Friday, 19 October 2012

Abyssinia 1935-1936

Time, I think, for a few more photos.

The Italian invasion of Abyssinia (Ethiopia) is a fascinating campaign. The Abyssinians were essentially a Nineteenth Century tribal army that Emperor Haile Selassie was trying to modernise with machine guns, Regulars, a few aircraft and even Hitler was intending to send 37mm Pak ATGs. About half the Italian forces were Fascist militia, the Blackshirts, accompanied by a few newly raised conscript divisions and a core of native forces from Eritrea, Libya and Somaliland, called Askaris.

Whilst well armed compared to the Abyssinians, with CV33 tankettes and lots of aircraft, the Italians were operating in very hostile, roadless terrain against a stubborn and proud warrior army that had recent memories from 1896 of wiping out the last Italian invasion. The Italians were cautious and their leaders inept and it took the liberal use of  air-dropped mustard gas to break the Abyssinian resistence.

The Abyssinian army consisted of a recently created Imperial Guard, a provincially raised regular army called the Mahel Safari, and the Chitet or levée en masse of all able bodied men. The Mahel troops were all rifle armed, but with just about anything that fired a bullet. Machine guns were very limited and one army of about 5-6000 had none. Likewise artillery was short and included pieces taken from the Italians forty years earlier. The Chitet were usually armed with swords, spears and shields with some firearms (probably never more than half), most of which were museum pieces.

 My first figures represent the Mahel Safari and are mostly Empress, with the odd Askari Miniatures from USA, and Irregular and Bicorne.

My army in all it's glory!
A Browning MG, indicating that this unit probably belongs to one of the more powerful Rases, or Kings.

 This chap sports the Abyssinian cockade on his sun helmet, red, yellow and green- no Bob Marley jokes please!
 The traditional warrior dress was all white(ish), including jodpur like leggings and cloaks. This man is a Bicorne Miniatures figure from their 1896 range.

 The flag of the Mahel Safari, featuring St George slaying the Dragon.

 The bearer is an aristocrat, richly dressed in highly decorated red and black; even his rifle is decorated, probably with inlaid semi precious gems.  An Empress command figure.
 The Emperor encouraged his army to adopt modern uniform which many did, in various khaki shades, either locally made or just traditional clothing dyed with tea, roots, etc.
 This shows the wide variety of uniform worn. The lead officer on the left has adopted western dress.

 These men represent the more modern elements of the army; the greybeard on the left was probably at Adowa in 1896. Figures by Empress.

More warriors in both traditional and modern dress.

There are several makers of Abyssinian figures. The nicest are Empress who do both Mahel and Chitet plus some lovely command types; Askari do those too plus Imperial Guard. Traditional types, meant for 1896, are available from Bicorne and Irregular. Bicorne are alright and do both rifle and traditionally armed warriors but crucially have the only MGs produced; I am planning to convert some Italian Askaris with LMGs into Abyssinians at a later date. The Irregular figures are frankly not great, although the spear and sword types help fill out the Chitet warbands; the riflemen are awful but again serve as fillers and at least have the virtue of cheapness.

There are Chitet and Italian Askaris in the painting queue which I may get done by Christmas?!