1. Churchill, W.S., The Second World War, Vol. 1 The Gathering Storm, p. 175.
2. Playfair, I.S.O., The Mediterranean and Middle East, Vol. 1, p. 2 (footnote)
3. Hitler in his Mein Kampf had expressed the idea that Italy could become an ally of Germany.
4. Playfair, op. cit. pp. 7-8.
5. Mein Kampf, Translated by James Murphy (London, 1939).
6. Playfair, op. cit. p. 23.
7. British Somaliland came under operational control on 13 January 1940.
8. Wavell's Despatch on Operations in the Middle East from August 1939 to November 1940.
9. He was appointed General Officer Commanding-in-Chief in June 1939, when the war clouds were gathering and a crisis appeared to be not very far off. From 15 February 1940 his title was changed to "Commander-in-Chief Middle East". This gave him wider powers of decision without having to refer to the home authorities and also placed him in a better position to collaborate with the French authorities.
10. Playfair, op. cit. p. 109.
11. Ibid. p. 94.
12. Ibid. p. 93.
13. Ibid. p. 96.
14. For the campaign in British Somaliland and Indian participation therein please refer to Playfair, The Mediterranean dn Middle East, Vol. 1, 171-9, 417-8.
At the time of Italian invasion British Somaliland had the following forces: 1st Battalion Northern Rhodes Regiment, 2nd Battalion King's African Rifles, 1st East African Light Battery from Kenya, 1/2 Punjab Regiment from Aden, 3/15 Punjab Regiment diverted from Aden and the Somaliland Camel Corps.
The Italians invaded Somaliland from Ethiopia early in August 1940 and the small British force was compelled by overwhelming numbers to withdraw after a brief stand at the Tug Argan pass. On evacuation units were taken into Aden. From there the two Indian battalions returned to land at Berbera in March 1941. With the aid of Royal Navy, Indian Navy and Royal Air Force the reoccupation of Berbera and its hinterland was accomplished against slight opposition. Thereafter, Berbera became the base for the South African forces which were now advancing into south-eastern Ethiopia.
15. Even before the war had begun the British and French staff delegations in laying down 'the broad strategic policy for the conduct of the war' had agreed on the need of taking 'adequate measures to raise the tribes in Ethiopia....' Butler, J.R.M. Grand Strategy, Vol. II, p. 10.
1. Gezira consisted of the area between the Blue Nile and the White Nile.
2. Handbook of Topographical Intelligence., The Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, p. 143.
3. Ibid. p. 144.
1. The 2nd West Yorkshires, the 1st Worcestershires and the 1st Essex.
2. Wavell's Despatch on Operations in the Middle East from August 1939 to November 1940.
4. Playfair, op. cit. pp. 169-170.
5. Ibid. p. 171.
6. The Abyssinian Campaigns, The Official Story of the Conquest of Italian East Africa, p. 22.
7. The Division was formed in India in 1939 under the command of Major-General L. M. Heath. It left for the Middle East in the summer of 1940 where one brigade joined the 4th Indian Division. It had as its sign a red circle shown against a black background which gradually came to symbolise a ball of fire.
8. Major-General L. M. Heath was the Division Commander. The brigades were commanded respectively by Brigadier A. G. O. Mayne, Brigadier W.J. Slim and Brigadier J. C. O. Marriott (See Appendix 1).
9. For composition of Gazelle Force see Appendix II.
10. The following extract, from the patrol report giving details of a talk with an Arab Sheikh, contacted east of Kassala throws an interesting sidelight on the effect of active patrolling on the British side.
"The Sheikh of the large Arab encampments north of the telegraph line Kassala-Sabderat, a Beni Amir, said that the line had been repaired by 1800 hours the previous day by a patrol which came out and made itself generally unpleasant to the locals from about 1500 hours. The main point of grievance was that the inhabitants had not warned the Italians of our patrol. He said that they were a lot less brave than before".
11. Report on Gazelle Force Operations, 1 to 11 November 1940, p. 6. (Appended to Hq. Gazelle Force War Diary for November 1940).
12. Playfair, op. cit. p. 392.
13. Wavell's Despatch on Operations in the Middle East from August 1939 to November 1940.
14. War Diary, 5th Indian Division, From Hq. 5 Indian Division to Hq. Troops in the Sudan dated 17 November 1940.
15. Wavell's Despatch on Operations in East Africa, November 1940 to July 1941.
16. Piatt's Despatch on Operations in Eritrea and Abyssinia, dated 11 September 1941.
1. For a description of forces in the Sudan at this time see Appendix III.
2. Lt. Bhagat and his men were given the difficult task of clearing the road full of minefields and booby traps. He worked forty-eight hours non-stop and exposed himself to great danger. "Twice his carrier was blown up and many of his men killed. Despite this he carried on, finally collapsing from exhaustion and shock and with both eardrums damaged by explosions. He had cleared 15 minefields and 55 miles of road". The Victoria Cross, India's V.C.s in two World Wars, p. 2.
3. Wavell's Despatch on Operations in East Africa, November 1940 to July 1941, para. 12.
1. The Italian Commander responsible for opposing British advance into Eritrea.
2. Brigadier R.A. Savory DSO, MC was the Commander of this brigade from March 1940 to September 1941.
3. War Diary 3/14 Punjab.
4. 5th Indian Infantry Brigade Operation Order No. 1 dated 7 February 1941.
5. War Diary 4/6 Rajputana Rifles.
6. 2 Mahratta joined the 4th Indian Division on 9 February 1941 from Om Ager.
7. The deserters up to this date had been mainly Ethiopian.
8. Actual Company strengths of 3/1 Punjab were A-51, B-30-40, C-27, D-10 Headquarters-65.
9. Gazelle Operation Order No. 17 dated 10 February 1941.
1. It was commanded by Brigadier H. R. Briggs.
2. 4/11 Sikh left the 7th Indian Infantry Brigade on 12 January and joined Gazelle Force.
3. Meadowforce was a small scout force of three officers and 90 Sudanese other ranks.
4. Forty miles north of Karora, on the coast.
5. Briggs, H. R., Account of the 7th Indian Infantry Brigade Operations on the Red Sea Littoral, Feb-Apr. 1941.
6. War Diary, 7th Indian Infantry Brigade, Instruction No. 1, dated 6 February 1941.
1. As a result of the decision to disband Gazelle Force, the following moves were ordered. 1 Horse and 390 Field Battery to Barentu on 15 February, the former rejoining the 5th Indian Division as divisional cavalry regiment; the latter rejoining 144 Field Regiment; 4 Motor Machine Gun Company was to proceed to Khartoum and thence to join the 7th Indian Infantry Brigade on the coast; 170 Field Ambulance to Kassala, also to join the 7th Indian Infantry Brigade. On 15 February, Colonel F. W. Messervy, Commander Gazelle Force, left to take over the command of 9 the Indian Infantry Brigade and Lt-Col J. G. Pocock CIH assumed command. Thus the force functioned for a few days more.
2. 4th Indian Division Intelligence Summary No. 122 dated 5 March and No. 128 dated 12 March 1941.
3. Platt's Despatch on Operations in Eritrea and Abyssinia, dated 11 September.
5. 4th Indian Division Operation Instruction No. 34, dated 11 March 1941.
6. 11th Indian Infantry Brigade Operation Instruction No. 16. 16, dated 11 March 1941,
7. 5th Indian Infantry Brigade Operation Order No. 4, dated 12 March 1941.
8. 5th Indian Division Operation Order No. 8, dated 13 March 1941.
9. 9th Indian Infantry Brigade Operation Order No. 7, dated 13 March 1941.
1. 2/5 Mahratta Operation Order No. 11, dated 12 March 1941.
2. It was commanded by Subedar N. Palao,
3. A short description of the attack by 2/5 Mahratta on Flat Top and col between Flat Top and Hog's Hack by Commander 2/5 Mahratta, dated 15 March 1941, Appendix III, War Diary 2/5 Mahratta,
4. 10th Indian Infantry Brigade Operation Order No. 1, dated 16 March 1941.
5. 5th Indian Division Operation Instruction No. 18, dated 16 March 1941.
6. Platt's Despatch on Operations in Eritrea and Abyssinia, dated 11 September, 1941.
7. 5th Indian Division Operation Instruction No. 19, dated 18 March 1941.
8. Three new ideas were tried in this attack:--
A proportion of the leading infantrymen carried corrugated iron shields as protection against the Italian hand grenades. The shields were not popular on account of their bulk and weight, but it was considered that the idea had potentialities and should be developed. One enthusiastic individual said that no less than six grenades had bounced off this shield and had left him only with a headache.
In the artillery support programme the guns fired smoke shells in the last five minutes. The idea was not to obtain smoke effect, but to enable the infantry to approach near to the artillery fire while giving the Italians the impression that the bombardment was still going on. This idea also showed great promise, but on this occasion the infantry did not take full advantage of it, probably for want of training.
In the middle of the artillery programme, the guns observed two pauses of five minutes' duration each. It was hoped thus to make the Italians think that the artillery had lifted and that the infantry attack was coming in, and to induce them to leave cover. It was not possible to assess the effect of this.
9. The force was commanded by Lt. Col. B.C. Fletcher.
10. 5th Indian Division Operation Instruction No. 21, Dated 23 March 1941.
11. W. Churchill. The Second World War, Vol. III The Grand Alliance, 79-80.
1. 5th Indian Division Operation Instruction JSfo. 24 dated 27 March 1941.
2. Almost three fourth of the power available in Asmara was generated at Massawa and in the event of Massawa electric supply being cut off the electricity and water position in Asmara would have been imperilled.
3. The Free French Column after the fall of Asmara was directed to proceed first to Ailet and then to Asmara-Massawa road between Ghinda and Dogali.
4. Playfair, op. cit. p. 442.
5. The Abyssinian Campaigns, pp. 51-52.
6. Addis Ababa was taken on 6 April. General Cunningham's forces in a campaign of two months captured over 50,000 prisoners and occupied some 360,000 square miles.
7. See Appendix IV for estimated Order of Battle of the Italian Northern Army, the units liquidated and those still to be dealt with, as on 10 April 1941.
1. 5th Indian Division Operation Instruction No. 25 dated 2 April 1941.
2. The garrison at Wolchefit surrendered on 28 September.
3. Gondar was captured on 27 November 1941.
4. 5th Indian Division War Diary Situation Report dated 24 April 1941, Appendix G 172.
5. The column was commanded by Lt. Col. I.F. Hossack.
6. Fletcher Force was first formed in the last days of the battle of Keren with the role of breaking into Keren and interfering with the Italian communications and headquarters. It was subsequently used in a pursuit role in the initial stage of the pursuit from Keren. It was then dissolved. It was reconstituted on 29 April to take charge of operations in the Falaga Pass sector. Lt. Col. Fletcher was in the meantime appointed to the officiating command of 9th Indian Infantry Brigade. As the battle in the Falaga Pass sector developed and the administrative situation became complicated a proper headquarters was required to conduct it. Therefore Headquarters 9th Indian Infantry Brigade moved from Asmara and took charge of the Falaga Pass sector operations. After this the force was sometimes referred to as Fletcher Force and at others as 9th Indian Infantry Brigade.
Fletcher Force, however, should not be confused with Flit Force, a mobile force constituted on 2 April, also under command of Lt-Col. B. C. Fletcher, with the role of conducting the pursuit south of Asmara along the Gondar and Addis Ababa roads. It was dissolved in front of Amba Alagi on 13 April on which date Fletcher was appointed to the officiating command of the 9th Indian Infantry Brigade.
7. The features called Dead Tree Hill, Furze Hill, Rump, and Step were small features in the hills to the north of the Falaga Pass.
8. The records of various units arc not agreed as to whether the attack by 29th Indian Infantry Brigade on 8 May was a silent one or with supporting fire. In his appreciation the General Officer Commanding 5th Indian Division had planned for the attack to be silent and the records of 6 Royal Frontier Force Rifles also say that the attack was such. The war diary of the brigade headquarters, however, states that it was put in with artillery support.
9. At this stage it was not certain how soon the 1st South African Brigade from the East Africa Force would be able to bring pressure upon the Amba Alagi position from the south. While liaison with the advancing troops from the south was being arranged the Commander 29th Indian Infantry Brigade was told by Headquarters 5th Indian Division to maintain his position on Centre Hill.
1. Playfair, op. cit., Vol. 1, p. 396.
2. Ibid., p. 448.
1. Appx. A to 5 Ind. Div. Intelligence Summary No. 159 of 11 April1941.
Transcribed and formatted by Larry Jewell & Patrick Clancey, HyperWar Foundation