Abyssinia and the Gideon Force

By Roger Davies / 4 January 2013 / History

I’m currently researching some historical stuff on Wingate, drawing some interesting parallels with today.  Between Wingate’s infamous “Special Night Squads” and the Chindit missions in Burma, Wingate was involved in the recapturing of Abyssinia, running an insurgent operation with his “Gideon Force”.

The Gideon Force were an interesting bunch to say the least. As well as Wingate, the British contingent also included Wilfred Thesiger and Laurens Van der Post – both remarkable men.  A key aspect of the Gideon force was the use of indigenous troops as a key and integrated component of the force.


An old family friend who recently died, was a young subaltern with Wingate and later the adjutant of a battalion with the Chindits. He recounted the story (reluctantly) of a two company assault against an Italian position in Abyssinia. One company provided covering fire, while the other led the assault (with our friend, a 21 year old company commander of the local irregulars). Each company was drawn from a different tribe. Half way through the assault the company providing covering fire switched sides and engaged the assaulting company – their tribal enemies. This rather puts in context the current concerns In Afghanistan with local troops  (see this post a year ago).

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