My Life and Ethiopia’s Progress Vol 1 (Ch 40)

We hear of the rout of the army on Ras Dasta’s front

Our son-in-law, Ras Dasta Damtaw, whom We had appointed commander of the left-wing southern army, had come close towards Dolo which is situated on the border of Italian Somaliland.


Ras Desta Damtew - Iwooket is knowledge

Ras Dasta Damtaw


When General Graziani, Commander-in-Chief of Italian Somaliland, heard of Ras Dasta’s approach to the frontier, he turned towards Ras Dasta the army, tanks, and aeroplanes which he had stationed in the Ogaden and launched an attack against him with all his strength. Ras Dasta was at a place suitable for bomb attacks but unsuitable for infantry; his army was, therefore, unable to withstand the onslaught of tanks and bombs and was defeated.


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Furthermore, another reason why Ras Dasta’s troops were so stunned was this; When the Swedish Red Cross doctors (stationed-according to regulations-a long distance from the war front) were treating the injured, these troops saw the Italians, clearly aware where the wounded were being looked after, coming in their aeroplanes and dropping bombs on them, burning their tents, medicines, and all their medical equipment-including even their food supplies.


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Of the doctors themselves, one was killed there. The leader of the Swedish medical team, Dr. Hylander, was severely wounded. The wounded patients who were actually under treatment were hit by bombs while being cared for in that tent and many of them died. When it was learnt that Dr. Hylander had been injured, the Swedish physician at the Bet-Sayda Hospital at Addis Ababa, Dr. Hanner, went there by plane and brought him back; he treated him and nursed him back to health. The remaining doctors, as on one hand a hostile attack had been perpetrated against them and, on the other, their medicines and medical equipment had been set on fire, were compelled to go back to Addis Ababa, in order to prepare fresh medicines, medical instruments, tents, and food supplies. So they had to leave all the wounded and had to return. Because time was needed to make all these preparations until they were ready to return, the Italians, on their part, were hurrying on with the war and were exterminating soldiers and peasants with bombs and poison gas; the time was thus propitious for them to push forward. When Ras Dasta realized that the Italians had seized the road which he had built for cars and lorries, he took the troops who had escaped death and, marching fast by routes cutting through deserts, reached Nagalle. Lest the Italians should find all the food and other provisions which he had collected there, he caused them to be set on fire and then left for Wadara.


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After the Italians had set on fire the village and church of Nagalle with incendiary bombs, they proceeded towards Ras Dasta’s position at Wadara and attacked there. But as the place was wooded and hence not suitable for bombing, there was nothing they could do there. But they discovered a Swedish Red Cross lorry standing at some place there, filled it up with their own ammunition and then began spreading the mendacious rumour all over the world that they had found a Red Cross lorry loaded with ammunition.


No photo description available. Patriot Ayele Bekele possibly at the Ogaden front


No photo description available. Emperor Haile Selassie possibly visiting the wounded at Dessie after Italian bombing


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After Ras Dasta had resisted the enemy by moving about the Sidamo and Bale provinces, remaining there for a year or so, he entered Arussi province. As General Graziani heard of this, he surrounded him with a large army and fought a big battle in Arussi and Maraqo. Ras Dasta was captured in this engagement and, on 16th Yakatit 1929 (= 23rd February 1937) he was killed by the Italians for the liberty of his country and the honour of his Emperor. As to the army commanders who were with him and those attached to Dejazmatch Gabra Maryam, the Italians themselves reported that they died doing their duty as officers.

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