Liquidation of Italian East Africa

World War II: The Middle Eastern Theater

Southern Asia 1941.0406

Liquidation of Italian East Africa

World War II, East African Campaign, Allied invasions of Syria, Iraq and Iran (6 April 1941)

Historical Map of South & Southwest Asia

The British conquest of Italian East Africa culminated with the Italian surrender of Addis Ababa on 6 April 1941. One month later, Emperor Haile Selassie returned to his capital in triumph, marking the restoration of the Ethiopian Empire. However the Italian army would continue to hold out in the interior until November, with guerrilla warfare carrying on even after that.

Notes

Changes to the map 16 March 1941 - 06 April 1941

East African Campaign: British forces from Kenya (the 11th African Division) have crossed the Ogaden, capturing Jijiga and pushing on to Addis Ababa, which surrenders to them. The British troops in Berbera have proceeded to retake British Somaliland and marched on Jijiga, reaching it several days after the 11th African Division. In the west, Haile Selassie has reached Debra Markos and the British forces in Eritrea have captured Asmara and are approaching Massawa.

Iraq: Pro-Axis Iraqi nationalists have seized power, overthrowing the pro-British government and placing the RAF bases in Iraq - at Shaibah and Habbaniyah - under pressure.

Mediterranean: The Germans, supported by Bulgaria and Italy, have begun their conquest of Greece and Yugoslavia.

British Protectorates in the Persian Gulf

The British Residency of the Persian Gulf maintained British India's influence in a number of Gulf states from the 19th Century until 1947. These states were nominally independent - and shown as such in most atlases from the period - but all signed treaties guaranteeing British control over their foreign affairs.

The Sultanate of Muscat and Oman was the only one of these states with significant international relations, having obtained trade agreements with the US and France before it signed its treaty with Britain. Maps of the time often show Trucial Oman and even Qatar as regions of Oman.

Trucial Oman was the region to the west of Oman which collectively signed treaties with Britain. The sheikhdoms of this region were often called the Trucial States, and later became the United Arab Emirates. However at this time they had little unity, with no regional council until 1952.

Indian Empire

The British Indian Empire, also known as the British Raj, was comprised of a complex of presidencies, provinces, protectorates, and agencies. Only the top level subdivisions are shown here.

The area under direct British rule was known as British India and made up of presidencies and provinces - a presidency simply being the name for an older province.

Outside British India, but often included within the sphere of the presidencies/provinces, were the hundreds of protectorates or 'princely states'. These were indirectly ruled states, the largest being Hyderabad, Kashmir, and Mysore. The others were either collected into agencies - which might in turn contain other smaller agencies - or fell under the sway of the provinces.

Main Events

Iraqi coup d'état

Four Iraqi nationalist army generals, known as the "Golden Square", overthrow the pro-British regime of Regent 'Abd al-Ilah and Prime Minister Nuri al-Said in Iraq, installing Rashid Ali Al-Gaylani as Prime Minister. The coup is supported by Nazi Germany, which has provided funding and military assistance to the plotters. This challenges the British position in the Middle East and threatens the RAF air bases at Shaibah and Habbaniyah in Iraq itself.

Surrender of Addis Ababa

The British 11th African Division arrives outside Addis Ababa, capital of Italian East Africa, having traveled via Awash and Harar. They are supported by a general uprising of Ethiopian patriots and the withdrawal of Italian troops to the mountain fortresses of Gondar, Amba Alagi, Dessie, and Gimma. In response, the Italian Viceroy, the Duke of Aosta, orders the governor to surrender the city to the Allies. Triumphant Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie makes a formal entry into his capital on 5 May.

Battle of Greece

In Operation Marita, Nazi Germany invades Greece - already at war with Italy in Albania - from Bulgaria, opening up a second front. The Greeks are overwhelmed, with the First and Second Greek armies respectively trapped against the Albanian and Bulgarian borders and forced to surrender. In the face of this disaster, the British W Force decides to evacuate to Crete, holding back the Germans at Thermopylae for a few days as they withdraw. On 27 April the Germans enter Athens.

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