The Anglo-Ethiopian Society

Book Review - The Ethiopian Patriots Forgotten Voices of the Italo-Abyssinian War 1935-41

Andrew Hilton

Reviewer - Christian Curle

Andrew Hilton is to be congratulated on his foresight to mastermind the project which resulted in this fascinating book complete with original photographs and three maps. It is indeed a very worthy addition to the books on the liberation of Abyssinia. Its uniqueness lies in the fact that it is told by fourteen of the patriots themselves, including two women, who are all over eighty. The stories are in the very words of the old soldiers which have been most sympathetically translated from the Amharic by a young Ethiopian historian Yonatan Sahle. It's the stuff of the "Boys Own Paper" but alas many of the participants were killed. The courage of the patriots shines through and many were mere teenagers.

In his foreword the late Bill Deedes expresses his great admiration of the people of Ethiopia and the patriots. The preface by Andrew Hilton explains to us exactly why he was inspired to undertake this project on the patriots and just in time as year by year there are fewer left.

The very enlightening introduction by Richard Pankhurst sets the scene and explains what an important part the patriots played in the liberation and emphasises the strength of the movement. After the Emperor went into exile in Britain in 1936 it was the patriots who kept the flame of hope alive, never doubting the Emperor's promise to return. During the Italian occupation the patriots never ceased to harass the enemy, barefoot and with outdated guns such as muzzle loading rifles. Sometimes guns and ammunition were captured from the enemy. The local populace often backed them up by providing food and information but sometimes they would have to rely on shooting wild animals and foraging in the forests. It was only in 1940 that the patriots had the backup of the invading forces of Britain and the allies. In 1941 many marched triumphantly with the Emperor into Addis Ababa.

Forgotten Voices of the Italo-Abyssinian War 1935-41. Andrew Hilton. Spellmount Ltd, Stroud, Glos, 2007.
Paperback ISBN 9781862274440
185 pages
235 x 155 mm
16 plates; 3 maps
Price £14.99

First Published in News File Winter 2009

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