Cunningham was the younger brother of Admiral CUNNINGHAM, who led the forces that liberated Ethiopia from Italian occupation. In December 1940 the offensive opened and Cunningham and his troops marched into Italian Somaliland and began the long march for Addis Ababa. Displaying great skills of leadership and exploiting his forces’ mobility to the full, Cunningham entered the capital of Ethiopia in triumph on 6 April 1941 and a month later the Emperor, HAILE SELASSIE, returned to the throne.
In August 1941 Cunningham left for the Western Desert to take command of the new 8th Army. He had some 630 tanks at his disposal and he immediately set about preparing for AUCHINLECK’s Crusader Operation, which would lead to the relief of Tobruk. However ROMMEL was prepared for the British offensive and Cunningham failed to press the attack through, concentrating more on defense. Auchinleck lost confidence in him and he was replaced on 26November 1941 by a younger man, RITCHIE. Cunningham spent the rest of the war in administrative posts—as Commandant of the staff college at Camberley, then as General Officer Commanding, Northern Ireland until 1944 and finally in the same post in East Africa until after the end of the war.