Battle of Maychew
Overview
 
The Battle of Maychew (also known as the Battle of Mai Ceu) was the last major battle fought on the northern front during the Second Italo-Abyssinian War
Second Italo-Abyssinian War
The Second Italo–Abyssinian War was a colonial war that started in October 1935 and ended in May 1936. The war was fought between the armed forces of the Kingdom of Italy and the armed forces of the Ethiopian Empire...

. The battle consisted of a failed counterattack
Counterattack
A counterattack is a tactic used in response against an attack. The term originates in military strategy. The general objective is to negate or thwart the advantage gained by the enemy in attack and the specific objectives are usually to regain lost ground or to destroy attacking enemy units.It is...

 by the Ethiopian forces under Emperor
Emperor of Ethiopia
The Emperor of Ethiopia was the hereditary ruler of Ethiopia until the abolition of the monarchy in 1974. The Emperor was the head of state and head of government, with ultimate executive, judicial and legislative power in that country...

 Haile Selassie
Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia
Haile Selassie I , born Tafari Makonnen, was Ethiopia's regent from 1916 to 1930 and Emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974...

 making frontal assault
Frontal assault
The military tactic of frontal assault is a direct, hostile movement of forces toward the front of an enemy force . By targeting the enemy's front, the attackers are subjecting themselves to the maximum defensive power of the enemy...

s against prepared Italian defensive positions under the command of Marshal
Marshal
Marshal , is a word used in several official titles of various branches of society. The word is an ancient loan word from Old French, cf...

 Pietro Badoglio
Pietro Badoglio
Pietro Badoglio, 1st Duke of Addis Abeba, 1st Marquess of Sabotino was an Italian soldier and politician...

. The battle was fought near Maychew
Maychew
Maychew is a town in northern Ethiopia. Located 190 kilometers north of Dessie on the Addis Ababa - Asmara highway in the Debubawi Zone of the Tigray Region, this town has a latitude and longitude of and an elevation of 2479 meters...

 (Mai Ceu), Ethiopia
Ethiopia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

, in the modern region of Tigray
Tigray Region
Tigray Region is the northernmost of the nine ethnic regions of Ethiopia containing the homeland of the Tigray people. It was formerly known as Region 1...

.
On 3 October 1935, General
General
A general officer is an officer of high military rank, usually in the army, and in some nations, the air force. The term is widely used by many nations of the world, and when a country uses a different term, there is an equivalent title given....

 Emilio De Bono
Emilio De Bono
Emilio De Bono was an Italian General, fascist activist, Marshal, and member of the Fascist Grand Council . De Bono fought in the Italo-Turkish War, World War I, and the Second Italo-Abyssinian War.-Early life:De Bono was born in Cassano d'Adda...

 advanced into Ethiopia from Eritrea
Eritrea
Eritrea , officially the State of Eritrea, is a country in the Horn of Africa. Eritrea derives it's name from the Greek word Erethria, meaning 'red land'. The capital is Asmara. It is bordered by Sudan in the west, Ethiopia in the south, and Djibouti in the southeast...

 without a declaration of war
Declaration of war
A declaration of war is a formal act by which one nation goes to war against another. The declaration is a performative speech act by an authorized party of a national government in order to create a state of war between two or more states.The legality of who is competent to declare war varies...

, leading a force of approximately 100,000 Italian and 25,000 Eritrean soldiers towards the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa
Addis Ababa
Addis Ababa is the capital city of Ethiopia...

.
Encyclopedia
The Battle of Maychew (also known as the Battle of Mai Ceu) was the last major battle fought on the northern front during the Second Italo-Abyssinian War
Second Italo-Abyssinian War
The Second Italo–Abyssinian War was a colonial war that started in October 1935 and ended in May 1936. The war was fought between the armed forces of the Kingdom of Italy and the armed forces of the Ethiopian Empire...

. The battle consisted of a failed counterattack
Counterattack
A counterattack is a tactic used in response against an attack. The term originates in military strategy. The general objective is to negate or thwart the advantage gained by the enemy in attack and the specific objectives are usually to regain lost ground or to destroy attacking enemy units.It is...

 by the Ethiopian forces under Emperor
Emperor of Ethiopia
The Emperor of Ethiopia was the hereditary ruler of Ethiopia until the abolition of the monarchy in 1974. The Emperor was the head of state and head of government, with ultimate executive, judicial and legislative power in that country...

 Haile Selassie
Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia
Haile Selassie I , born Tafari Makonnen, was Ethiopia's regent from 1916 to 1930 and Emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974...

 making frontal assault
Frontal assault
The military tactic of frontal assault is a direct, hostile movement of forces toward the front of an enemy force . By targeting the enemy's front, the attackers are subjecting themselves to the maximum defensive power of the enemy...

s against prepared Italian defensive positions under the command of Marshal
Marshal
Marshal , is a word used in several official titles of various branches of society. The word is an ancient loan word from Old French, cf...

 Pietro Badoglio
Pietro Badoglio
Pietro Badoglio, 1st Duke of Addis Abeba, 1st Marquess of Sabotino was an Italian soldier and politician...

. The battle was fought near Maychew
Maychew
Maychew is a town in northern Ethiopia. Located 190 kilometers north of Dessie on the Addis Ababa - Asmara highway in the Debubawi Zone of the Tigray Region, this town has a latitude and longitude of and an elevation of 2479 meters...

 (Mai Ceu), Ethiopia
Ethiopia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

, in the modern region of Tigray
Tigray Region
Tigray Region is the northernmost of the nine ethnic regions of Ethiopia containing the homeland of the Tigray people. It was formerly known as Region 1...

.

Background

On 3 October 1935, General
General
A general officer is an officer of high military rank, usually in the army, and in some nations, the air force. The term is widely used by many nations of the world, and when a country uses a different term, there is an equivalent title given....

 Emilio De Bono
Emilio De Bono
Emilio De Bono was an Italian General, fascist activist, Marshal, and member of the Fascist Grand Council . De Bono fought in the Italo-Turkish War, World War I, and the Second Italo-Abyssinian War.-Early life:De Bono was born in Cassano d'Adda...

 advanced into Ethiopia from Eritrea
Eritrea
Eritrea , officially the State of Eritrea, is a country in the Horn of Africa. Eritrea derives it's name from the Greek word Erethria, meaning 'red land'. The capital is Asmara. It is bordered by Sudan in the west, Ethiopia in the south, and Djibouti in the southeast...

 without a declaration of war
Declaration of war
A declaration of war is a formal act by which one nation goes to war against another. The declaration is a performative speech act by an authorized party of a national government in order to create a state of war between two or more states.The legality of who is competent to declare war varies...

, leading a force of approximately 100,000 Italian and 25,000 Eritrean soldiers towards the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa
Addis Ababa
Addis Ababa is the capital city of Ethiopia...

. In December, after a brief period of inactivity and minor setbacks for the Italians, De Bono was replaced by Badoglio.

Under Badoglio, the advance on Addis Ababa was renewed. Badoglio overwhelmed the armies of ill-armed and uncoordinated Ethiopian warriors with mustard gas, tanks, and heavy artillery. He successfully defeated the Ethiopian armies at the Battle of Amba Aradam
Battle of Amba Aradam
The Battle of Amba Aradam was a battle fought on the northern front of what was known as the Second Italo-Abyssinian War. This battle consisted of attacks and counterattacks by Italian forces under Marshal of Italy Pietro Badoglio and Ethiopian forces under Ras Mulugeta Yeggazu...

, the Second Battle of Tembien
Second Battle of Tembien
The Second Battle of Tembien was a battle fought on the northern front of what was known as the Second Italo-Abyssinian War. This battle consisted of attacks by Italian forces under Marshal Pietro Badoglio on Ethiopian forces under Ras Kassa Haile Darge and Ras Seyoum Mangasha...

, and the Battle of Shire
Battle of Shire
The Battle of Shire was a battle fought on the northern front of what was known as the Second Italo-Abyssinian War. This battle consisted of attacks and counterattacks by Italian forces under Marshal of Italy Pietro Badoglio and Ethiopian forces under Ras Imru Haile Selassie...

.

Quorom and Maychew

On 1 March 1936, Emperor Haile Selassie arrived by foot at his new headquarters in Quorom
Korem
Korem is a town in northern Ethiopia. Located on the eastern edge of the Ethiopian highlands in the Debubawi Zone of the Tigray Region, this town has a latitude and longitude of with an elevation of 2539 meters above sea level.Based on figures from the Central Statistical Agency in 2005, Korem...

. He arrived forty years to the day from the decisive Ethiopian victory at Adwa during the First Italo-Ethiopian War. On 19 March, both Ras
Ethiopian aristocratic and court titles
Until the end of the monarchy in 1974, there were two categories of nobility in Ethiopia: the Mesafint or princes, hereditary nobles, formed the upper echelon of the ruling class; while the Mekwanint were the appointed nobles, often of humble birth, who formed the bulk of the nobility...

Kassa Haile Darge
Kassa Haile Darge
Ras Kassa Haile Darge GCVO, GBE , was a Shewan nobleman, the son of Haile Wolde Kiros of Lasta and Tisseme Darge, and grandson of Ras Darge Sahle Selassie the brother of Menelik II's father....

 and Ras Seyum Mangasha
Seyum Mangasha
Seyum Mangasha KBE was an army commander and a member of the Royal family of the Ethiopian Empire.-Biography:...

 made their way to Quorom to join the Emperor. In addition, Ras Getachew Abate
Getachew Abate
Getachew Abate was an army commander and a member of the nobility of the Ethiopian Empire.- Biography :Getachew Abate was the son of Lique Mekwas Abate Ba-Yalew. He had a church education followed by language training at the Menelik School...

 arrived with a fresh army from Kaffa Province
Kaffa Province, Ethiopia
Kaffa was a province on the southwestern side of Ethiopia; its capital city was Jimma. It was named after the former Kingdom of Kaffa.Kaffa was bordered on the west by Sudan, on the northwest by Illubabor, on the north by Walega, on the northeast by Shewa, on the east by Sidamo, and on the...

. The Emperor divided his army into four groups. He arranged that one group would be commanded directly by himself and that the other three groups would be commanded by Ras Kassa, Ras Seyum, and Ras Getachew.

Compared to other Ethiopian forces, Haile Selasie's army was extremely well armed. He had an artillery
Artillery
Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...

 regiment of twenty 75 mm field guns, some Oerlikon 37 mm guns, and even a few 81 mm Brandt mortars. However, compared to the resources available to Badoglio, Haile Selasie's army was hopelessly outmatched. To even things up, the Emperor handed out between ten to fifteen dollars and distributed other gifts to the Azebu Galla
Oromo people
The Oromo are an ethnic group found in Ethiopia, northern Kenya, .and parts of Somalia. With 30 million members, they constitute the single largest ethnic group in Ethiopia and approximately 34.49% of the population according to the 2007 census...

. In exchange, they swore their allegiance to him and agreed to attack the Italian flanks.

Badoglio had the four divisions of the Italian I Army Corps and the three divisions of the Eritrean Corps at Maychew. Before the battle, the Marshal explained: "The Emperor has three choices. To attack, and be defeated; to wait for our attack, and we will win anyway; or to retreat, which is disastrous for an army that lacks means of transport and proper organization for food and munitions." Badoglio also enjoyed the intelligence edge of being able to intercept most of the Ethiopian radio communications.

On 21 March, Haile Selassie sent a radio message to his wife, Empress Menen Asfaw
Menen Asfaw
Empress Menen Asfaw was the wife and consort of Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia. Empress Menen was the daughter of Asfaw, Jantirar of Ambassel...

:
"Since our trust in our Creator and in the hope of His help and as we have decided to advance and enter the fortifications and since God is our only help, confide this decision in secret to the Abuna
Abuna
Also see Leaders of ChristianityAbun is the honorific title used for any bishop of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church as well as of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church...

, to the ministers and to the dignitaries and offer unto God our fervant prayers."

As soon as Badoglio intercepted this message indicating that Haile Selassie had decided to advance, he cancelled orders for his own proposed offensive. Instead, Badoglio would prepare defensive positions for an Ethiopian attack.

On 23 March, looking across a lush green valley towards the Italian positions at Maychew
Maychew
Maychew is a town in northern Ethiopia. Located 190 kilometers north of Dessie on the Addis Ababa - Asmara highway in the Debubawi Zone of the Tigray Region, this town has a latitude and longitude of and an elevation of 2479 meters...

, the Emperor contemplated his decision to strike first. His army was the last intact Ethiopian army between Badoglio and Addis Ababa. He decided he would direct the attack personally in accordance with tradition and the expectation of his followers. Six battalions of the Imperial Guard
Kebur Zabangna
Kebur Zabagna or Zebenya was the Ethiopian Imperial Guard. Also known as the First Division, this unit served the dual purposes of providing security for the Emperor of Ethiopia, and being an elite infantry division...

 (Kebur Zabangna
Kebur Zabangna
Kebur Zabagna or Zebenya was the Ethiopian Imperial Guard. Also known as the First Division, this unit served the dual purposes of providing security for the Emperor of Ethiopia, and being an elite infantry division...

) would be part of his force of approximately 31,000 fighters. Haile Selassie chose to attack against the advice of his foreign experts and against his own better judgement.

Had Haile Selassie attacked on 24 March as he originally planned, things may have gone differently; many of the Italians had only recently arrived at Maychew after the fall of Amba Aradam
Amba Aradam
Amba Aradam is a mountain in northern Ethiopia. Located in the Debubawi Zone of the Tigray Region, between Mek'ele and Addis Abeba, it has a latitude and longitude of and an elevation of...

. But, during a week frittered away by the Ethiopians in war councils, banquets, and prayers, the Italians had time to strengthen their defenses and time to bring up reserves.

Battle

At dawn on 31 March 1936, the attack was launched
Frontal assault
The military tactic of frontal assault is a direct, hostile movement of forces toward the front of an enemy force . By targeting the enemy's front, the attackers are subjecting themselves to the maximum defensive power of the enemy...

. It was St. George's Day. The attack began at 0545 hours and continued for thirteen hours with little or no let up.

The Italians had been "standing to" in the front line
Front line
A front line is the farthest-most forward position of an armed force's personnel and equipment - generally in respect of maritime or land forces. Forward Line of Own Troops , or Forward Edge of Battle Area are technical terms used by all branches of the armed services...

 positions all night, alerted to the attack by an Ethiopian deserter. The mountain troops
Mountain warfare
Mountain warfare refers to warfare in the mountains or similarly rough terrain. This type of warfare is also called Alpine warfare, named after the Alps mountains...

 (Alpini
Alpini
The Alpini, , are the elite mountain warfare soldiers of the Italian Army. They are currently organized in two operational brigades, which are subordinated to the Alpini Corps Command. The singular is Alpino ....

) of the 5th "Pusteria" Mountain Division
5 Alpine Division Pusteria
The 5th Alpini Division Pusteria was a light Infantry division of the Italian Army, specializing in Mountain Combat. The Alpini are a mountain infantry corps of the Italian Army, that distinguished itself in combat during World War I and World War II...

 were dug in on the slopes of Amba Bokora for the Italian I Corps. The rest of the I Corps was in reserve, the 26th "Assietta" Infantry Division
Italian 26 Infantry Division Assiette
The 26 Mountain Infantry Division Assietta was an Infantry Division of the Italian Army during World War II. The Assietta Division was formed in 1939, from the 26 Infantry Division Assietta that had participated in the Second Italo-Abyssinian War and was reorganized as a Mountain division prior to...

, the 30th "Sabauda" Infantry Division
Italian 30 Infantry Division Sabauda
30th Division "Sabauda" participated in the Second Italo-Abyssinian War and was reorganized as a binary division prior to the start of the East African Campaign during World War II.- Order of Battle Oct. 1935 :30th Division "Sabauda" - Gen...

, and the 4th "3rd January" Blackshirt Division. The two Eritrean divisions of the Eritrean Corps held Mekan Pass, the 1st Eritrean Division
Italian 1st Eritrean Division
The First Eritrean Division or I Division Indigeni was organized for service in the Second Italo-Abyssinian War in 1935. It was formed from the Eritrean ascari of the Battalion indigeni who provided the regular colonial forces of Italian Eritrea.- Order of battle :1st Native Division - Gen....

 and the 2nd Eritrean Division
Italian 2nd Eritrean Division
The Italian 2nd Eritrean Division, also known as the Second Eritrean Division or II Division Indigini , was an Italian Military division used in the Second Italo-Abyssinian War in 1935. It was formed from the Eritrean ascari of the Battalion indigeni who provided the regular colonial forces of...

. The 1st "23rd March" Blackshirt Division
Italian 1 Blackshirt Division 23 Marzo
The Blackshirt Division 23 March was an Italian MVSN Blackshirt militia unit formed for the Second Italo-Abyssinian War....

 was in reserve for the Eritrean Corps.

The Ethiopians advanced in three columns of 3,000 men each. In the first attacks, the Ethiopians hurled themselves at the Italian positions in waves. The fury of the attack and surprisingly accurate mortar fire carried the Ethiopians well into the defensive lines of the "Pusteria" Division. But the mountain troops struck back and soon the front lines were stabilized.

Switch to the left flank

The Ethiopians switched the focus of their attack and fifteen thousand men under Ras Kassa advanced against the Eritreans holding Mekan Pass on the Italian left flank. Haile Selassie hoped to face less resistance from the Eritreans. From 0700 to 0800 hours, the Ethiopians kept up a steady onslaught and, despite taking heavy casualties, were beginning to make gains. But at 0800 Badoglio unleashed the bombers of the Italian Royal Air Force (Regia Aeronautica
Regia Aeronautica
The Italian Royal Air Force was the name of the air force of the Kingdom of Italy. It was established as a service independent of the Royal Italian Army from 1923 until 1946...

) and the Ethiopians could hear the ominous engine roar as they closed in with poison gas.

Imperial Guard sent in

Haile Selassie now played his trump card. The Imperial Guard, under the command of Ras Getachew Abate, was sent in against the Eritreans. The training and discipline of this elite force was apparent in the methodical mode of their advance over the open ground. For three hours they struggled to roll up the Italian flank. The X Battalion of the 2nd Eritrean Division
Italian 2nd Eritrean Division
The Italian 2nd Eritrean Division, also known as the Second Eritrean Division or II Division Indigini , was an Italian Military division used in the Second Italo-Abyssinian War in 1935. It was formed from the Eritrean ascari of the Battalion indigeni who provided the regular colonial forces of...

 was virtually annihilated. In the end, the Italian commander of the unit called down concentrated artillery fire onto his own overrun positions and saved the day.

Last attack

By 1600 hours, it was apparent that the Imperial Guard was not going to be able to capture their objectives and Haile Selassie played his last card. He ordered an attack along the entire front. This last desperate action was again made by three columns, it was made under a heavily overcast sky, and it was made with little chance of success. The Ethiopians attacked everywhere and were driven back everywhere. It was at this point that the Azebu Galla
Oromo people
The Oromo are an ethnic group found in Ethiopia, northern Kenya, .and parts of Somalia. With 30 million members, they constitute the single largest ethnic group in Ethiopia and approximately 34.49% of the population according to the 2007 census...

, who had been on the sidelines, made their allegiance clear and attacked the withdrawing Ethiopians.

Haile Selassie's order to retreat was to be late in coming. He placed Ras Getachew Abate as Asmach
Ethiopian aristocratic and court titles
Until the end of the monarchy in 1974, there were two categories of nobility in Ethiopia: the Mesafint or princes, hereditary nobles, formed the upper echelon of the ruling class; while the Mekwanint were the appointed nobles, often of humble birth, who formed the bulk of the nobility...

. But the Ethiopians had lost many front line commanders, the soldiers had not eaten since before dawn, and discipline had understandably broken down. To make matters even worse, as the Ethiopian fled from the battlefield, they were mercilessly bombed from above by the Italian Royal Air Force and harassed on the ground by the Azebu Galla.

After the battle

On the evening of 31 March, Haile Selassie sent another message to his wife:
"From five in the morning until seven in the evening our troops attacked the enemy's strong positions, fighting without pause. We also took part in the action and by the grace of God remain unharmed. Our chief and trusted soldiers are dead or wounded. Although our losses are heavy, the enemy too has been injured. The Guard
Kebur Zabangna
Kebur Zabagna or Zebenya was the Ethiopian Imperial Guard. Also known as the First Division, this unit served the dual purposes of providing security for the Emperor of Ethiopia, and being an elite infantry division...

 fought magnificently and deserve every praise. The Amhara
Amhara people
Amhara are a highland people inhabiting the Northwestern highlands of Ethiopia. Numbering about 19.8 million people, they comprise 26% of the country's population, according to the 2007 national census...

 troops also did their best. Our troops, even though they are not adapted for fighting of the European type, were able to bear comparison throughout the day with the Italian troops."


Many of the Ethiopian commanders now prepared to make for their own lands. Dejazmach
Ethiopian aristocratic and court titles
Until the end of the monarchy in 1974, there were two categories of nobility in Ethiopia: the Mesafint or princes, hereditary nobles, formed the upper echelon of the ruling class; while the Mekwanint were the appointed nobles, often of humble birth, who formed the bulk of the nobility...

Wondosson Kassa
Wondosson Kassa
Wondosson Kassa, also known as Wond Wossen Kassa, was a member of the royalty of the Ethiopian Empire, an army commander, and a patriot.- Biography :Leul Wondosson Kassa was the eldest son of Ras Kassa Haile Darge...

, one of Ras Kassa's sons, was to go to Lasta
Lasta
Lasta is a historic district in north-central Ethiopia. It is the district in which Lalibela is situated, the former capital of Ethiopia during the Zagwe dynasty and home to 11 medieval rock-hewn churches....

 south of Wag
Wag
Wag is a traditional highland district in the Amhara Region of Ethiopia, in the approximate location of the modern Wag Hemra Zone. Weld Blundell described the district as bounded on the south by the mountains of Lasta, on the east and north by the Tellare River, and the west by the Tekezé...

, his grandfather's country. In Lasta the inhabitants were both warlike and loyal to the "Shoan Emperor," Haile Selassie. Dejazmach Aberra Kassa
Aberra Kassa
Aberra Kassa was an army commander and a member of the Royal family of the Ethiopian Empire.-Biography:Leul Dejazmach Aberra Kassa was the second son of Ras Kassa Haile Darge. Kassa Haile Darge was a loyal ally of Negus Tafari Makonnen, who ultimately was crowned Emperor Haile Selassie I of...

, one of Ras Kassa's other sons was to go to the Kassa fief of Salale in northern Shoa. Ras Seyum was ordered to return to Tigray and wage guerrilla war
Guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare and refers to conflicts in which a small group of combatants including, but not limited to, armed civilians use military tactics, such as ambushes, sabotage, raids, the element of surprise, and extraordinary mobility to harass a larger and...

. Ras Kassa and Asmach Getachew, with the remnants of their own forces and with the remnants of the Guard, accompanied Haile Selassie as he made his way into the friendly highlands of Wag and Lasta and away from the snarling Azebu Galla.

Retreat

On the night of 2 April, the Emperor finally ordered a retreat. The retreating columns set off before dawn the next day towards Lake Ashangi and the highlands of Quorom. Haile Selassie, wearing a pith helmet
Pith helmet
The pith helmet is a lightweight cloth-covered helmet made of cork or pith...

, rode a white horse and the retreat was initially not chaotic. In the early morning, circumstances changed as two latent threats materialized. The Azebu Galla started attacking the flanks and Italian aircraft arrived. The Imperial Guard, as part of the rear guard commanded by Asmach Getachew, lost more men over the next two days than were lost during the battle.

Late on 3 April, the Ethiopian columns reached Quorom and the relative safety of the highlands. It was now decided that the columns would be dispersed. As a result, all semblance of order and organization were lost. In the early morning of 4 April, the battle weary and thirsty survivors of the Emperor's army struggled towards Lake Ashangi. Roughly 20,000 Ethiopians crossed the open plain towards Lake Ashangi and, due to brutal attacks from the Azebu Galla and due to near continuous attacks from the air, thousands would be lost before they got close to the lake's shore. Worse, the water of Lake Ashangi had been sprayed with deadly chemicals by the Italian Royal Air Force and it was poison by the time the Emperor's army arrived. Late on 4 April, Haile Selassie looked with despair upon the horrific sight of the dead bodies of much of his army ringing the poisoned lake.

Pilgrimage to Lalibella and plan to stand at Dessie

It was believed among the Ethiopians that it might be possible to make a stand at Dessie. The Crown Prince
Crown Prince
A crown prince or crown princess is the heir or heiress apparent to the throne in a royal or imperial monarchy. The wife of a crown prince is also titled crown princess....

 Asfa Wossen
Asfa Wossen
Asfa Wossen was a Meridazmach of Shewa, an important noble office of Ethiopia...

 had been sent there to raise a new army. With the Crown Prince in Dessie were Shum
Ethiopian aristocratic and court titles
Until the end of the monarchy in 1974, there were two categories of nobility in Ethiopia: the Mesafint or princes, hereditary nobles, formed the upper echelon of the ruling class; while the Mekwanint were the appointed nobles, often of humble birth, who formed the bulk of the nobility...

Wadajo Ali and Fitawrari
Ethiopian aristocratic and court titles
Until the end of the monarchy in 1974, there were two categories of nobility in Ethiopia: the Mesafint or princes, hereditary nobles, formed the upper echelon of the ruling class; while the Mekwanint were the appointed nobles, often of humble birth, who formed the bulk of the nobility...

Fikremariam
Fikremariam
Fikremariam was an Ethiopian commander and a patriot.-Biography:Fikremariam was from Menz, an Amhara region of Shewa Province....

. Wadajo Ali was the "real" Governor of Wollo
Wollo
Wollo was a historical region and province in the northeastern part of Ethiopia, with its capital city at Dessie. The province was named after the Wollo Oromo, who settled in this part of Ethiopia in the 17th century...

 and Fikremariam commanded the Guard and the Shewa
Shewa
Shewa is a historical region of Ethiopia, formerly an autonomous kingdom within the Ethiopian Empire...

n garrison at Dessie. Ammunition and supplies were accumalated in anticipation of protracted operations in the north.

Before getting to Dessie, the Emperor decided to make a pilgrimage to the holy city of Lalibella. Included in the Emperor's retinue was Coptic Abuna
Abuna
Also see Leaders of ChristianityAbun is the honorific title used for any bishop of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church as well as of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church...

Petros, Etchage
Ethiopian ecclesiastical titles
The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church is a hierarchical organization with many offices, some of which are unique to it. Some of the more important offices include:...

Gabre Giyorgis, Ras Kassa, Dejazmach Adafersaw Yenadu
Adafersaw Yenadu
Adafersaw Yenadu, also known as Adafrisau YeNado, was an army commander, a member of the nobility of the Ethiopian Empire, and a patriot.-Biography:...

, Dejazmach Wondosson Kassa, and Dejazmach Aberra Kassa. From 12 April the Emperor spent three days there in prayer. On 15 April, Haile Selassie left Lalibella and rejoined his army as it continued its plodding march towards Dessie. At Magdala
Magdala
Magdala is the name of at least two places in ancient Israel mentioned in the Jewish Talmud and one place that may be mentioned in the Christian New Testament...

, the Emperor was to learn that the Crown Prince had abandoned Dessie on 14 April without firing a shot. He also learned that the city was already occupied by the Eritreans. The Emperor's column turned towards Worra Ilu
Were Ilu
Were Ilu is a town in north-central Ethiopia. Located in the Debub Wollo Zone of the Amhara Region, this town has a latitude and longitude of . From the 1870s, Were Ilu had a Thursday market....

, but runners then brought the news that Worra Ilu had fallen too. By forced march, the Emperor and his party made their way to Fikke
Fiche
Fiche is a town in central Ethiopia. The administrative centre of the Semien Shewa Zone of the Oromia Region, located about three km off the main Addis Ababa-Debre Marqos road, Fiche has a latitude and longitude of and an elevation between 2738 and 2782 metres above sea level.Notable landmarks in...

 in Salale.

On 20 April, Marshal Badoglio flew to Dessie. He noted great strips of cloth stretched across the decorated streets. On the cloth, the local population had written: "The Hawk has flown."

On 26 April, when Badoglio launched his "March of the Iron Will
March of the Iron Will
The March of the Iron Will , or the Iron-Will Column , was a Fascist propaganda event staged during the final days of the Italian invasion of Ethiopia...

" towards Addis Ababa, he faced no meaningful Ethiopian resistance.

Addis Ababa

From Fikke, Haile Selassie made his way towards Addis Ababa. By 1 May, he had arrived in the capital. This was one month after the Battle of Maychew. With him were Ras Kassa and Asmach Getachew. When the Emperor arrived, he found a city in a state of near panic.

See also

  • Ethiopian Order of Battle Second Italo-Abyssinian War
    Ethiopian Order of Battle Second Italo-Abyssinian War
    Ethiopian forces in the Second Italo-Abyssinian War besides the Central Army were mobilized from various provinces under their local leader. According to 1935 Italian intelligence estimates of the Ethiopian provinces and their forces on the eve of hostilities the Ethiopians had an army of 350,000...

  • Army of the Ethiopian Empire
    Army of the Ethiopian Empire
    Armies of the Ethiopia have existed since earliest times. Ethiopia maintained a sizable contingent of her forces in her Sabbean Garrisons which expanded out to project power over colonies in Yemen and to protect Caravans or trade routes....

  • Italian Order of Battle Second Italo-Abyssinian War
    Italian Order of Battle Second Italo-Abyssinian War
    The following is the Italian Order of Battle at the beginning of the Second Italo-Abyssinian War as of October 8, 1935.- Commando Supremo Africa Orientale:Commander: General Emilio De Bono to 11/1935, Field Marshal Pietro Badoglio 11/1935 - 6/1936...

  • Royal Italian Army
    Royal Italian Army
    The Regio Esercito was the army of the Kingdom of Italy from the unification of Italy in 1861 to the birth of the Italian Republic in 1946...

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