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Operation Appearance was a British landing in British Somaliland on 16 March 1941 against troops of the Italian Army. Seven months previous, in August 1940, the British withdrew from British Somaliland after an invasion by Italian forces. The British and Empire forces from the United Kingdom, British India, Australia and South Africa conducted the first Allied beach landing of the war, and retook the colony.

BackgroundEdit

Africa Orientale ItalianaEdit

On 9 May 1936 Africa Orientale Italiana (AOI) was formed from Ethiopia, Italian Eritrea and Italian Somaliland.[1] On 10 June 1940, Italy declared war on Britain and France, with Italian forces in the AOI threatening the British and French colonies in East Africa. Italian forces endangered British supply lines along the coast of East Africa, the Gulf of Aden, the Red Sea and the Suez Canal. Egypt, the Suez Canal, French Somaliland and British Somaliland were vulnerable to attack.

Invasion of British SomalilandEdit

Somaliland Italian invasion

Italian invasion of British Somaliland, August 1940

On 3 August 1940, the Italians invaded with two colonial brigades, four cavalry squadrons, armoured, artillery and air support.[2][3] Kassala was bombed and attacked and the British garrison was overmatched.[3] The Somaliland Camel Corps skirmished with the advancing Italians as the main British force slowly retired. On 5 August British Somaliland was cut off from French Somaliland. Surrounded and close to being cut off Major-General Alfred Reade Godwin-Austen was instructed by the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief Henry Maitland Wilson to withdraw from the colony. The 2nd battalion Black Watch, supported by two companies of the 2nd King's African Rifles and parties of the 1st/2nd Punjab Regiment covered the retreat to Berbera. By 2:00 p.m. 18 August most of the contingent had been evacuated to Aden with the HQ sailing with HMAS Hobart the morning of 19 August. Italian forces entered Berbera that evening.[4] British casualties were 38 killed and 222 wounded; and the Italians had 2,052 casualties.[5]

Landing at BerberaEdit

The operation to recapture British Somaliland began on 16 March 1941 from Aden, in the first successful Allied landing on an enemy-held beach of the war.[6] The 1/2nd Punjab Regiment and 3/15th Punjab Regiment Indian Army (which had been evacuated from the port in August 1940) and a Somali commando detachment, landed at Berbera from Force D (the cruisers HMS Glasgow and HMS Caledon, the destroyers HMS Kandahar and HMS Kipling, auxiliary cruisers Chakdina and Chantala, Indian trawlers Netavati and Parvati, two transports and ML 109).[6] When the Sikhs landed, the 70th Colonial Brigade "melted away".[7] Repairs began on the port and supplies for the 11th African Division began to pass through within a week, saving 500 miles (800 km) of transport by road. On 20 March, Hargeisa was captured. The British moved on to re-capture the whole of British Somaliland and on 8 April, Brigadier Arthur Reginald Chater was appointed Military Governor.[8] British forces were now able to advance into eastern Ethiopia, supplied through Berbera.[9] The Somaliland Camel Corps was reformed by mid-April and supported British forces over the next few months mopping up Italian led guerrilla forces.

FootnotesEdit

  1. Playfair 1954, p. 2.
  2. Mackenzie 1951, p. 23.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Playfair 1954, p. 170.
  4. Playfair 1954, pp. 172–177.
  5. Raugh 1993, p. 82.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Rohwer & Hümmelchen 1992, p. 54.
  7. Playfair 1954, p. 417.
  8. Playfair 1954, p. 418.
  9. Playfair 1954, p. 418–420.

ReferencesEdit

Further readingEdit

  • Shores, C. (1996). Dust Clouds in the Middle East: The Air War for East Africa, Iran, Syria, Iran and Madagascar, 1940–42. London: Grub Street. ISBN 1-898697-37-X. 
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