Colonial POWs

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Berto
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Colonial POWs

Post by Berto » 26 Jun 2018 20:46

During the East African Campaign and Operation Compass in North Africa, the British captured between - I think - 100,000 and 200,000 Eritrean, Libyan, Somali and Ethiopian colonial troops. What was their treatment? Were they kept in POW camps until the end of the war or shipped overseas, like the Italians? Or were they released after some time, with total or partial exceptions?

zaptiè
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Re: Colonial POWs

Post by zaptiè » 27 Jun 2018 18:49

I only know a big POW camp for italian Ascaris was in Rumelia, near Kartum in Sudan. Here was also a hospital for POW with italian Medal officiers capturated in East Africa ( my uncle S. Ten Medico was here ,capturated in Amba Alagi ). The camp was in activity at last until July 1943 .

bertamingo
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Re: Colonial POWs

Post by bertamingo » 28 Jun 2018 05:17

Dont have any solid proof, but the logical presumption would be that the majority of colonial POWs were released after some time, because it'd be meaningless and costly to hold these men while a much larger war was being waged all across Europe.

bertamingo
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Re: Colonial POWs

Post by bertamingo » 28 Jun 2018 05:20

Just out of curiosity, of the almost 260,000 colonial troops in Italian East Africa in 1941, roughly how many were Ethiopians, Somalis, Eritreans respectively? The latter two were arguably more reliable in battle than their Ethiopian counterparts.

Berto
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Re: Colonial POWs

Post by Berto » 03 Jul 2018 22:53

I believe the largest group were the Eritreans, but I have no data.

bertamingo
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Re: Colonial POWs

Post by bertamingo » 04 Jul 2018 04:04

Berto wrote:I believe the largest group were the Eritreans, but I have no data.
Thanks for the reply, I would think so too, given the Eritrean askaris' long and good service record. The Ethiopians probably came in second due to the large population base, followed next by the also fierce but much less numerical Somalis. Lastly, there was an even smaller number of Yemeni mercenaries too.

Sid Guttridge
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Re: Colonial POWs

Post by Sid Guttridge » 04 Jul 2018 10:53

Hi Guys,

I believe most were Ethiopians raised for internal security since the Italian invasion of 1935-36 and were irregulars and unreliable. My guess is that most deserted for home during the Italian defeat or were quickly released. Ethiopia was, after all, an Allied country.

The Eritreans were the backbone of the Italian colonial forces and their senior units had several decades of embodiment and campaign experience in Somaliland, Libya and Ethiopia in the 1920s and 1930s. They were useful troops, having often performed better than metropolitan Italian forces (who were largely conscripts or MSVN Fascist militia) during these campaigns. However, they had been over expanded in recent years and their average quality had fallen. If any Italian colonial troops were held prisoner for any length of time, it was probably them.

The Somalis were much fewer in number and also unreliable. I expect almost all deserted for home as Allied casualties in occupying Italian Somaliland were tiny, indicating very little resistance.

Cheers,

Sid.

bertamingo
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Re: Colonial POWs

Post by bertamingo » 05 Jul 2018 04:08

Sid Guttridge wrote:Hi Guys,

I believe most were Ethiopians raised for internal security since the Italian invasion of 1935-36 and were irregulars and unreliable. My guess is that most deserted for home during the Italian defeat or were quickly released. Ethiopia was, after all, an Allied country.

The Eritreans were the backbone of the Italian colonial forces and their senior units had several decades of embodiment and campaign experience in Somaliland, Libya and Ethiopia in the 1920s and 1930s. They were useful troops, having often performed better than metropolitan Italian forces (who were largely conscripts or MSVN Fascist militia) during these campaigns. However, they had been over expanded in recent years and their average quality had fallen. If any Italian colonial troops were held prisoner for any length of time, it was probably them.

The Somalis were much fewer in number and also unreliable. I expect almost all deserted for home as Allied casualties in occupying Italian Somaliland were tiny, indicating very little resistance.

Cheers,

Sid.
Hi Sid, thank you for the interesting input, indeed the Etritreans formed the nucleous of the Italian forces in the horn of Africa. I read somewhere that Eritrean NCOs were even in command of the Yemeni mercenaries recruited by Italy. The Somalis were, if memory serves, mostly irregulars, thus their combat effectiveness were probably low compared to regulars, though there were several thousand Somalis from the conquered British Somaliland who fought on the Italian side under the command of their local chief, and these probably had more combat spirit in them than those raised in Italian Somalia. :D

bertamingo
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Re: Colonial POWs

Post by bertamingo » 05 Jul 2018 04:12

Just out of pure curiosity, were there any Libyan colonial troops serving in East Africa, or vise versa? Other colonial powers frequently had colonial soldiers embark on foreign deployments, wonder if the Italians did that too. Besides, was there also a small contingent of colonial forces stationed in Rome as honor guards and symbol of the Italian empire?

Berto
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Re: Colonial POWs

Post by Berto » 05 Jul 2018 08:07

If memory does not fail me, there were some Eritrean Askari in the Raggruppamento Maletti, stationed in Libya in 1940. I don't think there were any Libyan troops in East Africa, instead.

zaptiè
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Re: Colonial POWs

Post by zaptiè » 05 Jul 2018 12:05

No Lybian in AOI.
In Rome ( in Tivoli PAI depot) during War where a dozen of Somali Pai askari of the Somali Governor Guard , trapped of the begin of war when they stay on a colonial Exibition .
In Rome where also the " Albanian Btg of " Guardia Reale Abanese" ( albanian Royal Guard) and the Indian Btg " Hazad Hindustan " ( mostly ex POW) and an Arab Btg ( mostly Palestinian, Syrian and Iraki refugee), both part of Group " Frecce rosse".

bertamingo
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Re: Colonial POWs

Post by bertamingo » 21 Jul 2018 06:52

Berto wrote:
05 Jul 2018 08:07
If memory does not fail me, there were some Eritrean Askari in the Raggruppamento Maletti, stationed in Libya in 1940. I don't think there were any Libyan troops in East Africa, instead.
That's very interesting, thank you for sharing!

bertamingo
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Re: Colonial POWs

Post by bertamingo » 21 Jul 2018 06:55

zaptiè wrote:
05 Jul 2018 12:05
No Lybian in AOI.
In Rome ( in Tivoli PAI depot) during War where a dozen of Somali Pai askari of the Somali Governor Guard , trapped of the begin of war when they stay on a colonial Exibition .
In Rome where also the " Albanian Btg of " Guardia Reale Abanese" ( albanian Royal Guard) and the Indian Btg " Hazad Hindustan " ( mostly ex POW) and an Arab Btg ( mostly Palestinian, Syrian and Iraki refugee), both part of Group " Frecce rosse".
Another interesting story, thanks a lot! I had learned about the Albanian formation, but the Somalis and the Arab battalion are totally new to me. As for the Indians, I read it somewhere that an Italian-affiliated Indian battalion deserted to the Allies after the second battle of El Alaman, though not sure if that was the same battalion once deployed in Rome.

Sid Guttridge
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Re: Colonial POWs

Post by Sid Guttridge » 22 Jul 2018 11:02

There were, I believe, never any Libyan troops deployed in AOI.

However, the reverse was true in the 1920s and 1930s, when Eritrean troops played an important role in conquering Libya. They were also important in conquering Somaliland in the early 1920s. I believe all the Eritreans in Libya may already have been withdrawn home by the outbreak of WWII.

The senior Eritrean units were the only Italian colonial troops of any real substance, having been in existence for some 50+ years and campaigned successfully in Somaliland, Libya and Ethiopia. However, the Somalis, Libyans and Ethiopians had only been raised in the 1920s and 1930s and were not very reliable.

Cheers,

Sid.

zaptiè
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Re: Colonial POWs

Post by zaptiè » 23 Jul 2018 10:48

The indian Btg not deserted ,but was disarmated and ex POW returned POW.The few non POW where turned on propaganda office and , later , goes to Germany.

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