Italian Somaliland

الصومال الإيطالي

Italian Somaliland - Italian possession

Italian Somaliland
Italian possession

Italian Somaliland - Italian trust territory

Italian Somaliland
Italian trust territory





Quick reference

General issues: Benadir Company 1903-1905, Italian colony 1905-1936, British administration 1948-1950, Italian trust territory 1950-1960

Country name on general issues: Benadir, Somalia

Related issues: Great Britian, Middle East Forces 1942-1943, Great Britain, East African Forces 1943-1948

Currency: 1 Rupee = 12 Annas = 64 Besa 1903-1906, 1 Lira = 100 Centesimi 1906-1922, 1 Rupee = 6.5 Lira = 100 Besa 1922-1926, 1 Lira = 100 Centesimi 1926-1936, 1 Shilling = 100 Cent 1948-1950, 1 Somalo = 100 Centesimi 1950-1960

Population: 1 021 000 in 1931, 1 363 000 in 1953

Political history Italian Somaliland

Establishing the Italian presence

Postal history Italian Somaliland

Please click on the image to enlarge

Italian Somaliland is located in eastern Africa – in the Horn of Africa. In the second part of the 19th century, what will become Italian Somaliland is ruled by a number of Somali sultanates, of which the sultanates of Hobyo and Majerteen are the most important. Along the Benadir Coast a number of cities are ruled by the sultan of Zanzibar. The Benadir Coast is the most northerly extension of the area on the east African mainland – stretching from Mozambique to Somalia – that was ruled by the sultan of Zanzibar.

The Italians first establish themselves in the region from the 1870’s – the Italian presence gaining momentum in the 1880’s. The Italian protectorate of Somaliland is formed in 1889, after treaties of protection have been signed with the sultans of Hobyo and Majerteen in 1888 and 1889 respectively. Also, from 1889, the cities ruled from Zanzibar are leased by the Italians – until 1892 through the British East Africa Company – and put under Italian protection. The borders of Italian Somaliland are defined – though not mapped out in detail – through treaties with Great Britain and Ethiopia in 1897.

From chartered company to colonial rule

Italian Somaliland is at first administered through chartered companies – from 1895 by the Benadir company, the ‘Societa Anonima Commerciale Italiane del Benadir’. The Benadir company cedes its rights to the Italian government in 1905, upon which the colony of Italian Somaliland is formed. In the same year, the cities leased from the sultan of Zanzibar are annexed by Italy to become part of Italian Somaliland.


Hobyo sultanate – Fort and cavalry at attention for the governor

Direct Italian rule, at the time, is limited to the Benadir Coast and its hinterland – the rest of Italian Somaliland will not be brought under direct Italian rule until the mid 1920’s. In 1926, Italian Jubaland – transferred to Italy by the British in 1925 – is annexed to Italian Somaliland and thus, the final borders of Italian Somaliland are established.

From colonial rule to trust territory

Italian Somaliland, in 1936, is made part of Italian East Africa, that also comprises Italian Eritrea and Italian Ethiopia. During WWII, Italian Somaliland is occupied by the British from 1941. The British establish a military administration and will occupy the country until 1950 when the administration of Somalia is transferred back to Italy as a United Nations trust territory. Italian Somaliland gains independence in 1960 and, subsequently, joins with the former British Somaliland to form the republic of Somalia. Currently, Somalia is a divided country, having to recover from decades of civil war.

Postal history Italian Somaliland

The first stamps used are British

Postal history Italian Somaliland

1903 – Benadir company

The first stamps used in what was to become Italian Somaliland were of British origin rather than Italian. The British, from British India, set up post offices  in the Horn of Africa from 1887 – in Berbera and Zeila in British Somaliland and in Hobyo[1]Then known as Obbia. in Italian Somaliland. These offices were closed in 1907. To the south, the British opened a post office in Kismayo in 1896 – at the time part of British East Africa – using stamps of British East Africa and later British East Africa & Uganda and Kenya & Uganda. Unfranked mail from Italian Somaliland is known to be handled through and franked at this office until 1903. The office was transferred to Italy in 1925 as part of Jubaland.

Issues under Italian colonial administration

The first issues for Italian Somaliland of Italian origin were a set of definitives issued by the Benadir company in 1903 – these were inscribed ‘Poste Italiane – Benadir’. The Benadir company opened post offices in Brava, Giumbo, Marka and Mogadishu. The first issues after the transfer of the administration to the Italian government were overprints on the Benadir issues in 1905. From then on miscellaneous issues follow:

  • Overprints on the issues of the Benadir company would be issued until 1926 – all of these overprints with new face values.
  • From 1916 until 1931, overprints were issued on Italian stamps – the overprints being ‘Somalia’ or ‘Somalia Italiana’ and, from 1922 until 1926, the face value in the local currency.
  • Finally, definitives were issued from 1930 also inscribed ‘Somalia’ or ‘Somalia Italiana’.

The last stamps for Italian Somaliland were issued in 1936 and were superseded by the issues of Italian East Africa. The remaining stock was valid for use in all of Italian East Africa.

Issues under British occupation

1932 A stamps from the first large set of definitives showing a termite nest

1932 A stamp from the first large set of definitives issued showing a termite nest

During the British occupation, a range of stamps was used as follows:

  • From 1941 until 1942: stamps from the East African Community – inscribed Kenya, Uganda & Tanganyika.
  • From 1942 until 1943: the issues of Great Britain for the Middle East Forces – overprints on stamps of Great Britain reading ‘M.E.F.’.
  • From 1943 until 1948: the issues of Great Britain for the East African Forces – overprints on stamps of Great Britain reading ‘E.A.F’.
  • From 1948 until 1950: sets issued by the British administration specifically for use in Somaliland – overprints on stamps of Great Britain reading ‘B.M.A Somalia'[2]‘British Military Administration Somalia and ‘B.A. Somalia'[3]‘British Administration Somalia’ respectively.

Issues under Italian trust territory administration

When the administration was transferred back to Italy in 1950, the Italian administration resumed issuing stamps that are now inscribed ‘Somalia’ in both the Latin and Arabic scripts. The issues of the Italian administration are, from 1960, superseded by those of the independent republic of Somalia.

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