Keren was, by far, the most important and most bloody battle fought during the East African campaign. What puzzles me is the huge difference between the casualties of Italian and Commonwealth troops, something similar to the ratio of losses between Japanese and Americans in some Pacific islands.
For the Italian (including African colonial troops) probably we will be never able to find fully reliable data: documents were destroyed when Italia commands were captured and the corpses of the fallen had often to be left unburied. Yet, we know, from the Italian official history (Le operazioni in Africa Orientale
), which in turn relies on the study by Bruttini and Puglisi ("L'impero tradito", 1957), that:
- Italian KIA were about 3,000;
- Italian wounded (but probably including sick): 4,500;
- colonial troops KIA: 9,000;
- colonial troops wounded (as above): unknown (but the grandtotal of WIA for Italian white and black troops is estimated at "about twice the number of the KIA", thus colonial WIA should have been little less than 20,000).
(Bruttini and Puglisi estimated a total of 12,147 KIA and 21,700 WIA).
These losses are in sharp contrast with the official casualties by the Commonwealth units (source
- KIA: 536;
- WIA: 3,229.
But if we check the list of Commonwealth soldiers, in service in the units that were fighting in Keren, buried in CWGC cemeteries in Sudan (Khartoum) and Eritrea (Keren) we find that 789 of them died between 2 Feb. 1941 and 27 March 1941. So, quite possibly, the total of Commonwealth KIA had been underestimated of at least 32%.
The first official account of the East African campaign, the book "The Abyssinian Campaigns. The Official Story of the Conquest of Italian East Africa" by the HMSO, indeed told that "The two Indian Divisions had lost between 4,000 and 5,000 men" (page 46). Nothing is said about the other units.
So I am asking: are there any other British or Indian or South African source (documents, books, articles, etc.), official or not, which provides data on the casualties? Were all the Commonwealth KIA buried in Khartoum and Keren, or also elsewhere?
And are there data about the casualties of the Degaullist Frenchmen and Ethiopian rebels fighting along with the British?