Italy v Abyssinia

The Mustard Gas War
Alan Challoner MA

US Newspapers October 1935
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Italy v Abyssinia

The Mustard Gas War
1935-1936 From Wal Wal to Warsaw

The Italian-Abyssinian War of 1935-36 was a key turning point both in the fortunes of the League of Nations and in Mussolini’s foreign policy; as a result of the invasion, his relations with Britain and France deteriorated and he drew closer to Hitler’s Germany.

Since WW2 Britain and America have become great powers in terms of monitoring the world for aggression which could affect them and other countries. However, in 1935 it was a different story. In 1935 the Italy-Abyssinia war was an escapade that should not have been possible. However, the League of Nations was weak; it was headed by Britain and France and they had other agendas as did the isolationist USA and they collectively also failed to stop this wicked and preposterous act of pure aggression by Italy on what could be described as a primitive country in Abyssinia.

The Battle of Adowa 1896
As the 20th century approached, most of 19th century Africa had been carved up between the various European powers and Abyssinia was the only African country that was still completely free from European domination. It had stoutly resisted an attack by Italy in 1896 following some political trickery that involved Italy putting a treaty with Abyssinia into two languages (Amharic and Italian), each with a different wording. Fortunately Abyssinia realised what was being attempted and refused to sign. This was the First Italian-Abyssinian War. The Italian officer in charge of that battle was General Oreste Baratieri who at the time was the Governor of Eritrea (which was to the north of Abyssinia). The Italians had created the colony of Eritrea around Asmara, in the 19th century. The Abyssinian forces were commanded by Emperor Menelik.

As the confusion grew great holes opened in the Italian lines and just at this time Ras Makonnen of Harar (Father of Emperor Haile Selassie) arrived with 30 thousand warriors to join the England. and that not one of the three powers would take any military action in the country except in agreement with the other two. but did not have an army to match the Italians. However the country was so difficult to traverse that soon the Italian forces became lost and confused. The three signatories jointly agreed. felt that they didn’t get their fair share of territory after World War I when the Treaty of Versailles (1919) made peace and decided who would rule Germany’s former colonies. The Italians never forgot that insult to their national pride. which fed England's dependencies. as Baratieri hoped he would. On the evening of 29 February 1896. Abyssinia was still a backward country in many ways and although the country had a large fighting force it was largely one that fought barefoot and used spears and swords rather than the guns. R. http://www. European Attempts to Partition Ethiopia. by the early 1930s. 2. and France. artillery. A History of Early Twentieth Century Ethiopia. 1 Part of this agreement stipulated that Italy would never hinder the operation of the French owned railway from Addis Ababa to Djibuti.Menelik outmanoeuvred the Italians. The British Foreign Secretary. claiming that he needed to wait for some last-minute intelligence. wave upon wave of Abyssinian soldiers attacked the Italians. He was joined by hordes of Menelik's warriors.linkethiopia. while “arriving at an understanding as to their conduct in case of a change in the situation”. that it was in the “common interest” of the three powers to “maintain the integrity of Abyssinia”. or the flow of Blue Nile water from Abyssinia’s Lake Tana into the White Nile. by which they meant Menilek's demise. Menelik forced the rest of the captured troops to march to Addis Ababa where they were held until the Italian government paid 10 million lire in reparation money. Abyssinia and the territories Italy already held in East Africa would join together to make a new Italian empire in the region. More were wounded. except to protect their legations and foreign nationals. and the French and Italian ambassadors in London accordingly signed a Tripartite Convention. It declared. 000 askari (Eritreans fighting for the Italians) were dead. Benito Mussolini had become the Fascist dictator of Italy and he was aggrieved that his country still did not have the colonies that some other European countries had and he then commenced his attempt to enlarge the Italian Empire by acquiring Abyssinia by fair means or foul. without consulting Emperor Menelik. missing or captured. 918 European soldiers and about 2. Italy. in Article 1. The invasion of Abyssinia would make up for these disappointments. and the Rise of Lej Iyasu. Baratieri planned to send his troops along different routes to meet on the high ground overlooking Adowa. In the battle that began on 1 March 1896. At the end of the battle 289 Italian officers. However. that in such an eventuality they would maintain a policy of neutrality. discreetly got together and signed an agreement in which England and France acknowledged Italy's priority in Abyssinia. 1 Pankhurst. but in the end announced that the attack would start the next morning. Italy having tried and failed to conquer Abyssinia in 1896. Abyssinia had the support of the League of Nations. Instead of attacking. Menelik concentrated his forces at Adowa and waited. and refrain from military intervention. In 1906. tanks and planes that Italy could command. on 13th December 1906. Egypt and the Sudan. Sir Edward Grey. 3: Menilek's Failing Health. Baratieri met with his brigadiers but they could not agree amongst themselves about tactics and so Baratieri delayed making a decision for a few more hours. in Article 3.html Page 4 of 31 . causing them to flee in total confusion.

Each member of the General Assembly (this included representatives of all member states) had one vote and decisions had to be unanimous. a member of the British government. if one country attacked the 2 Thomas Woodrow Wilson (December 28. 3 Page 5 of 31 . to restrain the aggressor. Lasting from 1920 to 1946. 1924) was the 28th President of the United States (1913-1921). In the first Macdonald Labour Government of 1924. so. then apply economic sanctions and. Arthur Henderson served as Home Secretary. military leader and philosopher.The League of Nations Following the First World War several world leaders such as Woodrow Wilson of America 2 and Jan Smuts of South Africa3. began advocating the need for an international organization to preserve peace and settle disputes by arbitration. to the greatly increased confidence of Adolf Hitler that allowed him to act with disdain for the League as he attempted to conquer Europe. Henderson’s policy was to try and establish Britain’s leadership in seeking to secure foundations for a lasting peace through the League of Nations. 1920. In addition to holding various cabinet posts. by that failure. send an army. Jan Christiaan Smuts (24 May 1870 – 11 September 1950) was a prominent South African and British Commonwealth statesman. In 1932 Lord Cecil said of the League of Nations: “The whole International atmosphere will change as if by magic. Italy was a founder member. 1856 – February Any member breaking the covenant would face action by the rest with the council recommending how much army each member should send. either by economic or by military means. the League of Nations was by general consensus a disaster. if necessary. collectively. joining at its inception on January 10. the member states of the League would act together. It is significant that the second Italian/Abyssinian War was the touch-paper for the later event of WW2 and that was to change not only Europe but many other parts of the world. and five years later when Labour returned to power. he became Foreign Secretary.” Little did those present to hear him know just how different this magic would be from what Cecil anticipated. he served as Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa from 1919 until 1924 and from 1939 until 1948. The aims of the League of Nations was to maintain peace through collective security. Robert Cecil. In September 1916. What is more its failure to implement actions that could have stopped the Italian – Abyssinian War in 1935 eventually led. At the Foreign Office. Abyssinia was admitted in 1923. The procedure for solving disputes was that all disputes were taken to the League and it would first make suggestions. it was the much vaunted international instrument of peace that wholly failed to prevent a second world war. Each member of the Council (initially composed of four permanent members) had one vote and decisions had to be unanimous but the permanent members had the right of veto. wrote a memorandum in which he argued that civilisation could survive only if it could develop an international system that would ensure peace. See video at: http://www. The decision making processes of the League were organised around a voting system.

The risk of armed conflict seemed to die down when an AngloAbyssinian border commission arrived at the fort the following day. conditioned to a considerable extent British and French policies towards the Abyssinian crisis as they did not want the crisis to jeopardize their agreement with Mussolini. The Abyssinians then fled the scene and the Italians remained in possession of Wal Wal. At this stage. Anthony Eden. Mussolini was very suspicious of Hitler’s foreign ambitions and was anxious that they might conflict with Italy’s influence over Austria and his own ambitions to expand into the Balkans. Mussolini launched in 1935 a campaign the dimensions of which resembled not so much earlier colonial wars as those in French Indo-China and Algeria which were to follow. At the end of this confrontation on the morning of December 6th. The precursor of this incident began in 1930 when the Italians built a fort at Wal Wal. the French Foreign Minister. Despite this breaking the agreements of friendship with the Abyssinian government. in January 1935. Forces of the Abyssinian Army skirmished with the Italians briefly at this outpost and as the minor conflict subsided. in which Italy's friendship had become important. However. had visited Rome and proposed a deal between Abyssinia and Italy which would have given Italy the Ogaden region and compensated Abyssinia with a piece of British Somaliland. Page 6 of 31 . Britain and France had signed an agreement with Mussolini. under its terms. The Stresa Front. Almost half a million men. which became known as the Stresa Front. taking advantage of a fluctuating international situation. Therefore. the Abyssinians had lost over a hundred of their warriors and the Italian forces had lost about thirty. and unlimited supplies guaranteed the rapid and crushing victory which was required to overcome international opposition and propitiate the Italian masses. this minor skirmish was used as justification for mobilizing for a much larger-scale conflict. Pierre Laval. both sides maintained that there was no aggression between the nations. 450 aeroplanes. In June 1935. the Italian government demanded compensation and when it did not receive it. had. inside the Abyssinian border that was adjacent to Italian Somaliland. over the next few years the Italians built up their military presence in the area.Mussolini believed that Britain and France would permit his invasion of Abyssinia. therefore. The British and French governments were very keen to maintain a common front with Mussolini and to use it as a deterrent against further German breaches of the Versailles Treaty. the three countries agreed to take co-ordinated action against any country unilaterally violating existing treaties. The garrison commander refused. the British Foreign secretary. This agreement was prompted by Hitler’s announcement that he was reintroducing conscription (March 1935). In April 1935. agreed that there were no major French interests at stake in Abyssinia. both sides blaming the other for the fighting. Mussolini used this incident as a pretext for demanding compensation and preparing for war against Abyssinia. Tensions however remained high. The Wal Wal Incident Abyssinia shared a loosely defined border with the neighbouring territory to its southeast (Italian Somaliland) and the Italian military held an outpost 80 miles within the border at a town by the name of Wal Wal or as it is known today as Ualval. On December the 5th/6th there was a skirmish between the Abyssinian and Italian forces. allowing Abyssinia access to the sea. On November 22nd 1934 an Abyssinian force of some one thousand men arrived at the fort at Wal Wal and demanded that the fort be handed over to them.

now under a new leader in Ali Nur. there was a period of military preparation by Mussolini and despite the lip service paid at various attempts at conciliation both within the League of Nations and outside of it. However. Early in December 1934 there was an escalation of the confrontation and although there may have been some misunderstandings shots rang out from one side or the other and this was followed by heavy fusillades from both sides. firing their machine guns in all Part Five — http://www. The Emperor called his foreign advisers together to ask for their help in deciding what to do next. He was told that the Italians unexpectedly attacked his men who were at Wal Wal. were badly placed and were still uncovered and therefore could not be 4 Page 7 of 31 .com/watch?v=9OXleDJo8sc&feature=related Part Three — http://www. the Emperor was informed of the facts of the bloody battle. together with France and the USA. of which there were only two. they attempted to overturn but it didn’t. Part Two — http://www. employing aircraft.From the Wal Wal confrontation in December 1934 until the outbreak of hostilities some ten months later. guns. despite increasing hostility between the commanders of both sides. Following this flashpoint. who had very limited wartime experience. The Italians had suffered 30 deaths and a hundred wounded. The Abyssinian machine their rifles having no effect on the armoured cars. the battle seemed to be fairly evenly matched until the Italians sent in three aeroplanes and two armoured cars. Finding their spears to be completely ineffective against the armoured cars. Laval of France was the real problem but America under Roosevelt followed its pacific and isolationist programme and later refused to stop the supply of oil to Italy. For ten days. 4 When the incident became known to the Abyssinian government. After consulting his advisers. tanks. continued to fight regardless of the poor odds stacked against them. The Abyssinian commander fell dead as others around him did likewise. reinforcements arrived to increase the presence of both sides but they managed to avoid a clash of arms. for the failure to support the Abyssinia in the League of Nations when Italy began its aggression against that Despite the attempted withdrawal by the Italian commander. Invasion of Abyssinia Part One — http://www. Italy defeated Haile Selassie and his poor and almost defenceless country largely by the used of mustard gas. Eventually the Abyssinians broke off contact and the battle had left 107 Abyssinians dead and 45 wounded. and machine Part Four — http://www. The success encouraged Hitler and as a result WW2 ensued. The latter went straight into the middle of the Abyssinians. the Emperor determined that his troops should remain at Wal Wal. Fitaurari the Abyssinians. Britain was responsible. bombs. Britain could have trumped Italy’s war by closing the Suez Canal to stop supplies getting to Eritrea and Italian Somaliland. The aeroplanes then commenced bombing and machine-gunning the Abyssinians but fortunately the direction of the firing and the trajectory of the bombs were so inaccurate that they were ineffective.

during July. We are engaged in a fight of decisive importance and we have irrevocably decided to go through with it. idem) The military chief that Mussolini had appointed to command the troops in the war with Abyssinia was General Emilio De Bono. “It appears . You will have powerful armaments that nobody in the world suspects. He allowed himself to venture beyond prudence in an address to four Black Shirt divisions which were about to embark for Africa. France and America. has been successfully provided in spite of difficulties which for various reasons were at first enormous”. Speaking from the back of a truck. who might try to bar the road. With his Fascist government in power. together with the lack of support from the League of Nations that eased the way for Mussolini to wage war on Abyssinia.” The Italian general staff was. Mussolini spoke at Eboli.. was the organization. We shall advance against anyone. we shall have totally”.. 1974. that the work of the High Commissioner has expanded into every field with an intense alacrity and without intermission in order to put Eritrea into a position to face present and future tasks. might suddenly provide itself with such a sophisticated and difficult weapon as poison gas! 5 Coffey.ItalianThe Second Italian-Abyssinian War It was the pathetic response of Britain. Mussolini wrote to him on 16 July 1935. (Coffey. I don't give a damn]. On July 6th 1935 some three months before the invasion commenced. This was not an impromptu outburst. Page 8 of 31 . barracks. as Quartermaster General for all Italian forces in East Africa. victuals. General Fidenzio Dall'Ora who. took charge of the formation of the "K" Service. We shall snap our fingers in the face of the blond defenders of the black race. hospitals and an infinite number of other necessities. blaming instead the “abject” government in Rome at that time. London. water. regardless of colour. and soon you will see the five continents of the world bow down and tremble before Fascist power. “Abyssinia. . To those who may hope to stop us with documents or words.. he shouted. barefooted army. “We limited ourselves. “We shall not be content with partial concessions. and only very partially [prepared] offensive means to be able to respond with arms equal to the enemy if he ever made use of such arms. and if she dares resist our formidable strength we shall put her to pillage and to fire. we shall answer with the heroic motto of our first storm troops: Me ne freg [Trans. wrote in 1937 about how it came into being despite the fact that both Italy and Abyssinia had signed the 1925 International Protocol against the use of poison gases. he completely exonerated Italy's soldiers of 1896 for their defeat at Adowa.. he assured the Black Shirt troops. Hamish Hamilton. a town near to Salerno on the west coast of Italy. no doubt. of a Chemical Warfare Service. “to the preparation of a means of defence against chemical-bacteriological warfare.” Dall'Ora wrote. One of the other necessities for which De Bono had provided. You will be strong and invincible. in answer to a report he had sent about progress of military preparations in Eritrea. that their efforts in the field would get full support at home. copies of his speech had been sent to Fascist organizations throughout Italy. All that is necessary for the life of a population increased tenfold and a great Italian and native army. that is roads. stores.” 5 Never before had Mussolini stated so publicly his naked plans for Abyssinia. T M. to be called the K Service. still using spears to compensate for a shortage of rifles. which you are about to conquer. and had reached some foreign correspondents. filled with uncontrollable anxiety at the possibility that Abyssinian. under Mussolini's orders. Lion by the Tail: The story of the Italian-Abyssinian War.

particularly for the blistering gases (which include mustard gas). the Abyssinian army was poorly equipped. These troops were well-trained and better equipped than the other Abyssinian troops. the public here at home were much surer of that need. One of the few hopes he had left was that England might yet take some action. In all. As the appointed hour of five a. in fact. wore a distinctive greenish-khaki uniform which stood out from the white cotton cloak (shamma) worn by most Abyssinian fighters. and Vickers). Unfortunately for its wearers. the sun was still hidden by eastern hills and mountains but the light of dawn had begun to reveal the shallow waters of the Mareb River. On the night of 2-3 October 1935. the generals of the Abyssinian army. Page 9 of 31 .” According to Dall'Ora. either unilaterally or in conjunction with the League. the Italians conducted an exhaustive study of the possible uses of gas. One of the conclusions of this study. the air force consisted of 13 aircraft and four pilots at the outbreak of the war. knew himself doomed to lead his chiefs and their unsuspecting followers into the range of modern weapons whose ferocity they could not conceive. His army consisted of around 500. Italian forces invaded Abyssinian territory from Eritrea and Italian Somaliland. and was stored in three warehouses. wherever people were free to speak.000 kilograms (680 tons) of chemical material was shipped from Italy to Eritrea for the K Service. was that. Consequently. In general. “The high temperatures and the vast sinuosity of the terrain produce concomitant causes of ascending air currents which make the formation of strong concentrations of gas difficult. two near Asmara and one on the plain of Ala near Nefasit. it would have to arise from the demands of the British people. they were voicing anger at Mussolini's apparent intentions. There were also about 50 light and heavy anti-aircraft guns (20 mm Oerlikons. where it would be ready.m. a man of remarkable knowledge and sophistication. many of whom were armed with nothing more than spears. but many of these were from before 1900 and were badly outdated. The serviceable portion of the Imperial Abyssinian Air Force included three outmoded Potez 25 biplanes. 75 mm Schneiders. a great number of whom were now raising their voices in his support. aggressive action would have been predictably limited to that action coming from direct contact with the liquid. bows and arrows. as Dall'Ora later explained it. Emperor Haile Selassie stood outside his palace in Addis Ababa on 2 October 1935. The growth of moral indignation against Italy and against the men in the League of Nations who were fostering Italy's designs had now become Haile Selassie's principal asset in his struggle to save his people. The skills of the Rases. to carry out the missions for which it was intended. including rifles. Throughout the world. The Imperial Guard. the shamma proved to be an excellent target.000 Italian troops had invaded Northern Abyssinia that morning. but he realized that if any help was to be forthcoming from England. 617. The best Abyssinian units were the Emperor's ‘Imperial Guard’ (Kebur Zabangna). the offensive weapons would have had to be used with a greater density than that predicted for a European war. Although the British government failed in its duty to protect Abyssinia against the Italians.000 men. however. They had about 200 antiquated pieces of artillery mounted on rigid gun carriages. approached on October 3. if needed. He warned them that the time had come to fight — 100. ranged from relatively good to incompetent. A few transport aircraft were also acquired between 1934 and 1935 for ambulance work.Before the K Service was formed. The Emperor. Other soldiers had more modern weapons. and addressed the people of Abyssinia.

Florence: Sansoni. as will happen to me every time I miss a target that I obtained only meagre results. had volunteered to fly in the Italian 14th Bomber Squadron. orders that you shall cross the frontier. “You have waited until this day with firm discipline and exemplary patience. Vittorio.Three Italian columns.” (Coffey. the oldest son of the Italian dictator. Bruno. These little houses of the Abyssinians gave no satisfaction to a bombardier. He had told them. The war continued until May 1936. ready to advance in compliance with the order issued the previous night by General De Bono. when Abyssinia became part of the Italian Empire. Unable to find it. the day has come. The invasion of Abyssinia had begun. He looked for the bridge which was to be his first checkpoint. perhaps because I expected huge explosions like the ones you see in American films. Edda. Minister for the Armed Forces. “I saw with sorrow. Page 10 of 31 . Sanctions were not increased or universally applied. 1937. during which the Italian army used chemical weapons. and rode southward into a largely treeless. Do they expect that we will drop confetti?” (Coffey. while their brother-in-law. which formed the advance guards of each column. had taken command of the 15th Squadron. Within minutes they were above the conglomeration of houses and huts which constituted Adowa. The pilot of one of the airplanes above Adowa was Vittorio Mussolini. broken and difficult countryside.m. Voli sulle Ambe. idem) At five a. even after it emerged that Italian forces were making use of Chemical weapons against civilians. looking for the enemy. Abyssinia was finally conquered at the beginning of March 1936 and annexed by the Kingdom of Italy. But he was quite dissatisfied with his work. who was married to Mussolini's older daughter. At the end of an unequal struggle. swooping so low over the Takazze River he could see the crocodiles and hippopotamuses in the water. When news of the plan was leaked to the press there was a public outcry and both men resigned and it was withdrawn. Count Galeazzo Ciano. each composed of an army corps. native cavalry units.. This pact would end the war if implemented but would grant Italy large areas of Abyssinia. between Meghec on the west and Barachit on the east. He later recalled. had led his flight across the Eritrean border. on his first combat mission. Twenty two-year-old Vittorio.” (Idem) By the end of the first day of the war De Bono was satisfied with its outcome. he decided simply to drop his bombs where they would do the most good — into the middle of the town. 6 Vittorio and his brother. From the morning of the 3rd October they had commenced the beginnings of a flying terror. 6 Mussolini. emerged on the other bank. nudged their horses into the muddy water. Instead of imposing sanctions the British and French foreign ministers came up with the Hoare-Laval Pact. stood poised on the north bank of the river. at twenty-mile intervals. His communiqué for that day included the sinister comment: “The Abyssinians have already protested about the aerial bombardment saying that women and children were killed. The Italians wasted no time in bringing their bomber planes into use. His Majesty the King desires and Benito Mussolini. idem) The League of Nations stated that Italy were the aggressors and imposed limited sanctions — they failed to place sanctions on oil which was needed to enable the continuation of war.

hydrolysis (the splitting of a compound by water) is rapid. The effects of mustard gas exposure include the reddening and blistering of skin. Page 11 of 31 . death. 1987. U. which in itself is a skin irritant.chm. CA Application 499 244 8th Jan. His planes had flown bombing missions against several small towns in the Ogaden desert. it will also cause blistering to the lining of the lungs. because although it is only slightly soluble in water.htm MacPhee. Ras Nesibu. hydrogen chloride (HCl) dissolves in water it acts as a strong acid. “Bursting aerial bombs blanketed a wide area with a thick yellow gas causing soldiers and non-combatants to fall to the ground and suffer painfully.ItalianThe use of Mustard Gas in the Second Italian-Abyssinian War Mussolini’s orders to use mustard gas on the Abyssinians were not only the greatest controversial factor of this war but also it was the factor that turned the Abyssinian’s defence into a defeat. had accused General Graziani. J. It is important to note here that not only are mustard gas and hemi-mustard both vesicants (blistering the skin). Mustard gas is a particularly deadly and dehabilitating poison. http://www.E. if inhaled. Nesibu reported. and occurs freely. and his troops had occupied a few others.” (Coffey. idem) 7 8 9 Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. commanded the Italian forces based in Italian Somaliland. causing chronic impairment. 1986. 8TH OCTOBER 1935 The first record of the use of mustard gas against the Abyssinians was not in the north with De Bono’s army but in the south where General Rodolfo Graziani. but its real danger is when it is used as a weapon as in the Italian/Abyssinian War in 1935/36 and also in WW1. or at worst. 8 When the gas.S Patent 4 689 385 (Cl 528-58) C08G18/327 25th Aug.bris. on October 8th of dropping mustard gas from planes as one of his harassment tactics. but the hydrolysis reaction also produces three molecules of Hydrogen Chloride. Exposure to high concentrations will attack the corneas of the eyes. The Abyssinian commander in the Ogaden. 9 The history of its use by the Italian armed forces in the Abyssinian War is particularly horrific because the Abyssinian army was very largely composed of men who wore little clothing in battle and frequently they also went barefoot. 7 Any area of the body which is moist is particularly susceptible to attack by mustard gas. eventually rendering the victim blind. Polyurethane-based elastomeric material. & Barton. which makes it difficult to wash off.

tells the story differently. “Let us try if we may to mitigate the inherent horrors of war by being frank and honest. Caviglia wrote in his diary: Already in July. but they must have investigated the question of whether victory over Abyssinia would be easy. Allessandro. Page 12 of 31 . It seems that Graziani did not receive authorization to use gas against the Abyssinians until three days later. Lessona. De Bono said. Sensoni. but it appears that Mussolini was concerned that the war was not moving to its conclusion as fast as he wanted it to. Diario. “Either Italy wins the war in a few months. but. Badoglio had induced Balbo to support him. aprile 1925-marzo 1945. “or it is lost. “I must think about the war and conduct it as I can.” 11 Lessona recalled arguing with De Bono that such an attitude would be satisfactory if it were a military impossibility to win the war rapidly. after De Bono paid him a visit. since a quick victory seemed certain. as if I were not capable of assuring [Mussolini] that such was impossible. Is not war horrible enough without investing it with such horrors?” The Emperor was possibly correct that day in defending General Graziani's forces from the charge that they had been using mustard gas. 10 This entry in Caviglia's diary. felt that these reports were unsubstantiated and is reported to have said that. and then he managed to replace De Bono. and then he won Lessona's support.” (Coffey. when Mussolini sent him a secret telegram with the following instructions: “Authorized use gas as last resort in order to defeat enemy resistance and in case of counterattack. idem) De Bono received a telegram from Mussolini dated 14 November 1935 which in effect told him his time in Abyssinia was up and he was to be replaced by Marshal Badoglio.” 10 11 Caviglia. a friend of De Bono's. Rome. There he must have heard that success against the Abyssinians was easy. The retired Marshal Enrico Caviglia. He recalled that during one of the meetings he had in Africa with De Bono and Badoglio. Florence. and giving our enemies credit where credit is due. 1958. Lessona. After all. to see whether an operation toward the Sudan was possible. This of course brought great consternation to De Bono. I made myself busy. Casini. made 12 December 1936. and they must have assured themselves that the test would not present any difficulty.The Abyssinian Emperor however. it was necessary in this case that arms come to the aid of politics. now he was full of enthusiasm for it because it would remunerate him with easy glory. Lessona. and to what extent it was due to intrigues within the regime. that's his job. Of course it is impossible to be absolutely certain to what extent De Bono's removal was due to Mussolini's impatience. in his memoirs. He had been against the expedition into Abyssinia in every way. Memorie.” Lessona claimed to have said. included also some private and retrospective remarks by the embittered De Bono on the subject: I am happy to have left but you can't imagine how much effort was made to damage me by my friends and my enemies. In November he went to visit De Bono in Eritrea with Lessona. Let him [Mussolini] think of the political problems. and Italo Balbo for Mussolini's decision. Enrico. 1952. Badoglio and Lessona had worked up some infantile pretext to go there. In order not to have to show them around. blamed Badoglio.

the doctors there performed thirty amputations. and six more. on the border of Abyssinia and Italian Somaliland. Mussolini to Graziani. was only a few miles north of the Kenya boundary line. May 7. 13 The seventeen Swedish tents had been pitched at the edge of a sparsely wooded palm grove. His Unit was based in a new encampment on the Ganale River about fifty miles from the town of Dolo in the extreme southeast corner of Abyssinia. 12 13 Telegram. Since the Abyssinians were now learning to spread out and take cover. the battles between the troops on the ground were more evenly matched. partly because of the terrain and partly because the Abyssinians knew the territory better than the Italians. ten to twelve feet wide. contributed by a committee of Abyssinian women under the guidance of Lady Barton. just a few days previously.129. hit the Seventh-Day Adventist Red Cross hospital. was totally destroyed. Forty of these bombs.M. the airplanes would have to be armed with something more effective than bombs and bullets. As soon as the hospital was returned to some kind of order. on the sixteenth. This raid did not involve mustard gas but it did destroy a hospital. and though his country had signed an international agreement never to use it. The camp was clearly marked by nine Red Cross flags. three on the roofs of tents. He believed that It would be useless to send infantry into the wild country west of Axum to try to cut off the Abyssinians before he reached Eritrea. 12 Badoglio could congratulate himself now for his foresight in banishing news correspondents to Eritrea. Dolo. tearing the roof from the surgery. they would probably believe him later when he denied having done it. 2 Page 13 of 31 . about a hundred and fifty. mostly incendiaries. As long as they didn't actually see what he was about to do. on the surrounding ground. No Italian airplanes were shot down. League of Nations. but twenty-one high-explosive bombs were also released. Most of them. 33-36. Due to of the foresight of Mussolini and De Bono. Document c. Five hit the main building in the compound. The bombing was indiscriminate and the bombs were dropping all over the town of Dessie. 207. 16th December 1935. the only shade within miles. Whole clusters of Abyssinian tukuls (round thatched cottages) were burned to the ground.6TH DECEMBER 1935 The next serious bombing raid by the Italians occurred on the morning of 6th December 1935. Mussolini. When the planes retired. BOMBING OF A RED CROSS UNIT ON 22ND DECEMBER 1935 Dr. The Emperor had moved his headquarters to Dessie. An instrument tent. Badoglio found that the Abyssinians were arriving in such numbers on his western flank that he did not have enough conventional resources to cope with them. Junod. Despite attacks such as these. Badoglio found that he did have something more effective. chief of the Swedish ambulance unit had come to Abyssinia under the auspices of the International Red Cross in December 1935. were incendiaries. on the south bank of the wide Ganale. fifty-three people were found dead and about two hundred injured. The trackless terrain there was ideal for the Abyssinians and suicidal for the Italians. This obviously worried the Italian commanders and it was from this point in December 1935 that the mustard gas war began. Only airplanes could get at the advancing Abyssinians in such country. Fride Hylander. ranging in size from twenty-five to two hundred pounds. the British minister's wife.1936. had reiterated an earlier authorization to use it.

After flying over the tents they then moved over the surrounding areas and then returned from differing directions to fly over the camp again. dropped a few bombs before it reached the camp and a few more after passing over it. But since the water had also been polluted by the bursting canisters. their hands. Ethiopia. but appeared not to aim at the camp. for some time at least. the Abyssinian commander. The barefooted companions of the afflicted men. their own lungs to burn. coming to their aid. He needn't worry. where they were destined to writhe. The victims lay twisted upon the ground. “fell contorted on the banks”. idem) 14 Imru to Angelo Del Boca. Ras Imru's chiefs and lieutenants. No one was injured in these attacks and no damage was inflicted on the tents or supplies. flying lower than the first opened machine-gun fire directly above the camp. especially on the march north to the front. began to turn a sickly yellow. rushed to him for advice and help. Another. They were dropping “strange containers that burst open almost as soon as they hit the ground or the water. these men only aggravated their injuries. Many of them. however. to drink for the relief of their burning lungs.” 14 It was on this day that the Abyssinians received their first big dose of Italian mustard gas. One. This same plane returned again later and made another pass at a lower altitude firing its machine-gun into the ground and leaving a trail of them across the entire site. (idem) 23RD DECEMBER 1935 On the morning of December 23rd. He was surprised to see. totally bewildered by this strange new affliction.Italian historian and writer. “I didn't know what to tell them. Ras Imru. ) Page 14 of 31 . He had just reached the north bank near Mai Timchet when he saw several Italian planes overhead. The gas-drenched grass and shrubs around them. Marshal Badoglio had found the answer to one of his most acute problems. and the involvement in Libya. a hundred or so of his men who had been splashed by the strange fluid. without any medical care. For the next two days the planes returned but did not attack the Unit again. I didn't know how to fight this terrible rain that burned and killed. and their faces”. releasing pools of colourless liquid”. crossed the Takazze River on his way up the mountain to his advance positions at Dembeguina Pass and Selaclaca. he said later. following the river bed. interview. Before Ras Imru had time to ask himself what was happening. and unable even to wash their wounds because of the contaminated stream. that these planes were not dropping bombs. A few peasants and villagers who had come to the river for water shared their fate. if they had breathed the ghastly fumes. about Ras Imru's troops dashing through the back country to raid the vital Adi Quala base in Eritrea.Very shortly after Dr. Some of the men rushed to the river to splash water on their burning skin. 13th April 1965. “began to scream in agony as blisters broke out on their bare feet. Hylander's unit had begun accepting patients on the 22nd December the area was flown over by Italian planes. “I was completely stunned”. (Coffey. “in agony that lasted for hours before they died”. soon had to retreat as their own feet began to blister. that he was “not unduly alarmed”. (Angelo Del Boca . with a sizable body of troops. unable to breathe the contaminated air. He specialized in the study of the Italian Colonial Empire. as well as the trees above their heads. or. Eritrea and Somalia during the first part of 20th century. By this time he had been bombed so often.

This time the planes dropped bombs on the Unit and Dr Hylander and two of his assistants were injured whilst they were in the operating tent. When the planes had gone away and the level of destruction could be assessed. the leaflets stated: “You have transgressed the laws of kingdoms and nations by killing a captive airman by beheading him. This incident was used by the Italian commander. it was found that 28 men were dead and another fifty wounded. An Italian plane was flying over the area of Daggahbur. in the debris of the attack. According to the law. ANOTHER BOMBING OF RED CROSS UNITS ON 30TH DECEMBER 1935 The earlier attempt to decamp the Swedes was not successful and on 30th December 1935 another plane attack by the Italians took place. Neither he nor the Italian government ever explained why. Dr Hylander estimated that a hundred bombs had been used in the attack. This was confirmed by an Egyptian who was in the area and who gave an affidavit to this effect. fourteen eventually died. if these attacks were actually reprisals for the beheading of the Italian pilot. Lieutenant Minniti. The pilot engaged himself in trying to find a way to get his plane airborne again.” The leaflet was signed "GRAZIANI. The pilot was attacked by his captors and suffered horrible injuries before he was killed and decapitated. Printed in Amharic. they were directed against foreign medical facilities and not against the Abyssinian troop encampments near each of these facilities. The attack went on for about twenty minutes. a number of leaflets were found that had been dropped by the Italian planes. Of those wounded. Page 15 of 31 . the very large mountain around twenty miles south of Makalle. Whilst he was so occupied he was surrounded and captured by either Abyssinian troops or local natives who had been affected by the bombing and machine-gunning of their flocks. prisoners must be treated with respect. On the same day and again the following day. to support his use of gas in the ensuing battle against the Abyssinian troops in the area. some 160 miles south of Harar when it developed engine trouble and was forced to land. This site barred the way southwards towards Quoram. THE MAJOR BADOGLIO OFFENSIVE IN JANUARY 1936 By 19th January 1936 Marshal Badoglio was ready to launch his attack on Abyssinia’s largest force. The latter felt apprehensive about being on the ground. unprotected from any attack by the Abyssinians so he tried to hide in the surrounding dessert. Many patients were killed as were some of the Unit’s staff. Dessie and Addis Ababa. Apart from the injuries and loss of life the Unit suffered damage to the tents and all of its motor trucks." and the Italian government never denied that he was the author. Do not touch them! You will consequently receive the punishment which you deserve.ITALIAN PILOTS INCIDENT ON 24TH DECEMBER 1935 A completely different scenario presented on 24th December. Mussolini had previously given “complete and immediate authorization for the use of the ‘broom’ against foreigners”. The plane carried a pilot and co-pilot. It had eighty thousand men under Ras Mulugeta and they were occupying the Amba Aradam. Graziani's planes also bombed and leafleted an Egyptian ambulance unit 250 miles north at Bulale. He had mounted the attacks on Hylander's Unit to try and scare the Swedish medical team out of the area before they could witness the atrocity of a gas raid on the Abyssinians. Later. It was Graziani who had who had been ‘inconvenienced’ by the appearance of the Red Cross two days earlier. Graziani. This damage destroyed most of the medical equipment.

and he was happy to have Mussolini take the responsibility for it. By the end of the day. engaging the garrison's outer defences. That role. the Black Shirts had lost 335 men. the Eritreans attacked the Abyssinians with rifles and bayonets. Mussolini ended his telegram by making it clear that his impatience had not subsided: “A word of order is not to wait placidly for the initiative of the enemy. “to engage the enemy. From morning until dusk on the twentieth. as usual. Page 16 of 31 . the Abyssinians swarmed upon the Black Shirt troops and forced them to fall back toward the pass. convinced that a great victory was within their grasp. I authorize Your Excellency to use all the means of war — I say all. They retired for the night. (idem) 21ST & 22ND JANUARY 1936 On the 21st January. Badoglio ordered a Black Shirt division. at last.” Another telegram from Mussolini was received by Badoglio on the 19th January 1936: “The manoeuvre is well conceived and will surely succeed. They needed to capture this pass to gain all roads north. He reported this new plan to Mussolini who approved it and in so doing reminded Badoglio that he now had an overwhelming force under his command. The Black Shirt assignment. Better progress was made by the black Eritrean troops. Despite the bombs and mustard gas dropped by a hundred Italian planes on Kassa's left-wing positions around Abbi Addi. Badoglio decided. and prevent them from leaving their positions . almost surrounding them... There was no let up for the Italians as the chasing Abyssinians were also at the pass. both from the air and from the land. all did not go well for the white Italian Black Shirt troops as they made their thrust south from the Warieu Pass. Mussolini had been fuming at the delays with which Badoglio had presented him and he telegraphed him to tell him to get things moving. when the sun fell. but to confront him and control him in battles which will be large or small according to the case. Tembien region. was. thus beginning the war's first major battle. who had already been harassed by aerial bombardment. was reserved for the very dependable Eritrean troops to the southeast of Abbi Addi. Kassa's troops had been dislodged from one mountain and from the foothills of another. which would continue for four days and which would eventually be known as the first battle of the Tembien. who appeared to be in force in that area. then garrisoned in the Warieu Pass about five miles north of Abbi Addi. [to make] a rapid concentration with the [Abyssinian] troops distributed to the east”. These Black Shirt troops were not intended for any heavy fighting.History tells us that this prospective move by Badoglio was a ruse and he intended to isolate Mulugeta’s troops from another large Abyssinian force under Ras Kassa and Ras Seyoum that were entrenched in the Abbi Addi. slowly pushing them back until. killed and wounded. (Coffey idem) The Eritreans very quickly established contact with the Abyssinians. as Badoglio explained it.” Mustard gas had been so effective against Imru at the Takazze that Badoglio fully intended to use it against Kassa and Seyoum. but victorious. to send a contingent toward Kassa's left wing in the hope of keeping it occupied. to move against Kassa in the west so that the Abyssinian’s could not cut off the road from Makelle north to the Eritrean border where the supply line ran from the Italian bases in that country. during their retreat but reached the relative safety of the pass where the rest of their division was garrisoned.

The Black Shirt division was now completely surrounded. La vérité sur la guerre Italo-Ethiopienne. poured forward in such numbers that it was impossible to stop all of them. Good day. Française. 1936. Paris. idem) BADOGLIO ATTACKS RAS MULUGETA ON 16TH FEBRUARY 1936 On 9th February 1936 Marshal Badoglio addressed a gathering of war correspondents at his Enda Jesus headquarters near to Makalle. well-armed replacements. I do not expect any enemy reaction on the first day.The following morning. but this will be an action on a very large scale.” (Coffey. the tenth. Monday.) Ras Kassa afterward described vividly one of these attacks: 15 “The bombing from the air had reached its height when suddenly a number of my warriors dropped their weapons.” Page 17 of 31 . Therefore. Mules. in the words of Marshal Badoglio. This siege was to continue unabated during the next two days. Gradually the Italians drew back into a tighter and tighter fortified circle as the Abyssinians overran their outer defences.000 animals died. gradually running short of food. Gradually. Ras Kassa. cows. maddened with pain. Italian planes managed to drop off supplies to those trapped at Warieu but there was no water. One after another. You will observe the battle from an observation post near mine. emitting hideous battle cries and spurred on by the blaring of war bugles behind them. the First Army Corps and the Third Army Corps will advance in two columns toward Antalo. Paris: Impr. found themselves in ever-increasing peril as the barefooted Abyssinians. The beleaguered Black Shirts. idem) The conflict was now in a position of stalemate. waves of Abyssinians braved heavy bombing and gassing as they raced up the approaches to Warieu Pass to take part in a fierce siege of the garrison. water. you shall see what I see. the 22nd January. buckled at the knees and collapsed. he “relaxed his pressure and withdrew. rubbed their eyes with their knuckles. and gas that he could not sustain the attack against fresh. all those who had survived the bombing succumbed to this new form of attack. I shall be directing the movements of seventy thousand men. bombs. (Coffey. An invisible rain of lethal gas was splashing down on them. They also lacked communications as they did not have a radio for either sending or reception. rams and a host of wild creatures. idem) 15 Haile Selassie I. under the title “Une victoire de la civilisation. This might explain why so many Italian soldiers have continued to disbelieve that their commanders used gas. even with machine-gun fire. the First Army Corps will transfer to positions farther forward than those it now occupies. Italian planes that day were also dropping the heaviest concentration of mustard gas Badoglio had used to date on the Abyssinian rear positions. Italian gun crews. gentlemen. (No Italian commander would drop it into an actual battle zone because it would then injure Italian as well as Abyssinian troops. stampeded to the ravines and threw themselves into the depths below. and ammunition.” A relief column finally reached the men at Warieu. who might have continued his assault against the exhausted Black Shirts trapped there. He spoke for a long time and eventually said to them: “I have decided to attack Ras Mulugeta. with mounds of dead Abyssinians in front of their muzzles. Published also as a supplement to Vu. Translated from the Amharic by Marcel Griaule. screamed with agony. On the eleventh. I shall proceed as follows: Tomorrow. had now lost so many of his own men to gunfire. 1936. Badoglio tried to extricate the Black Shirts at Warieu and the Abyssinians had enormous casualties despite their successes. found dozens of live ones leaping over their fallen comrades to slash and stab with swords and spears. south of Amba Aradam. The gas contaminated the fields and woods and at least 2. where they will converge. I dare not think of how many men I lost on this one day alone.” (Coffey.

would stand between him and Addis Ababa. It would defeat the whole of the Abyssinian strategy in the north and only the armies of the Emperor himself. or. took off first. causing screams of pain within moments of contacting the skin of the Abyssinians. By evening of the nineteenth. which they sprayed mercilessly upon the barefooted men below them. To make sure. the army of Ras Mulugeta no longer existed. in which case there will be an important battle. Italian planes sprayed mustard gas and machinegun bullets on the fleeing Abyssinians until the bodies lay in sprawling piles along the route and an estimated fifteen thousand men had been added to the six thousand casualties of the Aradam battle. consisting of more than fifty thousand defeated troops. the Italian planes found Ras Mulugeta's men. almost like hunting bulletins: ‘There's a beautiful covey of fat doves at Castel Porciano’. this was estimated to be some eighty thousand men commanded by Ras Mulugeta and encamped in the caves. His army advanced to meet the Italian Division and the battle of Amba Aradam finally began. so they were carrying mustard gas. plodding southward along the routes toward Quoram and Dessie. now at Waldia about a hundred fifty miles below Makalle. Those who absorbed heavy or even moderate doses fell quickly by the wayside.” Once again.” (Coffey. all equally unattended by their panicky. (Coffey. Badoglio had Mussolini’s permission to use mustard gas. I went everywhere. . On the afternoon of 12th February. clutching their limbs or their faces. and foothills of the great Amba Aradam massif less than twenty miles below Makalle. they spurted an oily-looking fluid which fell like light rain.. Those who were sprayed by only a few drops cried out like the others but kept moving in the hope that they might avoid the next shower as more planes approached. Over the radio we kept getting information. The Abyssinians run fast and you can't let them disappear in smoke as they have done in the past. (Mussolini. I authorize you to use any means. idem) Page 18 of 31 . I ignored no one. I made two attacks. gasping for breath as the lethal gas entered their lungs. thus uncovering Ras Kassa's lines of communication and abandoning his strong position on Mount Aradam. on the day of the 16th. Badoglio had previously sent a message to Mussolini on 31st January 31 in which he wrote: “I shall concentrate the troops available here into one mobile body. That day the planes were not loaded with bombs because there was no danger of contaminating Italian troops. As the planes roared in low overhead. Ras Mulugeta will either accept battle or will have to retire southward. idem) The dead and the gassed (but still living) lay side by side along the roadsides south from Amba Aradam. ‘I advise you to go to Samra and see how full it is’. who took part in this exercise though he did not admit dropping gas. (Coffey. bragged later about the fun he had: “Whoever refuelled and reloaded first. arriving near Afgol at the south-eastern foot of the mountain. crevices. Governor of Dessie. V. . At dawn on the morning of 16th February. So. fleeing comrades. with it I shall march on Antalo and Debra Aila [south of Amba Aradam). idem) For three more days. met the advance guard of a twenty-thousand-man force under the command of Dejasmatch Wodaju. Vittorio Mussolini. the First Corps. Defeat for the Abyssinians allow the Italians to gain access to the route southward. idem) Mussolini replied on 4th February and told Badoglio: “I approve the preparation and I confirm my certainty of victory.His plan therefore was to attack Abyssinia’s largest army. It was a continuing contest. . I hope he will decide to fight. It was not to last very long and the slaughter of the Abyssinians who had by then lost six thousand men was only at its beginning.

There were so many we couldn't count them. Now he began passing Mulugeta's bombed. the day before the Emperor passed through en route to Quoram. On 27th February he struck camp at Waldia and moved north to Cobbo. Dassios moved north toward the front. 1936. I asked one patient if he had seen the plane (which attacked him). one passes a small lake. During that period I was so hungry and had so many things on my mind I can't remember exact dates.” (idem) Dr. Addis Ababa. Ras Mulugeta was also killed. In the ensuing battle that had been enjoined by snipers from the hills. though the signs were there — difficult breathing due to gas in the lungs and blisters on the skin. but because it had taken a considerable time to get the man from Quoram to Waldia. but it was after the battle of Amba Aradam. The reports of Red Cross doctors in the area indicate some of the scenes he had to witness. John W. Page 19 of 31 . Dassios recalled: “Seeing this first victim. Without warning they were attacked by Italians planes and a bomb. I thought he might be suffering from something else. Liverpool. I could not believe it. We couldn't even put up tents at treatment centres during the daytime. I think it was the devil pulling someone by a string. I treated more than fifty. thousands of men came our way.” 16 In February. After five p. Ras Mulugeta travelled along a circuitous route towards Mai Chew. Major Tadessa Mulugeta. had seen his first gas patient in January. The planes were still attacking. S. Dr. Dr. George Dassios. He said. and almost insensible men straggling southward. more victims came and I realized the Italians were actually using mustard gas. There were so many we could do nothing for them. Dr. ‘No. arrived at Alamata on February 29th. All along his route he had been passing his own troops marching northward. By 1st March he had reached Alamata which was about fifteen miles from his destination at Quoram. where he was a victim of an air raid.m. Within a few days. 17 February 1972. S. there was a continuous increase in the flow of victims. Liverpool University Press. a Greek volunteer.DEATH OF RAS MULUGETA ON 19TH FEBRUARY 1936 On 19th February 1936 and to avoid any further bombing and gassing during his retreat. The water was yellowish and all around the shore lay bodies of men and animals — more animals than men. Macfie 17 of the British Red Cross unit. He went on to write: 16 17 Dr George Dassios. Here is his description of the trip: “Going to Quoram. interviewed. at Waldia. During January. As they moved towards their destination. gassed. John W. who had also treated “a few cases of gas burns” in Waldia.’ The gas victims I saw (after Amba Aradam) must have numbered around two thousand. Macfie reported that he and the other men in his unit were “not fully prepared for the sight that greeted us on driving into the camp which other members of the unit had built at Alamata”. beautiful and picturesque. Kabede led the party and he was followed by Burgoyne and Ras Mulugeta’s son. Macfie. After that battle. we would put up our tents and do what we could. 1ST MARCH 1936 The Emperor was now feeling desperate as he heard news of defeats in several quarters. After five days he met up with two other retreating bodies of Abyssinians led by Ras Kabede and Major Burgoyne. Dr. The man had been brought from Quoram. An Ethiopian Diary. From that time on. landing between Burgoyne and Tadessa Mulugeta killed them both.

and little children. determined to give the Abyssinians no respite. (Coffey. There were many others like him. the remnants of Mulugeta's army had circulated fearsome rumours about the strength of the Italian forces and the speed with which they were driving southward. Although it was only a little more than fifteen miles north of Alamata. Like the thousands of his soldiers encamped along the road and on the surrounding plains. When I approached he slowly rose and drew aside his cloak. he retired into the hills for safety during the day. Marshal Badoglio. who was at Quoram when the Emperor arrived. the back and the arms. in the area of the Warieu Pass. the American military attaché. the road. leaving their folded tents and personal effects hidden from the planes under trees. When bombing time came. an old man. we saw the outpatients collected there. clumsily. some newly burned. but what would be the use?” Early the next morning. The daily bombings were almost constant. brown scabs. Chandler. crimson apologies for eyes. Then he settled into one of the three large caves which had been set aside as his headquarters and began the tedious details of moulding his rabble-like followers into a battle-ready army. Men and women alike. and Imru. sat moaning on the ground. and Chandler (Warrant Officer E. all horribly disfigured. another member of the unit) and his dressers were feverishly covering them with bright yellow pieces of gauze and rolls and rolls of bandages. swarmed up the hillsides to find shelter. thus closing the best and one of the few possible routes of retreat for Kassa and Seyoum. Page 20 of 31 . a small village within a circle of big hills about five miles south of Lake Ashangi. the patients were a shocking sight. was only partly finished. whence this force could advance northward toward Abbi Addi as one prong of a pincer movement. about thirty miles west of Makalle. their sores already caked with thick. He gave his attention first to Kassa and Seyoum. Seyoum. again like all his soldiers. Badoglio issued orders disposing his troops for a second Battle of Tembien. accustomed to it now. emerged from shelter and resumed his journey to Quoram. others older. the Emperor. In the afternoon. where the first Battle of Tembien had taken place.“In a corner on our right under a tree. He looked as if someone had tried to skin him. a Sunday. too. about thirty thousand men. On February 16th and 18th. some more. some less severely affected. arriving from the south and retreating from the north. He then sent his Third Army Corps from Amba Aradam southwest into the Tembien. when the bombing receded. THE SECOND BATTLE OF TEMBIEN Meanwhile. having routed Ras Mulugeta and destroyed his army. were still encamped near Abbi Addi and the Warieu Pass. By this time. he had been horribly burned by mustard gas all over the face. with blurred. D. was now able to turn his two hundred thousand well-equipped and battle-seasoned men upon the sixty to seventy thousand Abyssinians left in the north under the commands of Kassa. rocking himself to and fro. which followed a winding. the Abyssinian troops. The other prong would be the large Eritrean Corps. completely wrapped in a cloth. I could cover pages recounting horrors. scores of them. which he had already concentrated just north of the Kassa-Seyoum positions. It was also overcrowded with troops going both ways. It took Haile Selassie three days to reach Quoram. and they captured this mountain without opposition on February 28th. He sent his First Army Corps from Amba Aradam to Amba Alagi. idem) Captain John Meade. Somewhere in the middle of the group stood a great pail of yellow fluid — picric acid solution (the only medication available for treating the burns). The first I examined. The Emperor immediately sent a party of men northward on a reconnaissance mission to determine the exact location of the enemy. hilly trail. On closer inspection. found him obviously much depressed but quite pleasant in his manner. And many blinded by the stuff. whose combined forces. the Emperor arrived in Alamata with his entourage just as the Italian airplanes began the day's bombings.

said. which was to become known as the Battle of Shire. plains. he did have the means at his disposal to cover up his earlier mistakes in battle strategy.” Only one Abyssinian fighting force now stood between the Italians and Addis Ababa — the Emperor's army at Quoram. he was. but with a flight as disastrous as any battle could have been. but they were so demoralized that I could no longer hold them together. and mountains. the Italians found a wealth of targets for their mustard gas as the bewildered Abyssinian soldiers struggled southward through forests.” Badoglio reported that: “On reaching the Takazze fords. “vast numbers of Abyssinian dead on the north bank of the Takazze and countless bodies of men and beasts floating on the river. and looking twenty years younger. and burned the area of the fords between the third and the sixth of March later reported seeing.” He had become so certain of the ascendancy as a result of his great victory that when Mussolini suggested to him the possible use of “bacteriological warfare. steep and thickly wooded banks. Ras Imru’s passage was rendered even more critical by continued air activity.” he had advised against it. Badoglio launched his drive to annihilate Kassa and Seyoum in the early hours of February 27th. Mussolini acceded to his advice. “extremely animated. strafed. When he addressed the war correspondents at his Amba Gedem observation post after the Battle of Amba Aradam. Fortunately for Badoglio.” Later. “littered with thousands of corpses in an advanced state of putrefaction. idem) Page 21 of 31 . utterly tragic. describing his flight many years later. and 25. No other references to the subject have been found. he could afford to show how humane he was by forgoing even more hideous weapons. rivers. trying to escape the burning rains which fell upon them from the airplanes' bomb racks. whose retirement. when Italian ground troops crossed the Takazze. he sent his airplanes against the Abyssinians. all that remained of my army was my personal bodyguard of three hundred men. in high good humour. many deserted. (Coffey. in the words of one reporter. In addition to the usual effective bombing and machine-gun fire. Once again at the end of this battle.000 rounds of machine-gun ammunition were fired. he later reported.Badoglio was feeling much more confident now. less than thirty miles south of Badoglio's First Army Corps at Amba Alagi. gassed.” Ras Imru. small incendiary bombs were used to set on fire the whole region about the fords. “very quickly turned into a disorderly rout. “I agree with what Your Excellency observes about the use of bacteriological war. In a February 20th telegram. idem) The second battle of Tembien ended without a major confrontation.” the Duce wrote. He must have felt that as long as he had enough mustard gas. difficult enough in themselves because they were sunk between high. (Coffey.” Once again Badoglio failed to credit his most useful ally — mustard gas. In the southern Tembien and Seloa regions during the following days. they found the area. Badoglio was now able to take up battle with Ras Imru who had defeated him in their first engagement and who had been subjected to the first use of mustard gas by the Italians. rendering the plight of the fleeing enemy. many were killed in the course of air attacks. “I succeeded in leading some ten thousand of my men across the river to safety. Italian pilots who bombed. Day by day my ranks thinned out. Our aerial activity may be summed up in the following figures: 80 tons of explosives were dropped. When at last I reached Dashan (about fifty miles south of the Takazze). canyons.

Although new. the commanding officer of a British Red Cross Unit that had just been placed near to Quoram. 1960. a third tent was burned. Page 22 of 31 . a skeleton force of three German battalions marched timidly across the Rhine River bridges into the demilitarized zone. Dr Melly took the necessary surgical precautions and halted the operation. He was aware. The camp was well away from any Abyssinian troops. even though the patient was suffering from peritonitis. London: Seeker & Warburg. Five other tents were destroyed as well as a large amount of medical equipment. that the French could stop him if they decided to march into the Rhineland and he reserved the right in such an event. and manipulating them that he did not believe the French would make any move which might bring on a war. The team sought the protection of cover away from the tents and had to abandon the anaesthetised patient. whilst German generals quaked in fear. this first military foray of Adolf Hitler's career.HITLER TAKES COURAGE FROM THE FASCIST MUSSOLINI In Berlin on 1st March 1936. In the days that followed. the only countermeasure Hitler contemplated in case the French resisted was an immediate German retreat. but not one French soldier set foot in the Rhineland to resist this first aggressive move the German army had made since 1918. Hitler summoned his Minister of Defence. and told him that despite the fact that Germany was not ready for war and did not have sufficient armaments available and that its army would not be up to fighting against the French. The operating tent and two ward tents were seriously damaged. An assessment showed that at least forty bombs had been dropped. was getting ready for the work of the day. idem) ANOTHER UNPROVOKED ATTACK ON A RED CROSS UNIT Early on 4th March 1936. After the raid was over it was found that five Abyssinians had been killed and several others wounded including the patient who was on the operating table.” 18 As several German generals testified many years later at Nuremberg. The raid lasted about half an hour and when the doctors returned to the camp they found the site strewn with wreckage amongst which were dead and wounded. As he started to operate on his first patient around noon he heard a plane approaching at low altitude and before anyone could take precautions it dropped a bomb very close to the tents. bullying. General Werner von Blomberg. New York: Simon and Schuster. It is clear that Hitler had already learned so much about France and England by studying Mussolini's methods of bluffing. the Unit had been ‘inspected’ from the air by several Italian planes during the short time it had been erected. he had decided to defy the Versailles Treaty by reoccupying the demilitarized left bank of the Rhineland. Dr John Melly. More bombs fell and the operating tent was inundated with falling earth from the explosion. the French and British filled the air with querulous complaints. 18 Shirer. At dawn on 7th March 1936. the other a British Union Jack. William L. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. one of which gained a ‘bull’s eye’ on the Red Cross ground flag. however. (Coffey. Another attack sent more bombs in their direction and one of Dr Melly’s assistants was injured. Dr Melly and his colleagues had some twenty-one surgical operations to perform that day and there were more than a hundred patients in the Unit who had suffered from gassing. 1960. “to decide on any military countermeasures. The Unit was a thirty-one tent camp that was marked with two Red Cross ground flags as well as other flags on poles (one Red Cross.

he had to endure his frustration at being unable to relieve their pain. “horrible. As they got nearer to the plane it became obvious from the odour and their stinging eyes that the Italians had mixed mustard gas bombs in amongst those that were high explosive. His Abyssinian guide explained that the gas was being spread in two ways. It was either dropped in bombs which scattered it over an area of two hundred yards or more or it was sprayed it from low-flying planes so it fell like rain. Most Abyssinian soldiers were thin and underweight because of the chronic food shortage.” The plane that had brought Junod and Count van Rosen (his plane’s pilot) had been camouflaged in a primitive way and this allowed it to be seen in outline from above. of course. It seems that the agenda behind the attacks was to ‘frighten’ the Red Cross out of Abyssinia so that the Italian atrocities would not get the first hand reports that were produced by that organisation. The pair managed to strip the flimsy camouflage from their plane just as three Italian fighter planes approached. 19 The Inspector. they could see. The Italian government tried to appease complainants by saying that their planes had previously been fired upon as they passed over Red Cross camps. As they progressed on their two-mile journey. They fired their machine guns at the remaining plane and hit the fuel tanks that then allowed all of it to flood out. The International Red Cross sent out an inspector so that he could see for himself what the Red Cross Units had to tolerate whilst undertaking their humanitarian work. As they once again got up the mountainside they looked back to see that their plane was now a pile of burning wreckage. In addition. As Dr.” The gas could not. piteous mass of men.Later reports indicated that the plane’s number was S62 and that Vittorio Mussolini was its pilot. be blamed for their emaciated limbs. arrived at Quoram and was assisted to get to the mountainside caves that were the headquarters of Haile Selassie by riding on a mule that had been sent by the Emperor. Appendix 9." and in that way contract terrible burns. the doctor noticed a pervading smell like horse-radish and asked his guide what it was. He told Junod: “They know our soldiers go barefoot. Junod was able to have his first hand experience of what the Abyssinians and the Red Cross workers had to tolerate. The pilot and Junod desperately tried to reach their pane so that its Red Cross marking could be seen. They left the scene to quickly return to the caves in the hope of telephoning Geneva to try and get the planes called off. He was informed that it was the residue aura of mustard gas that the Italian planes spread over the area. Idem) As they approached these men. M126. 9 May 1936. Dr Marcel Junod. As they got near to the Emperor’s caves they heard wailing that caused them to pale and rounding the last bend they came across what must have been thousands of Abyssinians stretched out in agony under the trees. “Albeit! Albeit! Albeit!” (Coffey. Junod walked through this writhing. Page 23 of 31 . 19 League of Nations Document C201. Dr. The first of the day’s Italian bombers arrived and Junod’s plane and that of the Emperor must have been clearly visible to the Italian pilots and they made a beeline for them both and dropped their bombs. our mules die from nibbling grass and leaves contaminated with the liquid. suppurating burns on their feet and on their emaciated limbs. photos 1-25. The Emperor’s plane was destroyed by a direct hit but that of the Red Cross team was miraculously missed. The sound that they heard was the common Abyssinian cry for help or mercy.

But there was still no need for prudence in his treatment of anyone else. but avoid damaging the British Red Cross if any exists there. an American who was General Secretary of the Red Cross in Abyssinia. in Addis Ababa. I renew the authorization for the use of gas at any time and in any measure. because he was acutely conscious of his role and duty as Emperor of Abyssinia. Empress Menen. Days passed whilst the Emperor and his chiefs continued their discussions. He now had at his disposal about thirty thousand men. This telegram was intercepted by the Italians. He hastened to do so. as helpless as they. But if Junod expected this suffering multitude at his feet to make impossible demands upon him. Their voices were raised toward the cave of their Emperor. but who could do no more than pace the floor. including his own Imperial Guard. The Italian planes continued to bomb his troops. wrote in a telegram to The Times: “"The bombing of country villages around Quoram and Waldia. By this time Mussolini was beginning to believe that his conquest of Abyssinia was almost complete. to hear the screaming of his men during the night. the Dutch and the damaged British. however. the first letter in which he had showed any indication of despair.” (Coffey. Idem) The use of mustard gas by the Italians was now being so widely and authoritatively reported in England that the British people were becoming troubled about it.The two Red Cross units under his supervision in the area. T. ordering his chiefs to prepare their men for battle. should cause us to ask ourselves the question — whither ?” Page 24 of 31 . He recklessly sent a message to Badoglio: “Any Red Cross Unit which might be found at Gondar and any flag which might be pulled out at the last moment … (you) should go ahead and shoot at it. Idem) He continued to bear it. he told her. This did not please Haile Selassie and he again pressed for an immediate advance on the Italian troops at Mai Chew. yperite. he sent Badoglio the familiar endorsement: “Given the enemy methods of war. and that they could still thwart him at the edge of victory by closing the Suez Canal. (Coffey. On the 29th March 1936. It was horrible. or so-called mustard gas. he soon learned otherwise. the permanent blinding and maiming of hundreds of helpless women and children.” Aware that he had already tried British patience beyond reasonable limits. as well as the infliction of similar injuries on soldiers with that most dreadful of all dreadful agencies. whose skills they scarcely knew. He could bear it no longer. Haile Selassie wrote his wife. Dr. It was not the white medical men.A. Old friends had come to see him whom he no longer recognized because of the terrible bums on their faces. listening to their cries. Although the Emperor wanted to make an early attack on the Italians his powerful chiefs argued for a delay to consider the implications. On 24th March 1936. he apparently felt the time had come to begin handling them with at least a small degree of prudence. were already treating as many gas cases as they could handle. especially the Abyssinians. On 19th March 1936 and again on the 22nd March. But the Guard was comprised of only six infantry battalions plus a brigade of artillery. Haile Selassie sent a telegram to his wife explaining what was happening and what he was proposing to do. the London Times published dispatches detailing the effects of the gas upon the Abyssinians. who were Abyssinian’s best soldiers. The Lion of Judah must confront his enemy in the open field. he said. Most of the thirty thousand in this last-ditch Imperial army were untrained and nondescript. After hearing these cries until he could scarcely endure them.Lambie. that they begged for help. who was their only hope.

The first two had already proved their ineptitude at Tembien. women. 15th April 1965. led by Ras Kassa. The time was now four o'clock in the morning of 31st March 1936. Sir Sidney Barton. Badoglio sent all of his available planes to strafe the retreating Abyssinians. the previous evening. He began by reminding them that. and the third most powerful chief in his camp. “If you smell it. If you are contaminated by it. The despairing Emperor. wash yourselves at once. . suggested that the only plan now was to retire from the field. men.In addition to all this unofficial information. Macfie. the Emperor addressed those who could hear him. Lord Halifax. after watching his failing plans and falling men. suffering from burns caused by mustard gas. Eventually the Emperor’s adviser. Page 25 of 31 . At dawn on the 4th April 1936. None had military credentials. It seems quite impotent. said to Konovaloff: “I fail to understand the role of the League of Nations. for instance. Konovaloff. He said: “It would be quite wrong and quite unjust to prejudge a matter so grave and so vitally affecting the honour of a great country [Italy].” THE LAST ATTACK Emperor Haile Selassie watched the shadowy figures of his soldiers moving tentatively in the darkness as they formed themselves into three columns of about three thousand men each. signed a statement that he himself had.” Further bombings reduced his fighting ability and the lack of Red Cross medical assistance made his plight worse. answering for the government. Dr. Ras Seyoum. The first step must be to obtain the observations and comments of the Italian government. The Italians suffered heavy casualties but they had the reserves to fill the gaps. but he had no information.. and children. This continued for about a fortnight and the Emperor witnessed the devastation to the remainder of his army as the bombing left trails of corpses and equipment along the line of retreat. Italian bombers had spread mustard gas on the plain they now had to cross. said he wished it were in his power to give the assurance that there was no foundation for these reports. the British government had an official report from its minister in Addis Ababa..” 20 With this warning he sent forth the three columns. As they moved forward across the plain they could smell mustard gas on the grass. Before the men moved off to their pre-battle positions. Eventually there was the familiar sound of aircraft approaching the battle areas but at this time only explosives could be dropped because of the fear of gas contaminating its own troops. with affidavits from several doctors describing the gas-burn cases they had treated. The Emperor later wrote: 20 Colonel Kosrof Boghossian to Angelo Del Boca. There were some initial advances gained by the Abyssinians but the superior forces of the Italians began to tell. None of the three was young. Ras Getachu from the south-western province of Kaffa. Lord Hugh Cecil arose in the House of Lords and addressed an inquiry to the government about the alleged Italian use of gas. “seen and treated several hundreds of patients. change direction immediately. These were assault troops who would be moving north across the Mecan plain before dawn to attack the Italians in the hills and mountains above it at sunrise.” On March 30.

the wounded screamed with agony. but he doubted “the wisdom of issuing a formal condemnation at a moment when an attempt was being made to bring hostilities to an end. Our thin. No high government officials greeted him. When he reached London he did not receive the courtesy usually offered to a visiting monarch. whilst these scenes were being enacted in Africa.(Ibid) Page 26 of 31 . Italy’s League of Nations representative. for this might disturb the negotiations. On 4th May the Emperor and his family embarked on the British cruiser. Idem) Mussolini was ecstatic and he proclaimed two decrees. together with their children. Haile Selassie had made his successful escape. We could do nothing to protect ourselves against it. Eden insisted. The dying.” Flandin agreed. the League of Nations Committee of Thirteen met to discuss its progress toward bringing about peace between Italy and Abyssinia. British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden attacked the implications of Flandin's remarks. The gas finished off the carnage that the bombs had begun. the new Emperor of Abyssinia. But Pierre Etienne Flandin. cotton shammas were soaked with yperite. the French Foreign Minister. He asked if any inquiries had been made into atrocities committed by Abyssinians. including the use of dumdum bullets. only two months earlier the Emperor had reigned. Baron Pompeo Aloisi called upon the SecretaryGeneral. Idem) Aftermath The Aftermath On 20th April 1936. The Emperor and his family arrived in England aboard the liner SS Orford on 3rd June to an embarrassed and minimal reception. Joseph Avenol in Geneva on 12th May 1936 and advised him that the Italian delegation was to be withdrawn from the League. There was. 21 Haile Selassie I. When a question was raised about Italy's use of gas.“Of all the massacres of the terrible and pitiless war. women.” 21 In Geneva on 8th April 1936. “a distinction between the irresponsible atrocities of undisciplined military forces and the use of poison gas which could not be other than a governmental act. La vérité sur la guerre Italo-Ethiopienne. Enterprise that had been sent to help them avoid the indignity of capture. Badoglio and his staff set up the Italian Supreme Headquarters at Dessie where. On 2nd May 1936 he and his Empress. (Coffey. Those who escaped the bombs fell victim to the deadly rain. (Coffey.” The Committee of Thirteen decided at a meeting later that day not to inquire into the Italian use of poison gas. most of the delegates agreed that efforts should be made to collect reliable information on the subject. this was the worst. At a private meeting after the committee's first morning session. travelled by train to Djibuti. packanimals were blown to bits or were fatally burned by the mustard gas. He said the Italians were “very stupid” to use this form of warfare. Men. objected. one placed Abyssinia under the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Italy and the other named the Italian King Victor Emanuel III.

13th May 1936. the Negus Haile Selassie. “half the population” of Geneva gathered around the League of Nations Assembly Hall to greet Emperor Haile Selassie as he arrived to take his seat with the Abyssinian delegation. received. Mussolini decreed. www. in a June 5 message. who replaced him.” Even these measures were ineffective against the growing number of Abyssinians who were finally learning what the Emperor had meant when he pleaded with them.” Dressed in a black cloak over a white tunic. Mussolini sent Graziani a much stronger prescription against rebellion: “I authorize Your Excellency once again to begin conducting systematically the policy of terror and extermination against the rebels and the accomplice populations. which Emperor Haile Selassie. on 22nd May 1936. “God and history will remember your judgment” On 30th June 1936. General (now Marshal) Graziani. never ceased to support and encourage. and so was the Abyssinian resistance.In Rome on the same day. During a Catholic press exhibition.. in early June. He was scheduled to speak later in the day even though Italy and several other countries had attempted to prevent it. “His Majesty. Without the law of tenfold retaliation the wound will not heal quickly enough. began unfolding the pages of his address as the delegates and the people in the galleries applauded mildly. in 23 Page 27 of 31 . he proclaimed the Vatican’s satisfaction at.” This was the same Pope of whom it was said that he supported missionary work. 23 22 Though Marshal Badoglio had been named Governor General and Viceroy of Abyssinia as soon as he reached Addis Ababa. “All of the rebels taken prisoners must be shot.” On June 8. he wrote. “the triumphal happiness of a great and good people in a peace which it hopes and confidently expects will be a prelude to … New European and world peace. will address the Assembly. Tacitly acknowledging Italy's claim that its King Victor Emmanuel was now Emperor of Abyssinia. he had quickly tired of the job and. “In order to get finished with the rebels . 22 Il Giornale d’Itallia. Haile Selassie walked up to the rostrum from his seat on the floor. first delegate of Abyssinia. returned to Italy. On 8th July 1936. to adopt guerrilla methods. and with the spotlights turned upon him.” Mussolini was beginning to find out that the Abyssinian people were more difficult to conquer than the Abyssinian armies. Pope Pius XI made clear to the world his feelings about Italy’s victory in Abyssinia. The Italian terror was destined to continue. The Argentine representative made a few remarks about the principles of the League. van Zeeland announced. but wanted to integrate Christianity with native cultures instead of making them European. then President van Zeeland turned finally to the day's unpleasant use the gases. early in the war. where he could better enjoy the glory he had accumulated. two telegrams from Mussolini which reflected the fact that the Italian celebration of peace and victory in May had been premature.

. It has. All who drank the poisoned water or ate the infected food succumbed too. the liquid affected only a few soldiers. waiting until the wind had rapidly dispersed the poisonous gases. The soldiers learned to scatter. fifteen. In order to kill off systematically all living creatures.” Ten Italian newsmen were grabbed by the collars and escorted outside. One of them. a loud. It was at the time when the operations for the encirclement of Makalle were taking place that the Italian command. now spoke in Amharic. the press attaché of the Italian Embassy in Vienna. One of the delegates on the floor. It is to defend a people struggling for its age-old independence that the Head of the Abyssinian Empire has come to Geneva to fulfil this supreme duty. women. In tens of thousands the victims of the Italian mustard gas fell. When the police did arrive at the press gallery. who had waited impassively for the noise to stop. where the danger of a demonstration had seemed greater. It is my duty to inform the Governments assembled in Geneva. “I. (Coffey. children. … These fearful tactics succeeded. by describing to them the fate which has been suffered by Abyssinia. wearing earphones. but there is certainly no precedent for a people being the victim of such wrongs and being threatened with abandonment to its aggressor. the diplomatic correspondent of Mussolini's newspaper. Sprayers were installed on board aircraft so that they could vaporize the gas over vast areas of territory. after having himself fought at the head of his armies. Barrels of liquid were hurled upon armed groups. where they were promptly arrested. Emperor of Abyssinia. . in order to terrorize and exterminate them. “a red-faced man with a bull-voice. Idem) Emperor Haile Selassie. Page 28 of 31 . while simultaneous interpreters translated his speech into French and English. could select either language by turning a dial. eighteen aircraft followed one another so that the fog issuing from them formed a continuous sheet. But this means too was ineffective. That was its chief method of warfare. Given the notorious obedience of Italian newsmen to Mussolini. confrontational interruption was brought about by the section of the press gallery reserved for Italian journalists. rivers. Italian aircraft hurled tear-gas bombs upon my armies. above all. stood up and shouted. I pray to Almighty God that He may spare nations the terrible sufferings that have just been inflicted on my people. they handled the offenders “without ceremony. responsible as they are for the lives of millions of men. “A la porte les sauvages!” But the police were slow to react because they were concentrated in the spectators' gallery. women and children. and the barrels upon the ground themselves gave warning of the danger to the troops and to the population. attacked populations far removed from hostilities. in dreadful suffering. The Italian aircraft then resorted to mustard gas. toward the end of 1935. from the end of January 1936. At the outset. They had but slight effect.” led the others in “execration and abuse” of the little man in front of the microphones. soldiers. Shaking their fists and setting off mechanical whistles. About a dozen of them rose together and began shouting in the direction of the rostrum. applied the procedure which it is now my duty to denounce to the world. Il Popolo d'Italia. They included the editor of the Turin Stampa. death-dealing rain. Men and animals succumbed. of the deadly peril which threatens them.As the applause died. cattle. the general secretary of the Fascist Journalists' Association. His listeners. Haile Selassie the First. and the assistance promised to it eight months ago by fifty-two nations who asserted that an act of aggression had been committed in violation of international treaties. … There is perhaps no precedent for a Head of State himself speaking in this Assembly. am here today to claim the justice that is due to my people. Groups of nine. The deadly rain that fell from the aircraft made all those whom it touched fly shrieking with pain. the Italians continued their protest despite efforts by colleagues from other countries to silence them. and of which the chiefs who have accompanied me here have been the horrified witnesses. Nicolas Titulescu of Rumania. and two correspondents for Milan's Carriere della Sera. in order the more surely to poison waters and pastures. lakes and fields were constantly drenched with the deadly rain. fearing a rout. a fine. it seemed unlikely that they would have staged such a scene without his authorization.. the Italian command made its aircraft pass over and over again. It was thus that. It is not only upon warriors that the Italian government has made war.

Relying on the faith due to treaties. was given all facilities for transporting.. What then. 30th June 1936.. I ask the fifty-two nations not to forget today the policy upon which they embarked eight months ago. In presence of the numerous violations by the Italian government of all international treaties prohibiting resort to arms and recourse to barbarous methods of warfare.. On many occasions I asked for financial assistance for the purchase of arms. artillery.. In a word. and that is the case with a number of small countries in Europe. of the trust placed by States in international treaties. On behalf of the Abyssinian people.” 24 After outlining the events which led to the war... What does this initiative mean in practice but the abandonment of Abyssinia to the aggressor? . conscious of my responsibilities towards my people. Many governments proclaimed an embargo to prevent my doing so. When the danger became more urgent. munitions and hospital services. God and history will remember your judgment. is the meaning of Article 16 of the Covenant and of collective security? . destroy a weak people. That is why I decided to come myself to testify against the crime perpetrated against my people and to give Europe warning of the doom that awaits it if it bows before the accomplished fact. it is international morality that is at stake .. that they uphold their claims. The Abyssinian government never expected other governments to shed their soldiers' blood to defend the Covenant when their own immediately personal interests were not at stake.. The appeals of my delegates to the League of Nations had remained unanswered. . he reminded the delegates again of their solemn commitment.... I tried. … What real assistance was given to Abyssinia by the fifty-two nations who had declared the Rome government guilty of a breach of the Covenant and had undertaken to prevent the triumph of the aggressor? . the fifty-two nations who are listening to me today gave me an assurance that the aggressor would not triumph. the government and the people of Abyssinia will not bow before force. I had made no preparation for war. in practice.. not merely a question of a settlement in the matter of Italian aggression. then the hour has struck for that weak people to appeal to the League of Nations to give its judgment in all freedom. If a strong government finds that it can. without cessation and without protest... Despite the inferiority of my weapons.. of the very existence of the League. Is that the guidance that the League of Nations and each of the State Members are entitled to expect from the great Powers when they assert their right and their duty to guide the action of the League? . I thought it impossible that fifty-two nations. that they will use all means in their power to insure the triumph of right and respect for the Covenant. and on the faith in which I directed the resistance of my people against the aggressor. my trust in the League was absolute.. Special Supplement 151. It is a question of collective security.. whereas the Italian government.. Page 29 of 31 . with impunity. I assert that the issue before the Assembly today is .. . the complete lack of aircraft.. a Member of the League of Nations. arms and munitions . I ask the fifty-two nations who have given the Abyssinian people a promise to help them in their resistance to the aggressor: What are they willing to do for Abyssinia? 24 League of Nations. . during the first six months of 1935. None other than me and my gallant companions in arms could bring the League of Nations undeniable proof. Abyssinian warriors asked only for means to defend themselves. troops. of the value of promises made to small States that their integrity and their independence shall be respected and assured... 22-25.. could be successfully held in check by a single aggressor.. It is a choice between the principle of the equality of States and the imposition upon small Powers of the bonds of vassalage. No subtle reasoning can change the nature of the problem or shift the grounds of the discussion . I declare before the whole world that the Emperor. my delegates had not been eyewitnesses. including the most powerful in the world. That assistance was constantly denied me. I ask the Assembly to take all measures proper to secure respect for the Covenant. to acquire armaments. the initiative has today been taken — it is with pain that I record the fact — to raise sanctions. . Records of the Eighteenth Plenary Meeting of the Assembly.It was to denounce to the civilized world the tortures inflicted upon the Abyssinian people that I resolved to come to Geneva. In October 1935. through the Suez Canal.

after Italy had entered the war on the side of Germany.I ask the great Powers. intended to form an Arab Alliance that would cut off oil supplies to Europe. there were thousands of others still resisting the Italians. three years after Haile Selassie appeared before the Assembly. Nasser. Learning his lesson. I have come to Geneva to discharge in your minds the most painful of the duties of the Head of a State. Indeed he was to move towards a more truculent posture in 1956 when Eden (then Prime Minister) feared that Egypt’s Prime Minister. the arrival of World War II fulfilled his warning against “the deadly peril” which threatened the nations of the League if they abandoned the principle of collective security. Such bravado might have been more successful had it been applied in 1935. British and French troops landed at Port Said at the northern end of the Suez Canal on 5th November. This failure was a direct result of the actions of politicians who were responsible for policy at the time. It can be seen from the foregoing that there were three reasons why the Italian aggression towards Abyssinia brought about the circumstances that allowed Hitler to mount his attempt to attack and dominate Europe in 1939. though vastly outnumbered by the Italians. the British. Anthony Eden was probably the one person who might have persuaded his colleagues to change their actions and give more support to Abyssinia. to the Italian stronghold in Eritrea. Haile Selassie returned to his country with a small British expeditionary force. Firstly. Page 30 of 31 . five years to the day after the Italians took Addis Ababa. He found that. Secondly. Eden later disagreed with Neville Chamberlain about the way to deal with fascism in Europe and in 1938 he resigned from office. there was the weakness of the League of Nations. a week after Emperor Haile Selassie delivered this final plea for help. were quickly able to defeat them. Secret negotiations took place between Britain. in particular it should be made clear that Britain and France were the leading elements in its failure to prevent the second Italian-Abyssinian war. despite Mussolini's terrorizing methods and the execution of thousands of Abyssinians. the Israeli Army invaded Egypt. 1936. Two days later British and French bombed Egyptian airfields. Afterword These horrendous events seem to have been lost in history and it is almost impossible to find today any reference to them as a direct cause of WW2. What answer am I to take back to my people? (League of Nations. Had this been done then perhaps the League of Nations might also have been more sympathetic to that country’s plight. 1941. the decision of the USA to remain neutral towards events in Europe and Africa denied Abyssinia the support that could have made all the difference in the ensuing war by not placing an embargo on oil supplies. On May 5. This was compounded by the failure of the European countries to help Abyssinia with money and supplies when its own resources were so slim. With help from these eager but poorly armed men. In early 1941. Haile Selassie returned to his capital and resumed his long reign as Emperor of Abyssinia. who have promised the guarantee of collective security to small States over whom hangs the threat that they must one day suffer the fate of Abyssinia: What measures do they intend to take? Representatives of the world. France and Israel and it was agreed to make a joint attack on Egypt. the League of Nations voted to suspend all sanctions against Italy. In 1939. Idem) On July 6. through the Suez Canal. On 29th October 1956.

We are left then with a prospect of what our world might have been like now if WW2 had not taken place.Thirdly. Had that been the outcome it is also possible that Hitler would not have been encouraged to wage war in 1939 as it is likely he would not have got the support of those around him at the time. at least sent them home to reconsider their political aggression. From the history of the war it seems probable that if Abyssinia had not been attacked by gas and if it had been given material and political support by other so called “peaceloving nations”. blatantly invoked the policy of chemical warfare against the poorly protected soldiers and civilians of the country that he had invaded and attacked without provocation. Life is full of ‘if onlys’ and hindsight is always so clear. It was this element of attack that changed the possibility of a second Abyssinian victory. but as a result of selfishness by politicians that in turn created a weak League of Nations we can only imagine how life would be now. there was the ultimate form of aggression forced upon the Abyssinians when Italy through its dictator. then it might have beaten the Italians or. Mussolini and his generals. Page 31 of 31 .

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