The M1907/12 heavy machine gun was the standard mounted MG of the Austro-Hungarian Empire during the First World War, and saw sporadic use clear through the end of WWII. The design is unusual among heavy […]
Italy and France, with their shared imperial fetish for deserts…
Does anyone know whether the picture was taken in Italian Somaliland or southern Libya – I dont think the Mussolini regime was in Abyssinia long enough to take many photos,
though arguably, the international ostracism which the Mussolini regime suffered as a result of the short lived invasion of Abyssinia, pushed Mussolini from being deeply scornful of his German impersonator, and acting as a continental counter balance to that little impersonators ambitions in Europe.
And lead to the befriending and eventual alliance with his socialist fellow travellers north of the Alps…
I was looking at the guy’s features, which, as far as they can be seen, are more Bantu than the majority of Somalis, but there are clans which though culturally Somali, do have other feature sets, including Bantu, Arab (Semitic anyway), and very interestingly, Portuguese.
The guys with the Bantu features are in the bit that was Italian Somaliland
Which is a long way of saying, I hadn’t got a clue…
My great-grandfather allegedly fought for Austria from the earliest days of WW1 to it’s end, so I’ve had a passing interest in Austrian arms. One M95 carbine in 8x50R I own has a 8-pointed star or “Rub el Hizb” inlaid in plain steel on one side of the stock. This appears to be commonly associated with Morocco and several other nations, and is also a common Islamic symbol. However, one source I found places the symbol on the flag of a proposed Post-Great War East African state called the “United Arab Kingdom”, that low and behold, includes Somalia. There is no A.O.I. mark, so it’s pretty thin, but who knows where and what this rifle has seen. To make things even more confusing, the provenance on the rifle is that it was a WW1 G.I. bring-back. Carved into the stock is the soldier’s name, a date in 1919, and “Trieste”, a city in Italy. I bought it at auction
The Photo was Published back in the 1970s in “Storia” (History) an Italian Monthly Magazine. It is a Somali “Dubat” (Native levy Soldier/Irregular, Native NCOs and Junior Italian Officers.) They were “Trained Bands”, within the structure of the Italian Colonial Administration.
The Rifle will not carry the “AOI” mark (Only applied after the Invasion of Ethiopia, 1935-36) but will be Marked on the Small of the wrist, underneath, “C.A.S”
Corpo Arabo Somalo ( Arabic-Somali Corps). I have a M95 Long Rifle with such a CAS Marking. ( as well as other M95s with the “AOI” marking, including a M70/87 TS. VV.
The Revelli M1914 MG, cal. 6,5mm, was still in regular use in the AOI region (Italian Oriental/East Africa) as were M1907/12 Schwarzelose Guns. That Revelli was probably EI ( Italian Army); the Natives had better MGs than the Regulars !!! ( Unit commonality of ammo..in AOI, 6,5 Weapons were marked “RE” (Regio Esercito) and were only issued to Italian regular Troops ( different from Libya, where the Native troops were Issued 6,5 cal. Rifles ( again, other Photos from
“Storia”, and Schwarzelose MGs were in more General Use, right into WW II ( Photo AWM of Aussie Captured Schw MG at Bardia (1941).)
As to the queried “Bring Back” from Trieste 1919…American and other Allied Troops were sent to Eastern Italy in late 1917-1918, and US Navy units were stationed in Trieste into 1919. The Austro-Hungarian Naval Port of Trieste (Shipyards, the Whitehead Torpedo Factory, etc,) was handed over to the Italians.) So a US serviceman could easily have picked up an M95 from the “Surrender” Piles there.
Not the first time I have heard of a US WW I Bringback from the Trieste area. ( US units known in the area include a Aviation detachment, and several USN Craft.
The French sent a couple of divisions, and the British a couple of Regiments.)
Just a sideline, at the end of WW II, Trieste was again the centre of a Border dispute, being threatened by Tito’s Communists…only the presence of the New Zealanders, and the steadfastness of their commander, stopped the Reds from occupying and massacering the Italian citizens of Trieste ( as they had already done in other Italian areas of the Adriatic coast of Croatia). Look up the word “foibe” in Google to find out more.
Ie, “Get there Firstest with the Mostest “..& “Possession is 9 points of the Law”…I think the Kiwi Commander’s words were “Here we are and here we stay!” in reply to the Reds demand that they evacuate the city..
… Today Trieste is a Major Italian Tourist destination, still the location of Whitehead-Moto-Fides Torpedo Factory, and a Major Port and Shipyards ( for Central & Eastern Europe!!!)
Thanks very much for sharing such incredibly in-depth and enlightening information — it is greatly appreciated, to say the least!
And many thanks to Bill Field, too, for sharing his experiences and broaching such an interesting issue.
Whitehead-Motofides has a sterling reputation both historically and in the context of modern submarine weaponry as we know it today, and were pioneers in so many innovations that have seen the self-propelled torpedo evolve into its present deadly form. But I digress — that is a whole topic in itself for a separate series of discussions.
Additional to my Post above: The “Issue” was not “a few” but almost the entire inventory of A-H rifles received by Capture or Reparations in 1919. After being “Checked over” in Italy by EI inspectors, they were basically allocated to Colonial Use (by Native Troops), the Majority of M95s going to East Africa (Eritrea and Somalia)..a couple of 100,000 pieces.) Italy used up its captured WW I 8mm ammo by the 1930s, and ordered more from Hirtenberg (1936) as well as from local Italian Factories.
After the Fall of the AOI to British Commonwealth Forces ( mid 1941) the M95s were shipped to India as Trainers ( Kirkhee arsenal made Ammo for them, still in use as “.315 Indian” for sporting Purposes, in Modifieed SMLEs, but that’s ANOTHER STORY. Some M95s were distributed to British Colonial Police Forces as well to replace SMLEs taken to war….I have a “Butchered” (De-act) M95 Carbine that came from Rhodesia with a former ( white) resident who fled the “new Regime”.
Interesting. If I ever try to get ammo for it, I’ll look for the .315 Indian name. The one box of rounds I have for it were modified from 7.62x54R, but I haven’t bothered to try them out. Thanks again for the information.