Martin Plaut tried to explain "The historic context of the war in Ethiopia" in his ZOOM lecture on 13th May.
As Martin pointed out the complicated history around the horn of Africa is known because the people of that region had their own written language. (More than 5000 years old, Ge'ez is still used by the Ethiopian Orthodox church). He briefly touched on Abyssinian history from a European viewpoint, starting with Prester John, early Christian Emperors and then Muslim influences together with Portuguese influence. It was part of the Biblical land of Kush.
In 1868 the British sent an army - mostly Indians - to rescue their Consul who had been taken hostage by the Emperor because the British government declined to sell arms to Ethiopia. They even built a railway to bring their supplies from the coast. The Consul was rescued, the Emperor committed suicide and his young son was taken to England and educated there but died young.
Emperor Menelik II (1884-1913) observed the European powers carving up Africa and expanded Ethiopia without heeding different language groups and cultures (Tigrinha and Amharic being two). In 1896 Italian troops were soundly beaten at the battle of Adawa.
British requirements to keep control of the Suez Canal led to two separate operations - Lawrence of Arabia encouraging the Arabs to rise in support of the Allies; Frobenius from Germany trying to persuade the Ethiopians and Somalis to rebel immediately and join up with the Axis. In the end, Lawrence's uprising took hold a mere six weeks before the German's planned revolt and several Somali leaders were taken by the British to Cairo to view large numbers of Allied POWs - to dampen any interest in helping the Germans.
Support of the "Mad Mullah" and suspected Muslim sympathies led to the removal of Prince Lij Iyasu and the eventual crowning of Ras Tefari as Emperor Haile Selassi in 1928.
In 1935 Italy invaded Ethiopia; Transvaal Scottish soldiers were amongst the liberators in Addis Ababa in 1941. In 1952, the UK, not wanting Eritrea as a colony, asked the United Nations to decide its future. This led to Eritrea becoming a self-governing entity in federation with Ethiopia - which lasted until Ethiopia reneged on the agreement and made Eritrea a province in 1961.
The resulting war, backed by different communist regimes, lasted 30 years. A major battle at Afabet in 1988 saw hundreds of Ethiopian tanks blown to pieces, wreckage is still strewn across the desert today. A truce was engaged in 1991 after the Tigrayans had captured Addis Ababa and the Ethiopians had captured Amara, each other's capital cities.
The 1985 famine complicated matters and in 1998 war resumed around the disputed border. Each claimed 100 000 lives. In 2000 a commission came up with a boundary and until 2018 things were in a state of cold war. In 2018 the current conflict re-erupted with both the Ethiopians and the Eritreans agreed that Tigray has to go. Tigrayan territory is squeezed in the north of Ethiopia bounding on the edge of Eritrea ....
Martin's presentation is accessible from the ZOOM library on the Society's web-site.
Historic Ethiopia and South Africa - some interesting links
Martin also offered to send links showing slavery was still active in 1935 in Ethiopia:
This is the story that I mentioned of Oromo children who were freed by a British warship and eventually ended up in Lovedale in the Eastern Cape. Started in 1837 the Lovedale school became part of the Church of Scotland in 1929 and was closed by the SA government in 1950.
ZOOMeetings and ROOMeetings
KZN has put its toes in the water and bravely held a ROOM meeting on Saturday 15 May; more will follow.
SAMHSEC - Eastern Cape Branch's next ZOOMeeting
will be at 19h30 on Monday 14 June 2021
Speaker: Stefan Szewczuk Subject: "Polish-Soviet War of 1919/20" * * * SAMHSEC 'Requests the Pleasure of your Company' to a talk about military history on 28 June 2021: Anne Copley is to discuss the Monte San Martino Trust in both sessions (to be confirmed). * * * Johannesburg Branch The scheduled Zoom meeting for Thursday 10th June is still being finalised. Invitations will be sent out as usual. * * * MEMBERS OF ALL BRANCHES ARE WELCOME TO ATTEND ALL MEETINGS Just let firstname.lastname@example.org know in order to be sent an invitation to a ZOOM meeting. Contact the branch to confirm ROOM meetings while we are under Covid-19 restrictions. * * * FORTHCOMING ATTRACTIONS ROOM MEETING KwaZulu-Natal Branch Meetings are scheduled for the second Saturday of the applicable month at the St Cyprians Church Hall in Umbilo Road, Umbilo When: 12th of June at 14h00 for 14h30 Dr Graeme Fuller: a memorial lecture on "The Life and Times of Ken Gillings" Details from Charles Whiteing - email@example.com * * * * * * * ZOOM LECTURERS WANTED Members with an interesting presentation on any aspect of military history are sought for ZOOMEETINGS. A nominal 30 minute lecture supported by Power Point or similar slides, but not video, is required. * * * * * * * FINANCIAL REPORT FOR 2020 Members wanting copies of the treasurer's report can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org * * * * * * * * * * * * * * CHAIRMAN'S REPORT FOR 2020 Members wanting copies of the Chairman's report can e-mail email@example.com * * * * * * * WWI INFORMATION/HELP WANTED Dr Anne Samson, who is well known to SAMHS members, writes that she is involved in two projects concerning the First World War. She would appreciate information about Natal for a project aiming to create a digital tour of Natal during the First World War, an outcome of the "Behind the Wire" exhibition which was held at the Pietermaritzburg Museum in 2019. Secondly Anne would welcome specific information or references about Pretoria in the 1914-1918 war. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org * * * * * * * Branch contact details Branch Cape Town details contact Carl Burger 082 333 2706 email@example.com Eastern Cape details contact Malcolm Kinghorn 041-373-4469 firstname.lastname@example.org Gauteng details contact Joan Marsh 010-237-0676 email@example.com KwaZulu-Natal details contact Charles Whiteing 082-555-4689 firstname.lastname@example.org The April 8th ZOOMeeting hosted by Johannesburg saw Dr Anne Samson explain a little-known incident of the First World War in German East Africa in a talk entitled "9 SAI vs General Smuts - The repercussions of a complaint by 9 SAI in 1916."
Colonel Kirkpatrick was shocked by the loss of so many men (973 out of 1135) during and following two 200-mile marches across GEA [German East Africa] from 1 April to 1 May 1916 (from Hiro to Kondoa Irangi) and then from 15 July to 20 August (from Kondoa Irangi to Kilosa). He lodged an official complaint which reached Gen Smuts shortly before the latter left GEA. His replacements ensured it was followed up. Statements of 55 others were included in the material submitted as evidence.
Various official enquiries eventually led to the courts-martial of only a handful of people - including two medical officers for negligence - but the harrowing story, detailing just how awful conditions in GEA were, came to light in her lecture. In the end, transport was blamed for most of the problems - shortages of tents, boots and other kit, mosquito nets and notably rations resulted directly from lack of transport. Where there were roads, they were frequently flooded and impassable.
Animals suffered similarly - 2 255 horses out of 3 894 succumbed at the same time.
She touched on several careers which were adversely affected and indicated that there was much fertile ground still to be researched.
Anne's presentation is accessible from the ZOOM library on the Society's web-site.
ZOOMeetings and ROOMeetings
The four venues which used to host our monthly lectures - ROOMeetings - are still unable to accommodate the Society due to Covid-19 restrictions. There are currently three ZOOMeetings each month in their place which are OPEN TO ALL MEMBERS of all branches.
AT THIS STAGE ZOOMEETINGS ONLY!
* * *
Johannesburg's next ZOOMeeting
will be at 19h30 on 13th May 2021
Speaker: Martin Plaut
Subject: "The historic context of the war in Ethiopia "
The current war in the northern Ethiopian region of Tigray has involved states from across the Horn of Africa, including Eritrea, Somalia and Sudan.
But how should we understand Ethiopia and its closest neighbour Eritrea? The history of these states can be traced back in written records further than almost any other sub-Saharan African nation, and their soils have been trampled on by every invader from the Egyptians and Romans onwards. This has produced societies that are rich in culture but inherently unstable.
Martin Plaut, a former BBC Africa Editor and currently Senior Research Fellow, Kings' College, London, will consider these questions.
SAMHSEC - Eastern Cape Branch's next ZOOMeeting
will be at 19h30 on Monday 10th May 2021
Speaker: Alan Mantle
Subject: "Commemorating Private Reice Campbell, who died in Italy in 1944 "
This will be a sequel to his talk on 11 January 2021 on "Italy 1943 to 1945 - War and Civil War"
Footnote: In the last quarter of 2019 a book arrived, unsolicited, at the Society's post box. It turned out to be in Italian and indicated the authors wanted the family of Campbell to have a copy of their publication as a tribute. This story tells what Alan Mantle has achieved in following up their request.
MEMBERS OF ALL BRANCHES ARE WELCOME TO ATTEND ALL ZOOMeetings
Just let email@example.com know in order to be sent an invitation.
ZOOM LECTURERS WANTED
Members with an interesting presentation on any aspect of military history are sought for ZOOMeetings. A nominal 30 minute lecture supported by Power Point or similar slides, but not video, is required.
ARTICLES FOR THE 2021 MILITARY HISTORY JOURNALS
Members and other interested readers are invited to submit articles for the 2021 Military History Journals. Deadline for the June issue is the end of May; for the December issue it will be the end of October.
WWI INFORMATION / HELP WANTED
Dr Anne Samson, who is well known to SAMHS members, writes that she is involved in two projects concerning the First World War.
She would appreciate information about Natal for a project aiming to create a digital tour of Natal during the First World War, an outcome of the "Behind the Wire" exhibition which was held at the Pietermaritzburg Museum in 2019.
Secondly Anne would welcome specific information or references about Pretoria in the 1914-1918 war.
Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Branch contact details
Cape Town details contact Carl Burger 082 333 2706 email@example.com
Eastern Cape details contact Malcolm Kinghorn 041-373-4469 firstname.lastname@example.org
Gauteng details contact Joan Marsh 010-237-0676 email@example.com
KwaZulu-Natal details contact Roy Bowman 031-564-4669 firstname.lastname@example.org
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