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"Ethiopian Troops Equipment 1935-36" Topic

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Pict1706 Dec 2008 9:15 a.m. PST

I'm looking at putting together some Ethiopian troops for the 1935-36 war, and was wondering about rough proportions of equipment/armament for the different units.

I haven't got a fixed scale for these, I'm just after some rough estimates of armament across a 'typical' unit. I'm well aware that some of the sources are contradictory and it's probably a best guess situation. If it helps, I'm likely to collect units along the size of the Warhammer Historical Great War rules, e.g. about 10-15 models for a 'platoon', if that helps.

My reading (so far) suggests that there are 3 main troop types I need to cover:

Tribal warriors – in shammas. How many of these would have rifles, do you think? There are a number of super models armed only with spear/sword and shield, but would most warriors have had rifles as well?
I expect that LMGs/HMGs would be few and far between for these warriors?

Army of the Centre – with a mixture of traditional dress and European uniforms, sola topi hats etc. I imagine these would all have rifles, with a handful of LMGs/ HMGs? Would they have had any artillery or mortars?

Imperial Guard – all with uniforms, rifles, and, I imagine, the largest quantity of heavy weaponry?

Many thanks for any light you can help shed on this before I buy the figures!

Aurelian06 Dec 2008 10:14 a.m. PST

Just a few comments -

Tribal figures armed only with spear and shield would be extremely rare in the Ethiopian forces of 35-36; they were usually used for posing in photographs, but most of the Ethiopian militia had at least primitive weapons (everything from Schneiders to Martini-Henrys to Remington rolling blocks). A local Ras was responsible for raising and equipping the levy, and a great deal of personal expense was used in collecting a variety of firearms for that purpose; rivalry between local potentates was intense, and local wars were not unheard of, even under Selassie.

The regular army (Mahel Safari) would be equipped primarily with bolt action rifles. There had been an attempt to modernize them and equip them all with Belgian rifles in the post-WW1 era, but this had not completely finished by the time of the Ethiopian invasion, though most of the Mahel Safari did have access to better small arms than the standard militia. Machine guns were relatively rare – they did occur (and even the militia had a few, as evidenced by photographs), but the majority of the "Regular Army" was essentially equipped with small arms, with only a small number of supporting heavier weapons. These had been hoarded for use by the Imperial Guard, as it was intended that the Imperial Guard would be the nucleus of Selassie's "New Model Army' – there was a great deal of bitterness about this amongst the regulars.

The Imperial Guard had the best of the best as far as the Ethiopians were concerned, although the Addis Abbaba constabulary (can't think of the Ethiopian name at the moment, sorry, very long week) was almost as well equipped.
They all had regular uniforms, modern rifles, and the greatest percentage of heavy support weapons. So yes, your assumption is correct.

In my own search for miniatures for the period, I have still been disappointed to see virtually no support weapons for the Ethiopians in dedicated ranges for the war. There are some planned for Anglian eventually; I don't know about Askari. Of course, for other scales, you may have a little more luck, especially if you're using proxy forces.

Footwear had been outlawed by Imperial decree; Selassie believed that boots and shoes slowed down the Abyssinian rate of advance; there is some truth to this (the rate of march for these guys was apparently phenomenal, even the Bersaglieri said so), so boots would be relatively rare – if found at all, you typically see them worn by officers and occasional members of the Imperial Guard.

Artillery was relatively rare. There had been an attempt to modernize the artillery arm, and it was happening, but slowly; the most common guns in Ethiopian service at the time of the Italian invasion were 75mm Schneiders. They were typically used in a supporting role, and like virtually every other army in the world at the time, were the best of the technical branches.

The Ethiopians also had a small number of anti-tank guns (PaK 36s given by Germany, some of which actually reached them, though most were held up by the Italian blockade), in addition to Bofors and Oerlikon guns for anti-aircraft; these last were used primarily for air defense, but they were used against infantry in at least one battle.

As for armored vehicles, the Ethiopians had a handful of armored cars (not sure of the make, but I suspect they might have been Belgian Minervas or something similar), and a small number of Fiat 3000Bs. There were also some improvised armored cars and trucks. All of these saw combat during the war.

Hope this helps,


VillageIdiot06 Dec 2008 10:40 a.m. PST


Aurelian has it pretty much spot on.
I have a number of sources saying that the tribal levy were equipped with firearms, but suffered from a lack of training and ammunition,many of them carried their more basic weaponry as a back up. One source described an attack where one volley of rifle fire is followed by a manic charge of warriors with spears and swords. when the attack is beaten off, the Italian troops find loads of discarded rifles!!!
You also get some great anti-tank tactics, like using boulders rolled down a hill, shoving spears through the vision ports, and trying to lever off tracks with metal rods!!!


gives you an idea of the numbers involved

BlackWidowPilot Fezian06 Dec 2008 11:06 a.m. PST

Also, I've read a favorite tactic of at least one group of enterprising Ethiopeans was to attack a group of CV33s, feign a retreat when they "discovered" that "Our weapons are useless!" and ran into a box ravine.

The CV33s obligingly gave chase, only to discover the ravine was a dead end. Upon stopping to turn around, the little tankettes were swarmed by Ethiopeans hiding amongst the terrain, bodily picked up and flipped on their backs like so many 62' VW Bugs at a frat party, their crews left upside down inside their vehicles to bake to death in the hot Ethiopean sun!

Just goes to show you that asymmetric warfare can be FUUUN!! Bwahahahahaaaaa!!! evil grin

Leland R. Erickson
Metal Express

Pict1707 Dec 2008 12:35 p.m. PST

Aurelian, Village Idiot, thanks, that was pretty much what I had expected, thank you! Very useful information. I am going down the 28mm route with Anglian and Eureka and maybe some conversions from other ranges. I would like to use some of the chaps with spear/sword and shield but may add some slung or carried firearms to even things out a little.

As regards heavy support, I noticed Eureka do an Eritrean Askari gun crew for the Italians, but nothing for Haile Selassie's men. Hope Anglian sort this out soon, they seem to have a lot planned.

Cheers chaps!

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