British forces mark Remembrance Day in Somaliland
HARGEISA — A low-key Remembrance Day was marked in Somaliland on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month by British forces for the first time in the last two decades.
A British army delegation arrived in Somaliland on early hours of Thursday and shortly after met with Somaliland army officials in the Ministry of Defense in the out skirts of Hargeisa.
The former British divisional commander in Basra and the south, Major-General Jonathan Shaw laid the wreath at the Memorial stands in Hargeisa War Cemetery, which commemorates those who died during the actions of September 1939 to December 1947.
The Remembrance Day, which marks when the Armistice was signed to bring an end to the First World War also remembers the sacrifices made in all wars by Commonwealth nations.
On the 3rd of August 1940, Italian forces under the command of Lieutenant General Guglielmo Nasi entered Somaliland, which was a British protectorate since 1884; after a sharp but brief assault, the British forces withdrew from territory to their garrison in Aden. Italy would occupy the country for almost a year.
The British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, criticized Field Marshal Sir Archibald Percival Wavell (General Wavell) concerning the loss of British Somaliland to the Italians without a fight. The fall enraged the British leader because Somaliland was the first British territory to fall to enemy hands and the first victory for the Italians without German support during World War Two. Italy used 24,000 men against Britain’s 4000.
After launching the East African Campaign and drawing many recruits from Commonwealth nations including Somaliland, the British retook Somaliland in March 1941 and in November force the Italians to surrender from all their territories in east Africa including neighboring Somalia.
During the campaign in British Somaliland, the allies lost 260 British combatants and further 1000 Somalilanders while Italy lost 2,052 soldiers and another 2000 fighters natives from Somalia.
Today, Hargeisa Military Cemetery contains 115 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War (two of them unidentified).
Somaliland also has the Berbera Memorial, which commemorates more than 100 men who died in operations in British Somaliland during the First World War and whose graves are not known.
Even though Somaliland does not officially mark the day, many of its sons served along side the British during World War Two, not only in their native country but also places such as Burma and Singapore against the Japanese.
Today, Somaliland is not an internationally recognized state after voluntarily unifying with it’s southern neighbor to former what was known as the Somali Republic in 1960. After the collapse of Somalia’s totalitarian regime of Mohamed Siad Bare, Somaliland announced the restoration of it’s independence.
Somaliland does get assistance from Britain however that effort is expected to increase under the Liberal and Conservative government of David Cameron.
Currently, Britain also trains and funds Somaliland police including it’s Special Protection Unit (SPU), however, Britain is expected to train Somaliland coast guards and military.
Major-General Jonathan Shaw was accompanied by Colonel R. J. K. Bradford, a military personnel from British embassy in Addis Ababa.