View Full Version : Italian resistance against Britons after the fall of Italian Eastern Africa

10-04-2012, 06:34 PM
By August of 1942, to call Addis Abeba even a distant battlefield in the scope of the Second World War seemed charitable. The Italian Army had been routed almost 10 months earlier. Most of the troops that had liberated Abbyisania were en route either to Egypt or the Far East. The main British ammo depot in Addis Abeba hardly seemed to need guarding under such circumstances – until it erupted in flames, destroying ammunition for the new British Sten machine guns badly needed on other fronts.

The explosion was an act of sabotage – one of many in the unheralded Italian guerrilla war in East Africa.

The shot was made by a brave Italian female patriot: Rosa Dainelli.

The Italian strenght startet to weak day by day since the end of 1940, as the the conctacts and resupply from Fatherland resulted every day more difficoult, and Allied troops prepared to invade with a force of 250,000 by January 1941. Part of the invading army included irregular Abyssinian troops under British command. Named the Gideon Force, the unit may have only numbered 2,000 “patriots” as the British called them, but became extremely feared by Italian soldiers. Like Lawrence of Arabia a conflict before, Gideon Force cut supply lines, blew up key positions, harassed the enemy and was led by a British eccentric – in this case, Orde Wingate, who would go on to greater fame as the leader of the “Chindits” in Burma. And like Lawrence’s Arab irregulars in World War I, the Gideon Force, although nominally a British infantry regiment, took few prisoners. Italian pacification of Abyssinia had been particularly brutal, and Wingate’s “patriots” relished the opportunity to inflict their revenge.
The invading Allied armies discovered what the Italians had in 1935 – Abyssinia had little infrastructure for a modernized, motorized army to use. Lacking the ability to be resupplied, the Italian Viceroy for East Africa, Prince Amedeo, the Duke of Aosta, fought a rear-guard campaign, holding defensive positions until his units, worn by constant attack and dwindling resources, moved on to the next redoubt. The strategy worked – sort of. Addis Abeba fell in early May, almost five years to the day of the Abyssinian defeat and five months after the initial invasion. While the crown jewel of the Italian Empire had surrendered, the Italian regular army fought on with the last 23,000 troops giving up at the Battle of Gondor in late November. The Italians had accomplished their only possible objective – draw out the operation and keep British forces away from North Africa.

The fall of the Italian East Africa Empire meant freedom for the Abyssinians and at least a change to a democratic colonial master for others, but left one group in political limbo – the 40,000 Italians who had moved to Abyssinia and now lived there (other 200000 were temporary workers not resident). Some were simply bureaucratic paper-pushers or government-sponsored clerks, but others were engineers, workers and settlers who had looked for a place to build their future and fortune. Abyssinia would become as a sort of India for the Britons – the economic engine of Italian colonialism and the settling ground for a planned two million Italians immigrants.

Rebels loyal to exiled Emperor Haile Selassie restarted to rule in country after the Italian defeat, and for the 3,200 families of farmers who attempted to cultivate the land found it as unforgiving as the gun-wielding partisans. Hatred for Italy and will of revenge grew up along with the fear of Italian civilians for their lives.

Seeing no future in East Africa, the only hope for Italian civilians was in the past – a return of the fascist regime. Two major Italian guerrilla organizations grew quickly in the wake of the defeat, along with many others. One of the groups, Fronte di Resistenza, (Front of Resistance) was a combination military and civilian resistance group operating out of the major cities. Lacking weapons, the group resorted to sabotage (like the Addis Abeaba ammo depot bombing) and spying on British troop movements. The other, Figli d’Italia (Sons of Italy), was a Blackshirt-recruited organization that also sort of involved Italian civilians.
Not all Italian troops embraced these forms of resistance. In fact, furthermore, roughly 7,000 Italian soldiers managed to escape capture and conduct a guerrilla war on the African plain for almost two years. Calling to mind the World War I German General Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck who successfully evaded capture of his East African Army for the entire war, a series of Italian commanders led their small bands of guerrillas, literally called “bande” in Italian, in raiding party attacks from 1941 to 1943.

The most memorable of these holdouts were the ”Tigray” fighters of Lt. Amedeo Guillet in Eritrea. Guillet had already earned the reputation from the British as the “Devil Commander” for his brazen, bordering on reckless, attack strategies during the British invasion. Ordered to protect an Italian retreat in early 1941 against an advancing British tank unit, Guillet and his calvary unit charged with swords drawn. Despite heavy colonial losses, Guillet halted the British advance while riding his horse between enemy tanks.
If Orde Wingate was “Lawrence of Abyssinia”, Guillet was the “Lawrence of Eritrea.”

Guillet not only evaded capture but managed to sneak back to Italy in 1943. His first request? To be sent back to Eritrea with gold and weapons to continue the guerrilla war – this despite the total Axis defeat in North & East Africa. Guillet’s request was denied as days later, Italy of king Victor Emmanuel would change sides. For the rest of the war Guillet would perform risky missions in German-held Italy, ironically working with a British commando unit whose previous task had been to try and capture him in Eritrea.

The British might have viewed Guillet and other Italian holdouts as relatively minor irratants, but the guerrillas’ actions caught the attention of Emperor Haile Selassie. That means that Italian guerrilla was much more effective than it's usually reported. By the summer of 1942, with Rommel at El Alamein and the British forced to send reinforcements to sections of East Africa to quell Italian fighting, Selassie hedged his bets and extended terms to the Italian rebels should the Allies be defeated. Selassie declared his willingness to accept an Italian Protectorate if the Italians agreed to:

1.a total amnesty for all the Ethiopians sentenced by Italy
2.the presence of Ethiopians in all levels of the administration
3.allow Selassie to maintain under throne under Italian rule
Selassie later denied that he made the offer. And for good reason. Shortly after the ammo depot explosion, due to this and other sabotage actions, British authorities decided for very strict measures like to round up all Italian civilians and place them in internment camps for the duration of the war (they were actually called “concentration camps” but the name was not yet synonymous with mass genocide). The sabotages almost ceased in the cities.

A few guerrillas remained in the field, fighting even after Italy’s surrender and switch to the Allied side. Colonel Nino Tramonti was one of the last to give up in October of 1943, a month after his forces were technically attacking their now British allies. The last unit to surrender, a banda of Eritrean ascari, even surrendered only in the spring of 1946 (about that small unit of irreducibles, read here, in Italian: http://ilcovo.mastertopforum.net/gli-eroi-che-si-arresero-agli-inglesi-solo-nel-1946-vt2305.html ).
The war in East Africa was finally over and for those few Italian civilians who chose to stay in Abyssinia, they discovered an unlikely protector – Haile Selassie.

Selassie did not force Italians to leave his country. Only after Selassie was overthrown and murdered by Communist forces in his own military in 1974 did the country embark on a forced emigration policy. 22,000 Italo-Ethiopians were forced to flee – many to a country they had never known. Today, fewer than 100 of the original Italian settlers who came during the ’30s & ’40s or their descendants remain in the country.

10-17-2012, 09:40 AM
Nice one post once again. Its awesome seriously.

10-17-2012, 11:31 AM
Nice one post once again. Its awesome seriously.

Are you trying to build up your post count here?

11-20-2012, 09:21 AM
I think I was once accused of "trying to build up your post count". This is a sin ? Gods know, it is quiet enough in this sector without putting people off on this count - although I do know what you mean, Nick ... Best regards, JR.

11-20-2012, 09:55 AM
I think I was once accused of "trying to build up your post count". This is a sin ? Gods know, it is quiet enough in this sector without putting people off on this count - although I do know what you mean, Nick ... Best regards, JR.

Sometimes spammers attempt to unlock further privileges by posting five or ten times before they start spamming advert link threads or posts all over the place. I was testing this user ID to see if it was a person, or a forum spam bot created by a program. Procyon recently installed a new anti-spammer tool in registration which has reduced activity to almost nothing. Prior to that the mods, especially Tankgeezer and myself, were banning upwards of over 100 spam bot usernames a day as well as deleting five to ten spam threads you couldn't see (most of the time) as any dodgy threads are automatically "moderated" meaning only admins can see them...

Here's a check of Vernonn's IP: http://www.stopforumspam.com/ipcheck/

11-20-2012, 10:56 AM
Thanks. That explains it. Mind you, I was accused of this when I had been on the 'photo" side for quite some time; and I am less than clear what a "forum spam bot" actually is ? Is it related to Mork from Ork, perhaps ? Ooooops ... my post count is rising again... Just kidding, JR.

11-20-2012, 12:28 PM
A spambot is just software, Maybe Malware is the correct term,it's designed to seek out websites that meet its parameters, and at least attempt to sign up a phoney membership. At some later time the software then will insert such spam as it has been designed to.

11-20-2012, 01:14 PM
Thanks, tankgeezer - I really am learning. Best regards, JR (a Very Basic Idiot)

11-20-2012, 01:19 PM
Most times, you can click on banned usernames lurking about with funny or nonsensical names online. These were phoney members generated with some sort of malicious program that can bring down websites by flooding it with fake user posts with links to "cheap Nikes from China" or something like that. That's why most registrations processes now ask specific questions in order to spoof any non human bot registering maliciously...