East African Campaign – Andrew Stewart

STEWART, Andrew. The First Victory: The Second World War and the East Africa Campaign. Yale University Press, 2016. 328 pp.

First of all, it is clearly a university work, as evidenced by the resume of the author, and the publisher. In addition, references to the bibliography (9 pages + numerous notes) refer mainly to this type of book. It is a shame not to find some books – articles coming from more enthusiasts and not from academics.

Then, as the title suggests, it is an analysis of the campaign from the British angle, or more exactly as the author explains about the British army, but also (Neglected in other books) of several members of the Empire. The majority of the sources consulted by the author come from the British archives, and  from South Africa and even from Kenya. Italian archives are not mentioned in the list of sources. It is, moreover, confirmed by the author in his introduction, that he leaves the study of the Italian side to other authors. Indeed, the books consulted are only the classics Del Boca or the study of Ufficio storico (which dates from 1952). Unfortunately, this study will clearly not fill this point. It is a shame, but it also confirms the shortage of documentation and sources on the Italians during the AOI campaign.

Finally, the aerial aspect is almost totally absent. By turning the pages quickly, I found only very rare mentions about the aerial activity. Remarks which are, moreover, often of poor quality. I am thinking in particular of a paragraph referring to “the obsolete South African Bristol” (SAAF has never used aircraft of this manufacturer in East Africa), as well as to SAAF Hartebeeste piloted by (I have already explained why the term Hartebeeste is inappropriate for me and is more a result of a bad transcription in the British documents and that Hartbees should be used, and the unit of Southern Rhodesia had been integrated with the RAF and not the SAAF, in any case, the latter never piloted South African aircraft). Overall, it is clear from other references that the knowledge of the author is very limited (even erroneous) as soon as he speaks of aviation, and that the latter is the great absent of the study. It is unfortunate, because one can not neglect the role played by the latter in the success of the campaign (notably during the offensive in the south, which the author seeks to put forward widely), but also in the objectives Of the British command. The neutralization of Italian airports, especially in Eritrea, was considered a priority to eliminate any risk to navigation in the Red Sea.

For the rest (but to be confirmed on reading), the book seems of high quality in terms of land operations, as well as explaining at length the British (or rather Anglo – South African) strategy. Extensive developments also seem to be devoted to the political situation of the sector, in particular the problems of rebellion in Aden (which will oblige the RAF, in particular, to distract from the months of October to December some of these very limited means of materialism Finally, more elements seem to be provided on the case of the “Ethiopian Patriots”, as well as on the elimination of the last Italian troops and tensions orchestrated by the fascist party [a not insignificant Italian civilian population remaining On the spot] after November 1941.

Too bad, however, that the illustrations / photographs are starved with about 10 pages in the middle and the print quality very average.

For information, the book is available on Amazon by clicking on this link (France Shop) or this other link (English Shop).


Leave a Reply