The Italian retreat in East Africa

British forces advancing across the plains of Africa, Abyssinia 1941.

In East Africa the Italians who had occupied Abyssinia were now falling back in disarray as British forces advanced on several fronts. A diary captured from an Italian Air Force pilot was translated by military intelligence, providing an insight into his view of Italian army officers:

8 May

By now we realise that we are surrounded, and at dusk we withdraw to the road where there are some vehicles ready to take us further up ALAGI hill.

At midnight a D.R. [despatch rider] arrives with the order that the men belonging to S. & T. should go up together with our own men. These men number about 200 and 30 of us. We arrive at the bake-house and then make our way to an arch under the road, waiting for daylight.

We are awakened by the sound of rifle fire from the rebels [local tribesmen supporting the British] and we can see them advancing hidden from sight of those on the crest of the road.

We have barely time to jump into a car and dash to the bake-house to report to the officers who are sheltering underground. Two M.Gs [machine-guns] are placed in position under a curve in the road which dominates the whole valley beneath.

Then rifle fire is opened up by our soldiers, all belonging to different units, who are without control and without orders. The officers, as usual, are all sheltering in the grottos, unaware of their responsibility at the present time …

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