Official History of the Indian Armed Forces in the Second World War

East African Campaign, 1940–41

General Editor: Bisheshwar Prasad, D. Litt.

Combined Inter-Services Historical Section (India & Pakistan)


To All Who Served

Table of Contents



Chapter 1: The Background

Chapter 2: Topography

Chapter 3: The First Encounters

Chapter 4: Italians on the Retreat

Chapter 5: The First Assault on Keren

Chapter 6: The Advance Down the Red Sea Coast

Chapter 7: Plan for the Final Attack on Keren

Chapter 8: The Battle of Keren

Chapter 9: The Advance Continues

Chapter 10: The Capture of Amba Alagi

Chapter 11: Conclusion

Appendix 1: Order of Battle of 5th Indian Division (on 27 September 1940)

Appendix 2: Order of Battle—GAZELLE Force on Being Formed on 16 October 1940

Appendix 3: Order of Battle—Troops in the Sudan as on 20 January 1941

Appendix 4: Estimated Order of Battle of Italian Northern Army on 10 April 1941




Captain Premindra Singh Bhagat, VC, Royal Bombay Sappers and Miners—Subedar Richpal Ram, VC, 4/6 Rajputana Rifles—General Sir Archibald P. Wavell—Lt.-Gen. Sir William Platt—Maj.-Gen. A. G. O. Mayne—Maj.-Gens. L. M. Heath and N. M. de la P. Beresford-Peirse—Ethiopian Patriots on the March—Captured Italian War Material at Agordat—One of the fine thoroughfares in Asmara—Lt.-Gen. W. Platt Inspects His Guard of Honour at the Governor’s Palace at Asmara—Sappers and Miners of the Indian Army Clearing a Road Block Between Asmara and Massawa—The Sign Post Showing Massawa—Men of the 4/10 Baluch March Into Asmara—Indian Troops Manning an A.A. Post at Tessenei—A View of the Deserted Laquatat Fortress Near Agordat—Captured Italian War Material at Agordat—Captured Italian War Material at Agordat—Punjabi Soldiers in Position on a Hill Top Between Tessenei and Barentu—A Bren-gun carrier section of the Garhwalis about to move off on reconnaissance somewhere in Eritrea—A Panorama of the Mountains Around Keren—Supplies for the Troops by the Mules in Keren Hills—Supplies for Troops in Keren—Unloading Provisions and Stores at the Dumps—In the “Dug Out” Office of the GOC of an Indian Division at the Foot of the Keren Hills—A View of Keren—Signalmen Operate the Field Telephone at Battalion Hq. on Top of One of the Keren Hills—Men of the Central India Horse in Action in the Front Line in the Keren Hills—Bren-gun Carriers of 4/11 Sikh Regiment Coming into Action Around Keren—Keren at Last—These Punjabis in Eritrea With an Anti-tank Gun are Ready for All Comers—Men of 4/16 Punjab Regt. in Action With Their 3” Mortars in Eritrean Highlands—Indian Troops Constructing a Road in Eritrea—Some of the Bren-gun Carriers of a Famous Indian Cavalry Regiment in the Mountains of Ethiopia—A Despatch Riders Section in the Amba Alagi Area—A Truck of a Mechanised Column of an Indian Cavalry Regiment About to Start off on a Patrol in the Amba Alagi Area—A Bren-gunner and a Rifleman in a Stone Sangar at an Observation Post, Ethiopia—A Squadron Section Post and Observation Post Beyond Amba Alagi—Road Block Partly Cleared for the Trucks to Carry Supplies to the Forward Troops in Ethiopia—Panorama of the Country on the Southern Side of the Falaga Pass in Ethiopia—Members of the Jammu and Kashmir Mountain Battery at Work Camouflaging Their Guns—With Bayonets Fixed a Platoon of the Sikhs Attack an Italian Position up a Mountain in Ethiopia—A 25-Pounder Gun in Action Against Amba Alagi—On the Level Top of the Hill Men Take Their Next Advance at the Double, During an Attack on a Mountain Feature in Amba Alagi Area—Italian Motor Transport in Fort Toselli Captured by Allied Troops—The Prisoners of War in Enda Medani Alem Make a Huge Dump of Arms—Indian Troops on Guard Over What Was Left of Fort Toselli—The Duke of Aosta, After His Surrender, With British Generals and Staff Officers Leaving the Former Italian Stronghold at Amba Alagi—Maj.-Gen. Mayne With Some Officers After the Amba Alagi Victory—Italian Prisoners of War March Down From Toselli Fort to the Bottom of Toselli Pass at Enda Medani Alem


1. East Africa

2. Eritrea (Communications)

3. Northern Ethiopia

4. Gallabat—Metemma Area

5. The Advance—Kassala to Keren, Part I

6. The Advance—Kassala to Keren, Part II

7. Operations in Om Ager Area

8. Keren—The First Attack, Part I

9. Keren—The First Attack, Part II

10. Operations by 7th Indian Infantry Brigade, Part I

11. Operations by 7th Indian Infantry Brigade, Part II

12. Operations by 7th Indian Infantry Brigade North of Keren

13. Keren—The Final Battle

14. The Pursuit by the Indian Division, Keren to Asmara

15. Advance to Massawa

16. Battle of Massawa

17. The Pursuit, Southward from Asmara

18. The Area North of Amba Alagi

19. The Features North of the Falaga Pass

20. The Battle of Amba Alagi

Advisory Committee

Chairman: Secretary, Ministry of Defence, India

Members: Dr. Tara Chand

Prof. K. A. Nilakanta Sastri

Prof. Mohammad Hasbib

Dr. R. C. Mujumdar

General K. S. Thimayya

Lieut.-General Sir Dudley Russell

Lieut.-General S. P. P. Thorat

Military Adviser to the High Commissioner for Pakistan in India

Secretary: Dr. Bisheshwar Prasad