Bisheshwar Prasad, D. Litt.
Combined Inter-Services Historical Section
(India & Pakistan)
TO ALL WHO SERVED
ChairmanSecretary, Ministry of Defence, India MembersDr. Tara Chand
Prof. K.A. Nilakanta Sastri
Prof. Mohammad Hasbib
Dr. R.C. Mujumdar
General K.S. Thimayya
Lieut.-General Sir Dudley Russell
Lieut.-General S.P.P. Thorat
Military Adviser to the High Commissioner
for Pakistan in India
SecretaryDr. Bisheshwar Prasad
CAMPAIGNS IN THE WESTERN THEATRE
NORTH AFRICAN CAMPAIGN 1940-43
CAMPAIGN IN WESTERN ASIA
CAMPAIGN IN ITALY 1943-45
EAST AFRICAN CAMPAIGN 1940-41
TO ALL WHO SERVED
This volume is the fourteenth to be published in the series "Official History of the Indian Armed Forces in the Second World War." The story relates to the Western Theatre and is a fitting companion to our earlier publication Campaign in North Africa. It described the fighting with the Italian forces in East Africa. The regions covered are Eritrea and Ethiopia where the two Indian Infantry Divisions, the 4th and the 5th, played a distinguished role. A shattering blow was inflicted on the Italians in East Africa by a giant pincer movement on a large scale, the northern arm of which was formed by British and Indian forces operating from the Sudan and the southern arm by the forces advancing through Kenya. The Indian forces from the north conquered Eritrea and broke the back of Italian resistance in East Africa at Keren; the forces from the south conquered Italian Somaliland and opened Addis Ababa for the return of the Ethiopian Emperor. As the jaws of the pincer closed the army of the Duke of Aosta was pinned between the two forces and he surrendered at Amba Alagi in May 1941. This meant the military and political collapse of Italian East Africa.
The Government of India set up an organisation before the termination of the Second World War to gather material for writing an objective and authentic account of the operations in which the Indian armed forces had participated. This organisation grew into the War Department Historical Section, which on the partition of India in 1947 was designated as the Combined Inter-Services Historical Section, India and Pakistan, and was to work as the joint venture of the two Governments. This organisation was commissioned to produce a history of military operations and organisational activities relating to war. This official history has been planned into three series, viz., the campaigns in the western theatre; the campaigns in the eastern theatre; and the activities pertaining to organisation and administration. The present volume is the last of the series dealing with the Campaigns in the Western Theatre. The material for this volume was initially compiled by Major N.A. Qureshi. More information was subsequently added and the draft of the history prepared by Dr. Dharm Pal, which was revised and rewritten in parts by Dr. K.N. Pandley. All these officers at one
time or the other belonged to the Historical Section. To them my thanks are due. The maps for this volume as for others were prepared by Shri T.D. Sharma to whom I am grateful. Iia am also grateful to Shri P.N. Khera for reading the narrative and seeing it through the Press.
The narrative has been read and approved by Prof. K.A. Nilakanta Sastri and Lieut-General S.P.P. Thorat, DSO, both members of the Advisory Committee to whom I am grateful.
In conclusion, IN acknowledge with thanks the unstinting co-operation and encouragement I have received from the Ministries of Defence of India and Pakistan.
Preface x Introduction xix Chapter Page I. The Background 1 II. Topography 12 III. The First Encounters 24 IV. Italians on the Retreat 40 V. The First Assault on Keren 50 VI. The Advance Down the Red Sea Coast 72 VII. Plan for the Final Attack on Keren 81 VIII. The Battle of Keren 92 IX. The Advance Continues 122 X. The Capture of Amba Alagi 132 XI. Conclusion 153 Appendices 157 Bibliography 173 Index 175 Appendices I. Order of Battle of 5th Indian Division (on 27 September 1940) 159 II. Order of Battle GAZELLE Force on Being Formed on 16 October 1940 160 III. Order of Battle--Troops in the Sudan as on 20 January 1941 161 IV. Estimated Order of Battle of Italian Northern Army on 10 April 1941 169 MAPS Facing page 1. East Africa 13 2. Eritrea (Communications) 17 3. Northern Ethiopia 21 4. Gallabat--Metemma Area 31 5. The Advance--Kassala to Keren, Part I 41 6. The Advance--Kassala to Keren, Part II 45 7. Operations in Om Ager Area 47 8. Keren--The First Attack, Part I 51 9. Keren--The First Attack, Part II 69 10. Operations by 7th Indian Infantry Brigade, Part I 75 11. Operations by 7th Indian Infantry Brigade, Part II 79 12. Operations by 7th Indian Infantry Brigade North of Keren page 96 13. Keren--The Final Battle Facing page 115 14. The Pursuit by the Indian Division, Keren to Asmara 123 15. Advance to Massawa 127 16. Battle of Massawa 131 17. The Pursuit, Southward from Asmara 133 18. The Area North of Amba Alagi 135 19. The Features North of the Falaga Pass page 140 20. The Battle of Amba Alagi Facing page 145 ILLUSTRATIONS (between pages 24 and 25) 1 Captain Premindra Singh Bhagat, V.C., Royal Bombay Sappers and Miners 2. Subedar Richpal Ram, V.C., 4/6 Rajputana Rifles 3. General Sir Archibald P. Wavell 4. Lt.-Gen. Sir William Platt 5. Maj.-Gen. A.G.O. Mayne 6. Maj.-Gens. L.M. Heath and N.M. de la P. Beresford-Peirse 7. Ethiopian Patriots on the March 8. Captured Italian War Material at Agordat (between pages 56 and 57) 9. One of the fine thoroughfares in Asmara 10. Lt.-Gen. W. Platt Inspects His Guard of Honour at the Governor's Palace at Asmara 11. Sappers and Miners of the Indian Army Clearing a Road Block Between Asmara and Massawa 12. The Sign Post Showing Massawa 13. Men of the 4/10 Baluch March Into Asmara 14. Indian Troops Manning an A.A. Post at Tessenei 15. A View of the Deserted Laquatat Fortress Near Agordat 16. Captured Italian War Material at Agordat (between pages 62 and 63) 17. Captured Italian War Material at Agordat 18. Punjabi Soldiers in Position on a Hill Top Between Tessenei and Barentu 19. A Bren-gun Carrier Section of the Garhwalis About to Move off on Reconnaissance Somewhere in Eritrea 20. A Panorama of the Mountains Around Keren 21. Supplies for the Troops by the Mules in Keren Hills 22. Supplies for Troops in Keren--Unloading Provisions and Stores at the Dumps 23. In the "Dug Out' Office of the G.O.C. of an Indian Division at the Foot of the Keren Hills 24. A View of Keren (between pages 84 and 85) 25. Signalmen Operate the Field Telephone at Battalion Hq. on Top of One of the Keren Hills 26. Men of the Central India Horse in Action in the Front Line in the Keren Hills 27. Bren-gun Carriers of 4/11 Sikh Regiment Coming into Action Around Keren 28. Keren at Last 29. These Punjabis in Eritrea With an Anti-tank Gun are Ready for All Comers 30. Men of 4/16 Punjab Regt. in Action With Their 3" Mortars in Eritrean Highlands 31. Indian Troops Constructing a Road in Eritrea 32. Some of the Bren-gun Carriers of a Famous Indian Cavalry Regiment in the Mountains of Ethiopia (between pages 102 and 103) 33. A Despatch Riders Section in the Amba Alagi Area 34. A Truck of a Mechanised Column of an Indian Cavalry Regiment About to Start off on a Patrol in the Amba Alagi Area 35. A Bren-gunner and a Rifleman in a Stone Sangar at an Observation Post, Ethiopia 36. A Squadron Section Post and Observation Post Beyond Amba Alagi 37. Road Block Partly Cleared for the Trucks to Carry Supplies to the Forward Troops in Ethiopia 38. Panorama of the Country on the Southern Side of the Falaga Pass in Ethiopia 39. Members of the Jammu and Kashmir Mountain Battery at Work Camouflaging Their Guns 40. With Bayonets Fixed a Platoon of the Sikhs Attack an Italian Position up a Mountain in Ethiopia (between pages 142 and 143) 41. A 25-Pounder Gun in Action Against Amba Alagi 42. On the Level Top of the Hill Men Take Their Next Advance at the Double, During an Attack on a Mountain Feature in Amba Alagi Area 43. Italian Motor Transport in Fort Toselli Captured by Allied Troops 44. The Prisoners of War in Enda Medani Alem Make a Huge Dump of Arms 45. Indian Troops on Guard Over What Was Left of Fort Toselli 46. The Duke of Aosta, After His Surrender, With British Generals and Staff Officers Leaving the Former Italian Stronghold at Amba Alagi 47. Maj.-Gen. Mayne With Some Officers After the Amba Alagi Victory 48. Italian Prisoners of War March Down From Toselli Fort to the Bottom of Toselli Pass at Enda Medani Alem
R.H.A. (A.T.) Royal Horsed Artillery (Animal transport) R.A. Royal Artillery MMG Group Motor Machine-Gun Group orMedium Machine Gun Group SDF Sudan Defence Force SR Sudan Regiment pdrs. pounders
Transcribed and formatted by Patrick Clancey, HyperWar Foundation