War-time love story set in Abyssinia, Eritrea and the Yemen 1935-1945. Amedeo Guillet is still alive and living in County Meath, Ireland. Khadija is lost.
This is the story of Amedeo Guillet – an Italian calvary officer who was sent out to Abyssinia as part of Mussolini’s army to establish and command a troupe of 2,000 Spahis – or Arabic calvary. He met and fell in love with Khadija – a beautiful Ethiopian Muslim. Together they held up the British lorries heaving up the mountain road to Asmara and blew up the important Ponte Aosta. Eventually captured, Amedeo went on the run disguised as an Arab, eventually making it to Yemen, only to be thrown in jail.
This is a rare view of the Second World War from an Italian perpective; particularly valuable are the chapters that tell the story of Italian resistance to the Nazis, and their subsequent withdrawal from Italy in 1943.
There are few stories more cinemagraphic than this – Fascist Italy, his early years in Ethiopia commanding the Cossack-like Spahis, the brutal Abyssinian war waged by the Duce, Italian and British colonial rivalry; Amedeo led the last ever cavalry charge the British army faced (Eritrea 1941 – they were massacred by tanks and sub-machine guns), defeat and guerrilla warfare against the British; then flight, disguised as an Arab, imprisonment in the Yemen and a great love lost as he leaves his beloved Khadija behind to face her future alone and returns to Italy, to his fiancée and a career as a distinguished Italian diplomat and Arabist.
Amedeo is still alive and living in County Meath, Ireland. Sebastian O’Kelly is a journalist for the Mail and Telegraph and has Amedeo’s full co-operation in writing this book.
This is a very valuable and absolutely stunning story, beautifully told by O’Kelly.
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'Amedeo Guillet is a legendary figure, a model of almost mythical status… His has been a long, adventurous life, filled with heroic deeds and guided by a sense of personal honour and patriotic service… This book has confirmed the details of an extraordinary life and justified the honoured place Amedeo has always occupied in my imagination.' Giovanni Agnelli
A riveting biography of an old-style cavalry officer who became one of Italy’s most decorated officers. Horses, sabres, women and sheer courage against the backcloth of the hard-fought battle for Abyssinia, an episode of the Second World War which contradicts many assumptions about Italian military performance.’ Richard Holmes
‘This thrilling story recalls bygone tales of personal gallantry and chivalry between foes, and of a chevalier sans peur et sans reproche.’
Lady Mary Soames
In December 1941, a wounded and half-starved prisoner festered in the sweltering dungeon of Hodeida, the chief port of neutral Yemen. His fellow inmates viewed him with suspicion. Although hi Arabic was fluent, the accent was not that of a Yemeni. Some said he was a soldier from the war between the Nazarenes; others had heard he was a spy in the pay of the British in Aden; there were those who even believed he was a Christian.
The prisoner was in fact Amedeo Guillet, star of Italy's Olympic riding team and a war hero, who had led against the British the last cavalry charge their army ever faced, when they invaded Italy's African empire at the beginning of the Second World War.
While serving in Abyssinia, he had fallen in love with Khadija a beautiful Eritrean Moslem, who became his constant companion. When in turn the British conquered Italian East Africa, Amadeo and Khadija became guerrillas, derailing British trains, blowing up bridges and looting convoys. They remained together until the fateful day when their pursuers finally closed in.
With all the romance of fiction, this true story, illustrated with a unique collection of photographs, provides a gripping account of an extraordinary man's determination to retrieve some honour after the shame of Mussolini's declaration of war and Italy's subsequent defeats. An intimate of the Italian royal family, and the friend of leading figures such as the Italo Balbo and the Duke of Aosta, Amedeo Guillet also provides fascinating testimony into how Italy was pitched into the ultimate gamble of world war.
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