At dawn on the 3rd of October 1935, General Emilio De Bono crossed the Mareb River marking the boundary between the Italian colony of Eritrea and Ethiopia. The invasion of Ethiopia had begun. This remarkable, grainy photograph shows cheering Italian troops entering Ethiopia, but was probably staged a few days later.
“Eritrea: Through a victory arch, Italian troops are shown about to leave Eritrea for the invasion of the Ethiopian border in the opening drive of the present conflict that saw Adowa fall before the invaders. The fall of Adowa, where Italy’s troops were massacred in 1896, was hailed in Italy as ample revenge for the disgrace and defeat suffered forty years ago.”
Italy attacked without a declaration of war, but Ethiopia declared war soon after. The Italian forces consisted of nine divisions in three Army Corps: The Italian I Corps, the Italian II Corps, and the Eritrean Corps. The town of Adowa (also spelled Adwa) fell on 5th of October, with little Ethiopian resistance. The Emperor Haile Selassie had ordered Ras Seyum Mangasha, the Commander of the Ethiopian Army of Tigre, to withdraw a day’s march away from the Mareb River.
Heavy fighting lay ahead, with the fall of Addis Ababa only taking place on 5th of May 1936, after the Italians used tanks, heavy artillery and chemical weapons against their Ethiopian foes. Resistance in the South continued – as did guerrilla resistance that was never crushed. The Emperor famously warned the League of Nations in June: “It is us today. It will be you tomorrow.” How right he was – the Spanish civil war erupted a month later, on 18 July 1936. By 1939 the whole of the world was engulfed in World War Two.