Italian East African Offensives

World War II in Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa 1940.0819

Italian East African Offensives

World War II, East African campaign, Madagascar campaign (19 August 1940)

Historical Map of Sub-Saharan Africa

When Italy entered World War II in June 1940, the armies of Italian East Africa immediately set about invading the British territories of Sudan and Kenya. However, lack of resources meant their only major success was to conquer the much smaller colony of British Somaliland in August.

Main Events

Operation Catapult

Following the fall of France, communications between France and Britain broke down, prompting British fears that the French fleet - the largest capital ship force in Continental Europe - would incorporated into the German Kriegsmarine. To prevent this, a British force approached the major French naval base of Mers-el-Kébir, Algeria, and demanded that the fleet stationed there either join them or disarm. When their ultimatum was rejected, the British attacked, sinking the French battleship Bretagne, grounding the destroyer Mogador, and causing significant damage to a number of other major French vessels.

Capture of Kassala

Three Italian columns advancing from Italian East Africa converge on Kassala, across the border in Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, at 03:00. After initial resistance by the Sudan Defence Force, the Italians capture the town. After also occupying Gallabat and Kurmuk, the Italians end their offensive in the Sudan for lack of fuel.

Capture of Moyale

Italian forces from Italian East Africa, advancing into the British colony of Kenya, capture Fort Harrington in Moyale. By the end of the month, they will have marched almost 100 km into Kenya and occupied Buna and Dabel. However, lack of supplies will prevent any further Italian conquests and these gains will be lost by February 1941.

Italian conquest of British Somaliland

Some 24,000 Italian troops from Italian East Africa invade British Somaliland, defended by around 4,000 British and native troops. The British fight a delaying action over two weeks before being evacuated from the port of Berbera by the Royal Navy.

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