In 1882, the Italian colonization of Eritrea began, and soon in Rome they thought about replenishing the military powers in East Africa through local mobilization resources. Over time, the colonial forces in Italian East Africa were mostly made up of Eritrean and Arab-Somali native troops (battaglioni indigeni), recruited, therefore, from 1887 in Italian Eritrea and Italian Somaliland. Their core were Eritrean soldiers, then Somalis and Ethiopians joined them, as well as Arabs — Sudanese and Yemenis.
The Askari soldiers were brave and disciplined because the wages were high enough for these places and the significant rise in social status was good motivation for them. The long-term rivalry, smoldering to this day, with the main opponents of the Italians in the region, the Ethiopians, was also motivated. However, the officer corps was composed entirely of Italians and the non-commissioned officers were mixed.
Native troops took part in all African campaigns of Italy, playing a crucial role in the Italo-Ethiopian War of 1935-1936. By 1940, there were 182,000 Askari in Italian East Africa and only 68,000 Italians. Just a year later, they were to face the British and, despite their initial successes, lose. It is notable that Italy, being not in a very good economic condition itself, managed to establish retirement pays for its former colonial soldiers after the Second World War.
As for the appearance of the Askari infantry battalions, the uniform of the colonial soldiers in East Africa was prescribed by the 1929 charter and generally followed the tropical uniform of the Italian troops, consisting of a French jacket and breeches with windings. Askari, depending on the conditions, wore both regular shoes and light sandals on the feet or even sported barefoot. The pride of the native battalions were their headgear and belts, which largely served as the reason for today's publication.
On the heads of the Askari flaunted a high red fez-tarbush made of felt, the hair plume on which was painted in the colors of the battalion. The waist was encircled by a 2.5-meter belt of 40 centimeters wide fabric, in the colors of the battalion as well — as a rule, consisting of alternate bright contrasting stripes. Non-commissioned officers were singled out by large shoulder sleeve insignia. Important was also the flag of a battalion — a small banner in the size of 40×40 centimeters with a distinct number in the middle, written in Latin numerals.
Here is a far from complete selection of postcards of a completely unique genre — each unit of the Italian army used for letters home its own postcards with a bright and pretentious picture on the front side. Not only the number and proper name of the battalion were placed on the back, but also its motto, its awards and distinctions, as well as the list of battles in which the regiment distinguished itself — really a godsend for a spy or a historian. Thanks to this layer of material, we can admire the magnificent colors of Mussolini's African soldiers today.