Southern Asia 1941: East African Campaign

Political map of South & Southwest Asia on 16 Mar 1941 (World War II: The Middle Eastern Theater: East African Campaign), showing the following events: British conquest of Eritrea; British invasion of Ethiopia; Operation Canvas; Franco-Thai armistice; Operation Appearance.

By 1941, Italy's attempt to build an empire in the Mediterranean had turned into a fiasco, further isolating Italian East Africa. In January the British invaded from both Sudan - into Eritrea and western Ethiopia - and Kenya - into southern Ethiopia and Somalia. On 25 February this latter force captured Mogadishu, allowing it to push across the Ogaden into eastern Ethiopia while additional British troops landed in Berbera and began the reconquest of British Somaliland.


Changes to the map 17 January 1941–16 March 1941

East African Campaign: In Sudan, the Italians have abandoned Gallabat and Kassala. British troops reoccupying Kassala have advanced into Eritrea, capturing Agordat and Keren. British troops reoccupying Gallabat have invaded Ethiopia and captured Metemma, while troops supporting Emperor Haile Selassie are advancing on Debra Markos. In Kenya, the British have reoccupied Moyale and attacked Mega in southern Ethiopia. Other forces from Kenya have invaded Italian Somaliland and captured Mogadishu, before pursuing the Italians across the Ogaden into Ethiopia. Additional British forces have landed in Berbera as a start to their liberation of Italian-occupied British Somaliland. In the remote west, the British have reclaimed Gambela.

French Indochina: Vichy France has signed an armistice with Thailand.

British Protectorates in the Persian Gulf

The British Residency of the Persian Gulf maintained British India's influence in a number of Gulf states from the 19th Century until 1947. These states were nominally independent - and shown as such in most atlases from the period - but all signed treaties guaranteeing British control over their foreign affairs.

The Sultanate of Muscat and Oman was the only one of these states with significant international relations, having obtained trade agreements with the US and France before it signed its treaty with Britain. Maps of the time often show Trucial Oman and even Qatar as regions of Oman.

Trucial Oman was the region to the west of Oman which collectively signed treaties with Britain. The sheikhdoms of this region were often called the Trucial States, and later became the United Arab Emirates. However at this time they had little unity, with no regional council until 1952.

Indian Empire

The British Indian Empire, also known as the British Raj, was comprised of a complex of presidencies, provinces, protectorates, and agencies. Only the top level subdivisions are shown here.

The area under direct British rule was known as British India and made up of presidencies and provinces - a presidency simply being the name for an older province.

Outside British India, but often included within the sphere of the presidencies/provinces, were the hundreds of protectorates or 'princely states'. These were indirectly ruled states, the largest being Hyderabad, Kashmir, and Mysore. The others were either collected into agencies - which might in turn contain other smaller agencies - or fell under the sway of the provinces.

Main Events

19 Jan–11 Jun 1941 British conquest of Eritrea

The British 4th and 5th Indian Divisions under General William Platt reoccupied Kassala, Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, and invaded Italian-ruled Eritrea. After an initial victory at Agordat on 1 February, the British were held back by the Italian defenses among the formidable ridges and peaks around Keren. Keren finally fell on 27 March, allowing the British to capture the capital of Asmara a few days later—although the southern port of Assab would hold out until wikipedia

20–31 Jan 1941 British invasion of Ethiopia

On 20 January 1941 exiled Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie, accompanied by British troops, crossed the border from Anglo-Egyptian Sudan into Italian-controlled Ethiopia at Um Idla. He was supported in the north by the 9th Indian Brigade, which retook Gallabat and invaded Ethiopia, occupying the border town of Metemma on 31 January. Meanwhile to the south in Kenya, the 1st South African Division reoccupied Moyale and, on 30 January, launched a feint attack in the Mega region of southern wikipedia

24 Jan–1 Mar 1941 Operation Canvas

The British 11th and 12th African Divisions under General Alan Cunningham invaded Italian Somaliland from Garissa and Bura in Kenya, capturing Kismayu on the Juba River on 13 February. While the 12th African Division advanced north up the Juba, the 11th proceeded along the coast to capture Mogadishu on 25 February. By 1 March, with Italian Somaliland largely conquered, the 11th African Division began its pursuit of the Italian forces retreating northwest across the wikipedia

31 Jan 1941 Franco-Thai armistice

Following a Japanese-sponsored “Conference for the Cessation of Hostilities”, the Vichy government of France signed a ceasefire with the Kingdom of Thailand aboard the Japanese cruiser Natori. A formal peace treaty was signed in Tokyo on 9 May, whereby France agreed to cede Battambang, Pailin, Siem Reap, Banteay Meanchay, Oddar Meanchey, Preah Vihear, and Xaignabouli to wikipedia

16–20 Mar 1941 Operation Appearance

British Force D, embarking from Aden, landed two Punjab regiments and a Somali commando detachment at Berbera, capital of Italian-occupied British Somaliland. The Italian defenders withdrew, allowing the British to reopen the port and begin shipments of supplies to the 11th African Division advancing from wikipedia