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- November 12, 1954
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Topics I've Started
25 June 2014 - 12:20 AMI was asked on another forum whether the members of CS would assist in researching the history of an eagle. I felt this was something some CS members would be willing to help. Below is the info/request. Is this a war trophy or a sculpture made post-war. If a war trophy, any pictures of when it was in Italian hands?
Construction on the military base at Jinja began c.1939, although the Ugandan battalion of the King’s African Rifles (KAR) did not actually occupy the barracks until it returned from the war c.1946. At the base of the flagpole in front of the old Headquarters building stands a large metal sculpture of an Italian Eagle. I was told that it was a Trophy taken during the 1940-41 campaign in Italian East Africa. I was there as an invited guest of the Ugandans, so I am somewhat reluctant to question the provenance of the sculpture.
I have not found any evidence that Ugandan Askari actually “captured” the Eagle from the Italians. I contend that the Eagle was one of many Prizes that were collected by the KAR Headquarters during the campaign and then presented as “Official Trophies” to each of the battalions after the war. (The Ugandan Rifles were later redeployed to fight the Japanese in Burma; the lucky devils!)
I can only imagine that the Eagle was originally displayed in a public piazza or garden; perhaps even in the Governor’s Palace Gardens at Asmara; in reality, it could have come from anywhere in Italian East Africa. Regardless, it has survived Independence, Idi Amin, Revolution, Invasion and Democracy when most similar symbols of European colonial rule in Africa were destroyed long ago.
I only took this one photograph. I recall the cement base being about 4 feet tall and the eagle being about 2.5 to 3 feet tall. Each feather is unique and individually welded onto a steel skeleton. It is not a solid statue; air can pass right through it. I could not identify the type of metal, but the rust indicates Steel. The paint was very thick. The engraving on the brass plaque was illegible due to years of polishing.
I have studied hundreds of photographs of comparable sculptures and I believe that this one is unique. Statues that were similar in size and style were commonly made of carved stone or cast bronze. They were displayed throughout Italy, the colonies and several were sent overseas as public gifts. Surviving examples them are still reasonably common.
A colleague will be returning to Jinja later this year and has promised to take several detailed photos of the Eagle.
Does anyone have a pre-war photograph of the Eagle sculpture? Does anyone know who made it?