Readers of Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy Magazine cannot have failed to notice the very colourful piece in the latest edition, Issue 81, called A Beating for Benito from the collective pen of the duo that brought you Chain of Command: Espana. The article explores the scenario where Mussolini’s intervention in Abyssinia prompted intervention from the League of Nations. A “What if” scenario it may be, but in truth it was a conflict which almost did happen.
Cinema Newsreels informed viewers of a modern, Mechanised force supported with all of the horrors of warfare, gas and aerial bombardment, crushing a brave African nation and subduing its civilian population with terror. Yet despite the one-sided nature of the conflict the Abyssinians fought on with courage and whatever weapons they could acquire.
Yet despite the severity of the attack, the League of Nations was divided. All of the member States were called on to renounce violence and to look to negotiation to solve the issue. However, the three powers in the region with sufficient power to intervene, Britain, France and Italy, were divided in their political goals and objectives. Britain was, as always, focussed on protecting its vast Empire, the French were concerned by a resurgent Germany, whilst the Italians had the dream of recreating their own New Roman Empire around the Mediterranean. The conquest of Abyssinia was Mussolini’s first step to achieving his grandiose plan.
For Britain, such Italian expansion clearly presented a threat to the Suez canal, the super-highway which was the main artery of the Empire’s trading routes. The Mediterranean Fleet was expanded, half of Britain’s armoured forces were moved to Egypt and the RAF moved its squadrons to the region. War, it seemed, was on the cards.
For Italy, Abyssinia was the key to Mussolini’s “place in the Sun”. From an historical perspective it avenged the humiliating defeat of Italy by the Abyssinians at Adowa in 1896 and ultimately would provide a springboard for an attack on British hegemony in the region. If Britain was to try to intervene, the Canal Zone could be attacked from Libya and the South, cementing Italy’s primacy in the theatre. Twelve Divisions of troops in Libya were readied for an invasion of Egypt.
For France, her own political turmoil, with conflict between the Left and Right, threatened to destabilise the Republic. With that backdrop, the rise of Hitler to power in Germany with a clear agenda to “right the wrongs” of Versailles, was a direct threat to national security. Tensions with Britain have been growing ever since the Treaty in 1919, when the British opposition to France’s more stringent penalties against the Boche. With a resurgent Italy, an ally in the Great War, it seemed as though the Duce was a natural friend in blocking the restoration of German military power. Whether to back Britain or Italy was no easy question.
As it was no war occurred, or at least it was delayed for a few years until September 1939. However, plans were drawn up, troops moved into place and even lines of fortifications constructed. This then was the backdrop for Rolf and Jim considering what colourful and fantastic wargaming options were available for the conflict.
Over the month of December a series of lists will be released with rule suggestions for this conflict, from Haile Selassie’s Imperial Guard, to French Spahis and Italian Askaris, we will be covering all of the units in the region, with their Army Lists for Chain of Command, support options and force characteristics. Lard Island News will cover this great new series of free to download lists across the month of December.
What better way to start the New Year then with an award! The merry voters of The Miniatures Page have once again kindly shown their appreciation for Lard by voting I Ain’t Been Shot Mum the best Historical Rule Set for 2011. This is a really fantastic tribute and we are really very grateful to