Government Code and Cypher School broke the Italian army’s high-grade cypher in East Africa. Later in that same month, the replacement cypher for the Regia Aeronautica was broken by the Combined Bureau, Middle East.
During September 1940, Wavell ordered the commanders in Sudan and Kenya to make limited attacks once the rainy season had ended. On the northern front, Platt was to attack Gallabat and its vicinity, and on the southern front Cunningham was to advance to the north from Kenya through Italian Somaliland into Ethiopia. Early in November 1940, Cunningham had taken over the East African Force from Dickinson, who was in poor health. While Platt advanced from the north and Cunningham from the south, Wavell planned for a third force to be landed in British Somaliland by amphibious assault to retake the colony and then to advance into Ethiopia. The three forces were to meet at Addis Ababa. The conquest of Africa Orientale Italiana would thus remove the land threat to supplies and reinforcements coming from Australia, New Zealand, India, South Africa and British East Africa via the Suez Canal for the 'Campaign in the Western Desert' and reopen the over-land route from Cape Town to Cairo.
On 10 June 1940, Dickinson’s East Africa Force had been established for North-East Africa, East Africa and British Central Africa. In Sudan about 8,500 troops and 80 aircraft guarded a 1,200-mile (1930-km) frontier with Africa Orientale Italiana. Platt had 21 companies (4,500 men) of the Sudan Defence Force, and of these companies five (later six) were organised as motor machine gun companies. There was no artillery, but the Sudan Horse was converting to a 3.7-in (94-mm) mountain howitzer battery. The 1/Worcestershire Regiment, 1/Essex Regiment and 2/West Yorkshire Regiment were, in the middle of September, incorporated into Brigadier J. C. O. Marriott’s Indian 29th Brigade, Brigadier W. J. Slim’s Indian 10th Brigade and Brigadier A. G. O. M. Mayne’s Indian 9th Brigade respectively of Major General L. Heath’s Indian 5th Division when it arrived.
Major General N. M. Beresford-Peirse’s Indian 4th Division was transferred from Egypt in December. The British had an assortment of armoured cars, and B Squadron of the 4th Royal Tank Regiment with Matilda infantry tanks joined the Indian 4th Division in January 1941. On the outbreak of hostilities, Colonel A. R. Chater in British Somaliland had about 1,754 men comprising the Somaliland Camel Corps and the 1/Northern Rhodesia Regiment. By August, the 1/2nd Punjab and 3/5th Punjab Regiments had been transferred from Aden and the 2/King’s African Rifles with the 1st East African Light Battery (3.7-in/94-mm howitzers) came from Kenya, raising the total to 4,000 troops, in the first week of August. In the Aden Protectorate, the British Forces Aden (Air Vice Marshal G. M. R. Reid) had a garrison of the two Indian infantry battalions until they were transferred to British Somaliland in August.
In August 1939, Wavell had ordered a covert plan to encourage the rebellion in the western Ethiopian province of Gojjam, which the Italians had never been able to repress. In September, Colonel D. A. Sandford arrived to run the project, but until the Italian declaration of war, the conspiracy was held back by the government’s policy of appeasement. Mission 101 was formed to co-ordinate the activities of the Ethiopian resistance. In June 1940, Selassie arrived in Egypt and in July, went to Sudan to meet Platt and discuss plans to recapture Ethiopia, despite Platt’s reservations. In July, the British recognised Selassie as emperor, and in August Mission 101 entered Gojjam province to reconnoitre. Sandford requested that before the rainy season ended supply routes be established to the area north of Lake Tana and that Selassie should return in October as a catalyst for the uprising. Gaining control of Gojjam required the Italian garrisons to be isolated along the main road from Bahrdar Giorgis south of Lake Tana, to Dangila, Debra Markos and Addis Ababa to prevent them concentrating against the Arbegnoch (Amharic for 'patriots').
Italian reinforcements arrived in October and patrolled more frequently, just as dissensions among local potentates were reconciled by Sandford’s diplomacy. The Frontier Battalion of the Sudan Defence Force, established in May 1940, was joined at Khartoum by the 2nd Ethiopian and 4th Eritrean Battalions, which were raised from émigré volunteers in Kenya. Operational centres, each comprising one officer, five non-commissioned officers and several picked Ethiopians were formed and trained in guerrilla warfare to provide leadership cadres, and £1 million was set aside to finance operations. Major O. C. Wingate was sent to Khartoum with an assistant to join the headquarters of the Sudan Defence Force, and on 20 November Wingate was flown to Sakhala to meet Sandford. On this date, the RAF bombed Dangila, dropped propaganda leaflets and supplied Mission 101. This raised Ethiopian morale, which had suffered much from Italian air power since the 2nd Italo-Abyssinian War. Mission 101 managed to persuade the Arbegnoch to the north of Lake Tana to spring several ambushes on the road linking Metemma and Gondar, and the Italian garrison at Wolkait was withdrawn in February 1941.
On 3 August 1940, the Italians invaded British Somaliland with two colonial brigades, four cavalry squadrons, 24 M11/39 medium tanks and L3/35 tankettes, several armoured cars, 21 howitzer batteries, pack artillery and air support. The British had a garrison of two companies of the Sudan Defence Force, two motor machine gun companies and one mounted infantry company. Kassala was bombed and then attacked, the British retiring slowly. On 4 August, the Italians advanced with a western column toward Zeila, de Simone’s central column toward Hargeisa and an eastern column toward Odweina in the south. The Somaliland Camel Corps skirmished with the advancing Italians as the main British force slowly retired. On 5 August, the towns of Zeila and Hargeisa were captured, isolating the British from French Somaliland. Odweina fell on the following day and the Italian central and eastern columns joined forces. On 11 August, Godwin-Austen was diverted to Berbera, en route to Kenya, to take command as reinforcements increased the British garrison to five battalions. Between 5 and 19 August, RAF squadrons based at Aden flew 184 sorties, dropped 60 tons of bombs, and lost seven aircraft destroyed and 10 damaged.
On 11 August, the Italians began the 'Battle of Tug Argan' (a tug is a dry, sandy riverbed), where the road from Hargeisa crosses the Assa hills, and by 14 August, the British were at risk of defeat in detail by the larger Italian force and its greater quantity of artillery. Close to being cut off and with only one battalion left in reserve, Godwin-Austen contacted Lieutenant General Sir Henry Maitland Wilson, commanding the British Troops in Egypt in Cairo (Wavell was in London) and was authorised to withdraw from the colony. The 2/The Black Watch, supported by two companies of the 2/King’s African Rifles and parties of the 1st/2nd Punjab Regiment, covered the retreat of the British contingent to Berbera.
By 14.00 on 18 August, most of the contingent had been evacuated to Aden, but the Australian light cruiser Hobart and the headquarters remained until the morning of 19 August before departing, and the Italians entered Berbera on the evening of 19 August. In the final four days of this little campaign, the RAF flew 12 reconnaissance and 19 reconnaissance/bombing sorties, with 72 attacks on Italian transport and troop columns, and 36 fighter sorties were flown over Berbera. The British lost 38 men killed and 222 wounded, whereas the Italians suffered 2,052 casualties. Their fuel and ammunition expenditures, and the wear and tear on vehicles, was difficult to remedy, and this compelled the Italians to switch to the defensive. Churchill criticised Wavell for abandoning the colony without enough fighting, but Wavell called it a textbook withdrawal in the face of superior numbers.
The Anglo-Egyptian Sudan shared a 1,000-mile (1610-km) border with Africa Orientale Italiana , and on 4 July 1940 was invaded from Eritrea by an Italian force of about 6,500 men, who advanced on the railway junction at Kassala. The Italians forced the British garrison of 320 men of the Sudan Defence Force and some local police to retire after inflicting casualties of 43 killed and 114 wounded for 10 casualties of their own. The Italians also drove a platoon of No. 3 Company of the Sudan Defence Force’s Eastern Arab Corps from the small fort at Gallabat, just over the border from Metemma, about 200 miles (320 km) to the south of Kassala, and took the villages of Qaysan, Kurmuk and Dumbode on the Blue Nile river. From there the Italians ventured no farther into Sudan as a result of their shortage of fuel and fortified Kassala with anti-tank defences, machine gun posts and strongpoints, later establishing a brigade-strong garrison. The Italians were disappointed to find little anti-British sentiment among the Sudanese population.
The Indian 5th Division began to reach Sudan early in September 1940. The Indian 29th Brigade was placed on the Red Sea coast to protect Port Sudan, the Indian 9th Brigade was based to the south-west of Kassala, and the Indian 10th Brigade was sent to Gedaref, with the divisional headquarters, to block an Italian attack on Khartoum from Goz Regeb to Gallabat, on a front of 200 miles (320 km). Colonel F. W. Messervy’s 'Gazelle' Force was created on 16 October as a mobile unit to raid Italian territory and delay an Italian advance.
Gallabat fort lay in Sudan and Metemma a short way across the Ethiopian border, beyond the 'Boundary Khor', a dry riverbed with steep banks covered by long grass. Both places were surrounded by field fortifications and Gallabat was held by a colonial infantry battalion. Metemma had two colonial battalions and a banda unit under the command of Tenente Colonnello Castagnola. The Indian 10th Brigade, one field artillery regiment and B Squadron of the 6th Royal Tank Regiment with seven Cruiser Mk I tanks and seven Light Tanks Mk VI, attacked Gallabat at 05.30 on 6 November. An RAF contingent of six Vickers Wellesley single-engined light bombers and nine Gloster Gladiator single-engined biplane fighters was deemed sufficient to overcome the 17 Italian fighters and 32 bombers believed to be in range. The infantry assembled between 1 and 2 miles (1.6 and 3.2 km) from Gallabat, whose garrison was unaware that an attack was imminent until the RAF bombed the fort and put its radio equipment out of action. The field artillery began a simultaneous bombardment, and after one hour the gunners changed targets and shelled Metemma. The previous night, the 4/10th Baluch Regiment had occupied a hill overlooking the fort as a flank guard. The troops on the hill covered the advance at 06.40 of the 3/Royal Garwhal Rifles followed by the tanks. The Indians reached Gallabat and fought hand-to-hand with the 65a Divisione fanteria 'Granatieri di Savoia' and some Eritrean troops in the fort. At 08.00, the 25o Battaglione Coloniale and 77o Battaglione Coloniale counterattacked and were repulsed, but three British tanks were knocked out by mines and six by mechanical failure caused by the rocky ground.
The defenders at Boundary Khor were dug in behind fields of barbed wire and Castagnola had contacted Gondar for air support. Italian bombers and fighters attacked all day, shot down seven Gladiator fighters for a loss of five Fiat CR.42 fighters and destroyed the lorry carrying spare parts for the tanks. The ground was so hard and rocky that there were no trenches and when the Italian bombers made their largest attack, the infantry had no cover. An ammunition lorry was set on fire by burning grass and the sound was taken to be an Italian counterattack on the British rear. When a platoon advanced toward the sound with fixed bayonets, some troops thought that they were retreating. Part of the 1/Essex Regiment at the fort broke and ran, taking some of the Garwhalis with them. Many of the British fugitives mounted their transport and drove off, spreading the panic and some of the runaways reached Doka before being stopped.
The Italian bombers returned in the course of the next morning and Slim ordered a withdrawal from Gallabat ridge, 3 miles (4.8 km) to the west, to less exposed ground that evening. Sappers of the 21st Field Company remained behind to demolish the remaining buildings and stores in the fort. The artillery bombarded Gallabat and Metemma, and ignited Italian ammunition dumps full of pyrotechnics. British casualties since 6 November had been 42 men killed and 125 wounded. The brigade patrolled to deny the fort to the Italians and on 9 November, two Baluch companies attacked and held the fort during the day and retired in the evening. During the night an Italian counterattack was repulsed by artillery fire, and on next morning the British reoccupied the fort unopposed. Ambushes were laid and prevented Italian reinforcements from occupying the fort or the hills on the flanks, despite frequent bombing by the Regia Aeronautica.
On the Italian declaration of war on 10 June 1940, Dickinson’s East Africa Force comprised two East African brigades of the King’s African Rifles organised as a Northern Brigade and a Southern Brigade comprising one reconnaissance regiment, one light artillery battery and the 22nd Mountain Battery Royal Indian Artillery. By March 1940, the strength of the King’s African Rifles had reached 883 officers, 1,374 non-commissioned officers and 20,026 African other ranks. Wavell ordered Dickinson to defend Kenya and to pin down as many Italian troops as possible. Dickinson planned to defend Mombasa with the 1st East African Brigade and to deny a crossing of the Tana river and the fresh water at Wajir with the 2nd East African Brigade. Detachments were to be placed at Marsabit and Moyale, and at Turkana near Lake Rudolf, an arc of 850 miles (1370 km). The Italians were thought to have troops at Kismayu, Mogadishu, Dolo, Moyale and Yavello, which turned out to be colonial troops and bande, with two brigades at Jimma, ready to reinforce Moyale or attack Lake Rudolf and then invade Uganda. By the end of July, the 3rd East African Brigade and the 6th East African Brigade had been formed. A Coastal Division and a Northern Frontier District Division had been planned, but then Major General H. E. de R. Wetherall’s 11th (African) Division and Godwin-Austen’s 12th (African) Division were created instead in their place.
On 1 June, the first South African unit arrived in Mombasa, the main port of Kenya, and by the end of July, the South African 1st Brigade Group had arrived. On 13 August, Major General G. L. Brink’s South African 1st Division was formed and by the end of 1940, about 27,000 South Africans were in East Africa in the South African 1st Division, the 11th (African) Division and the 12th (African) Division. Each South African brigade group consisted of three infantry battalions, one armoured car company and signal, engineer and medical units. By July, under the terms of a war contingency plan, the 2nd (West Africa) Brigade, from the Gold Coast, and the 1st (West Africa) Brigade, from Nigeria, were provided for service in Kenya by the Royal West African Frontier Force. The 1st (West African) Brigade, the two East African brigades and some South African units, formed the 11th (African) Division. The 12th (African) Division had a similar establishment with the 2nd (West African) Brigade.
At dawn on 17 June, the Rhodesians supported a raid by the Sudan Defence Force on the Italian desert outpost of El Wak in Italian Somaliland, about 90 miles (140 km) to the north-east of Wajir. The Rhodesians bombed and burned down thatched mud huts and generally harassed the Italian forces. As the main fighting at that time was against Italian advances toward Moyale in Kenya, the Rhodesians concentrated there. On 1 July, an Italian attack on the border town of Moyale, on the edge of the Ethiopian escarpment, where the tracks toward Wajir and Marsabit meet, was repulsed by a company of the 1/King’s African Rifles, and reinforcements were moved up. The Italians carried out a larger attack by about four battalions on 10 July, after a considerable artillery bombardment, and after three days the British withdrew unopposed. The Italians eventually advanced to the water holes at Dabel and Buna, nearly 62 miles (100 km) inside Kenya, but lack of supplies prevented any farther advance.
After their conquest of British Somaliland, the Italians adopted a more defensive posture. Late in 1940, Italian forces suffered defeats in the Mediterranean, the Western Desert, the Battle of Britain and in the Greco-Italian War. This prompted Generale d’Armata Ugo Cavallero, the new Italian chief-of-staff in Rome, to adopt a new strategy in East Africa. In December 1940, Cavallero thought that Italian forces in East Africa should abandon offensive action against the Sudan and the Suez Canal and concentrate on the defence of Africa Orientale Italiana. In response to Cavallero and Aosta, who had requested permission to withdraw from the Sudanese frontier, the army high command in Rome ordered Italian forces in East Africa to withdraw to better defensive positions.
Frusci was ordered to withdraw from Kassala and Metemma in the lowlands along the Sudan/Eritrea border and hold the more easily defended mountain passes on the roads linking Kassala and Agordat and between Metemma and Gondar. Frusci chose not to withdraw from the lowlands, however, as any such withdrawal would involve too great a loss of prestige and because Kassala was an important railway junction and its retention prevented the British from using the railway to carry supplies from Port Sudan on the Red Sea coast to the base at Gedaref. Information on the Italian withdrawal was quickly decrypted by the British, and Platt was able to begin his offensive into Eritrea on 18 January 1941, three weeks ahead of schedule.
In Sudan, the Air Headquarters Sudan (from 17 August the Headquarters No. 203 Group and from 19 October the Air Headquarters East Africa), subordinate to Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Longmore’s RAF Middle East command, had Nos 14, 47 and 223 Squadrons with Wellesley bombers. A flight of Vickers Vincent single-engined biplane aircraft of No. 47 Squadron performed army co-operation duties and were later reinforced from Egypt by No. 45 Squadron with Bristol Blenheim twin-engined light bombers. Six Gladiator biplane fighters were based in Port Sudan for trade protection and anti-submarine patrols over the Red Sea, the air defence of Port Sudan, Atbara and Khartoum, and for army support.
In May, No. 1 (Fighter) Squadron of the South African Air Force arrived, was transferred to Egypt to convert to the Gladiator and returned to Khartoum in August. The South African Air Force in Kenya comprised No. 12 Squadron (Junkers Ju 86 twin-engined medium bombers), No. 11 Squadron (Battle light bombers), No. 40 Squadron (Hawker Hartebeest single-engined general-purpose biplane aircraft), No. 2 Squadron (Hawker Fury single-engined biplane fighters) and No. 237 (Rhodesia) Squadron (Hawker Hardy single-engined general-purpose biplane aircraft). Better aircraft became available at a later date, but these initial aircraft were in general old and slow, the South Africans even pressing an old Vickers Valentia twin-engined biplane transport aerop’ane into service as an extemporised bomber.
The South Africans faced experienced Italian pilots, including a cadre of Spanish Civil War veterans as noted above. Despite its lack of experience, No. 1 Squadron claimed 48 Italian aircraft destroyed and 57 damaged in the skies over East Africa, together with another 57 claimed destroyed on the ground, for the loss of just six pilots, but it is believed with some justification that the squadron was guilty of severe over-claiming.
From November 1940 to a time early in January 1941, Platt continued to apply constant pressure on the Italians along the Sudan/Ethiopia border with patrols and raids by ground troops and aircraft. Hawker Hurricane single-engined monoplane fighters and more Gladiator biplane fighters began to replace some of the older models. 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 a low-level machine gun attack on the nearby positions of Italian 'Blackshirt' and colonial infantry. A few days later, the same aircraft bombed the Italian base at Keru, some 50 miles (80 km) to the east of Kassala, and the commonwealth pilots had the satisfaction of seeing supply dumps, stores and transport enveloped in flame and smoke as they flew away. One morning in the middle of December, a force of Italian fighters strafed a Rhodesian landing-strip at Wajir near Kassala, where two Hardy aircraft were caught on the ground and destroyed and 6,000 Imp gal (15540 litres) of fuel were set alight, four Africans being killed and 11 injured as they fought the fire.
The approaches to the Red Sea through the Gulf of Aden and the Bab el Mandeb are 17 miles (28 km) wide. With the Italian declaration of war on 10 June and the loss of French naval support in the Mediterranean after 22 June, the 1,400-mile (2255-km) long Red Sea passage to Suez became the main British sea route to the Middle East. To the south of Suez the British held Port Sudan, about halfway along the Sudanese coast, and the base at Aden, 120 miles (195 km) on the south-western tip of the Arabian peninsula to the east of Bab el Mandeb. The principal Italian naval force, under the command of Contrammiraglio Mario Bonetti, was based at Massawa in Eritrea, about 400 miles (645 km) to the north of Bab el Mandeb, well placed for the Flottiglia del mar rosso to attack Allied convoys.
British codebreakers of the Government Code and Cypher School deciphered Italian orders of 19 May, coded using C38m machines, for the secret mobilisation of the army and air force in East Africa. Merchant traffic was stopped by the British on 24 May, pending the introduction of a convoy system. Rear Admiral A. J. L. Murray’s Red Sea Force, operational at Aden since April with the light cruisers Liverpool (replaced by Leander) and Australian Hobart, was reinforced by the light anti-aircraft cruiser Carlisle, which sailed to the south with the BS.4 convoy, the 28th Destroyer Flotilla (Khartoum, Kimberley, Kingston and Kandahar) and three sloops from the Mediterranean. The force was to conduct a blockade Africa Orientale Italiana in 'Begum', attack the Flottiglia del mar rosso, and protect the sea route between Aden and Suez.
On 6 June, the 'Azio' class minelayer Ostia used 470 mines to lay eight barrages off Massawa, and the destroyer Pantera laid 110 mines in two barrages off Assab on the following day. When Italy declared war on 10 June, Galileo Ferraris sailed for French Somaliland, Galileo Galilei for Aden, Galvani for the Gulf of Oman and Mecallé for Port Sudan. On 14 June Torricelli put to sea to relieve Galileo Ferraris, whose crew had been incapacitated by chloromethane poisoning from the refrigeration system. The crew of Macallé was also afflicted as the boat ran aground and was lost on 15 June. On 18 June, Galileo Galilei boarded and released the neutral Yugoslav steamship Dravo, and on the next day engaged the British armed trawler Moonstone off Aden. All but one officer of the Italian boat were killed by shell fire and Galileo Galilei was captured along with many documents including operational orders for four other Italian submarines.
Archimede, Perla and Guglielmotti sailed between 19 and 21 June. On 26 June, Guglielmotti ran onto a shoal and suffered severe damage, although the wreck was later salvaged. Documents recovered from Galileo Galilei were used to intercept and damage Torricelli on 21 June: the boat headed for home but was caught off Perim island and sunk by Kandahar, Kingston, Khartoum and the sloop Shoreham. Several hours later, a torpedo on Khartoum, damaged by a shell from Torricelli, detonated and caused an uncontrollable fire: the British destroyer tried to reach Perim, about 8.1 miles (13 km) away, but the crew and prisoners had to abandon ship, and later a magazine explosion wrecked the vessel. The sloop Falmouth exploited the document find from Galileo Galilei to sink Galvani in the Gulf of Oman on 24 June. On 13 August, Galileo Ferraris made an abortive attempt to intercept the battleship Royal Sovereign on passage from Suez to Aden.
Between 13 and 19 August, Kimberley and the sloop Auckland bombarded Italian troops advancing in the area to the west of Berbera in British Somaliland. Italian air raids on Berbera caused splinter damage to Hobart as she took part in the evacuation of Berbera along with the light cruisers Carlisle, Caledon and Ceres, the destroyers Kandahar and Kimberley, the sloops Shoreham, Auckland and Australian Parramatta, the auxiliary cruisers Chakdina, Chantala and Laomédon, the Indian transport vessel Akbar and the Indian hospital ship Vita, which between them lifted 5,960 troops, 1,266 civilians and 184 sick and wounded. On 18 November the British heavy cruiser Dorsetshire bombarded Zante in Italian Somaliland. British naval forces supported land operations and blockaded the remnants the Flottiglia del mar rosso at Massawa. By the end of 1940, the British had gained control of the East African coastal routes and the Red Sea, and the Italian naval forces in Africa Orientale Italiana declined in capability as fuel, spare parts and supplies from Italy were exhausted. There were six Italian air attacks on convoys in October and none after 4 November.
During 16 June 1940, Galileo Galilei sank the 8,215-ton Norwegian tanker James Stove sailing independently about 14 miles (22 km) to the south of Aden. On 2 July the first of the BN (Bombay Northward, then Bombay to Suez and finally Aden to Suez of 1940/41) convoys, comprising six tankers and three freighters, assembled in the Gulf of Aden. Italian sorties against the BN and BS (Bombay Northward and Suez to Aden of late 1940 to early 1941) convoys were failures which adversely affected Italian morale. Between 26 and 31 July, Guglielmotti failed to find two Greek merchant vessels, and a sortie by the torpedo boats Cesare Battisti and Francesco Nullo also proved abortive. The submarines Guglielmotti (21/25 August), Galileo Ferraris (25/31 August) and Francesco Nullo and Nazario Sauro (24/25 August), and the destroyers Pantera and Tigre (28/29 August), failed to find Greek ships in the Red Sea, despite agent reports and sightings by air reconnaissance. Italian aircraft had little more success.
On the night of 5/6 September, Cesare Battisti, Daniele Manin and Nazario Sauro sailed, followed on 6/7 September by the destroyers Leone and Tigre, to attack the BN.4 northbound convoy located by air reconnaissance, but found nothing. Farther to the north, Galileo Ferraris and Guglielmotti also failed to find the same convoy, but Guglielmotti torpedoed the 4,008-ton Greek tanker Atlas in the area to the south of the Farasan islands as she straggled behind the convoy. Leone, Pantera, Cesare Battisti and Daniele Manin, together with the submarines Archimede and Gugliemotti, failed to find a convoy of 23 ships spotted by air reconnaissance. The 5,280-ton Bhima of the BN.5 convoy suffered damage from bomb hits and had one man killed: the ship was towed to Aden and beached. In August the British ran four convoys in each direction, five in September and seven in October for a total of 86 ships in BN convoys and 72 in BS convoys. The Regia Aeronautica managed only six air attacks in October and none after 4 November.
The 'Attack on the BN.7 Convoy' took place on 20/21 October, and was the only destroyer attack on a convoy despite the Italian generation of good information on BN convoys as they passed French Somaliland. The 31 ships of the BN.7 convoy were escorted by the light cruiser Leander, the destroyer Kimberley, the sloops Auckland, Australian Yarra and Indian Indus, and the minesweepers Derby and Huntley, and had air cover from Aden. Guglielmo Marconi and Galileo Ferraris, stationed to the north, failed to intercept the convoy but on 21 October the destroyers Nazario Sauro and Francesco Nullo, together with Pantera and Leone, attacked the convoy 170 miles (280 km) to the east of Massawa, but the attacks caused only superficial damage to just one ship.
Kimberley forced Francesco Nullo aground on an island near Massawa in the 'Action off Harmil Island' on the morning of 21 October. Kimberley was hit in her engine room by the fire of a shore battery and had to be towed to Port Sudan by Leander. The wreck of Francesco Nullo was bombed on 21 October by three Blenheim aircraft of No. 45 Squadron. From 22 to 28 November, Archimede and Galileo Ferraris sailed to investigate reports of a convoy but found nothing, as did Tigre, Leone, Daniele Manin, Nazario Sauro and Galileo Ferraris from 3 to 5 December. From 12 to 22 December Archimede sailed twice after ship sightings, but both the boat’s sorties came to nothing, and Galileo Ferraris sortied off Port Sudan. From June to December the RAF had escorted 54 BN and BS convoys from which only one ship was sunk and one damaged by Italian aircraft.
The senior French officer in French Somaliland was Général de Brigade Paul Legentilhomme, who had at his disposal a garrison of seven battalions of Senegalese and Somali infantry, three batteries of field guns, four batteries of anti-aircraft guns, one company of light tanks, four companies of militia and irregulars, two platoons of the camel corps, and an assortment of aircraft. After visiting from 8 to 13 January 1940, Wavell decided that Legentilhomme would command the military forces in both British and French Somalilands should war with Italy come. In June, an Italian force was assembled to capture the port city of Djibouti, French Somaliland’s primary military base.
After the fall of France in June, the neutralisation of what became Vichy French colonies allowed the Italians to concentrate on the more lightly defended British Somaliland. On 23 July Legentilhomme, who had declared that French Somaliland would adhere to the Free French camp, was ousted by the pro-Vichy official Pierre Nouailhetas and left on 5 August for Aden, to join the Free French. In March 1941, the British enforcement of a strict contraband régime to prevent supplies being passed on to the Italians, lost its point after the conquest of Africa Orientale Italiana. The British changed policy, with encouragement from the Free French, to 'rally French Somaliland to the Allied cause without bloodshed'. The Free French were to arrange a voluntary change by propaganda in 'Marie', and the British were to blockade the colony. Wavell considered that if British pressure was applied, a rally to Free France would appear to have been coerced. Wavell preferred to let the propaganda continue and provided a small amount of supplies under strict control.
When the policy had no effect, Wavell suggested negotiating with Nouailhetas to use the port and railway. The suggestion was accepted by the British government but because of the concessions granted to the Vichy French régime in Syria, proposals were made to invade the colony instead. In June, Nouailhetas was given an ultimatum, the blockade was tightened and the Italian garrison at Assab was defeated by an operation from Aden. For six months, Nouailhetas remained willing to grant concessions over the port and railway but would not tolerate Free French interference. In October the blockade was reviewed, but the beginning of the war with Japan in December led to the withdrawal of all but two of the blockade ships. On 2 January 1942, the Vichy French government offered the use of the port and railway, subject to the lifting of the blockade, but the British refused and ended the blockade unilaterally in March.
'Camilla' was a deception concocted by Lieutenant Colonel D. W. Clarke to deceive the Italians, making them believe that the British planned to retake British Somaliland with the Indian 4th and 5th Divisions, transferred from Egypt to Gedaref and Port Sudan. In December 1940, Clarke constructed a model operation for Italian military intelligence to discover and set up administration offices at Aden. Clarke arranged for the Italian defences around Berbera to be softened up by air and sea raids from Aden and distributed maps and pamphlets on the climate, geography and population of British Somaliland, and rumours were circulated among civilians in Egypt. Bogus information was planted on the Japanese consul at Port Said and indiscreet wireless messages were transmitted. The operation began on 19 December and was to mature early in January 1941. The deception was a success but the plot backfired when the Italians began to evacuate British Somaliland instead of sending reinforcements. Troops were sent northward into Eritrea, where the real attack was coming, instead of to the east. Part of the deception, with misleading wireless transmissions, did convince the Italians that two Australian divisions were in Kenya, which led the Italians to reinforce the wrong area.
In November 1940, 'Gazelle' Force operated from the Gash river delta against Italian advanced posts around Kassala on the Ethiopian plateau, where hill ranges between 2,000 and 3,000 ft (610 and 915 m) in height bound wide valleys, and the rainfall makes the area malarial from July to October. On 11 December, Wavell ordered the Indian 4th Division to withdraw from the 'Compass' operation in the Western Desert and move to Sudan. The movement lasted into the early part of January 1941, and Platt intended to begin the offensive on the northern front on 8 February with a pincer attack on Kassala by the Indian 4th and 5th Divisions, each less one of its brigades.
News of the Italian disaster in Egypt, the harassment by 'Gazelle' Force and the activities of Mission 101 in Ethiopia persuaded the Italians to pull back their northern flank to Keru and Wachai and then, on 18 January, to retreat hurriedly from Kassala and Tessenei, the triangle of Keru, Biscia and Aicota. Wavell had ordered Platt to advance the offensive from March to 9 February and then to 19 January, when it seemed that Italian morale was crumbling. The withdrawal led Wavell to order a pursuit and the troops arriving at Port Sudan ('Briggs' Force) to attack at Karora and advance parallel with the coast, to meet the forces coming from the west.
Two roads met at Agordat and went through to Keren, the only route to Asmara. The Indian 4th Division was sent some 40 miles (65 km) along the road to Sabderat and Wachai, thence as far toward Keru as supplies allowed, with the Matilda Infantry tanks of B Squadron, 4th Royal Tank Regiment to join from Egypt. The Indian 5th Division was to capture Aicota, ready to move to the east toward Barentu or to the north-east toward Biscia. Except for air attacks the pursuit was not opposed until Keru gorge, which was held by a rearguard of Generale di Brigata Ugo Fongoli’s 41a Brigata coloniale. The Italians retreated on the night of 22/23 January, leaving Fongoli, his staff and 800 men behind as prisoners. On 28 January, the 3/14th Punjab Regiment made a flanking move toward Mt Cochen to the south and on 30 January, five Italian colonial battalions counterattacked with mountain artillery support, forcing back the Indians.
On the morning of 31 January the Indians attacked again and advanced toward the main road. Brigadier W. L. Lloyd’s Indian 5th Brigade on the plain attacked with the Matilda tanks, overran the Italians, destroyed several Italian tanks and cut the road to Keren. The 2a Divisione coloniale retreated after losing between 1,500 and 2,000 of its infantrymen, 28 field guns and several medium and light tanks. Held by nine battalions of the 2a Divisione coloniale (about 8,000 men), 32 pieces of artillery and about 36 dug-in M11/39 tanks and armoured cars, Barentu was attacked by the Indian 10th Brigade from the north and met a determined Italian defence, as the Indian 29th rigade advanced from the west, slowed by demolitions and rearguards. On the night of 31 January/1 February, the Italians retreated along a track towards Tole and Arresa, and on 8 February abandoned vehicles were found by the pursuers. The Italians had taken to the hills, leaving open the road linking Tessenei and Agordat road.
On 12 January, Aosta had sent a regiment of the 65a Divisione fanteria 'Granatieri di Savoia', under the command of Generale di Brigata Amedeo Liberati, and three colonial brigades to Keren. The Indian 4th and 5th Divisions advanced eastwards from Agordat into the rolling countryside, which gradually increased in elevation towards the Keren plateau, through the Ascidira Valley. There was an escarpment on the left and a spur rising to 6,000 ft (1,800 m) on the right of the road and the Italians were dug in on heights which dominated the massifs, ravines and mountains. The defensive positions had been surveyed before the war and chosen as the main position to guard Asmara and the Eritrean highlands from an invasion from Sudan. On 15 March, after several days of bombing, the Indian 4th Division attacked on the northern and western sides of the road to capture ground on the left flank, ready for the Indian 5th Division to attack on the eastern side.
In the 'Battle of Keren', the Indians met a determined defence and made limited progress, but during the night the Indian 5th Division captured Fort Dologorodoc, 1,475 ft (450 m) above the valley. The 65a Divisione fanteria and other Italian forces counterattacked Dologorodoc seven times between 18 and 22 March, but these attacks were costly failures. Wavell flew to Keren to assess the situation and on 15 March, watched with Platt as the Indians made a frontal attack up the road, ignoring the high ground on either side and breaking through. Early on 27 March, Keren was captured after a battle which had lasted for 53 days, for a British and commonwealth loss of 536 men killed and 3,229 wounded; the Italian losses were 3,000 Italian and 9,000 ascari killed and about 21,000 wounded. The Italians then conducted a fighting withdrawal under air attack to Ad Teclesan, in a narrow valley on the road linking Keren and Asmara, which was the last defensible position before Asmara. The defeat in the 'Battle of Keren' had shattered the morale of the Italian forces, and when the British attacked early on 31 March, the position fell and 460 Italian prisoners and 67 pieces of artillery were taken. Asmara was declared an open town the next day and the British entered unopposed.
Bonetti, commander of the Flottiglia del mar rosso and the garrison at Massawa, had 10,000 troops and about 100 tanks with which to defend the port. During the evening of 31 March, three of the last six destroyers at Massawa put to sea to raid the Gulf of Suez and then scuttle themselves. Leone ran aground and sank during the morning of the following day. The sortie was then postponed and on 2 April the last five destroyers left to attack Port Sudan before scuttling themselves. Heath telephoned Bonetti with an ultimatum to surrender and not to block the harbour by scuttling ships. If this was refused, Heath told Bonetti, the British would leave Italian citizens in Eritrea and Ethiopia to fend for themselves. The Indian 7th Brigade sent small forces towards Adowa and Adigrat and the rest advanced down the Massawa road, which fell 7,000 ft (2135 m) in altitude over a distance of 50 miles (80 km). The Indians rendezvoused at Massawa with 'Briggs' Force by 5 April, after the latter had cut across country.
Bonetti was once again summoned to surrender but refused, and on 8 April an attack by the Indian 7th Brigade was repulsed by the Massawa garrison. A simultaneous attack on the western side by the Indian 10th Brigade and the tanks of B Squadron, 4th Royal Tank Regiment broke through. The Free French overran the defences in the south-west as the RAF bombed Italian artillery positions. In the afternoon, Bonetti surrendered and the Allies took 9,590 prisoners and 127 pieces of artillery. The harbour was found to have been blocked by the scuttling of two large floating dry docks, 16 large ships and a floating crane in the mouths of the northern naval harbour, the central commercial harbour and the main southern harbour. The Italians had also dumped as much of their equipment as possible in the water. The British re-opened the railway link between Massawa and Asmara on 27 April, and by 1 May the port had come into use to supply the Indian 5th Division. The Italian surrender ended organised resistance in Eritrea and fulfilled the British strategic objective of ending the threat to shipping in the Red Sea. On 11 April, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt rescinded the status, under the Neutrality Acts, of the Red Sea as a combat zone, freeing US ships to use the route to carry supplies to the Middle East.
In western Ethiopia, 'Gideon' Force was a small British and African special forces unit, which acted as a corps d'élite amongst the Sudan Defence Force, Ethiopian regular forces and Arbegnoch. At 'Gideon' Force’s peak, Wingate led 50 officers, 20 British non-commissioned officers, 800 trained Sudanese troops and 800 partially trained Ethiopian regulars. He had a few mortars, no artillery and no air support other than intermittent bombing sorties. The force operated in the difficult country of Gojjam province at the end of a long and tenuous supply line, on which nearly all of its 15,000 camels perished. 'Gideon' Force and the Arbegnoch ejected the Italian forces under Nasi, the conqueror of British Somaliland, in six weeks and captured 1,100 Italian and 14,500 Ethiopian troops, 12 pieces of artillery, many machine guns, rifles and ammunition and more than 200 pack animals. 'Gideon' Force was disbanded on 1 June 1941, Wingate being returned to his substantive rank of major and returning to Egypt, as too did many of 'Gideon' Force’s men, several of whom who joined the Long Range Desert Group of the British 8th Army.
While Debre Markos and Addis Derra were being captured, other Ethiopian patriot forces under Ras Abebe Aregai consolidated themselves around Addis Ababa in preparation for Haile 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. After negotiations prompted by Wavell, Aosta ordered the governor, Generale Agenore Frangipani, to surrender the city to forestall a massacre of Italian civilians, as had occurred in Dire Dawa. Ashamed of not being allowed by his superior to fight to the death in the old style, Frangipani killed himself with poison on the next day. On 6 April, Addis Ababa was occupied by Wetherall, Pienaar and Fowkes escorted by East African armoured cars, who received the surrender of the city. The Polizia dell’Africa Italiana remained in the city to maintain order. Haile Selassie made a formal entry to the city on 5 May. On 13 April, Cunningham sent a force under Brigadier D. H. Pienaar and comprising the South African 1st Brigade and Campbell’s Scouts (Ethiopian irregulars led by a British officer), to continue the northward advance and link with Platt’s forces advancing to the south.
On 20 April, the South Africans captured Dessie on the main road to the north from Addis Ababa toward Asmara, about 200 miles (320 km) to the south of Amba Alagi. In eight weeks the British had advanced 1,700 miles (2735 km) from Tana to Mogadishu at a cost of 501 casualties and eight aircraft, and in the process had destroyed the bulk of the Italian air and land forces. From Debra Marqos, Wingate pursued the Italians and undertook a series of harrying actions, but at a time early in May most of 'Gideon' Force had to break off to provide a suitable escort for Haile Selassie’s formal entry into Addis Ababa. By 18 May, Colonnello Maraventano was dug in at Agibor, against a force of about 2,000 men, including only 160 trained soldiers (100 from the Frontier Battalion and 60 of the re-formed 2nd Ethiopian Battalion). Each side was short of food, ammunition, water and medical supplies; Wingate attempted a ruse by sending a message to Maraventano telling of reinforcements due to arrive and that the imminent withdrawal of British troops would leave the Italian column at the mercy of the patriots. Maraventano discussed the situation with the Italian headquarters in Gondar on 21 May and was given discretion to surrender, which took place on 23 May and involved 1,100 Italian and 5,000 local troops, 2,000 women and children, and 1,000 mule men and camp followers. 'Gideon' Force was down to 36 regular soldiers to make the formal guard of honour at the surrender, the rest being patriots.
To the south, in January 1941 the Italians came to the decision that the plains of Italian Somaliland could not be defended. The 102a Divisione Somala (General Adriano Santini) and bande (about 14,000 men) retired to the lower Juba river and General di Brigata Italo Carnevali’s 101a Divisione Somala and bande, totalling some 6,000 men, to the upper Juba river on the better defensive terrain of the mountains of Ethiopia. Cunningham encountered few Italians to the west of the Juba river, only bande and one colonial battalion at Afmadu and troops at Kismayu, where the Juba river empties into the Indian Ocean. Against an expected six brigades and 'six groups of native levies' holding the Juba river for the Italians, Cunningham began 'Canvas' on 24 January with four brigade groups from the 11th and 12th (African) Divisions. Afmadu was captured on 11 February and three days later the port of Kismayu, the primary objective, was captured. To the north of Kismayu and beyond the river was the main Italian position at Jelib. On 22 February, Jelib was attacked on both flanks and from the rear. The Italians were routed and 30,000 were killed, captured or dispersed into the bush. There was nothing to hinder a British advance of 200 miles (320 km) to Mogadishu, the capital and main port of Italian Somaliland.
On 25 February 1941, Brigadier G. R. Smallwood’s motorised 23rd Nigerian Brigade of the 11th (African) Division advanced some 235 miles (380 km) up the coast in three days and occupied Mogadishu, the Somali capital, unopposed. The 12th (African) Division was ordered to advance on Bardera and Isha Baidoa, but was delayed by the difficulty in using Kismayu as a supply base. The division pushed up the Juba river in Italian Somaliland toward the Ethiopian border town of Dolo. After a pause occasioned by the lack of equipment to sweep Mogadishu harbour of British magnetic mines dropped earlier, the 11th (African) Division began a fighting pursuit of the retreating Italian forces to the north from Mogadishu on 1 March. The division pursued the Italians toward the Ogaden Plateau, and by 17 March had completed a 17-day dash along the Italian Strada Imperiale from Mogadishu to Jijiga in the Somali region of Ethiopia. By a time early in March, Cunningham’s forces had captured most of Italian Somaliland and were advancing through Ethiopia toward the ultimate objective, Addis Ababa. On 26 March, Harar was captured and 572 prisoners taken, together with 13 pieces of artillery, the 23rd Nigerian Brigade having advanced nearly 1,000 miles (1610 km) in 32 days. On 29 March, Dire Dawa was occupied by South African troops, after Italian colonists appealed for help against deserters, who were committing atrocities.
The 'Appearance' operation to recapture British Somaliland began on 16 March from Aden in the war’s first successful Allied landing on a defended. The Aden Striking Force of about 3,000 men was to be carried about 140 miles (230 km) from Aden by eight naval vessels and civilian transports carrying heavy equipment. The troops were to be put ashore onto beaches inside reefs to the east and west of Berbera, to secure the town and to reconquer the territory. Some doubts were expressed about the feasibility of negotiating offshore reefs in the dark, when the town behind was blacked out, but the risk was taken. On 16 March, about 10 miles (16 km) to the north of the town and 1,000 yards (915 m) offshore, the force prepared to land as advanced parties searched for landing places. The 1/2nd Punjab Regiment and 3/15th Punjab Regiment, which had been evacuated from the port in August 1940, and a Somali commando detachment landed at Berbera from Force 'D' (the light cruisers Glasgow and Caledon, the destroyers Kandahar and Kipling, the auxiliary cruisers Chakdina and Chantala, the Indian trawlers Netavati and Parvati, two transport vessels and the motor launch ML-109. When the Sikhs landed, the 70a Brigata coloniale 'melted away'. On 20 March, Hargeisa was captured and the next few months were occupied in mopping up the area. The Somaliland Camel Corps was re-established in the middle of April to resume operations against local bandits. The British forces advanced westward into eastern Ethiopia and late in March linked with forces from the southern front around Harar and Dire Dawa. Cunningham’s forces could now be supplied efficiently through Berbera.
After the fall of Keren, Aosta had retreated to Amba Alagi, an 11,186-ft (3409-m) mountain which had been tunnelled for strongpoints, artillery positions and stores, inside a ring of similarly fortified peaks. British troops advancing from the south had captured Addis Ababa on 6 April. Wavell imposed a policy of avoiding large-scale operations in Eritrea and northern Ethiopia as this would have exercised an adverse effect on the withdrawal of troops to Egypt. The remaining Italian troops were no threat to Sudan or Eritrea but could trouble the British hold on the Africa Orientale Italiana. The South African 1st Division was needed in Egypt, so Cunningham was ordered to send it to the north for the capture the main road to Massawa and Port Sudan in order that these ports would be available for embarkation. Amba Alagi obstructed the road north and the Indian 5th Division advanced to the south as the South Africans moved to the north in a pincer movement. The main attack by the Indian 5th Division began on 4 May and made slow progress. On 10 May, Pienaar’s South African 1st Brigade arrived and completed the encirclement of the mountain. The Indian division attacked again on 13 May, with the South Africans attacking next day and forcing the Italians out of several defensive positions. Concerned about the care of his wounded and rumours of atrocities committed by the Arbegnoch, Aosta offered to surrender, provided that the Italians were granted the honours of war. On 19 May, Aosta and 5,000 Italian troops, marched past a guard of honour into captivity.
The East Africa Force on the southern front included Brink’s South African 1st Division, Wetherall’s 11th (African) Division and Godwin-Austen’s 12th (African) Division. The African divisions were composed of East African, South African, Nigerian and Ghanaian troops under British, Rhodesian and South African officers. In January 1941, Cunningham decided to launch his first attacks across the Kenyan border directly into southern Ethiopia. Although he realised that the approaching rainy season would preclude a direct advance this way to Addis Ababa, he hoped that this action would cause the Ethiopians in the south of the country to rise up in rebellion against the Italians, but the notion proved abortive. Cunningham sent the South African 1st Division (the South African 2nd and 5th Brigades and the 21st East African Brigade) and an independent East African brigade into the Galla-Sidamo province. From 16 to 18 January 1941, this force took El Yibo, and on 19 February an advance force of the South African 1st Division captured Jumbo. From 24 to 25 January, Cunningham’s troops fought on the Turbi Road.
The southern Ethiopia attack was stopped in the middle of February by the advent of heavy rain, which made movement and maintenance of the force very difficult. From 1 February, the British-led advance captured Gorai and El Gumu, on 2 February took Hobok, and on 8/9 February seized Banno. On 15 February, the fighting was on the Yavello road. The two South African brigades then launched a double flanking movement on Mega. After a three-day battle in which many of them, equipped for tropical conditions, suffered from exposure because of the heavy rain and near freezing temperatures, the South Africans captured Mega on 18 February. Moyale, 70 miles (110 km) to the south-east of Mega on the border with Kenya, was occupied on 22 February by a patrol of Abyssinian irregular troops which had been attached to the South African 1st Division.
The success of 'Begum' in gaining control of the seas off East Africa eased the supply of the British land forces, for ships on passage to and from the Mediterranean supplemented the Red Sea Force’s ships in offshore operations. The German Tannenfels departed Kismayu in Italian Somaliland on 31 January and rendezvoused from 14 to 17 February with the heavy cruiser Admiral Scheer, the merchant raider Atlantis and three British merchant ships taken as prizes.The fleet carrier Formidable, on passage to the Mediterranean to replace Illustrious, formed Force 'K' with the cruiser Hawkins, and in 'Breach' on 2 February despatched Fairey Albacore single-engined biplane attack aircraft to mine Mogadishu harbour, and to bomb the ordnance depot, airfield, railway station, petrol tanks at Ras Sip and the customs shed. The heavy cruiser Shropshire and the light cruisers Ceres and Colombo blockaded Kismayu, and in the Red Sea, Pantera, Tigre and Leone, based at Massawa in Eritrea, made another fruitless sortie.
Leatham formed Force 'T' with the carrier Hermes, the cruisers Shropshire, Hawkins, Capetown and Ceres, and the destroyer Kandahar to support the 'Canvas' invasion of Italian Somaliland from Kenya. Some 50 Italian and German merchant ships had been stranded at Massawa and Kismayu on the outbreak of war and few were seaworthy by the time of the British invasion of Africa Orientale Italiana, but only about 12 ships made the attempt to escape. On the night of 10/11 February, eight Italian and two German ships sailed from Kismayu for Mogadishu or Diego Suárez in Madagascar. Three Italian ships were scuttled in Kismayu on 12 February as British troops reached the vicinity of the port, which was captured with the support of Shropshire two days later. Five of the Italian ships were spotted by aircraft from Hermes and captured by Hawkins, and the German ship Uckermark was scuttled. The German Askari and Italian Pensilvania were seen off Mogadishu and destroyed by bombs and gunfire. Two of the Italian ships reached Madagascar.
While waiting for mines in the Suez Canal to be swept, Formidable undertook 'Composition' on the night of 12/13 February, sending 14 Albacore aircraft to attack Massawa, half of them armed with bombs and the other half with torpedoes. The attack was disorganised by low cloud, and while the 5,723-ton Moncalieri was sunk, little more was achieved.On 13 February, Hermes attacked Kismayu with Fairey Swordfish single-engine biplane attack aircraft and Shropshire bombarded coastal defences, supply dumps and Italian troops. Shropshire's Supermarine Walrus single-engined biplane spotter flying boat attacked Brava and Italian bombers claimed a near miss on one of the British ships. When Kismayu was captured on 14 February, 15 of the 16 Axis merchant ships in the harbour were captured.
The colonial sloop Eritrea escaped from Massawa on 18 February, and on 21 February Formidable sent seven Albacore aircraft to dive-bomb the harbour; four of the aircraft were hit by anti-aircraft fire but all returned. During the night the 3,667-ton auxiliary cruiser Ramb I and the 7,400-ton German merchant vessel Coburg departed, followed by Ramb II on 22 February. On 27 February, Ramb I was caught by Leander and sunk to the north of the Maldive islands group; Eritrea and Ramb II escaped and reached Kobe in Japan. On 25 February, Mogadishu fell and British merchant sailors, taken prisoner by German commerce raiders, were liberated. On 1 March, five Albacore aircraft from Formidable, flying from a landing ground at Mersa Taclai, raided Massawa again but caused little damage. The 6,240-ton Himalaya departed on 1 March and reached Rio de Janeiro on 4 April. On 4 March Coburg, together with a captured tanker, the 7,031-ton Ketty Brovig, were spotted by an aeroplane flown off the Australian heavy cruiser Canberra to the south-east of the Seychelles islands group: as Canberra and Leander approached, the Axis crews scuttled their ships.
From 1 to 4 March, the submarines Guglielmo Marconi, Galileo Ferraris, Perla and Archimede departed Massawa for BETASOM, the Italian submarine flotilla operating in the Atlantic from Bordeaux in occupied France. The boats arrived between 7 and 20 May after taking on supplies from German commerce raiders in the South Atlantic. As noted above, on 16 March Force 'D' from Aden undertook the 'Appearance' landing at Berbera which marked the start of the reconquest of British Somaliland. Two Axis ships, the 8,516-ton Oder and 6,366-ton India, departed Massawa on 23 March but the slopp Shoreham overhauled Oder at the Straits of Perim, the western channel of Bab el Mandeb, and the crew scuttled the ship; India took refuge in Assab. The 4,188-ton Bertrand Rickmers tried to break out on 29 March but was intercepted by Kandahar and scuttled. Piave set out on 30 March but got only as far as Assab. On 31 March, three of the Italian destroyers at Massawa sortied against shipping in the Gulf of Suez, but Leone ran aground outside Massawa and had to be sunk, after which the sortie was abandoned. Lichtenfels departed on 1 April but was forced to turn back. On 2 April, the five remaining Italian destroyers were due to attack the fuel tanks at Port Sudan and then scuttle themselves, but RAF reconnaissance aircraft from Aden spotted the ships.
While the carrier Eagle was waiting to pass from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean, her 17 Swordfish torpedo bombers of Nos 813 and 824 Squadrons were flown to Port Sudan. On 2 April two of the Swordfish aircraft bombed a freighter at Merca, and at dawn on 3 April a search by six of the Swordfish began at 04.30: at 05.11, another Swordfish spotted four Italian destroyers 23 miles (37 km) to the east of Port Sudan. Three of the Swordfish on patrol were summoned to the scene and the four aircraft bombed, achieving several near misses with 250-lb (110-kg) bombs. One Swordfish remained to shadow the ships as the others returned to rearm, and at 08.13 seven Swordfish aircraft attacked, one aircraft from the rear and one from each side of each target. Nazario Sauro was hit by all six bombs from one Swordfish and quickly sank, and casualties were caused on the other three ships by near-misses. Five Blenheim light bombers of the RAF’s No. 14 Squadron arrived in time to see Nazario Sauro hit, attacked a stationary destroyer and reported that her crew abandoned ship, that the warship had been set on fire, exploded and sank, but Cesare Battisti was later found beached on the Arabian coast.
At 10.10, another four Swordfish warplanes found the Italian destroyers 120 miles (195 km) away. Daniele Manin was hit amidships by two bombs and the crew abandoned ship, and three Swordfish aircraft obtained near misses. The last two destroyers were shadowed until they were out of range. Pantera and Tigre were found 14 miles (22 km) to the south of Jeddah, where they were being abandoned. Blenheim bombers of No. 14 Squadron and Wellesley bombers of No. 223 Squadron from Port Sudan claimed hits on both ships, one of which caught fire. The destroyer Kingston arrived to complete the destruction of the ships. Vincenzo Orsini, which had run aground at Massawa, managed to refloat and was scuttled in the harbour on 8 April after being bombed by the Swordfish aircraft of No. 813 Squadron, and the torpedo boat Giovanni Acerbi was also sunk by aircraft. On 7 April, before being scuttled, the antiquated motor torpedo boast MAS-213, a relic from World War I, torpedoed the cruiser Capetown as she escorted minesweepers off Massawa. Capetown was towed to Port Sudan, eventually to sail for Bombay where she was under repair for a year and then relegated for service as an accommodation ship.
After Aosta’s surrender at Amba Alagi on 18 May, some Italian forces held out at Assab, the last Italian harbour on the Red Sea. 'Chronometer' took place on 10/11 June in the form of a landing at Assab by the 3/15th Punjab Regiment from Aden, carried by a flotilla comprising the light cruiser Dido, the Indian sloops Indus and Clive, the auxiliary cruiser Chakdina and the submarine Tuna. Dido bombarded the shore from 05.05 to 05.12, and aircraft flew overhead before bombing the port to drown the sound of two motor boats each carrying 30 men, who disembarked on the pier at 05.19 without being discovered. Two Italian generals, one of them Generale di Brigata Area Pietro Piacentini, the commander of Settore Nord, were taken prisoner in their beds and the success signal was fired at 06.00.
The flotilla entered the harbour behind a minesweeper and landed the rest of the Punjabis, who sent parties to search the islands nearby and found them to be unoccupied. At 07.00 the civil governor was taken to Dido and surrendered Assab to Rear Admiral R. Halifax and Brigadier H. Dimoline. During the evening, Capitano Bolla, the senior Italian naval officer at Assab, was captured, disclosed the positions of three minefields in the approaches to the harbour and told the British that the channel to the east, to the north of Ras Fatma, was clear. The 3/15th Punjabis took 547 prisoners in 'Chronometer' along with the two generals and 35 Germans. On 13 June, the Indian trawler Parvati struck a magnetic mine near Assab and became the last naval casualty of the campaign.
A force under Gazzera, the governor of Galla-Sidama and the new acting viceroy and governor general of Africa Orientale Italiana, was now threatened by a growing irregular force of Arbegnoch, and many of his local units simply melted away. On 21 June, Gazzera abandoned Jimma and about 15,000 men surrendered. On 3 July, the Italians were cut off by the Free Belgian forces under the command of Generaal-majoor Auguste Eduard Gilliaert, who had earlier defeated the Italians at Asosa and Saïo. On 6 July, Gazzera and 2,944 Italian, 1,535 African and 2,000 bande formally surrendered. The 79o Battaglione coloniale changed sides and was renamed the 79th Foot, and so too did one company of banda to become the Wollo Banda.
Wolchefit pass was a position whose control was needed for the launch of the final attack on Gondar, and was defended by a garrison of about 4,000 men under the command of Colonnello Mario Gonella in localities distributed to a depth of about 3 miles (4.8 km). The stronghold had been besieged by irregular Ethiopian forces, led by Major B. J. Ringrose, since the beginning of May, and on 5 May the Italians retreated from Amba Giorgis. The besieging force was later augmented by the arrival of the 3/14th Punjab Battalion and part of the 12th (African) Division. Several attacks, counterattacks and sorties were launched between May and August 1941. On 28 September, after suffering 950 casualties and running out of provisions, Gonella surrendered with 1,629 Italian and 1,450 Ethiopian soldiers to Brigadier W. A. L. James’s 25th (East African). Work on the repair of the road to Gondar began during the autumn rains.
Gondar, the capital of Begemder province in north-western Ethiopia, is about 120 miles (195 km) to the west of Amba Alagi. After Gazzera’s surrender, Nasi, the acting governor of Amhara, became the new acting viceroy and governor general of Africa Orientale Italiana, and at Gondar faced the British and a growing number of Arbegnoch men, but held out for almost seven months. While the Regia Aeronautica in East Africa had been worn down quickly by attrition, the Italian pilots fought on to the end. After the death of his commander, Tenente Malavolti, on 31 October, Sergente Giuseppe Mottet became the last Italian fighter pilot in Africa Orientale Italiana and on 20 November flew the final Regia Aeronautica sortie, a ground-attack mission in the last CR.42 against British artillery positions at Culqualber. Mottet fired one burst and killed Lieutenant Colonel Ormsby, the local artillery commander. On landing, Mottet destroyed the CR.42, joined the Italian troops and fought until the surrender. On 27 November, Nasi surrendered with 10,000 Italian and 12,000 African troops, British losses being 32 men killed, 182 wounded, six men missing and 15 aircraft shot down since 7 April. After the war, the Italian casualties were defined as 4,000 men killed and 8,400 men wounded or taken ill.
Thus the 'pearl of the fascist regime' had lasted only five years, but the performance of the Italian army here exceeded that in North Africa, but there had nonetheless still been a high ratio of prisoners to casualties. Mass defections by local forces suggested that Fascist imperialism had made little impression on the East African public. The Italian navy at Massawa had shown a staggering lack of energy and failed to challenge British access to Mombasa and Port Sudan, or to threaten the landing at Berbera. The army had failed to exploit British supply difficulties and had left stores behind for the British to use. The British had withdrawn the Indian 4th Division and RAF squadrons for North Africa in February 1941, despite the Italian forces remaining at Amba Alagi, which from 20 April to 15 May, were steadily pressed back until they surrendered on 19 May.
Ethiopia, the Somalilands and Eritrea had been conquered by the British, and the end of organised Italian resistance led to the reduction of the East Africa Force and Air Headquarters East Africa by the redeployment of the South African and the two Indian divisions to Egypt, along with one reconnaissance, three fighter and three bomber squadrons, followed by two more squadrons late in May. The 11th and 12th (African) Divisions remained, supported by six RAF and SAAF squadrons. The Italians at Galla-Sidom and Gondar were mopped up and the final surrender was taken by the Belgian contingent from Congo. Mussolini blamed the disaster on the 'deficiency of the Italian race', but the Fascist régime survived in Italy and the British victory had little influence on Japanese strategy in the Far East. With the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden cleared of Axis forces, Roosevelt had declared that the areas were no longer combat zones on 11 April 1941, and US shipping was thus able to proceed to the Suez Canal, which helped to relieve the strain on British shipping resources.
The Italians had replaced their ciphers in Africa Orientale Italiana in November 1940, but by the end of the month the Government Code and Cypher School in England and the Cipher Bureau Middle East in Cairo had broken the new Regio Esercito and Regia Aeronautica ciphers. By 1941, sufficient low-grade ciphers had been broken to reveal the Italian order of battle and the supply situation, by the time that the British offensive began on 19 January 1941. Italian dependence on wireless communication, using frequencies on which it was easy for the British to eavesdrop, led to a flood of information, from the daily report from the viceroy to the operational plans of the Regia Aeronautica and Regia Esercito during the retreat from Keren. On occasion, British commanders had read messages before the recipients had managed to do so, and it was reported later by the deputy director of military intelligence in Cairo, that '…he could not believe that any army commander in the field had [ever] been better served by his intelligence…'
On 16 April 1941, the authorities in Africa Orientale Italiana signalled to Rome that 426 officers had been killed, 703 wounded and 315 taken prisoner in the course of military operations before the surrender. Casualties among non-commissioned and other ranks were 4,785 killed, 6,244 wounded and 15,871 taken prisoner. Casualties among locally recruited men were 11,755 dead, 18,151 wounded and 3,076 captured before the surrender; the truppi coloniale figures did not include forces on the Giuba and eastern fronts. By May 1941, of the total of some 350,000 men in Africa Orientale Italiana available for military operations in June 1940, only some 80,000 men in the garrisons near Gondar and the seven colonial divisions in Galla-Sidamo remained to be taken prisoner. More casualties among the Italian and colonial troops occurred after April 1941, in the operations against Amba Alagi (3,500 casualties), Kulkaber/Culqualber (1,003 killed and 804 wounded) and Gondar (4,000 killed and 8,400 sick and wounded). The British official history recorded that from June 1940 to May 1941, the East African Force had sustained 1,154 battle casualties and 74,550 sickness or accident cases, including instances of 10,000 dysentery and 10,000 malaria cases, of which 744 were fatal. The RAF lost 138 aircraft; the Free French Flight No. 1 lost two Martin Maryland twin-engined light bombers. The Regia Aeronautica lost 250 of the 325 aircraft in Africa Orientale Italiana when the war began and the 75 flown to the region during the campaign. The Free Belgian Force Publique suffered 462 fatalities from all causes.
Until 27 November 1941, two African divisions mopped up pockets of resistance until the last formed Italian units surrendered.Between the end of 1941 and September 1943, about 7,000 men in scattered Italian units 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, were in the position to intervene. Amedeo Guillet was one of the Italian officers who fought with the Italian guerrillas in Ethiopia. Another notable guerrilla leader was Hamid Idris Awate, a father of the Eritrean Liberation Front. Other Italian officers were Capitano Francesco De Martini in Eritrea, Colonnello Calderari in western Ethiopia and Somalia, Colonnello di Marco in Ogaden and British Somalil, the 'blackshirt Centurione de Varda in Somalia and Ethiopia ,and Maggiore Lucchetti in Ethiopia. Civilians were also involved in the guerrilla war, and in August 1942, forces led by Dr Rosa Dainelli sabotaged the main British ammunition dump in Addis Ababa. Hostilities in East Africa officially came to an end on 9 September 1943, when the Italian armistice with the Allies came into effect, but some 3,000 Italian soldiers continued the guerrilla war until October 1943 as they were unaware of the armistice.
In January 1942, with the final official surrender of the Italians, the British, under US pressure, signed an interim Anglo-Ethiopian Agreement with Haile Selassie, acknowledging Ethiopian sovereignty. Makonnen Endelkachew was named as Prime Minister and on 19 December 1944, the final Anglo-Ethiopian Agreement was signed. Eritrea was placed under British military administration for the duration and in 1950, it became part of Ethiopia. After 1945, Britain controlled both Somalilands as protectorates. In November 1949, the United Nations granted Italy trusteeship of Italian Somaliland under close supervision, on condition that Somalia achieve independence within 10 years. British Somaliland became independent on 26 June 1960 as the State of Somaliland, the Trust Territory of Somalia (ex-Italian Somaliland) became independent on 1 July 1960, and the territories united as the Somali Republic. British Somaliland later declared independence on 18 May 1991 and since then has been an autonomous but internationally unrecognised state known as the Republic of Somaliland.