British Somaliland

British Somaliland

British Somaliland: see Somalia.

British Somaliland was a British protectorate in the north part of the Horn of Africa. The protectorate incorporated most of what is identified as Maakhir, Puntland, and Somaliland. For much of its existence, British Somaliland was bordered by French Somaliland, Ethiopia, and Italian Somaliland. From 1940 to 1941, British Somaliland was occupied by the Italians and was part of Italian East Africa.

British Somaliland occupied an area that was later to be the northern part of the Somali Republic and what is presently the unrecognized Republic of Somaliland.

Egyptians leave and British enter

Egypt (under the Muhammad Ali dynasty) dominated the area in the 1870s, but withdrew in 1884. That same year the British established its protectorate. The British garrisoned the protectorate from Aden and administered it from British India. Administration from India ended in 1898. British Somaliland was then administered by the Foreign Office until 1905 and afterwards by the Colonial Office.

Generally, the British did not have much interest in their Somali protectorate which they called "Aden's butcher's shop" from where they got supplies of meat for their British Indian outpost of Aden.

"Mad Mullah"

From 1899, the British were forced to spend considerable efforts when the resistance movement of Sayyid Mohammed Abdullah Hassan rose up against their rule. The British called Hassan the "Mad Mullah". Four expeditions against Hassan were launched before World War I.

In 1914, the British created the Somaliland Camel Corps to assist in maintaining order in British Somaliland.

The Mad Mullah's resistance was finally crushed after the end of World War I. In 1920, the British launched their fifth (and final) expedition against Hassan. They employed the then-new technology of military aircraft for the first time on East African soil. In 1920, Hassan's resistance movement ended.

Italian occupation

In August 1940, during the East African Campaign in World War II, the British protectorate was briefly occupied by Italy. The Italian conquest of British Somaliland was the only Italian victory against the Allies without the assistance of German troops in World War II.

In March 1941, British Somaliland was recaptured by British and Commonwealth forces during "Operation Appearance ." The final remnants of Italian guerilla movement discontinued all resistance in British Somaliland by the summer of 1942.


The protectorate gained independence as the State of Somaliland on 26 June 1960. Days later, as a referendum indicated support for unification with the Italian-administered Trust Territory of Somalia (formerly Italian Somaliland). On 1 July 1960, the northern State of Somaliland joined with the southern trust territory to form the Somali Republic.

Republic of Somaliland

In 1991, after the breakdown of the central government of the Somali Republic, the former area of British Somaliland declared its independence. In May 1991, the formation of the "Republic of Somaliland" was proclaimed. The Republic of Somaliland regards itself as the successor to the State of Somaliland which was briefly independent in 1960.

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