Tuesday, 1 February 2011

italian camel corps ww2 my collection

My Collection is the soldiers I have at home.
When Italy's dictator, Mussolini, declared war on the Allies in June 1940, his forces in East Africa vastly outnumbered those of the British. The Italians had around 91,000 troops, with another 200,000 native forces; the British had just 9,000 troops in the Sudan and another 8,500 in Kenya.this piece came from the newsagents where i live in italy. every two weeks they reserved my piece and i paid my money over the counter. it was about 8 pounds fifty

As an imperial power Italy employed colonial troops in a number of capacities. The best troops for desert warfare were the Sahariani who were completely mechanised, having their own complement of motorised artillery. Most of Italy's colonial troops were poorly armed and untrained for modern warfare.

In Libya the Royal Corps of Libyan Troops was raised consisting of infantry and cavalry units. The two infantry divisions were destroyed in the fighting of 1940-41 and were only partially reformed, existing only as administrative depots. The cavalry was organised in groups of squadrons consisting of a headquarters and four squadrons of 150 men each.

The motorised saharan troops (Compagnia Sahariana) consisted of six companies organised as follows:

a headquarters platoon;

two or three machine gun platoons;

an anti-tank platoon;

a reconnaissance section of two to three Ghibli aircraft.

The strength of the company comprised 147 men, 20 motor transport vehicles, eight heavy machine guns and two 47mm anti-tank guns.
Italian camel-mounted troops

Camel-mounted troops were employed by the Saharan Command for desert patrol purposes and consisted of two companies, each of 280 men, four machine guns and 12 automatic rifles (see picture above).Despite this, the Italians were slow to get going. In July 1940 they pushed tentatively into Sudan, but then stopped. Only in August did they begin a serious offensive and only then against the easiest possible target - British Somaliland, on the African shore of the Gulf of Aden. The operation was intended to prevent any possible use by the British of the port of Djibouti, in French Somaliland, to gain access to Ethiopia

 Amedeo Guillet (February 7, 1909 - June 16, 2010) was a former officer

of the Italian Army. He was born in Piacenza. Descended from a noble

family from Piedmont, he graduated from the Academy of Infantry and

Cavalry of Modena in 1930 and began his career in the Italian Army. He

is one of the few men still living to have commanded cavalry in war.

Guillet, with the nickname of Devil Commander,[1] was famous during

the Italian guerrilla war in Ethiopia in 1942 because of his courage.

Pre World War II

Guillet was wounded in a tribal rebellion when stationed in Libya.

In 1936, Guillet participated in wargames in northern Italy as the

commander of the "Red Army." He drove before him the "Blue Army" of

Crown Prince Umberto.

An excellent horseman, Guillet was selected for the Italian Olympic

equestrian team and was due to compete in the Berlin 1936 Summer

Olympics. Instead, in late 1935, he used the connections of his

powerful relatives to transfer to the Spahis of Libya and participate

in the Italian conquest of Ethiopia. He distinguished himself in

numerous cavalry actions and subsequently volunteered to serve in

Spain during the Spanish Civil War. He had been offered the post of

aide-de-camp by General Luigi Frusci, and was proud to have won the

coveted post without the help of family connections.

During the Spanish Civil War, Guillet served as commander of a Company

of Arditi of the Division "Fiamme Nere" before becoming commander of a

Tabor of Moroccans. He distinguished himself at the capture of

Santander and at Teruel, winning the Silver Medal for gallantry.

Returning to Italy, and the Italian colony of Libya - where he was a

particular favourite of the governor, Italo Balbo - Guillet

encountered the anti-semitic, pro-Nazi phase of Italian Fascism. He

did not like what he saw and asked for a posting in Italian East

Africa, whose new Viceroy was the respected Amedeo, Duke of Aosta, who

was a mentor of Guillet. In Italian East Africa he carried out various

policing operations against insurgents loyal to the toppled Emperor

Haile Selassie

World War II

In the build up to World War II, Aosta gave Guillet command of the

2,500 strong Gruppo Bande Amhara, made up of recruits from throughout

Italian East Africa, with six European officers and Eritrean NCOs. The

core was cavalry, but the force also included camel corps and mainly

Yemeni infantry. For Guillet to be given command of such a force while

still only a lieutenant was a singular honour.

In 1940, he was tasked to form a "Gruppo Bande a Cavallo". The "Bande

a Cavallo" were native units that were recruited from Italian officers

who commanded these units. Amedeo Guillet succeeded in recruiting

thousands of Eritreans. His "Band", already named in the history books

as "Gruppo Bande Guillet" or " Gruppo Bande a Cavallo", were

distinguished for their absolute "fair play" with the local

populations. Amedeo Guillet could boast at never being betrayed, and

5000 Eritreans knew perfectly well who he was and where he lived. It

was during this time in the horn of Africa that the legend of a group

of Eritreans with excellent fighting qualities, commanded by a

notorious "Devil Commander" was born.

Guillet's most important battle happened towards the end of January

1941 at Cherù when he decided to attack enemy armoured units.At the

end of 1940, the allied forces faced Guillet on the road to Amba

Alagi, and specifically, in the proximity of Cherù. He was entrusted

by the Duca Amedeo Of Aosta in the task of delaying the allied advance

from the North-West. The battles and skirmishes in which this young

lieutenant was a protagonist (Amedeo did not have the appropriates

rank, but he commanded an entire brigade) are boldly written in the

British bulletins of war. The devilrys that he created from day to

day, almost seen as a game, explains why the Anglo-Saxons called him

not only "Knight from other times" but also the Italian "Lawrence of

Arabia".Horse charges with unsheathed sword, guns, incendiary and hand

bombs against the armored troops had a daily cadence. A look at

official documents show that in January 1941 at Cherù "... with the

task of protecting the withdrawal of the battalions... with skillful

maneuver and intuition of a commander... In an entire day of furious

combats on foot and horseback, he charged many times while leading his

units, assaulting the preponderant adversary (in number and means)

soldiers of an enemy regiment, setting tanks on fire, reaching the

flank of the enemy's artilleries... although huge losses of men,..

Capt. Guillet,... in a particularly difficult moment of this hard

fight, guided with disregard of danger, an attack against enemy tanks

with hand bombs and benzine bottles setting two on fire while a third

managed to escape while in flames."In those months many proud Italians

died, including many brave Eritreans who fought without fear for a

king and a people who they never saw or knew. Even today, the "Devil

Commander" uses words of deep respect and admiration for that proud

population to whom he feels himself in debt as a soldier, Italian and

man. He never stops to repeat that "the Eritreans are the Prussians of

Africa without the defects of the Prussians". His actions had the

hoped success and saved the lives of thousands of Italians and

Eritreans who withdrew in the territory better known as the Amba

Alagi. At dawn Gulliet charged against steel weapons with only swords,

guns and hand bombs at a column of tanks. He passed unhurt through the

British forces who were caught unaware. Amedeo then returned to the

steps in order to recharge. In the meantime, the British succeeded to

organize themselves and fire at raised zero with their howitzers. The

shells ripped open the chests of Guillet's horses before exploding. It

was the last cavalry charge the British faced one of the last in the

history. Guillet then turned to charge again. In the meantime however,

the British had organized themselves and fired horizontally with their

howitzers. Another cavlary charge took place little more than a year

later when a friend of Guillet, Colonel Bettoni, launched the men of

the "Savoia Cavalry" against Soviet troops in Russia at Isbuchenskij.

Guillet's Eritrean troops paid a high price in terms of human losses,

approximately 800 died in little more than two years and, in March

1941, his forces found themselves stranded outside the Italian lines.

Guillet, faithful until death to the oath to the House of Savoy, began

a private war against the British. Hiding his uniform near an Italian

farm, he set the region on fire at night for almost eight months. He

was one of the most famous Italian "guerrilla officers" in Eritrea and

northern Ethiopia during the Italian guerrilla war against the Allies

occupation of the Italian East Africa.

After numerous adventures, including working as a water seller,

Guillet was finally able to reach Yemen, where for about one year he

trained soldiers and cavalrymen for the Imam's army, whose son Ahmed

became a close friend. Despite the opposition of the Yemenite royal

house, he succeeded in embarking incognito on a Red Cross ship

repatriating sick and injured Italians and finally returned to Italy a

few days before the armistice.

As soon as Guillet reached Italy he asked for Gold sovereigns, men and

weapons to aid Eritrean forces. The aid would be delivered by

aeroplane and enable a guerilla campaign to be staged. But with

Italy's surrender, then later joining the Allies, times had changed.

Guilet was promoted to Major for his war accomplishments and was

assigned to the Military Intelligence Agency (SIM). In this role,

perhaps ironically, he was chosen by the British for some very

dangerous missions on Italian territory that was still under Nazi

Occupation. He worked closely with an official of the services, a

cadet of Colonel Harari, Victor Dan Segre, who later became his close

friend and biographer. Colonel Harari was the commander of the British

special unit services that tried to capture Guillet in Italian East


At the end of the war, and with the abolition of the monarchy, Guillet

expressed a deep desire to leave Italy. He informed Umberto II of his

intentions, but the King obliged him to keep serving his country in

whatever form of government it would become. As always, he couldn't

disobey an order from his King, so he expressed his desire to teach

anthropology at university.

Later life

Following the war Guillet entered the Italian diplomatic service where

he represented Italy in Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, Morocco, and finally as

ambassador to India until 1975. In 1971, he was in Morocco during an

assassination attempt on the King.

On 4 November 2000, the day of the Festivity of the Armed Forces,

Guillet was presented with the Knight Grand Cross of the Military

Order of Italy by President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi. This is the highest

military decoration in Italy. Today, Guillet is one of the most highly

decorated (both civil and military) people in Italian history. In

2001, Gulliet visited Eritrea and was met by thousands of supporters.

The group included men who previously served with him as horsemen in

the Italian Cavalry known as Gruppo Bande e Cavallo . The Eritrean

people remembered Gulliet's efforts to help Eritrea remain independent

of Ethiopia.

Since 1974 Guillet has been living in retirement in Kentstown, County

Meath, Ireland although latterly he has spent his winters in Italy.

For some years he was a member of and hunted with the Tara Harriers

and the Meath Hounds. In 2009, his 100th birthday was celebrated with

a special concert at the Palazzo Barberini in Rome.


Italian camel-mounted troops

The Italians had 26 battalions,backed by artillery and tanks, against a British garrison of only four Indian and African battalions, with the 2nd Battalion, The Black Watch, on its way.

Even so, the Italians found the offensive difficult. After being delayed by the small Somaliland Camel Corps, they eventually reached the Tug Argan Pass, on the approaches to the seaport capital of Berbera. There they met fierce resistance and were held at bay for four days.

In the absence of any further reinforcements or a properly defended position, the British force was forced to evacuate. They had inflicted over 2,000 casualties at a cost of around 250 men. Furthermore, the impression that their defence had left on the Italians would greatly influence future actions.

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