World War, SOUTHERN THEATRE: Key Towns

Author : Time Magazine

Year : Monday, Mar. 31, 1941

Wherever three or four women squat beside piles of grain and peppers, there is Harar's market place. Before the town's Law Courts there is a constant babel of dissatisfied litigants. In five minutes on any street one may see an Armenian fighting with a Hindu; an Abyssinian woman with her simian face smeared with rancid butter to keep vermin away; an old bishop who knew the strange, sad, lame poet-adventurer Rimbaud, France's Byron, when he lived in Harar; a beautiful, brown-skinned, high-breasted Harari woman carrying a load of wood on her head as if it were a tiara ; a big black with a lion cub on a leash; an Abyssinian policeman who looks ferocious with leaves stuffed in his nostrils (he just has a cold) ; a leper from the Capuchin colony outside the walls; a crisp Italian officer in a fever of hurry and worry.

In a special fever last week were the Italian soldiers stationed in Harar. For the city had become the next British objective.

Early last week the South African and British column pushing up from Italian Somaliland approached Giggiga, 50 miles east of Harar. Its supply lines were then about 600 miles long, and were potentially threatened from the east by Italians garrisoning British Somaliland, which the Italians occupied last summer. The threat was removed at the strategic moment by a British naval force which appeared off Berbera, British Somaliland's capital and main port, one midnight, and landed men and machines in two places near the town. By 9:30 a.m. they had taken it. They pushed inland at once, and by week's end had very nearly made contact with the inland column.