Memorial Register 18, The East Africa Memorial 1939-1945, Part I

further thrust into the Sudan they did not exploit their initial gains and their plans were never carried out. The deepest Italian penetration into the Sudan was made by a force under Col. Rolle some 1500 strong which in October crossed the frontier near the point where it is crossed by the Blue Nile and almost reached Roseires but this force suffered very severely from lack of food and water met with more resistance than had been expected and had to withdraw before the end of the month, suffering severe losses largely from starvation. In September though the first reinforcements from India entered the Red Sea—the 5th Indian Division which consisted of only two brigades but was brought up to full strength by the absorption of the three British battalions already in the Sudan. The 29th (at first called the 21st) Indian Infantry Brigade was placed on the Red Seacoast around Port Sudan the 9th in the vicinity of Kassala and the 10th at first covering Port Sudan later at Gedaref where also the divisional headquarters was setup. Skinners Horse with three motor machine-gun companies of the Sudan Defence Force formed a mobile force under Colonel F. W. Messervy known as Gazelle force, which in the winter months continually harassed Italian forward posts and com­munications with Kassala causing considerable losses. It fell to the 10th Indian Infantry Brigade to deliver the first attack in force on the Italians on 6th November 1940 when they assaulted the Italian positions at Gallabat and Metemma. The operation was only partially successful as the Brigade suffered severely from air bombardment and after two days had to withdraw. They suc­ceeded however in destroying one Italian colonial battalion and inflicting consider­able damage on two others and destroying quantities of stores and their action diminished Italian prestige with the Ethiopians and encouraged the Ethiopian patriot movement in the Gojjam. On 2nd December 1940 a conference was held at Cairo between General Wavell and Lieutenant-Generals Platt (G.O.C. Troops in the Sudan) and Cunningham (G.O.C. East Africa Force since 1st November). There it was decided that in the north Kassala must be retaken and pressure in the Gallabat area was to be main­tained while Ethiopian patriot activity was encouraged as much as possible in the south pressure was to be maintained west of Moyale an advance was to be made as soon as possible towards Dif and in Mayor June after the rainy period an advance to Kismayu was to be undertaken. At that time no large-scale invasion of Italian- held territory was contemplated in either north or south. Advance into Eritrea In the north the 4th Indian Division following the success of the Western Desert offensive at Sidi Barrani was moved from Egypt to the Sudan front partly by rail and riverboat up the Nile and partly by sea to Port Sudan during the month of iv
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