Italian Army – The Abyssinian Crisis

Distribution of the forces

The following distribution of forces identifies the location of Italian forces in December 1935.

Dec 35

map showing approximate limits of advance by December 1935

In the Northern theatre of operations there were two Eritrean divisions and nine Italian divisions distributed as follows;

  • I and III Corps and GHQ artillery reserve at Makalle (four divisions totalling forty-three battalions and 234 guns) forming the left flank.
  • II Corps (two divisions plus one Eritrean Brigade, twenty battalions, eighty-nine guns) forming the right flank in the area Adua—Axum.
  • Eritrean Corps (two divisions plus one Blackshirt Regi-ment and two motorized artillery battalions) in the area west of Makalle, held mobile as a mass of maneuver.
  • The Gavinana Division in the Tembien.
  • In reserve were the 4th and 5th Blackshirt Divisions, the 5th just commencing to arrive from Italy and concentrating at Decamere, the 4th at Adigrat.

Italian SITREP DEC 35

In the Southern Theatre General Graziani was gathering his forces in the vicinity of Dolo for continuing action against Ras Desta in the Giuba sector. Up to this time he had been conducting operations in concert with De Bono’s northern operations against the Southern command of Ras Nasibu.

Oct-Nov Southern Theatre ops (1)


Comando Supremo Africa Orientale

Commander: Field Marshal Pietro Badoglio

  • 7th Artillery Group (77mm/28)
  • Granatieri Battalion (coming from Italy)
  • Alpini Battalion (coming from Italy)
  • Guardia di Finanza Battalion (coming from Italy)
  • 3 Assault Battalions (still in Italy)
  • 7th Artillery Group (149/13) (coming from Italy)
  • Engineer Unit Comando Supremo Africa Orientale
  • Bombardment, Reconnaissance, and Fighter Aviation Command A.O. – Gen. Aimone Cat
    • 3rd Air Brigade – Bgd. Gen. Ferruccio Ranza Eritrea with: (145 aircraft)
      • HQ Flight – (4 x Ca.101)
      • Recon Squadron (un-numbered), with :
        • 34th Recon Flight (8 x Ro.1) attached to Eritrean Corps
        • 38th Recon Flight (10 x Ro.1)
        • 41st Recon Flight (10 x Ro.1)
        • 103rd Recon Flight (9 x Ro.37)
        • 116th Recon Flight (10 x Ro.1)
        • 118th Recon Flight (10 x Ro.1) attached to 2nd Corps
        • 131st Recon Flight (10 x Ro.1)
        • Libyan Recon Flight (11 x Ro.1) attached to 1st Corps
      • 106th Fighter Flight (7 x CR.20)
      • 4th Bombers Squadron – Bgd. Gen. Attilio Matricardi
        • 14th Bomber Flight “Hic Sunt Leones” – (10 x Ca.101 D/2)
        • 15th Bomber Flight “La Disperata” – (10 x Ca.101 D/2)
      • 27th Bomber Squadron
        • 17th Bomber Flight (5 x Ca.111)
        • 18th Bomber Flight (5 x Ca.111)
      • Hydroplanes Detachments (4 x MF.4 and 2 x CANT 25)
      • 7th Bomber Wing detached to Somalia with 38 aircraft – Bgd. Gen. Ferruccio Ranza (see below)


Northern Front – Eritrea

1st Corps – Ruggero Santini
  • 26th (Assietta) Division – Gen. Enrico Riccardi
  • 30th (Sabauda) Division – Gen. Italo Gariboldi
  • 5th (Pusteria) Alpine Division – Gen. Luigi Negri Cesi
  • 4th (3rd of January) CCNN Division (still in Italy) – Gen. Alessandro Traditi
  • X Battalion indigeni (Eritrean Ascari)
  • XV Battalion indigeni (Eritrean Ascari)
  • Banda dello Scimezana (native troop)
  • 5th Cavalry Squadron Group
  • 3rd Motorized Artillery Group (77mm/28)
  • 5th Motorized Artillery Group (105mm/28)
  • Artillery Command of positions of Agame
  • 1st Corps A.O. Engineer Unit
  • Libyan Recon Flight (11 x Ro.1)
2nd Corps – Pietro Maravigna
  • 19th (Gavinana) Division – Gen. Nino Salvatore Villa Santa
  • 24th (Gran Sasso) Division – Gen. Adalberto Principe (Adi Ugri-Quala zone)
  • 3rd (21 April) CCNN Division – Gen. Giacomo Appiotti
  • Gruppo Bande Altopiano (native troop)
  • 10th Cavalry Squadron
  • Artillery Group Command (100mm/17)
  • Artillery Command of positions in western Tigre (Eritrean Ascari)
  • 2nd Corps Engineer Unit
  • 118th Recon Flight (10 x Ro.1) (Libyan)
Eritrean Corps – Alessandro Pirzio Biroli
  • 1st Eritrean Division – Gen. Salvatore di Pietro
  • 2nd Eritrean Division – Gen. Achille Vaccarisi
  • 1st (23rd of March) CCNN Division – Gen. Ettore Bastico
  • 1st Battalion Group CCNN dell’Eritrea – Filippo Diamanti
    • 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Italian East Africa Backshirts Infantry Battalions
    • East Africa Blackshirts MMG Company
  • Banda dell’Hassamò (Irregular troop)
  • 6th Cavalry Squadron Group
  • Native Cavalry Squadron Group (Eritrean Ascari troop)
  • 2nd Motorized Artillery Group 77mm/28
  • 3rd Motorized Artillery Group 100mm/17
  • 4th Fast Tanks Squadrons Group
  • Artillery Command of positions in eastern Tigre
  • Eritrean Corps Engineer Unit
  • 34th Recon Flight (8 x Ro.1)(Libyan)
Western Lowlands Zone – Brig. Gen. Amedeo Couture
  • XXVII Battalion indigeni (Eritrean Ascari)
  • XXVIII Battalion indigeni (Eritrean Ascari)
  • Irregulars Foot Bands Group
  • “Celere” (fast) Group
  • Eritrea Fast Tanks Squadron
Eastern Lowlands Zone – Brig. Gen. Oreste Mariotti
  • XXIV Battalion indigeni (Eritrean Ascari)
  • XXVI Battalion indigeni (Eritrean Ascari)
  • Libyan Battalion
  • Massaua Irregulars Band
  • Northern Dankalia Irregulars Band
  • Southern Dankalia Irregulars Band
  • 7th Artillery Battery (120L25)
  • 37th Artillery Battery (77L28 – pack camels)

Sent to the front in Feb. 1936

  • 3rd Corps – Gen. Ettore Bastico
    • 27th (Sila) Division (coming from Italy) – Gen. Francesco Bertini
    • 1st (23rd of March) CCNN Division – Gen. Filiberto Ludovico from Eritrean Corps

Formed in Jan. 1936

  • 4th Corps – Gen. Ezio Babbini
    • 5th (Cosseria) Division – Gen. Pietro Pintor
    • 2nd (28th of October) CCNN Division – Gen. Umberto Somma
    • 5th (1st of February) CCNN Division (still in Italy) – Gen. Attillo Teruzzi

Organized in March 1936

  • Celere Column A.O. (Eritrea) – Ten. Gen. Achille Starace
    • 82nd CCNN Battalion “Mussolini”/6th CCNN Battalions Group, motorized
    • 3rd Bersaglieri Regiment
    • 8th Artillery Group (77mm/28, motorized)
    • Included truck-transported machine-guns, armored cars, altogether 3000 men and 500 motor vehicles.


Southern Front – Somaliland

Graziani Column – General Rodolfo Graziani
  • 29th Division (Peloritana) – Gen. Giuseppe Pavone
  • Libyan Division (Libyan Colonial troops) – Guglielmo Nasi
  • 6th (Tevere) CCNN Division (still in Italy) – Enrico Boscardi
  • Aosta Lancers Cavalry Regiment
  • 6 Battalions, Royal Colonial Troop Corps (Arabo-Somali Colonial troops)
  • Camel Mounted Artillery
  • 6 Dubat Bands (Companies of Somali Irregulars)
Ogaden border region command – Colonel Luigi Frusci
  • 9 L3 tanks, 20 Armoured cars
  • 6 Royal Colonial Troop Corps Battalions (Arabo-Somali Colonial troops)
  • 6 Dubat Bands (Companies of Somali Irregulars)
  • 150 trucks
Sultan Olol Dinke Column (Feudal Army) – Sultan of Sciavelli, Olol Dinke
  • 1000 Dubat (mounted Somali warriors of the Ajuran clan)
7th Bomber Wing – Bgd. Gen. Ferruccio Ranza (38 aircraft)
  • 25th Bomber Squadron, with :
    • 8th Bomber Flight (10 x Ca.101 bis)
    • 9th Bomber Flight (10 x Ca.101 bis)
  • Recon Flight (10 x Ro.1)
  • 107th Fighter Flight (8 x CR.20)


  • The 7th (Cirene) CCNN Division was deployed in Libya to threaten the Suez Canal should the British close it to Italian traffic. It was never deployed to Ethiopia, but was considered to have taken part in the campaign. It actually acted as a local garrison and engaged in various construction projects.

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