Sunday, June 05, 2005

General Cunningham in East Africa in early 1941

General Cunningham attacked Italian Somaliland from Kenya, starting on February 10th, 1941. He had four infantry brigades in his force. On February 22, he fought a battle against six Italian brigades and indiginous troops, and beat them. When his enemy melted away, Conningham advance 200 miles to capture Mogadishu (a familiar name to us, as this point). Since he had no opposition, he marched his troops 700 miles to Ethiopia (which the British called Abyssinia). The British were already attacking the Italian positions in Eritrea, so this put Cunningham's forces in the Italian rear. After resting three days, he set off again. After itermediate stops at Harrar (March 26th) and Diredawa (March 29th), his troops entered Addas Abab on April 6th. General Auchinleck was so impressed by Cunningham's performance that he appointed him to command the 8th Army. The problem was that Cunningham was thrust into a role and environment with which was new to him. He had not commanded mechanized troops, and the desert was different from East Africa. This is based on the account in Correlli Barnett's book The Desert Generals.


yemish said...

I grew up in a house on Cunningham Street in Addis Ababa; the street was named after him in honor of his gallant march into Addis Ababa. I think it is believed that he liberated the capital from the hands of the Italians. General Cunningham was a great hero to the youth of Ethiopia in the 50s.

Jim said...

Thank you. General Cunningham did well routing the Italians from East Africa. He was worn out by the strain and lacked experience in mechanized warfare, so he was a poor choice to command the 8th Army in North Africa.

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