Italian forces begin the invasion of British Somaliland (August 3, 1940) - History Key

Italian forces begin the invasion of British Somaliland (August 3, 1940)

The East African campaign during WWII was mainly fought between Britain and Italy. However, most of the British Allied forces came from the Commonwealth nations and included troops from Sudan, British Somalia, Indian Empire, South Africa, etc. Between the British forces also a group of Palestinians, Ethiopians, free French and free Belgians fought with them.

Italian East Africa, with provinces and provincial capitals, between May 7, 1936 (Annexation of Ethiopia) and August 1940 (when Italy invaded and annexed British Somaliland)
Italian East Africa, with provinces and provincial capitals, between May 7, 1936 (Annexation of Ethiopia) and August 1940 (when Italy invaded and annexed British Somaliland) © user: Themightyquill /CC BY-SA 3.0 /Image Source: Wikipedia
General Guglielmo Nasi around 1937, just before WWII
General Guglielmo Nasi around 1937, just before WWII © Image Source: Wikipedia

This day in history in 1940, Italy invaded the British Somaliland during the East African campaign. Approximately 25,000 Italian soldiers commanded by General Guglielmo Nasi entered the area.

The Italian forces that attacked British Somalia in August included five brigades of soldiers recruited from colonies, three national battalions and three groups of irregular colonial troops. Also the Italian army were equipped with a small number of armored vehicles, artillery pieces and a large number of aircraft.

On the other side, the British forces had nearly 400 Somali soldiers on camels, African Royal troops, a North Rhodesian battalion, one of Punjab and one of Scottish mountain hunters.

 

Ethiopian men gather in Addis Ababa, heavily armed with captured Italian weapons, to hear the proclamation announcing the return to the capital of the Emperor Haile Selassie in May 1941
Ethiopian men gather in Addis Ababa, heavily armed with captured Italian weapons, to hear the proclamation announcing the return to the capital of the Emperor Haile Selassie in May 1941 © Image Source: howlingpixel.com

Timeline

3 August 1940 – Italian forces invade the British Somaliland from Abyssinia

4 August 1940 – Italian forces marched towards one direction directions: Berbera. They were divided in three columns, the main one marched through Hargeisa and the other two columns flanked to the east and west

5 August 1940 – Italian troops captured Zeila, preventing the forces from French Somaliland to reinforce the British army

6 August 1940 – Italians captured another strategic area: Odweina

7 August 1940 – Indian army arrives in British Somaliland in order to reinforce the British Army

8 August 1940 – Troops from the second battalion and Scottish forces arrive also to reinforce against the Italian invasion.

11 August 1940 – Italian troops capture an important hill near Tug Argan.

12 August 1940 – The Italians capture another hill near Tug Argan.

13 August 1940 – British Royal Navy cruiser HMS Carlisle destroys an Italian aircraft while HMS Kimberley and HMS Auckland shelled the port of El Sheikha.

14 August 1940 – British commander Major General Godwin-Austen request permission to fall back and prepare for evacuation.

15 August 1940 – Italian troops capture another hill near Tug Argan.

16 August 1940 – British and Commonwealth troops evacuate Berbera while the Italians marched towards the capital. Most part of the Italians allowed the evacuation operation in order to maintain good relations with the British.

18 August 1940 – The British evacuation is completed.

19 August 1940 – Italian troops capture Berbera.

The conquest of British Somalia was the only victory of Fascist Italy against the Allies without the help of Nazi Germany. The invasion of British Somaliland caused 250 deaths among the British while the Italians lost more than 2,000.

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