Historical Timeline of the Abyssinian War

Timeline header

The following timeline enables a snap-shot look at select political and military events of the Abyssinian War. This timeline will aid in organising forces and creating scenarios for historical or fictional based games. It is worth pointing out that some variation in exact dates and name spellings does occur across sources so differences will be apparent dependant on which a reader refers to. Also, ‘claims’ made by both sides are not always easy to substantiate but are nevertheless worth reporting as they flesh out detail that is otherwise hard to find, which most likely have a kernel of truth to them at the very least.

Therefore, ‘claimed’ or ‘reported’ results in the timeline may require further investigations to find exact details, though these may never be known or prove difficult to find given the use of propaganda in the war. Overall this is not a big issue as the expanded detail provides a good narrative for the reader to use to see the level of military activity going on. This same timeline can be used for The Abyssinian War counterfactual and players may use it see the flow of events that will aid in determining forces, location and scenario situations to generate games. (SF = Southern Front operations commanded by General Graziani).




Date Timeline historical – Political Timeline historical – Military
1928 August 2: The Italo–Ethiopian Treaty of 1928 is signed. It declares a 20-year friendship between the two nations and gives a concession at Asseb to Ethiopia. It also calls for the two nations to co-operate in building a road between Asseb and Dessie.
1930 Italy builds a fort at Walwal, 150km inside of Ethiopian, and garrisons the fort with Somali Askari.
September 1934 Italy and Abyssinia release a joint statement repudiating aggression against one another.
November 1934 November 23: An Anglo–Ethiopian boundary commission discovers the Italian force at Walwal. British members of the delegation soon retire to avoid an international incident.
December 1934 December 5: Violence breaks out between the opposing forces at Walwal. The Ethiopians lose about 110 men, while the Italians lose 50 men, including 2 Italians.
December 6: Abyssinia protests Italian aggression at Walwal.
December 8: Italy demands apology for Walwal incident.
December 11: Italy demands financial and strategic compensation.
January 1935 January 3: Ethiopia appeals to the League of Nations for arbitration into the Walwal incident.
February 1935 February 23: Mussolini sends Emilio De Bono to Eritrea and Rodolfo Graziani to Italian Somaliland along with 100,000 Italian troops to prepare for invasion
March 1935 March 8: Ethiopia again requests arbitration and protests the Italian military build-up.
March 13: Italy and Ethiopia agree on a neutral zone in the Ogaden.
March 17: Ethiopia again appeals to the League due to Italian build-up.
March 22: The Italians yield to pressure from the League of Nations for arbitration into the Walwal incident.
March 28: General Emilio De Bono is named Commander in Chief of all Italian forces in East Africa.
April 1935 Italians began a military buildup in East Africa, adding 700,000 new troops to bolster the 600,000 already in the region. This includes Italian Regular and the fascist Blackshirt divisions.
May 1935 May 25: League council resolves to meet if no fifth arbitrator has been selected by June 25, or if a settlement isn’t reached by August 25.
May 31: Italy mobilises a division of 15,000 men, and constitutes three new Blackshirt divisions.
June 1935 June 19: Ethiopia requests neutral observers.
June 23 – 24: Britain sends Anthony Eden to offer concessions on the Ethiopian question, they are rejected by Italy.
June 25: Italy and Abyssinia meet in The Hague to negotiate an agreement but the talks fail after 2 weeks Italy declares that arms sales to Abyssinia will be viewed as an unfriendly act.
July 1935 July 9: The discussions fall apart
July 25: Britain declares an arms embargo on both Italy and Ethiopia.
July 26: The League confirms that no fifth member has been selected.
August 1935 August 3: The League limits arbitration talks to matters except for the sovereignty of Walwal. They are to meet again on September 4 to examine relations between the two countries.
August 12: Abyssinia pleads for arms embargo to be lifted.
August 16: France and Britain offer Italy large concessions in Ethiopia to avert war which are rejected.
August 22: Britain reaffirms its embargo on armaments.
September 1935 September 3: The League of Nations exonerates both sides in the Walwal incident. Not wanting to upset Italy in the hopes that Mussolini will back them against Germany, Britain, and France do nothing to discourage further Italian military buildup.
September 10: Pierre Laval, Anthony Eden and Sir Samuel Hoare agree on limitations to Italian sanctions.
September 25: Ethiopia’s request for neutral League observers along the border is ignored.
September 28: Ethiopia begins to mobilize its large, but poorly-equipped, army.
October 1935 October 2: Ethiopian frontier near Mount Mussa Ali violated by Italian troops.
October 3: Haile Selassie orders his Generals to withdraw from the border.He issues a proclamation of general mobilization. October 3: De Bono and his army invade without a declaration of war. Haile Selassie declares war on Italy in response to the invasion. Italian aircraft bombed Adowa and Adigrat. Troops invaded Agame province.(SF) General Graziani creates a second front in the war by attacking from Italian Somaliland.
October 5: The Italian army captures Adigrat.
October 6: The Italian army captures Adowa.(SF) Gerlogubi taken. Dolo previously taken.
Map 2 Roman Eagles
October 7: The League of Nations declares Italy the aggressor.
October 11: League members voted to impose sanctions unless Italy withdraws. October 11: Italian troops consolidated line Amba Gherina-Chidammert-Mount Rais. Degra Sion occupied.
October 12: Haile Selassie’s son-in-law and 1,200 troops surrender to Italian forces at Adagamos. Italy uses this as propaganda.(SF) Italians bombed Fort Dagnere.
October 14: De Bono issues a proclamation ordering the suppression of slavery in Ethiopia. October 14: Hauzein (south of Adowa) occupied.
October 15: Axum holy city occupied by troops.
October 16: (SF) Italian Dubat battalion takes Ethiopian outpost at Bur Dodi in conjunction with allied Sultan Ollol Dinle who seizes Dagnerei on the Scebeli river.
October 17: The Ethiopian ‘Army of the Centre, the Mahel Sefari, commanded by Ras Mulugueta, sets out from Addis Ababa for the north.
October 18: Britain assures Italy it will not take independent action in the Mediterranean. October 18: Italian aircraft bombed Makale.
October 23: (SF) Scillave taken, as Ethiopian garrison is beset with malaria.
October 25: Italian Askaris occupied Callofo, the principal centre of the Sliaveli region.
October 25: Italian Askaris occupied Callofo, the principal centre of the Sliaveli region.
October 27: Adi Nefas (in Tigre) occupied by the Italians.Ras Seyum avoids battle and retires slowly before the Italian advance in the North. Considerable concentrations of Ethiopian troops reported at Dessie.
De Bono -Oct3 to mid Nov 35
November 1935  November 3: Italian troops move South toward Makale. Heavy rains hamper operations.
November 5: (SF) Graziani occupy Gorrahei (Scebeli sector), after it is evacuated without resistance.
 November 6: Due to the cautious approach of general De Bono, he is replaced by Pietro Badoglio.
November 8: Italian troops capture Makale and are welcomed by the locals.
November 10: (SF) Graziani takes Warandab and Grabrehor.
November 11: (SF) Battle of Hamanlei. Column Maletti is ambushed by an Ethiopian force including armoured trucks. Engagement results in an Ethiopian withdrawal but not before the Italians are very roughly handled. Taking heavy casualties.
November 12: Italians on the northern front occupied Abi Nevrid. Ethiopians claimed capture of four tanks on the southern front.
November 15: Serious fighting reported at Asbi between a Danakil column and Ethiopian force under Dedjasmatch Kassa Sebhat.
Screen Shot 2015-06-27 at 9.48.18 pm
November 16: De Bono is promoted to Marshal of Italy. However, his advance had made no meaningful progress, displeasing Mussolini. He is recalled to Italy.Marshal Pietro Badoglio is appointed Commander-in-Chief. November 16: Italians secure fords over the Takazze River in Czembela region.
November 17: Daggash Bur bombed by Italian planes
November 18: Sanctions go into effect against Italy. They do not include oil or steel. Britain and France refuse to comply, citing the fact that the sections will not effect the US because they are not members of the League. November 18: Emperor Haile Selassie accompanied by the Imperial Guard moves his Headquarters to Dessi, the capital of Wollo.
November 19: Ras Seyum appears with about 20,000 well-armed men in eastern Tembien between two Italian main lines of advance from Makale and Adowa regions.
November 21: Haile Sellasie travels by air to visit troops in Harar
November 21: (SF) Italians announce the surrender of Hussen Haile, Abd-el-Kerim Mahd, son of the Mullah and other chieftains of the Ogaden.Graziani gains success near Dolo on the Southern front against Ras Desta.
November 28: Ethiopian troops reported moving northwards from Dessie.
November 29: Ethiopians claim surprise and rout of 300 Italians near Odobo, in Aussa region.
November 30: Marshal Pietro Badoglio arrives at Adigrat to assume his role as Italian Commander-in-Chief.
Ogaden overview
December 1935 December 2: Ethiopians declare Harrar an ‘open town’ to avoid air bombing.
. December 5: Italian planes bombed Dessie, where Haile Sellasie was encamped. Ethiopians admit 280 killed and wounded with the American Red Cross hospital bombed.
December 8: Hoare-Laval Plan is signed, which concedes two-thirds of Ethiopia to Italy. December 8: Italians capture Abbi Addi, capital of Tembien.
December 8: Hoare-Laval Plan is signed, which concedes two-thirds of Ethiopia to Italy.

December 9: Hoare-Laval Plan is made public. It is rejected by Ethiopians and causes large political embarrassment in France and Britain.

December 13: The British and French purpose the Hoare-Laval Pact, but abandon the proposal after it is leaked that the Pact would sell out the Ethiopians to the Italians, by giving Italy large amounts of Ethiopian territory and economic control of the south of the country.

December 15: Haile Selassie launches his “Christmas Offensive”.
Aby Xmas offensive

Christmas Offensive

December 17: Haile Selassie launches his Christmas Offensive to test the new commander. Hi s forces cross the Takazze River and drive back the Italians in to the Dembiguina Pass.The Battle of Dembeguina Pass begins. An Italian force of 1,000 men, led by Major Criniti, is cut off. An Italian relief column is turned back after being ambushed, but Criniti and half his troops break out on their own. Italian forces are pushed back 12 miles.Italians admit 272 killed and wounded, with a loss of ten captured tankettes and twenty-eight machine guns.
December 18: Italians participate in “Harvest Gold”, during which people pledged money and themselves to Mussolini’s regime. This includes donating their wedding rings.
December 25: 12,000 man column fights battle at Af Gaga Pass driving Ethiopians from trenches. Ethiopian counterattack Af Gaga Pass at night, but are beaten back.
December 26: Badoglio requests and receives permission to use chemical weapons after a downed Italian pilot, Tito Minniti, is allegedly killed by Ethiopia forces. The Italian Air Force attacks a Red Cross Hospital with chemical weapons. This is in direct violation of the 1899 and 1907 Hague Conventions, which outlawed the use of chemical weapons.
December 26: Haile Selassie files a formal complaint to the League of Nations regarding the use of chemical weapons.
December 27: Ethiopians counterattack North of Makale and claim capture of eleven machine guns, many tents, stores equipment and munitions.
December 28: Ethiopians claim recapture of Abbi Addi.
December 31: (SF) Italian planes bombed Swedish Red Cross unit near Dolo eighty patients and staff killed or wounded.
January 1936 January 1: Italians claim bombed Swedish Red Cross unit near Dolo retaliation for decapitation of downed aviators.
January 3: Emperor Haile Selassie protests to League about Italy’s bombing of villages.
January 7 – 10: (SF) In the Battle of Ganale Dorya, General Graziani attacks troops under Ras Desta, after over three days of slaughter, the Ethiopians break and flee.
January 8: Heavy rains hampered operations on both fronts. Ethiopians reported occupation of Tembien province by Ras Seyum.
January 10: Ethiopians announced defeat of Italian column in Waki region and capture of six tanks, nine machine-guns, and wireless apparatus.
January 12-15: (SF) Graziani starts an attack on Ras Desta’s forces, North and North-West of Dolo. After three day’s fighting, the Italians drive back the Ethiopians and occupied the lower territory between the rivers Ganale-Doria and Dawa. Heavy casualties are reported on both sides.
January 13: Italians reported repulse of heavy Ethiopian attacks South-east of Makale, and fighting near Axum.
January 18: Negele Boran in Sidamo province is captured. Ethiopia asks for stronger sanctions against Italy.
January 20: (SF) Rome reports an advance of 120 miles from Dolo. Ethiopian losses estimated as 5,000 killed, Italian losses 500, mostly wounded, Ras Desta’s forces reported to be 15,000-20,000 strong. Flitu captured, 83 miles from Dolo.Neghelli occupied – fighting subsides until Graziani’s April offensive
January 20– 24: The inconclusive First Battle of Tembien brings the Ethiopian “Christmas Offensive” to an end. In Tembien, the engagement develops in a general battle on a 70-mile front.Italians claim to shoot down a Caproni bomber. Fierce battle rages.The campaign results in more than 8,000 Ethiopian casualties, 1,100 Italian forces, the “28 October” Blackshirt Division very roughly handled.

First Tembien

January 21: Ethiopia decrees general mobilisation of all available man-power.
January 22: (SF) Graziani troops occupy Neghelli, Ras Desta’s HQ, capturing munitions, military stores and wireless equipment.
January 26: (SF) Ras Desta’s withdrawl caused gap in the southern front, which was filled by a new army under Dejaz Makonnen, commanding Bale troops.
January 27: (SF) Ethiopian southern front, forces sustained heavy casualties in the last week, upwards of 3,000 men.
February 1936 February 10: The Italians attack and the Ethiopians under Ras Mulugeta counterattack in the Battle of Amba Aradam (Enderta) southwest of Chalacot.
February 19: The Battle of Amba Aradam ends and the Ethiopians are defeated with heavy losses, including Mulugeta and his son.
Amba Ardam map
February 27: The Second Battle of Tembien begins. The Italians destroy the armies of Ras Kassa and Ras Seyum. Eritrean corps assault Debra Amba strongly held by Ethiopians.
February 29: The Ethiopians are defeated in the Second Battle of Tembien leaving few survivors from the armies of Ras Kassa and Ras Seyum.
Second Tembien
February 29: Badoglio commences the Battle of Scire.
March 1936 March 1: II Corps troops ambushed on Haimanal Heights, heavy fighting ensues.
March 2: II Corps resumes it advance against enemy counterattack by regulars supported by many heavy automatic weapons. Italian artillery and airpower decisive.
March 3: The League asks Italy and Ethiopia to open negotiations.
March 4: The Battle of Scire Italian losses are 1,000, 4,000 Ethiopians subsequently equal that number in the retreat. Ras Imru’s army is destroyed.
Battle of Scire

Battle of Scire (Shire)

March 5: Ethiopia accepts negotiations appeal. March 5: II Corps crosses Takazze River.
March 17: (SF) Thirty Italian aircraft bomb Jijiga on three successive days.
March 20: Ethiopia again appeals to the League, stating that nothing effective had yet been enforced.
March 21: Emperor Haile Selassie protests to the League again, reporting Italian atrocities such as use of chemical weapons, destruction of ambulances and the massacre of civilians.
March 28: Thirty Italian aircraft bomb Gondar, destroying French catholic mission, and Goba.
March 29: Italian planes firebomb Harar.
March 31: The Battle of Mai Chew (Lake Ascianghi) occurs. Emperor Haile Selassie personally leads an unsuccessful counterattack in the Battle of Maychew. This is the last major battle of the war on the northern front. An army lead by Haile Selassie is defeated.
battle of mai Chew
April 1: Ethiopia pleads for removal of arms embargo, financial assistance, and heavier sanctions on Italy. April 1: Starace Column enters Gondar.
April 4: Most of what remained of Haile Selassie’s withdrawing army is destroyed at Lake Ashangi.
April 14: (SF) The Battle of Ogaden begins. Graziani’s mechanised army, 38,000 strong, is arranged for a three pronged offensive of columns.Ras Nasibu commands an Ethiopian force of 28,000 men including two battalions of Imperial Guard with well entrenched positions about Daggahbur-Sassabaneh-Bullaleh, the so-called “Hindenburg Wall”.
Ogaden #2
April 15-17: (SF) Nasi Column encounters stiff resistance at the Gorah Wadi, employing Libyan veterans, tanks, flamethrowers and artillery to force an Ethiopian withdrawal.
April 18: (SF) Nasi Column reaches the wells of Birkut, encountering an Ethiopian counterattack.
April 14-23: (SF) Columns Agostini, Frusci and Verne advance without resistance to the Hindenburg Wall.
April 24: Badoglio starts his March of Iron Will from Dessie to Addis Ababa, encountering little resistance.
April 24: (SF) Fierce fighting breaks out all along the Ogaden front, starting a decisive series of engagements over ten days.Nasi column breaks the Hindenburg Wall at Daggahbur resulting in a general Ethiopian withdrawal.
April 29: (SF) Graziani’s forces enter Sassabaneh and Bullaleh.
April 30: (SF) Graziani’s forces enter Daggahbur.
May 1936 May 2: Haile Selassie boards a train and prepares to flee the country. Italian forces ask Mussolini for permission to bomb Haile Selassie’s train, but Mussolini refuses.Emperor Haile Selassie leaves the capital city of Addis Ababa for Djibouti, whence he travels to Europe to personally address the League. He appoints Ras Imru Haile Selassie as his regent during his absence.
May 3: Ras Nasibu joins emperor Hale Sellasie on a train to Djibouti. Ethiopian southern army disintegrates.
Aschangi to Addis Ababa
May 5: Badoglio enters Addis Ababa and the war officially ends. 1 June 1936 – The Italians merge their East African Colonies into the state of Africa Orientale Italian (Italian East Africa).
May 7: Italy officially annexes Ethiopia.
May 8: Graziani enters Harar.
May 9: Victor Emmanuel III is proclaimed Emperor of Abyssinia and Badoglio is appointed as his Viceroy in Ethiopia. May 9: Italian troops from the northern front and from the southern front link up at Dire Dawa.
June 5: Mussolini issues an order to kill all rebel prisoners.
June 11: Badoglio is replaced by Marshal Rodolfo Graziani as Governor General of the colony.
June 30: Emperor Haile Selassie addresses the League of Nations. The League officially condemns the Italian actions. Selassie is heckled by Italian Reporters and later declares “It is us today. It will be you tomorrow.”
July 1936 July 4: The League drops all sanctions against Italy.
July 28: Two sons of Ras Kassa lead several thousand men in an attempt to recapture Addis Ababa from the Italians, but are driven back by the Italian garrison. Suspected of supporting this action, the archbishop of Dessie, Abuna Petros, is shot by the Italians. Many of the commanding officers are captured, including Ethiopian royalty. Many are later executed for being rebels.
August 1936
October 1936 The Italians begin armed campaigns into the two-thirds of Ethiopia still administered by Imperial officials.
November 1936 November 18: Japan officially recognizes the Italian Empire. Italy recognizes Japan’s occupation of Manchuria.
December 1936 December 18: Ras Imru surrenders to the Italians near the Gojeb River. Italy declares the country pacified. This brings an end to the Black Lions resistance movement.
January 1937
February 1937 An assassination attempt on Graziani fails. Italian retribution is harsh. February 19: The final battle between the two armies is fought: Gogetti. The surviving elements of the armies of Sidamo and Bale are encircled and destroyed by the Italian forces near Lake Shala. Dejazmach Beiene Merid and Dejazmach Gabre Mariam are killed; Ras Desta Damtew although wounded escapes the slaughter, only to be hunted down and killed five days later.
February 24: Rebel leader Ras Desta Damtew is captured and executed.
March – November
December 1937 December 11:The League of Nations condemns Italy, so Mussolini withdraws Italy from the League.
December 21:Due to his inability to pacify Ethiopia, Graziani is replaced by the Amedeo, 3rd Duke of Aosta. He immediately begins large scale building projects which include new roads, hospitals, and schools. He also abolishes slavery and enacts racial separation laws. Aosta establishes a system of favoritism toward non-Christians to isolate the traditional rulers.

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