Ethiopian Eritrean Wars, Volume 1...

...Eritrean War of Independence 1961-88, Helion & Company, via Casemate Books

Title:  Ethiopian Eritrean Wars, Volume 1

Author: Adrien Fontanellaz & Tom Cooper

Publisher:  Helion and Company

ISBN:  978-1-912390-29-8

A new paperback format book in the Africa at War series (No 29) from Helion Books.  The topic is one I admit to knowing little to nothing about other than having an awareness of the conflict that has been going on for many years, and which in one form or another, continues to this day.  This first volume deals with the period from 1961 through to 1988, a period which included the overthrow of Emperor Haile Selassie.  The thing that came as a surprise to me was the scale of the fighting during the period.  Not just groups of insurgents or guerrillas, but the deployment of full scale divisional army units as well as armour and air power and very large numbers of troops.

The book provides some historical background to start things off, events leading to the war that started back in 1961.  It is arranged into 7 chapters, Sunset of the Traditional Ethiopian Military: From the Negus to the Derg: The Derg Nemesis: Ethiopian Armed Forces of the 1970 and 1980s: Counteroffensives in Eritrea: Red Star-Raising and Falling: and finally The Road to Afabet.  The story of the period is illustrated with a lot of archive photos, various tables of information, such as the long list of Ethiopian Army and other Ground forces in the period 1977-91 as well as other Orders of Battle at various times, maps, and an 8-page section of excellent colour profiles that illustrate a variety of equipment including aircraft, helicopters, tanks and APCs.  The mix of equipment is interesting in itself, coming from American and Soviet sources.  I was interested to see one of the photos showing a group of WSLF insurgent brandishing their weapons there is a German MG34 being held high, quite different to the more common AK assault rifle and AKS rifle that are very visible in others.

The book tells the story of what was very much a 'conventional' war that ends at a natural break in readiness for the next volume to come.  The history of this region of East Africa makes interesting reading and provides a grounding in understanding the conflict that continues in the region to this day.  I also have to admit to a tinge of sadness that the peoples of the region have still not been able to find peace amongst themselves, and maybe devote less money on weapons and pay that attention to issues such as starvation and feeding their own populations.

Distributed by Casemate Books, who kindly provided my review copy.

Robin