The Italian-Turkish War of 1911-12 is generally best known for the first use of aerial bombing, but it also saw Italy gain a much-longed for African empire, after the humiliating defeat of their invasion of Ethiopia a few years earlier.
By 1900 Libya was an isolated Ottoman enclave in an almost entire European ruled area of North Africa, surrounded by French ruled areas to the south and west and British ruled areas to the east. As a result the Ottomans had no land links to their last North Africa possession, and instead relied on their outdated fleet (although they did have a telegraphic link). When the Italian government began to look for somewhere to expand their empire, Libya was thus a logical choice.
This book focuses more on the war itself than on the armies that fought it. That isn’t to say that we don’t get a useful order of battle, and an examination of the nature of the opposing armies, but they take up rather less than half of the book. The heart of the book is thus the two almost equal in length chapters looking at the fighting in Libya and the separate Aegean front. The contrast here is interesting – in both places the Italians had expected to be greeted as liberators, but this only happened in the Aegean, where the islands they occupied were largely Greek. In contrast the Libyans tended to see them as infidel invaders,
I must admit I didn’t know much about this particular war, other than a basic outline of events. I hadn’t realised how tenuous the original Italian conquest actually was, largely limited to the coastal area, nor that many areas slipped out of their hands during the First World War. We finish with a brief look at the post-war period, which saw the Italians carry out a brutal campaign of conquest under some of the more famous generals of the Fascist era, and the area was only declared secure in 1932. Given this brutal background, it comes as quite a surprise to learn that the Libyans largely stayed loyal to the Italians during the Second World War.
This is a useful introduction to this relatively little known war, with a good balance between the normal examination of the armies and the rather more useful narrative of events.
Forces in the Field
The Aegean Front
Conclusions & Consequences
Author: Gabriele Esposito