Major Amedeo Quillet- Badass of the Week

Italians have been the butt of many a joke.  “Why are Italian rifles so expensive?  Because they’ve never been fired and dropped only once.”  Not so Major Amedeo Quillet who may well be voted “Badass of the Century”.

Lieutenant and Major Quillet

Born into Italian aristocracy on February 7th, 1909, young Amedeo led a pampered life and became an excellent horseman.  He was to have been part of the Italian Equestrian Team for the 1936 Olympics, but Italy’s war with Ethiopia in 1935 quashed those plans.  Using family connections, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant and raised a force of over 2000 African cavalry.  After several successful engagements with Ethiopian forces, he was asked to join the Black Flames.  This was a unit of volunteers sent to fight in support of France in the Spanish Civil War.

Quillet then accepted a posting to Italian East Africa and planned to have a quiet life.  This ended abruptly when Italy joined World War Two as part of the Axis.

Surrounded by British forces, the Italian Army fought a defensive campaign. Quillet was again commanded a force of African calvary “Gruppo Bande a Cavallo”. Using sabers, rifles and hand grenades , once again he led horseback attacks successfully against his enemies.  His exploits led him to be named The Italian Lawrence of Arabia, The Knight from Another Time and the Black Commander. 

The Black Commander

THE BATTLE OF CHERU (Keru)

His most legendary battle occurred January 1941 as Italian forces were in full retreat.  In a rear guard action to give the Italian Army time to escape the British and regroup, Quillet led a series of attacks on the British Army.  This cumulated in the last charge of Horse cavalry faced by the British Army and the last horse charge in history.

Quillet attacked with 1500 horsemen against infantry, machine guns and tanks.  Flanking the heavy weapons, the cavalry cut into the British camp tossing hand grenades and slashing down survivors.  The focus of the attack was the British Headquarters which was defended by a line of artillery.  The panicked gun crews zeroed their guns and fired point blank into the Africans.  Many shells missed the attackers and caused severe casualties among the British.  Suffering heavy losses, Quillet’s cavalry destroyed the gun crews, many hacked to death.

The attack left chaos and death in its wake and Quillet escaped with most of his men.  The action did in fact by the time for the Italian forces to regroup.  Their defensive positions held the British force in check preventing the loss of Italian East Africa and saved thousands of lives in the process. For this action, Quillet was promoted to Captain.

Despite this success, the Italian General surrendered to the British.  Thousands of Italian soldiers, including Quillet refused to surrender and took to the mountains. 

The “Gruppo Bande a Cavallo ” suffered 826 deaths and more than 600 injured from the beginning of WW2; it had no deserters and received the gold medal in the memory of the heroic Togni, and high praise from their enemies, written on the official reports of the British High Command.

NOW IT GETS GOOD

Dressed as natives, Quillet led his horsemen in eight months of attacks, ambushes and sabotage against the occupying British.  Supplies were plundered, trains derailed and bridges blow up.  The British placed a bounty of Gold on Quillet’s head, dead or alive.  He evaded every effort to destroy his force.  Reduced to be armed with only pistols and hand grenades, Quillet forced the British to divert significant forces from the main battles in North Africa.

With the defeat of Axis forces in North Africa, Quillet escaped to neutral Yemen and stowed away on a Red Cross ship to get back to Italy.  Promoted to Major and still not admitting defeat, he requested men and supplies from the Italian War Ministry to continue the fight in East Africa. Unfortunately, Italy surrendered shortly after his return and declared war on Germany.  With the blessing of the American Army, Quillet conducted guerilla warfare against the Germans.  This continued until the end of the Second World War in Europe.

Although wounded several times, Quillet survived the war having survived three wars and fighting on both sides of World War Two. Amedeo married Beatrice Gandolfo in 1944. The couple subsequently had two sons; Paolo and Alfredo. Beatrice died in 1990.

 Following the war Quillet entered the Italian diplomatic service where he represented Italy in Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, Morocco, and finally as ambassador to India until 1975. In 1971, he was in Morocco during an assassination attempt on the King.

On June 20, 2000, he was awarded honorary citizenship by the city of Capua, which he defined as “highly coveted”.

On 4 November 2000, the day of the Festivity of the Armed Forces, Quillet was presented with the Knight Grand Cross of the Military Order of Italy by President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi. This is the highest military decoration in Italy. Quillet is one of the most highly decorated (both civil and military) people in Italian history. In 2001, Quillet  visited Eritrea and was met by thousands of supporters. The group included men who previously served with him as horsemen in the Italian Cavalry known as Gruppo Bande a Cavallo. The Eritrean people remembered Quillet ‘s efforts to help Eritrea remain independent of Ethiopia.

2000

Since 1974 Quillet had been living in retirement in Kentstown, County Meath, Ireland although latterly he had spent his winters in Italy. For some years he was a member of and hunted with the Tara Harriers and the Meath Hounds.

In 2009, his 100th birthday was celebrated with a special concert at the Palazzo Barberini in Rome.

Amedeo Quillet died on June 16, 2010, in Rome.

Picnicking in the Rocky Mountains

Do you remember a time when you were a kid and you thought your Dad was awesomely God-like?

My moment was in 1966, I was about eight.  We were stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado.  On the weekends we’d go picnicking on Cheyenne Mountain.  Dad was alway looking for arrow heads and miner stuff.  Mom was taking pictures like mad.  Oma (Grandma) was making sure I didn’t kill myself.  I spent most of the time getting as dirty as possible. 

Lion Dog
Rhodesian_Ridgeback (Lion Dog)

We became friends with the local Park Ranger.  He let us get into the sort of shall we say “not open to the public” places.  Once we made an unannouced visit to his home.  A ranch style log cabin affair.  He wasn’t home but his dogs were and Mom made friends with them almost immeadiatly.  When he did get home he was amazed to find us waiting in his living room.  He was really amazed to find us still alive.  His dogs were a pair of what he called “Lion Dogs”.

One weekend we were at one of those out of way places when Dad spotted an old mine sunk into the side of a hill.  It looked like it had been there for a hundred years so visions of “miner stuff” danced in his head.  Flashlights at the ready, Dad, Mom and I proceeded on a mine adventure.

The shaft had about a 20 or 30 degree incline, so going was slow.  There was a remnant of the rail lines that the ore cars used.  After about 50 feet or so, Mom slipped and fell.  When she hit the ground she lost her flashlight.  To an eight year old it looked to me like the darkness just sucked her out.  She came to a stop with a resounding “THUD” and a not-so-cheerfull “SHIT”.  Dad and I ran to her.  We noted where the rail line ended abruptly and the floor dropped about six inches.  For Mom, it was like stepping of a stair step she didn’t know was there.  

When we got to her, Mom was on her ass, leaned up on a stainless steel door.

At this point I remember Dad saying, “Let’s get the fuck out of here.”  I remember it well because he hardly ever used “fuck”, he was more of shit and god dammit man.

Mom had broken her foot in the fall  By the time we got out of the mine shaft there were two jeeps and about a half dozen Army MP’s waiting for us.  As a army brat, I knew my Dad out ranked these dudes so they obviously there to help us.  Especially as they gave us ride back to our car and Oma.  Somehow, my Dad used some superhuman way of contacting the M.P.’s to come help us.

Jever
Me and my Dad.

Years later, Dad told me that we had stumbled upon an emergency escape hatch for NORAD’s Cheyenne Mountain Complex.  Since he was an E-9 he did out rank the M.P.s.  He had also attended a orientation tour of the Complex given to the Command Structure at Fort Carson.  That combination was good enough to get us off the hook.

NORAD
Not this one.