So can we finally drop all those cheap jokes about Italian soldiers?
July 10, 2010 4:23 PM   Subscribe

He was considered a shoo in for an equestrian medal in in the ’36 Olympics but went to war instead. He led the last cavalry charge against artillery and tanks of the British army. Known as Commandante Diavolo, he waged guerrilla warfare in Eritrea alongside his beautiful and heavily armed lover Khadija, daughter of an Ethiopian Muslim chieftain. He served as a diplomat for thirty years and more than once saved lives during military coups. He retired to Ireland (for the horses, of course) where he rode and hunted fox well into his nineties. Please pause for a moment for the passing of Amedeo Guillat, the most decorated soldier of the Italian army.

Also known as the Italian Lawrence of Arabia. He denied being a fascist, fighting, as did his aristo ancestors, for his king (his battle cry was “Savoia!”, Savoy being his homeland and the origin of the Italian monarch), and once Italy lost the war, he joined the allies and engaged in high risk assignments behind enemy lines.

He has died at the age of 101.

There is a doco, and youtube for you Italian speakers
posted by IndigoJones (27 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
 
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posted by mumkin at 4:57 PM on July 10, 2010


In the confusion, Hassan slipped into the throne room and then into another room farther inside. There he dickered with General Medbouh, the nominal leader of the coup attempt. Minutes after that meeting, the general was shot, apparently accidentally, by one of his own guards.

Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight
posted by effugas at 5:16 PM on July 10, 2010


I'd like to commend you for using the correct "shoo in" instead of what everyone now thinks is correct or "shoe in".
posted by telstar at 5:34 PM on July 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow. And

.
posted by Shohn at 5:47 PM on July 10, 2010


> Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight

Why not?

The king cannot lower himself to kill another man with his own hands. That is undignified.

The soldier cannot kill his own commanding officer. That's mutiny.

None of the guests could kill the general. That's assassination.

There's no requirement for anybody - even those in the palace at the time - to believe a word of the official version of events, and there was probably an expectation that everybody would construct their own version of what happened.

But the social lie of the official record allows the king to keep his thrown unblemished, the soldier to return to his barracks, and the guests to continue living within the country (or exiting it) safely. Its "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" on the scale of international relations.
posted by ardgedee at 5:49 PM on July 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


What a life! Thanks for the post.
posted by languagehat at 6:29 PM on July 10, 2010


The Gruppo Bande Guillet was quite an achievement. Thanks for the post.
posted by drowsy at 6:51 PM on July 10, 2010


ardgedee--

That's much clearer. Thanks!
posted by effugas at 6:56 PM on July 10, 2010


So can we finally drop all those cheap jokes about Italian soldiers?

Is this a thing?
posted by andoatnp at 7:31 PM on July 10, 2010


I really want to know what happened to Khadija.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:50 PM on July 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


So can we finally drop all those cheap jokes about Italian soldiers?

Napolean and Lafayette haven't made the once about French soldiers go away, so I expect you to be sorely disappointed.

Great post.
posted by rodgerd at 8:50 PM on July 10, 2010


This guy was incredible:

"At dawn Gulliet charged against steel weapons with only swords, guns and hand bombs at a column of tanks. He passed unhurt through the British forces who were caught unaware. Amedeo then returned to the steps in order to recharge. In the meantime, the British succeeded to organize themselves and fire at raised zero with their howitzers. The shells ripped open the chests of Guillet's horses before exploding. It was the last cavalry charge that British forces faced as well as one of the last in the history of warfare. Guillet then turned to charge again. In the meantime however, the British had organized themselves and fired horizontally with their howitzers. "

(via Wikipedia)
posted by mecran01 at 9:58 PM on July 10, 2010


So can we finally drop all those cheap jokes about Italian soldiers?

Is this a thing?


There goes a racist joke that asks "What are the four shortest books ever written"; I'll spare the other three but one is Italian War Heros.
posted by wcfields at 10:13 PM on July 10, 2010


Telstar--I believe to be absolutely faithful to usage, it's"shoo-in" with a hyphen.
posted by Peach at 10:58 PM on July 10, 2010


Brilliant post, what an amazing life. I like the idea of his girlfriend even more, I wonder if anyone has written about her.
posted by shinybaum at 11:24 PM on July 10, 2010


So can we finally drop all those cheap jokes about Italian soldiers?

I've posted this before in a different context, but I think it bears repeating here:

A former colleague of mine, a British army Brigadier, diplomat based in Italy and a respected military historian, told me all the jokes about the Italian forces, their tanks with one forward and five reverse gears, etc., appear to have been based on German disinformation during WW2. Realising they were about to be beaten in North Africa, the Nazis quickly tried to put the blame on their Italian allies to save their own face. They (the Italian forces) seem to be pulling their weight in Afghanistan and Iraq.
posted by aqsakal at 11:31 PM on July 10, 2010


What a fascinating character. I've added that biography to my list of books to read just on skimming the links.
posted by immlass at 6:39 AM on July 11, 2010


I believe to be absolutely faithful to usage, it's"shoo-in" with a hyphen.

So shoo me.

(But noted.
posted by IndigoJones at 8:24 AM on July 11, 2010


There's also the joke that a nominee for Ambassador to Italy (by either Reagan or Bush the Elder) was fond of telling: Q-Why does the Italian navy have glass-bottomed boats? A-So that they can see the old Italian navy at the bottom of the sea.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:16 AM on July 11, 2010


He led the last cavalry charge against artillery and tanks of the British army


going backwards doesnt count.
posted by sgt.serenity at 9:54 AM on July 11, 2010


I heard he didn't always drink beer, but when he did, he preferred Dos Equis.
posted by reformedjerk at 12:28 PM on July 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Napolean and Lafayette haven't made the once about French soldiers go away, so I expect you to be sorely disappointed.

Pikers. Ney and Murat are the names for that era. For recent history, try Bigeard, another of the recently dead.

Hardboiled, the French.
posted by IndigoJones at 12:37 PM on July 11, 2010


I heard he didn't always drink beer, but when he did, he preferred Dos Equis Peroni.
posted by wcfields at 2:02 PM on July 11, 2010


He was referring to these Dos Equis ads, wcfields.
posted by ardgedee at 3:14 PM on July 11, 2010


I think wcfields might have known that, actually, and was just supplying a more suitable beer name.
posted by kenko at 6:44 PM on July 11, 2010


The Italian military reputation was formed in the North African campaign and is entirely unfair. Italy entered the war before it was ready, probably because Mussolini thought it would be over before their internal readiness estimates of late 1942. In 1940 their raw material production was tiny and their industrial sector was weak compared to Britain (and Germany). They had very few proper tanks, artillery dating to WWI that had trouble piercing the hulls of British tanks, no aircraft carriers and an air force whose main fighter was a biplane. Admittedly, it was a pretty good biplane, but it was still obsolete compared to the monoplane fighters other nations were using.

Thank you for this astonishing story of Amedeo Guillet IndigoJones, I had never heard of him, but having to mount a cavalry charge against the vastly better equipped British forces is exactly the sort of situation Mussolini left his army in. Under the circumstances, with the equipment at hand against the forces they met, no army could have done much better. As it was in the 10 weeks of Operation Compass, the counter-offensive, Allied forces advanced 800 km, destroyed or captured 400 Italian tanks and took 130,000 POW's. If Churchill hadn't ordered the advance to halt so troops could be redeployed to Greece the Italians would have been driven out of North Africa with 10 months of entering the war.
posted by IanMorr at 10:32 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I would have thought the Roman Empire put paid to any rumours of Italian soldiers being incompetent.

Fascinating post. Forwarded to all my Italian and military history buff friends.
posted by QIbHom at 11:33 AM on July 12, 2010


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