The Anti-Abyssinian War Memorial is in Woodford Green a suburb of North East London. It was erected as a protest against Mussolini’s invasion of Abyssinia (now called Ethiopia) in 1935/36. The monument depicts a falling bomb as the Italians used aerial bombing raids to inflict mustard gas on Abyssinian soldiers and civilians.
Front – “To those who in 1932 upheld the right to use bombing aeroplanes ….
Left – “… this monument is raised as a protest against war in the air”
Right – “originally unveiled by R. P. Zaphiro, secretary of the Imperial Ethiopian Legation London. Supported by James Ranger, E J A Webster, J Davey, Sylvia Pankhurst. October 20th 1935”.
Rear – “The site of this monument is the property of Sylvia Pankhurst. Design and work by Eric Benfield”.
“Image: Public Monuments and Sculpture Association National Recording Project”.
Italians Use Mustard Gas Bombs in Ethiopia: 1936
Montage of Swedish and Italian color footage about Italy’s aggressive war in Ethiopia,
with use of poison gas and mustard gas bombs. Collateral damages to a Swedish Red Cross camp hospital, due to the bombing of the troops of an Ethiopian Ras, are also shown. The Italian Air Force (a squad called “La Disperata”) was led by Galeazzo Ciano and Alessandro Pavolini and included as pilots two sons of Mussolini: Bruno and Vittorio.
:: Romano archives
:: Unknown WW2 in Colour – Romano Archives’ You Tube channel.
:: Music composed/performed 2009 by Ceiri Torjussen
The Abyssinian War
“… “Death-Rain from Air”
newspaper, gave frontpage coverage to Italian airforce attacks strong>Gershai in the Ogaden dessert at the beginning of the war in October 1935. The planes dropped bombs and powdered chemicals which blinded, choked and caused skin burns – the Ethiopian soldiers had no defence against these air attacks. The commander-in-chief of the Abyssian troops in the region, Dejazmatch Nazibu, is quoted in ‘The Sun’s’ article as saying “They call us savages, yet this is Italy’s first contribution to the new civilization in Abyssinia.” The fears ignited by the use of mustard gas in the First World War had maintained an undercurrent of concern thoughout Europe; then suddenly in Abysinia the realities of technological warfare were being demonstrated again for all to see. The objective of the Italian airforce was very clear; “to inflict upon the enemy attacks of a terrifying nature to which he can in no way react’.(An Italian general quoted in ‘Telegram from Guernica’, Rankin, London 2003. pp45.) Read the fascinating story of how the newspaper fragment in the image above was found in ‘Under the Linoleum’ of a neighbour’s house along with several other newspapers with reports of the Abyssinian invasion at Nick Possum’s website. There’s a short article on the Abyssinian bombing to accompany the images. Elsewhere on Nick Possum there is an article called ’93 years of bombing the Arabs’ by Gavin Catenby, 2004 which was widely distributed around the globe – this time through the internet.Image: copyright Nick Possum: reproduced with kind permission of Nick Possum wesbite:
Swedish Red Cross Bombed
As the Italian troops advanced they undertook a series of attacks on Red Cross facilities. At Dolo on 30th December 1935 seven Italian planes attacked the Swedish ambulance killing 27 patients and a Swedish medic. Dr Hylander one of the leaders of the Swedish Red Cross effort was seriously wounded.
A British Pathe newsfilm uses voice-over about the Dolo incident edited to footage of the convoy of red-cross trucks leaving Sweeden for Abyssinia to make a report for the newsreels. There were of course no cameras about to record the incident itself.
:: See British Pathe Archive. ‘SWEDISH RED CROSS BOMBED (aka SWEEDISH, aka SWEDISH AMBULANCE BOMBED). 13/01/1936 Film Id 851.30 Swedish Red Cross convoy is bombed in Southern Abyssinia (Ethiopia). The film shows the convoy before it left Sweeden; the leader Pastor Svenson, putting his helmet on – and key to the story, the not easy to miss red crosses on the roofs of the lorries and trucks. It finishes with a shot of the chief physician Doctor Hylander, who was later wounded, with his wife and two children.
Abyssinia – Questions in the House: Feb 1938.
§ Mr. Roberts Would it be right to think that the Italian Government controls, perhaps, half of Abyssinia now?
§ Sir J. Simon I could not add to my answer.
§ Mr. Cocks Can the Noble Lord say what proportion of the British Cabinet is controlled in the same way?
:: Roberts = Wilfrid Roberts a Liberal MP and member of the National Joint Committee for Spanish Relief and committee for Basque Children Relief.
:: Cocks = Seymour Cocks an Independent Labour (ILP) MP
:: Simon = Sir John Simon Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Conservative Government.
:: See Hansard 21st February 1938
:: See also Cartoons section below …
Mussolini’s Roman Empire
Publishers like Victor Gollancz (‘Gollancz’ and ‘Left Book Club’) and Allen Lane (‘Penguin’) published books because they believed, in Lane’s words, that in the UK there was “a vast reading public for intelligent books at a low price.” Penguin paperbacks were launched in 1935 priced sixpence each and by 1938 were publishing Penguin Specials – books in bright red covers – which gave in-depth coverage of political issues of the day. In his book G.T. Garratt notes, in words as appoosite today as when he wrote them, the consequence of lack of information, “Democracy will fail, and deserve to fail unless those people in Western Europe and America, who still have the free use of their intelligence, will insist on being told the truth by their rulers, … “
‘Mussolini’s Roman Empire’ by G. T. Garratt was published in 1938 as the second Penguin Special. Garratt was a journalist who worked for the ‘Manchester Guardian’ and reported for them on the Abyssinian War – later he spent considerable time in Spain. The book sets out the consistent attempts by Mussolini to extend his power through military intervention – usually against, in military and technological terms, much weaker foes. In the final chapter ‘England’s Betrayal’ Garratt sets out a case against the British Government’s policy of non-intervention: “[England’s] sudden collapse in front of Italian aggression has left millions of people in Europe and the Near East bewildered and uncertain.” See Low’s cartoon below for a visualisation of the British government’s cowering position …
:: Internet Archive has a free online copy of Garratt’s book. Mussolini’s Roman Empire Scroll down the big list of html links on left and choose the DjVu viewer. Click and give it a few seconds to download.
Slyvia Pankhurst in Abyssinia
:: The British Pathe Archive has several films showing news items and clips about women’s emancipation and the suffragettes such as the compilation Film ID 2261.01. There is also a fascinating film from 1958, showing Sylvia Pankhurst in Ethiopia , in a newly extended hospital. Sylvia Pankhurst had supported the cause of Ethiopia since Mussolini threatened invasion in 1936. Film ID 2924.15. click to view …
Slyvia Pankhurst in centre background. Photo: British Pathe; Film 2924.15, frame 60.
About the Stone Bomb memorial
“Image: Public Monuments and Sculpture Association National Recording Project; published with permission.
The war between Italy and Abyssinia was watched with intense interest and was widley covered by newspapers, radio and the newsreels and cartoonists commentated on it throughout. While film and photography of the preparation for war was plentiful getting footage of the war and its effects was much more difficult – a situation that the cartoonists, to some extent, could overcome as in these depictions of ‘mustard gas’ bombing show.
David Low “It’s So Bracing”, Evening Standard, 11 Apr 1936: Mussolini and Poison Gas in Abyssinia
After the war…
David Low Evening Standard, 20 Apr 1938: the British position An Anglo-Italian pact was signed in Rome in which Britain agreed to formally recognise Italian conquests in Abyssinia (Ethiopia) as legitimate. Italy, in return, agreed to withdraw Italian troops from Spain at the end of the Spanish Civil War a diplomatic trade off that helped neither Abyssinia or Spain.:: Search the UK Cartoon Archive for ‘Abyssinia’ and by date – 1930/1945 – to see representations and interpretations of the events from British newspapers. http://www.cartoons.ac.uk/
Archive news film
[yellow_box]:: For a ‘full’ list please click here for British Pathe archive newsfilm list… [sorry currently off-line][/yellow_box]
About a dozen films (april 2009) – very variable in quality – usual note on care with ‘copyright’. Searches tend to include current conflict in Eritera.
:: USA, full documentary four parts – about 8 mins each. This link to Part 2.
:: Airdrop of sheep by parachute to Italian troops – 55 sec clip.
:: British Listed Buildings website has Map references, and copy of the Listed Buildings entry
:: Newspaper Report, Guardian, 3rd October 1935
[yellow_box]:: [sorry currently off-line – [/yellow_box]More on ‘Civilian bombing’ in Shapesoftime article on ‘Guernica’]
:: National Archive, ‘Learning Curve’ Italy-Abyssinia conflict 1935-1936 – resources for schools.
:: History of ariel bombing: Airminded’s excellent ‘Chronology of Bombing’
:: Theory of Bombing – written for schools by Alf Wilkinson article covers the development of bombing & air power between the two world wars.
:: British Pathe film archive.
:: The second Italio-Abyssinian War by Wikipedia.
:: Photo of the Stone Bomb, Public Monuments and Sculpture Association National Recording Project.
:: Patrick Wright. for permission to use articles on Abyssian Bomb memorial published through Open Democracy at The Stone Bomb.
:: Gavin Gatenby and Nick Possum – Nick Possum website
:: Romano Archives
About and feedback
:: This material about Abyssinia and the Stone Bomb Memorial is written and collated by Marshall Mateer.
First published on 23rd February 2009; last updates: embedded colour film link and notes on Garratt book, 25th February 2010. ”Questions in Parliament’ section, 17th March 2010. Updated again in transferring to new Shapesoftime website, July 2012.
:: If you have any feedback please contact me at email@example.com
This work, image, audio and text is by Marshall Mateer and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License. This does not, of course include the third party resources which are published with references here – you need to check these out for yourself if you want to re-use them.