Map in a newspaper reporting on British progress in the war against Italian forces in North and East Africa. Brigades of Black African soldiers including Nigerians, Ghanaians and Kenyans fought in these battles, particularly in the East African theatre. Source: The Salt Lake Tribune, Thursday, February 27th, 1941.
The war waged by Britain in East Africa which had the objective of dislodging the army of Fascist Italy from Ethiopia and Somaliland during the Second World War was a multinational effort with a strong input from West Africa.
While Orde Wingate’s Gideon Force aided Ethiopians to reclaim their land from Italian occupiers, it was a grand coalition of British Commonwealth forces which liberated these areas. There were distinct brigades within the Royal West African Frontier Force (RWAFF) composed of different nationalities most notably of those who originated from the colonial territories of Nigeria and the Gold Coast, which was later renamed Ghana. They were commanded by British officers.
How many are aware of the role of Nigerian soldiers, who in March 1941 pulled off the fastest military pursuit in history up to that point in time?
The Nigerian Army is claimed to have chased Italian forces like “cheetahs hunt a bull” while advancing from the southern part of Italian Somaliland up to Degehabur in the Somali region of Ethiopia, during which time they covered 930km in under 10 days!
© Adeyinka Makinde (2020).
Adeyinka Makinde has an interest in military history.