❤ Sharing Folkworthy Stuffs ❤
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Amedeo of Savoy-Aosta (a recurring name in the House of Savoy, especially the Aosta branch: both his grandfather and nephew carried this name, among others – by the way, he had another ten names after ‘Amedeo’, but these are best forgotten), the son of Emanuele Filiberto of Savoy-Aosta (cousin of the King of Italy Victor Emmanuel III and second Duke of Aosta) and Princess Hélène of Orléans (I wrote about them here), was born in 1898. As a child his title was that of Duke of Apulia; at age nine he was sent to school in the United Kingdom, learning perfect English and becoming perhaps the most Anglophile of the House of Savoy. After returning to Italy, he enrolled at the Nunziatella Military College in Naples; at the outbreak of World War I he volunteered in the cavalry, later becoming an artillery officer on the Karst front.
He ended the war with the rank of Captain; in 1920 he followed his adventurous uncle, the Duke of Abruzzi, in Somalia, where they founded an agricultural settlement, the Villaggio Duca degli Abruzzi (present-day Jowhar). In 1921 he was sent to Belgian Congo – according to some, as a punishment after Victor Emmanuel III had overheard him quipping about him and his wife Elena, calling them “Curtatone e Montanara” – the name of a battle of the Italian wars of independence, but also meaning (more or less) “the short guy and the mountain woman” (because Victor Emmanuel was extremely short, and Elena was from Montenegro). After returning from this exile of sorts in 1923, he resumed his military career; in the second half of the 1920s, by then a Lieutenant Colonel, he was stationed for some time in Libya, in command of colonial troops participating in clashes against the native resistance led by Omar al-Mukhtar, and in 1926 he became a pilot.
Amedeo was extraordinarily tall, especially for the time, and a story has him jokingly answering a journalist, who had addressed him as sua altezza (“Your Highness”, but if asked as a question can also mean “[what is] your height?”), “un metro e novantotto!” (“one meter and ninety-eight centimetres”). In 1927 he married Princess Anne of Orléans, his cousin, from which he had two daughters, Margherita (born in 1930) and Maria Cristina (born in 1933). In 1931, at the death of his father, he became the third Duke of Aosta.
In 1932 Amedeo was transferred, at his request, from the Army to the Air Force; during the following years he held various commands within the Regia Aeronautica, being promoted to generale di brigata aerea (Air Commodore) in 1934, generale di divisione aerea (Air Vice-Marshal) in 1936 and generale di squadra aerea (Air Marshal) in 1937. In December 1937, less than a month after this promotion, he was appointed Viceroy of Ethiopia and Governor-General of Italian East Africa; in contrast with the brutish policies implemented by his predecessor in this position, Marshal Rodolfo Graziani (whom had been his superior at the time of the “pacification of Libya” in the 1920s), during his tenure in East Africa Amedeo tried to pursue a more conciliatory approach with the local population.
On 10 June 1940, with Italy’s entry into World War II, Amedeo – newly promoted to the rank of generale d’armata aerea, Air Chief Marshal – found himself in the role of commander-in-chief of all troops in Italian East Africa, a colony surrounded by enemy territory and cut off from any possibility of receiving supplies or reinforcements. In the summer of 1940 his troops conquered British Somaliland and captured some border cities and fortresses in Kenya and Sudan; then, lacking enough fuel or vehicles for further advance, could only dig in and wait for the predictable British counterattack. In December 1940 General Gustavo Pesenti, governor of Somalia, suggested Amedeo to make a separate peace with the United Kingdom and declare war on Italy, essentially starting a civil war; the Duke refused, replying “We would both deserve the firing squad: you for having said these words, and I for listening”. Pesenti was then dismissed from his position and repatriated, albeit not prosecuted.
The British counteroffensive materialized in early in 1941, in the form of a multi-pronged invasion from both Kenya and Sudan; Somalia fell in February 1941, British Somaliland was retaken in March, most of Eritrea fell in April. Early on that month, Amedeo left Addis Ababa, which he deemed undefendable, and entrenched himself with 7,000 soldiers on the mountain fortress of Amba Alagi. There, besieged by a force of some 40,000 Commonwealth troops and Ethiopian irregulars, he capitulated on 19 May 1941 after the last reserves of drinking water had been contaminated by oil as a result of heavy shelling. During his captivity in Kenya he fell ill with malaria and tuberculosis, which led to his death at age forty-three, on 3 March 1942. He is buried in Nyeri, Kenya, along with seven hundred of his soldiers who also died during captivity in Kenya.
Trying to make out what is printed on the crate the guys in the foreground are sitting on…
They would be afforded the "Honours of War", one of the last times in history this happened.