“Except for the German parachute division in Italy and the Japanese in Burma no enemy with whom the British and Indian troops were matched put up a finer fight than those Savoia battalions at Keren (Eritrea). Moreover, the Colonial troops, until they cracked at the very end, fought with valour and resolution, and their staunchness was a testimony to the excellence of the Italian administration and military training in Eritrea.”

Eritrea 2

The quotation above is from the Wikipedia entry on Eritrean Askari.

The entry explains: ‘The Eritrean Askari were indigenous soldiers from Eritrea, who were enrolled as askaris in the Royal Corps of Colonial Troops (Regio Corpo di Truppe Coloniali) of the Italian Army during the period 1889–1941.’

There is no doubt that Italy was proud of its colonial troops and used them extensively both in Sudan and Ethiopia. Among them was  Hamid Idris Awate, nicknamed the Father of Eritrea because he fired the first shots of the Eritrean War of Independence against the Ethiopians.

Tisisat Dildil

The painting on the postcard above appears to commemorate an event after the invasion and occupation of Ethiopia by the Italians (3 October 1935 – May 1936).

Ras Desta Damtew held out against the Italians until December 1937. Was this a cavalry charge to eliminate him and his forces?  All I can find is this reference, which referred to a medal awarded to an Italian officer posthumously.

Commander of high professional ability and serene courage, superbly renewed the noble traditions of momentum and sacrifice proper to the weapon to which he belonged. Committed with his group of squadrons to expand and consolidate a bridge of great importance recently occupied by our troops, he brilliantly fulfilled his task. Reached, overwhelmed and annihilated, in a sore and bloody charge, a first group of enemies, with fiery decision, swayed boldly on significant reinforcements, dispersing them. While aiming to collect and rearrange his own squadrons, who had competed in the brutal struggle, he was struck dead, ending the noble existence inspired by the high sentiments of Homeland and of duty. Bridge Tisisat Dildil, November 27, 1937.

If anyone can provide further information, please let me know.

I have previously published postcard images of these troops, which you can find here. The images on this blog are from a very kind friend, who has just given them to me.


Eritrean troops