Italian Minister of the Colonies inspects Eritrean Askaris – 1934

This is the information on the rear of the photograph: “Asmara, Eritrea. General de Bono, Minister of Colonies for Italy, reviews the Italian colonial troops at Asmara, capital of Eritrea. With the Italian-Abyssinian situation daily growing more tense, the probability of these troops furnishing a front line for Il Duce (Mussolini) becomes greater.” Stamped 18 July 1934

General de Bono, Minister colonies, inspects Askaris 18 July 1934

You can read the full Wikipedia entry about the General here.

Emilio De Bono (19 March 1866 – 11 January 1944) was an Italian general, fascist activist, marshal, and member of the Fascist Grand Council (Gran Consiglio del Fascismo). De Bono fought in the Italo-Turkish War, the First World War and the Second Italo-Abyssinian War.

In November 1932, at Benito Mussolini‘s request, De Bono wrote a plan for an invasion of Ethiopia. The plan outlined a traditional mode of penetration: a relatively-small force would move gradually southward from Eritrea, establish strong bases and then advance against increasingly weak and disorganised opponents. The invasion that De Bono envisioned would be cheap, easy, safe and slow.[5]

Mussolini separately involved the Army in planning, and over the next two years, the army developed its own massive campaign, which would involve five to six times the number of troops as required by De Bono. In 1934, Mussolini pulled the uncoordinated plans together into one that emphasized the military’s idea of full-scale war.[6]

In 1935, De Bono became Supreme Commander of the Italian operation against Ethiopia during the Second Italo-Ethiopian War. De Bono was appointed because Mussolini wanted the victory in Ethiopia to be not just an Italian victory but also a fascist, hence the appointment of a well-known fascist general. In addition, he was Commander-in-Chief of the forces invading from Italian-held Eritrea on what was known as the “northern front”. De Bono had under his direct command a force of nine army divisions in three corps: the Italian I Corps, the Italian II Corps and the Eritrean Corps.[7]

On 3 October, forces under De Bono’s command crossed into Ethiopia from Eritrea. On 6 October his forces took Adowa, officially avenging the humiliating 1896 Italian defeat. Soon afterward, De Bono entered the historically-significant city of Axum and rode a white horse. After those initial triumphs, however, De Bono’s advance slowed.

On 8 November, the I Corps and the Eritrean Corps captured Mek’ele, which was to be the limit of Italian advances under De Bono. Increasing world pressure on Mussolini brought a need for fast glittering victories, and he was not prepared to hear of obstacles or delays.[8]

On 16 November, De Bono was promoted to Marshal of Italy (Maresciallo d’Italia), but Mussolini grew ever more impatient with the invasion’s slow progress. In December, De Bono was relieved of his command via State Telegram 13181 (Telegramma di Stato 13181), which stated that with the capture of Mek’ele five weeks earlier, his mission had been accomplished. His place was taken by Marshal Pietro Badoglio, and De Bono was appointed Inspector of Overseas Troops.

Second World War[edit]

A photograph of De Bono taken in Rome on 21 November 1940. He is in between Heinrich Himmler and Rodolfo Graziani and is easily identified by his signature beard. Reinhard Heydrich is to be seen, second from left.

In 1940, De Bono commanded a southern defense corps headquartered in Sicily and was opposed to the Italian entry into the Second World War; he filed a scathing report about the condition of the troops in Sicily, pointing out that the “mobile battalions” were not mobile at all, and harshly criticizing both the Maritime Artillery Militia and the Anti-Aircraft Defense Militia.[2] However, he kept a low profile and in 1942 was appointed Minister of State.

On 24 and 25 July 1943, De Bono was one of the members of the Fascist Grand Council who voted to oust Benito Mussolini when Dino Grandi, in collaboration with Pietro Badoglio and King Victor Emmanuel III, put a no confidence motion to the vote of the Grand Council of Fascism. That led to the dictator’s downfall, arrest and imprisonment.

Later in 1943, Mussolini was freed by Nazi Germany during the Gran Sasso raid and installed in Northern Italy as head of a new state, the Italian Social Republic (Repubblica Sociale Italiana, RSI). Mussolini had De Bono and others who voted against him arrested and tried for treason at Verona in what became known as the “Verona trial“.[9]

On 11 January 1944, the 77-year-old De Bono was executed by firing squad at Verona.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.