Postcards depicting the Duke and the war
The Duke, (left) at Asmara, 1940
The mountain of Amba Alagi from a distance
The Duke from his lookout post at Amba Alagi
General Volpini
Colonel Dudley Russell, General Maine and Amedeo, Duca d'Aosta
Surrender parade with full military honours
Duca d'Aosta
Torino, 21 ottobre 1898 - Nairobi, 3 marzo 1942
A brief summery of the life of Amedeo Duca d'Aosta
At the tender age of nine, Amedeo was sent to study at St Andrews College in London. On his return to Italy at age fifteen, he enrolled at the military college of Reale della Nunziatella of Naples. He soon became aware of the rigid disciplinary measures imposed upon his fellow students in his regard. No one was permitted to approach the prince for any reason and if there was a need to speak with him, one would always have to stand at attention and use the appropriate titles. This really bothered Amedeo as he saw himself as one of the boys, and with time insisted that his friends referred to him by his first name and that all formalities be dropped.
With the outbreak of WW1, and at the age of sixteen, Amedeo enrolled for active duty as a private. He was assigned to the Voloire regiment, being a cavalry-artillery unit. His father, Emanuele Filiberto introduced him to General Petitti di Roreto with strict instructions that his boy should not receive any preferential treatment and that he should be treated equally as all others.
Amedeo was transferred to the front where he served his unit showing much courage. He worked his way through the ranks and was soon promoted to lieutenant.
By the end of the war, with permission from his father, Amedeo followed his uncle, Luigi Amedeo Duke of Abruzzi, to Somalia. The purpose of this was to establish a cultivation plant of cotton, sugarcane and seeds. Together they built a railway line and also a village which was named, Duke of Abruzzi.
Following this, Amedeo went back to England to study at the College of Eton; he then moved on to the University of Oxford, mastering the English language.
In 1921, Amedeo departed for the Belgian Congo and was employed at a soap factory in Stanleyville as a labourer. In 1925, he returned to Italy and received his pilot's license then returning to Africa, he accumulated many flying hours and was awarded the silver medal of valour.
His desire to study further took him to the University of Palermo in Sicily, were he graduated with a social science degree. His thesis on modern societies and their influence on rural populations of occupied colonies proved to serve him well.
Emauele Filiberto passed away in 1931 and Amedeo inherited his father's title. Subsequent to the Italian invasion of Ethiopia, Amedeo became viceroy of this region. Following the second Ital-Abyssinian war, on the 21st of October 1937, Amedeo was appointed Governor-General of Italian East Africa and Ethiopia.
With the outbreak of World War II and with the tides of war changing, the Italian troops under the Duke's command found themselves in retreat. With approximately 7000 men, Amedeo withdrew to the mountains of Ethiopia setting up a stronghold on the summit of Amba Alagi. With a force made up of carabinieri, (Italian Police), airmen, sailors from the base of Assab, 500 regular soldiers and 3000 native troops these men held this fortress from the 17th April to the 17th May 1941.
With a force of 39000 men, Allied General Cunningham soon besieged the Italian position. The Italians, being totally outnumbered and suffering from shortages of food and water, were also exhausted and anguished by the extreme cold of the Ethiopian mountains; these conditions soon changed morale and the troops began to loose hope.
On the 14th of May, Amedeo obtained permission from Benito Mussolini to surrender. He ordered the native troops to return to their villages informing them that the war was over. It is recorded that no less than fifteen of these men actually obeyed the Duke, choosing to stand by him till the last.

General Volpini was assigned as negotiator of the surrender. On his approach to the Allied lines, together with his escorts, General Volpini's first encounter was with Ethiopian rebels, who had surrounded the Italian lines. These rebels with much aggression and looking for revenge after years of occupation attacked and murdered the General together with his aids.
At noon on May 17th, conditions of surrender were agreed upon; General Trezzani Cordero di Montezemolo represented the Italians and Colonel Dudley Russell, on behalf of the Allies.
On Monday 19th May 1941, Amedeo, Duca d'Aosta appeared at the entrance of the cave-command. The commander of Italian East Africa was dressed in full military attire. With side arm holstered, the Duke marched briskly, escorted by a South African non commissioned officer, towards the awaiting British General, Maine.
Two columns of soldiers followed, all carrying their weapons, cardboard suitcases tied up with string, musical instruments and all their worldly possessions. Many had tears in their eyes, all with shaved heads and long beards; this was by order of their leader.
Following these men were the Askari's, survivors of the Abyssinian battalion; with them, their women, whom they had taken with them into the mountains.
Standing at attention at the military honour parade, Amedeo saluted the flag as it was lowered for the last time.
The terms of surrender were not fully adhered to by the allied forces. Following the military ceremony, the Italian soldiers were handed over and left at the mercy of the native troops. Angered at the many years of dominance, these troops proceeded to strip the demoralised Italians, taking their clothes and belongings. Another term agreed upon was that the troops would be permitted to follow their commanding officer; this too was not met
As a prisoner of war, Amedeo was transferred to the British camp of
Donyo Sabouk in Kenya and was registered as prisoner 11590. During the
flight to Kenya, he was briefly allowed control of the plane, never imagining that this would be his last experience at flying.
With conditions in the camp being very poor, the fight which now faced the prisoners was the lack of hygiene and malaria. Despite efforts by the Duke to improve living conditions for his men, these were never met. His attempts to convince his captors to repatriate captive civilians also fell on deaf ears. Visits were not allowed and Amedeo lost all contact with his men.
During the month of November 1941, Amedeo began to experience
symptoms of illness. In December of that year a high fever raged through his body and he was confined to bed. Three weeks later, being sick as he was, the Duke was permitted to visit his troops. This would be his final experience to partial liberty. Amedeo was escorted by car in a drive by to greet his troops. His men all lined up against the barbed wire fences, arms outstretched they hailed their leader and hero.
Tears rolled down the Duke's frail features, he did not bother to wipe these as he waved to his men, devastated that he could not greet them personally.
On the 26th January, Amedeo was diagnosed with malaria and tuberculosis; he was hospitalised for his final days in the military hospital in Nairobi. On the 3rd March 1942, Amedeo died and was laid to rest together with 676 of his soldiers in the Italian military cemetery in Nyeri, Kenya.
At his funeral, British army officers paid respect to this fine man by wearing black armbands.
Since Amedeo bore no sons, his title was bestowed to his brother, Aimone.

Some History
Memoirs of a POW
Zonderwater Gallery