The East Africa campaign

The East African Campaign (1940 - 1941)

Fighting over the Horn of Africa

On 2 May 1936,

When Emperor Haile Selassie I leaves Addis Ababa to exile, Mussolini is able to form his East African Empire (AOI) by finally incorporating Ethiopia into the older territories of Eritrea and Italian Somalia. However, in 1940 when a conflict with Italy seems imminent, this enclave in the British Empire quickly appears as a potential danger.

First, the presence of bases of operations for Regia Aeronautica and Regia Marina threatens communications between the different parts of the Empire. Indeed, in the event of a closure of the Mediterranean, the passage through the Red Sea appears as a strategic communication route between the metropolis, Egypt and India. Secondly, an offensive against Sudan could eventually allow the Italians to open two fronts against Egypt.

Thus, if this theater of operations appears to be minor compared to others, the Italian presence is anything but negligible and susceptible to serious inconvenience against the British war effort.

Video presented with the kind permission of Tinus le Roux.

Chronology of events :

The Kingdom of Italy, through Benito Mussolini declares war on France and England. The East African Campaign begins as the various air forces come into action.

July 1940

Benefiting from a temporary military advantage, the Italians launch a series of limited offensives along the Sudanese and Kenyan borders in order to capture key border posts and wells to block access.

3 - 18 August 1940

With the aim of reducing the lines of defense, the Italians decide to launch a final offensive in order to conquer British Somalia, a real enclave in Italian East Africa.

Some memories of East Africa

Some memories of East Africa

Two members of No.2 (SAAF) Squadron with two mascots: Vickers and Spitfire. The two cheetahs, offered by Kenyan white farmers or indigenous chiefs (depending on the version), will give the names and different variants of the badge worn by the squadron.

This tradition of “Flying Cheetahs” is still perpetuated by the No.2 (SAAF) Squadron on the JAS 39 Gripen.

The story of the two cheetahs is, unfortunately, more tragic since they would have been shot down after a succession of incidents …

Collection : Imperial War Museum.