Haile Selassie’s Foreign Volunteers

LLoJAdwa was a scar on Italy’s heart. Back in 1896 this parched market town in the north of Ethiopia saw the Italian Army humbled by warriors with swords and spears. Politicians in Rome thought they could carve an empire out of the last independent nation in Africa. Ethiopian warriors killed 7,000 men in one day and ended that dream.

The Italians wanted revenge. In 1935 they got it. The land of Dante and Caravaggio was now a boisterously aggressive Fascist state under Benito Mussolini. Provocations at the border late the previous year led to war talk and demands for compensation. European powers tried to intervene but could not afford to alienate Mussolini, needed onside to counter-balance the growing threat of Nazi Germany. In October Italian Fascist legions kicked aside the half-hearted diplomacy and marched into Ethiopia. Bombs, bullets, and mustard gas started raining down.

Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie knew his country was poor and underdeveloped. He needed expert foreign help. Forty foreigners ignored League of Nations resolutions on non-intervention and came to Addis Ababa to fight. Another sixty joined medical units or found other roles. The international press corps gathered in Addis Ababa wrote them up as heroes.

A few mercenaries were honest. A few were competent. The rest was a crazy gang of playboys, Nazis, and black crusaders who could barely shoot straight.

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Unité Continentale in Novorossiya

UC1In earlier posts we looked at foreign volunteers who found their way into the separatist militias of Eastern Ukraine. Most popular was a five-part interview with a well-informed Serbian contact who took us on a deep dive into the activities of his fellow countrymen.

He got back in touch recently with information about a extremist French organisation that supplied volunteers to the separatists for its own political ends. Some were hardened soldiers, others green recruits.

There’s a Serbian connection and a lot of infighting, so buckle up for backstabbing and paranoia in the ranks of Unité Continentale. As always, my interviewee’s opinions are his own. If you have any information about the situation in Novorossiya then please get in touch.

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Who Was Rodolphe, Comte de Hemricourt de Grunne?

De Grunne 2The Parc du Cinquantenaire is a large slab of green in the Etterbeek district of Brussels. It is home to some museums, a lot of statues, and a triumphal arch. Foreigners like the park and crowd it out on Belgium’s rare sunny weekends.

Buried in a corner behind hedges and an overshadowing building is a shiny grey stone wall and a monument of an arching pilot reaching for the sky. The wall records all the Belgian airmen who have died in military service since the first biplane wobbled into the sky over the country back in 1908. In the section for the dead of the Second World War is the name R. de Hemricourt de Grunne.

The neatly carved white letters hide a story not many know. Comte de Hemricourt de Grunne was a war hero and aristocrat, but he was also one of only fifty Belgians who fought for General Franco’s right-wing nationalist rebels in the Spanish Civil War. Short, dark, and bushy browed, the Belgian playboy abandoned a life of idle luxury to fight a personal crusade against a foreign government in a foreign land.

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Serb Volunteers in Novorossiya: Part 6

NR16A few weeks back I wrote a post about a Serb mercenary who fought in Ukraine and died in Syria. Someone got in touch with more information. An interview came out of it.

My interviewee is a well-informed Serbian observer of the events in East Ukraine. He prefers to remain anonymous. His opinions are his own; feel free to comment or message me if your own views differ.

In the first part of the interview we talked about Bratislav Zivkovic’s activities in the Crimea and the media storm when he returned home. In parts two and three we looked at Serb sniper Dejan Beric who became a celebrity with his YouTube videos. Part four dealt with Zack Novak and other English-speakers working on Novorossiya’s propaganda campaign. Part five looked at the various motivations that drove Serbs to Novorossiya.

We’re coming to the last few sections of the interview. Here we talk about how media controversies, rumours of assassination plots, and mistreatment by separatist authorities led to many Serb volunteers returning home.

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Serb Volunteers in Novorossiya: Part 5

NR12The interview continues. Someone who knows a lot about Serb mercenaries got in touch to talk about the situation in East Ukraine.

In the first part of this interview we talked about Bratislav Zivkovic’s activities in the Crimea and the media storm when he returned home. In parts two and three we looked at Serb sniper Dejan Beric who became a celebrity with his YouTube videos. Part four dealt with Zack Novak and other English-speakers working on Novorossiya’s propaganda campaign.

In this part of the talk we discuss the motivation of Serb volunteers. My interviewee prefers to remain anonymous. His opinions are his own. If you have anything to add or correct then please get in touch.

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Serb Volunteers in Novorossiya: Part 4

NR9A well-informed Serbian observer of the events in East Ukraine got in touch to talk about this fellow countrymen’s involvement in the conflict. He prefers to remain anonymous.

In the first part of this interview we talked about Bratislav Zivkovic’s activities in the Crimea and the media storm when he returned home. In parts two and three we looked at Serb sniper Dejan Beric who became a celebrity with his YouTube videos.

Now the conversation has moved on to an American of Serb background who assisted the separatists in propaganda and humanitarian projects. Together with two other English speakers, Zack Novak was the public anglophone face of Novorossiya.

My interviewee’s opinions are his own. If you have corrections or elaborations then get in touch. The truth is not a monopoly business.

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Serb Volunteers in Novorossiya: Part 3

NR6Russia and Serbia have a historically close relationship. It was a Serb nationalist whose assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand pulled Russia into what became the First World War. At the other end of the 20th century Russian nationalists joined Serb forces in the wars that tore Yugoslavia apart.

Serbian volunteers returned the favour when the Euromaidan protests in Ukraine led to a Moscow-backed secession in the east. A well-informed observer of the situation got in touch to discuss his fellow countrymen who fought for Novorossiya. He prefers to remain anonymous. His opinions are his own.

In the first part of our conversation we discussed Bratislav Zivkovic’s activities in the Crimea and the media storm when he returned home. In part two we looked at the life of Serb sniper Dejan Beric who became a celebrity when his videos of life in the Novorossiya forces appeared on YouTube.

Here is part three.

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