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"Abyssinian tribesman" by J.E., December 1940. Ink on board.

Abyssinian tribesman

"Abyssinian tribesman" by J.E., December 1940

Catalogue ref: INF 3/1320Links to the Catalogue

A cartoon image in two parts – the first part depicts a uniformed Mussolini, waving the Italian flag, subjugating an Abyssinian tribesman. In the second part, joined by a British soldier, the Abyssinian (with spear) expels Mussolini from North Africa.

The Italians first invaded Abyssinia in 1938 as part of Mussolini's expansionist programme to rebuild the Roman Empire. Despite lacking any modern equipment (many barefooted tribesmen/soldiers were only armed with antique carbines and spears) the Abyssinians put up a stiff fight and were eventually subjugated only after the Italians resorted to the use of poison gas. This led Haile Selassie, Abyssinian Emperor, to make a direct plea for support to the League of Nations for assistance.

The British first expelled the Italians from North Africa in December 1940, but in early 1941 the Axis forces regained control, and were not defeated until May 1943.