East African Safari

John Teasdale offers a brief glimpse into the history of military transport in East Africa

Some time in 1941 British colonial troops prepare to depart in convoy to Jimma, the largest city on south-western Ethiopia. The Italian garrison of the city was one of the last to surrender, holding out until July 1941. The two lorries seen here are both Italian. The nearest is a diesel-engined Fiat 634, which as it has a civilian-pattern dropside body may be the civilian version (634 N) rather than the military (634 NM). Beyond is a Lancia Ro. The usual military version of this lorry (Ro NM) was fitted with a diesel engine, but Lancia also built a petrol-engined military version (Ro BM) for use in the colonies

Given the prominence in popular culture today of the fighting in North Africa during the World War Two, the fact that the Italians embarked upon the colonisation of Libya (in 1911) is well known. Perhaps less well known is the fact that the Italians also colonised Eritrea and Somaliland in East Africa (in the 1880s). On October 3, 1935 Italy declared war on Ethiopia (which shared borders with both Eritrea and Somaliland). The Italians captured the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on May 5, 1936, and annexed the country. The three countries were merged to form Italian East Africa; this surrounded on the landward side both British Somaliland and French Somaliland. (These protectorates were situated on the Gulf of Aden.)

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