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Battling the Shifta in Eritrea

We are very grateful to the Farmers boys web site, The 1st Bn Duke of Edinburgh's Royal Regiment (Berkshire & Wiltshire)
for allowing us to use all the images you see on the web page.

If you served British Forces in Eritrea,
we would very much like to hear from you

In 1941, the Italians were defeated by a British Commonwealth force in this small east African country sandwiched between Sudan and Ethiopia. The British army garrisoned the country from this point until independence.

The Shifta's were mainly bandits robbing travelers in the remote parts of the country; some Shiftas were defending their villages against other Shiftas. Some were politically motivated some were not.

Seven Surrendered Shifta, Barentu, Eritrea 1951
Seven Surrendered Shifta, 
Barentu, Eritrea 1951 

Patrol of Royal Berkshire's in Eritrea
Patrol of Royal Berkshire's in Eritrea

The 2nd Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment, moved to Eritrea in April 1948. The battalion found no emergency upon its arrival apart from the activities of the Shifta. The battalion deployed patrols to combat the shifta with little to show for their efforts, although their presence did provide a morale boost to the civilian population. The battalion was initially based at Sembol Camp but moved to the airport buildings at Asmara a few weeks later.

On 5th March 1949, the 1st and 2nd Battalions Royal Berkshire Regiment held a Trooping of the Colours parade as the battalions amalgamated, the salute was taken by General Sir John Crocker, GOC Middle East.

In early 1951, a patrol from the Royal Berkshire Regiment met a band of thirty Shifta and engaged them. Lieutenant J.E. Ellis, the officer commanding, was hit in the stomach at the start of the action but remained in command until he collapsed from loss of blood. He died two days later. Patrols continued amid drill parades, a saddle club and visits to the local towns.

No.39 squadron deployed to Eritrea in August 1947 supporting the British Army against the Shifta groups before moving to Fayid, Egypt in October 1947.
A detachment of Tempest F.6 fighters was deployed to Asmara between April and November 1948 to support the British Army against Shifta groups.

No.8 Squadron sent a detachment of Brigands to Asmara in June 1949, the detachment withdrew from Eritrea in July 1951.

97 Company, RASC, moved to Eritrea in 1948 where it was based at Asmara supporting the Headquarters of RASC. The Company was equipped with Bedford 3-ton trucks and was deployed in the mountains operating against the Shiftas. The Company was withdrawn and disbanded when Ethiopia became independent.


The South Wales Borderers arrived in Eritrea on 4th January 1950, and participated in operations against the Shiftas until they left on 16th September 1952.

1910 Flight was based in Eritrea at Asmara, Agordat, Barentu, Tessenas between 31/7/1950 to 9/1952.

On 21st February 1950, British troops garrisoning Eritrea were deployed to assist hard-pressed local police as Muslims and Christians clashed in a bloody riot following the death of a minor Muslim official. At least eleven were killed and fifty wounded in the riot.

On 31st July, a British corporal was killed in an ambush near Obel by a band of about 40 Shiftas, who supported the union of Eritrea with Abyssinia. On the same day, a British firing squad executed Abraham Wolderfield, who had been convicted by a British General Court of the murder of two Italians and two Eritreans.

Eritrea became self-governing in September 1952.

Funeral of Cpl CURTIN, Killed in Ambush Eritrea 1950
Funeral of Cpl CURTIN, 
Killed in Ambush 
Eritrea 1950

 Farmers boys
The 1st Bn Duke of Edinburgh's Royal Regiment (Berkshire & Wiltshire)

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