Little Djibouti, tucked away on Africa’s eastern coast near the mouth of the Red Sea, has in some ways a fairly eccentric history. It was the site of an attempt by Imperial Russia to create an African empire to match those of other nineteenth-century European imperial powers. In 1889, a bunch of Russians led by one Nikolai Ivanovitch Achinov decided it would be a good idea to establish a colony at Sagallo. The French disagreed, since they were also busy establishing their presence in the area, and shelled the Russians until they surrendered.
British interest in the area comes in the Second World War. After the Fall of France in 1940, French Somaliland, as Djibouti was then known, came under Vichy control. And it stayed that way for a surprisingly long time. Even after British forces had wiped out Italian resistance in the surrounding regions and started to blockade the country, French Somaliland remained under Vichy control. In fact, when its governor, Dupoont, surrendered in December 1942, after a blockade of 101 days, it held the unenviable record of the being the last French African colony to abandon Vichy. After the surrender, Free French forces supported by British armoured cars moved into Djibouti to take control.