124.84/58: Telegram

The Minister Resident in Ethiopia (Engert) to the Secretary of State

279. First definite attempt to gain access to the Legation was made by a band of marauders this morning. Between 8:45 and 9 a.m. they suddenly attacked our two widely separated back gates with heavy [Page 259] rifle fire from behind trees and fences, peppering with bullets back yards where Mrs. Engert and Spencer happened to be standing at the moment. Unfortunately as the early morning had been comparatively quiet, Cramp had volunteered to go by car to Seventh Day Adventist hospital some 2 miles from here to see if he could be of assistance and also to have an infected hand of radioman Anslo attended to. In view of somewhat hazardous nature of journey he took with him Chief Radioman Tanner, my chauffeur, my two native Legation guards and five rifles. And as two newspapermen and Du Berrier had left at 6 a.m. to try locate Italians, we were a rather depleted garrison. It is extremely likely that bandits had been watching departures since last night and concluded place had been practically evacuated.

However, thanks to loyalty of our native servants including cooks who at once rushed to defend gates with only a few revolvers, spears and swords until the rest of us arrived with pistols and shotguns, we made much greater show of numbers than attackers expected. After brisk exchange of shots in course of which at least one bandit was either killed or wounded they were driven off.

I cannot speak too highly of my comrades who grasped at once the importance of energetic action. Pitts, Cavannah and Hunter, without waiting for orders, rushed fearlessly to take up strategic positions while Hartman and Spencer showed fine sense of discipline and cooperation. Whole incident proves again that a few armed white men can easily hold their own provided opponents are not in overwhelming numbers. I am particularly encouraged by attitude of our native help mentioned above which I confess I had not expected in an emergency.

However, I am informing British Legation of what happened and if situation does not improve shall act in accordance with letter and spirit of your 179, May 3.