Battle In Africa 1879-1914, Fieldbooks by Howard Whitehouse

By Howard Whitehouse

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The Ethiopian army was known to be on the verge of retreat through hunger and Baratieri had been honour bound, by Prime Minister Crispi, to press forward. After a council with his brigadiers, he decided on a night march to a mountain position overlooking Menelik's camp. The Ethiopians would then be forced either to attack or withdraw ignominiously. Things went wrong from the start. Baratieri and his senior Brigadier, Arimondi, mistrusted each other. 1,200 native troops were absent due to a telegraphic error.

45 his vanguard ran into a huge body of Ethiopians and battle was joined. The Italians held their ground for several hours, but then the left flank battalion was overrun by some 15,000 enemy. The Stormberg Junction ( December 1899) was an astonishing example of how a difficult operation - a night attack could turn into a complete fiasco. Lt Col Gatacre planned to attack Boer positions on the heights above Stormberg and seize the railway junction. He intended to move 2,700 men to Molteno by rail on 9th December, then cover the ten miles to Stormberg on foot overnight and make a frontal assault at dawn.

Hourst, visited the Tuareg and wrote of their raiding. " Hourst echoed Duveyrier in his account, of a battle. Tradition was the key, with strict forms of ritual. It was "like a set of quadrilles... a medieval tournament". So traditional was Tuareg battle that at Izewan (1898) the Kel Dennik warriors demanded that the Kel Ahaggar - Northern Tuareg from Algeria - lay down their guns and fight with sword and spear (sensibly the Ahaggar refused). " Personal combat between chiefs was common. Hourst felt that fighting on foot was more usual than mounted, but this may have been because the 'lower Boer Shelter-trench.

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