Timeline for the Third Rif War 1920-25

Although known at the time as the Rif War it was
actually the Third Rif War. The war started in 1920 with the failed Spanish attempt to conquer the Djebala. The
next year saw the spectacular Spanish defeat known in Spain as the Disaster of Annual where the
forces of Abd-el-Krim destroyed the 14,000 strong army of Gen. Silvestre (Scurr, 1985).
Indecisive fighting continued until the French joined the fray in 1925. The French attacked from
the south while a Spanish expedition landed at Alhucemas Bay and attacked from the north.
Abd-el-Krim surrendered to French authorities on 27 May 1926 but it took until 10 Jul 1927 before
Spanish Morocco was declared pacified.

I have included earlier events to set the context. Also see the separate timelines for the First Rif War and Second Rif War.


Dec 1909

A small native police force had been created before the 1909 campaign but in December this was enlarged to a permanent company sized formation for use in any area controlled by the Spanish (Balfour, 2002).


Jan 1910

The Spanish had subdued some of the more easterly tribes by Jan 1910 (Fleming, 1991). They had also pushed out their Melilla enclave to encompass the area from Cape Tres Forcas to the southern inlets of Mar Chica.

Regulares (1913)


1911: Regulares Formed

In 1911 Dámaso Berenguer founded the first unit of indigenous regular troops (Fuerzas Regulares Indígenas) as a result of studying native units in French employ (??). The Regulares, as they were commonly known, had Moroccan other ranks, Spanish and Moroccan junior officers, and Spanish senior officers. Berenguer left Morocco in 1916 (Fleming, 1991).

21 May 1911: French Occupy Fez

In Mar 1911 Sultan Mylay Hafid asked the French to help him maintain his empire (Woolman, 1968). Rebels were besieging Fez so the French relieved it by occupying it (Balfour, 2002; Fleming, 1991).

Jun 1911: Spanish seize Larache and Alcázarqivir

In Jun 1911 Spanish forces began to venture into the hinterland to establish authority over the tribes of Djebala, Gomara, and the Rif Mountains (Scurr, 1985). In June the Spanish also seized Larache and Alcázarqivir (Fleming, 1991). Officially this was in the interests of the Sultan of Morocco but it was really to establish Spanish authority. This brought the Spanish into direct contact with the leader of the Beni Arós tribe, the sharif Muley Ahmed el Raisuni (Balfour, 2002). Interestingly El Raisuni supported the Spanish take over of Larache because “the Spanish are strong enough to help us, but not so strong that they will oppress us” (Fleming, p 40) .

1 Jul 1911: German Gunboat at Agadir

In an ultimately successful attempt to blackmail the French, the Germans sent the gunboat Panther to the closed port of Agadir(Fleming, 1991). The Panther displaced 1,000 tons and was armed with two small cannon and six machine guns (Woolman, 1968). Subsequently, in Nov, the French gave the Germans territory in the French Congo in exchange for German recognition of the 1904 Anglo-French agreement on Morocco. France recovered this territory after World War I.

24 Aug 1911: Rif Attack Cartographic Detachment

In the eastern sector a local sheikh, El Mizzian, had been preaching jihad against the Christians (Fleming, 1991). As a result, on 24 August, some Riffi attacked a cartographic detachment of the General Staff under Major Molina, plunging the whole Melillan sector into war. The Spanish public were opposed to offensive action giving El Mizzian an opportunity to build up his forces, including volunteers from as far away as Algeria.

Sep-Oct 1911: Kert Campaign

The Kert Campaign was Gen. Gabriel Orozco’s attempt to push the Rif back across the Kert River (Fleming, 1991). Primo de Rivera was one of the participants. Following renewed warfare in Morocco Rivera had volunteered for service in the Protectorate in Sep 1911. He commanded the Regiment of San Fernando in the Kert Campaign but returned to the Peninsular following a foot wound on 7 Oct. He was, however, promoted to Brigadier General.

Late Nov – Early Dec 1911: El Mizzian Threatens Melilla

Unchecked by Spanish offensive operations, El Mizzian was in a position to threaten Melilla(Fleming, 1991)


17 Feb 1912: Franco Arrives in Morocco

2nd Lt. Franco had his request for transfer accepted 6 Feb and arrived in Morocco 17 Feb (Preston, 1995). His first posting was at Fort Tifasor in the Melilla defences.


Millan Astray

1912 – 1920: Millán Astray and Francisco Franco with the Regulares

Both Millán Astray and Francisco Franco arrived in Melilla in 1912 (Scurr, 1985). In the years leading up to 1920, both men made their names leading Regulares in the Moroccan campaigns. Astray ended up as commander of the 2nd Tabor of Regulares of Larache. Franco fought with the 1st and 2nd Tabors of Regulares of Melilla and the 1st Tabor of Tetuán. Franco’s men thought he had divine protection (baraka) (Preston, 1995).

30 Mar 1912: French Protectorate

“No tribe came to us spontaneously. None gave in without fighting,
and some of them not until they had exhausted every means of resistance.”

Gen. Guillaume, 1953, cited in Woolman, 1968, p. 14

Sultan Mulay Hafid agreed to make Morocco a French Protectorate (Fleming, 1991; Woolman, 1968). The residents of Fez went on a rampage until suppressed by French troops. It would take until 1934 for the French to pacify the country.

Apr 1912: French Resident-General

Hubert Lyautey became the first French Resident-General in Morocco (Woolman, 1968).

?? 1912: Silvestre defeats El Raisuni

At some point in 1912 El Raisuni led his tribesmen on a looting and extortion trip through the Spanish zone (Furneaux, 1967). Col. Manuel Fernández Silvestre, commander at Larache, sent a contingent to stop El Raisuni, which they did in a pitched battle. Ironically Silvestre was reprimanded and told to treat El Raisuni more cordially.

May 1912

Primo de Rivera was assigned to Gen. Alfau’s staff in Tetuán and participated in the campaign against Raisuni (Fleming, 1991). This made him a major general.

Late Spring 1912

El Mizzian’s died in a minor skirmish in late spring (Fleming, 1991).

13 Jun 1912: 1st Lt. Franco

Franco was confirmed as 1st Lt. on 13 Jun 1912 – solely due to seniority (Preston, 1995).

Mid-Jun 1912: Eastern Tribes Sign Peace Treaties

By mid-June most of the eastern tribes had signed peace treaties (Fleming, 1991).

17 Jul 1912

Sultan Mulay Hafid abdicated in favour of his younger brother Yussef (Woolman, 1968).

28 Aug 1912: Franco at Uixan

1st Lt. Franco was given command of the position of Uixan, protecting the Banu Ifrur mines (Preston, 1995).

14 Nov 1912: Spanish Protectorate

The French recognised the Spanish Protectorate in Northern Morocco (Fleming, 1991; Balfour, 2002, and Scurr, 1985, says 27 Nov 1912). With Britain a firm French ally – France got Morocco and Britain got Egypt – and Germany placated with territory in the Congo, France took the opportunity to force Spain to accept territorial losses. Spain got 22,000 square kilometres, or about 1/20th of the French area. The Spanish zone was basically the Rif and the Franco-Spanish border was north of the Ouarga/Wergha river (Furneaux, 1967). The Franco-Spanish boundary arbitrarily split some tribes in two, for example the Beni Bu Yahi, Metalsa, and Geznaya in the east (Woolman, 1968). The new Sultan, Mulay Yussef, ratified the agreement on 14 May 1913. Meanwhile the Spanish were convinced the French were selling guns to the tribes in the Spanish protectorate.

The Spanish set up three autonomous military commands in their zone, one in each of Ceuta (Gen. Felipe Alfau), Larache (Col. Manuel Fernández Silvestre), and Melilla (Fleming, 1991). The western Ceuta zone corresponded to the Djebala. Although the High Commissioner was the supreme authority in Spanish Morocco, the military commanders only referred to him in an emergency or where joint military action was called for. The Sultan’s representative in the Spanish zone was called a Caliph.

30 Nov 1912

Silvestre occupied Raisuni’s headquarters at Arcila , freed his prisoners, and disbanded his troops (Balfour, 2002).

munoz01_1909_el_raisuni.jpg (45007 bytes)

El Raisuni (1909)

1913 – 1924: El Raisuni’s Revolt

Sherif Muley Ahmed el Raisuni was a descendent of the Prophet and scion of one of the leading families of the Djebala (Fleming, 1991). He was described as both an intelligent and charismatic leader, and a difficult, distrustful and violent man. During the early years of the 20th century he used brutality and terror to exert control over the various tribes of Djebala. In 1911 El Raisuni supported Spanish intervention in Morocco; he preferred the Spanish to the French because “they are strong enough to help us, but not so strong that they will oppress us.” By 1913 his relationship with the Spanish had deteriorated (he was still using terror tactics to gain power), and following his arrest by the Spanish (Jan 1913), El Raisuni attacked Tetuán (May 1913) inspiring the Djebalan tribes to rise. Between Jul 1915 – Nov 1918, as WW1 raged in Europe, the Spanish adopted a strategy of temporization against El Raisuni, putting diplomacy before armed might. Following negotiations El Raisuni called off his men in return for regaining control of the Djebala (Sep 1915). With the end of WW1 the Spanish adopted a more agreesive stance. El Raisuni reacted to this by breaking off communications, occupy the hills around Tetuán, and attacking Spanish supply convoys (Mar 1919. The Spanish offensive in the summer of 1919 pushed into the rugged uplands south of Tetuán and drove El Raisuni back into his mountain retreat of Tazarut. Spanish took El Raisuni’s major city, Xaüen, on 14 Oct 1920. By 29 Jun 1921 the Spanish had completed a ring of blockhouses surrounding El Raisuni’s stronghold at Tazarut. The blockhouses formed a line between Xaüen and Uad Lau, and a line between Xaüen and Alcazarquivir. Tazarut finally fell on 12 May 1922 although the man himself escaped (Scurr, 1985). Following prolonged negotiations the Spanish gave El Raisuni authority over the central Djebala (25 Sep 1922) in exchange for formal submission to the Caliph (4 Dec 1922). With Riffi forces penetrating the Djebala, and having failed to reach a new agreement with El Raisuni (12 Oct 1923), the Spanish no longer viewed El Raisuni as a force in the Djebala. El Raisuni didn’t join the Spanish retreat from Xaüen (15 Nov 1924) and was subsequently captured by Abd-el-Krim (26 Jan 1925). El Raisuni died in Rif captivity


28 Jan 1913: El Raisuni Arrested

Col. Silvestre arrested El Raisuni and his family, seized munitions, and freed 98 prisoners from the dungeons at Arcila (Fleming, 1991). [?? have to reconile the 30 Nov 1912 date of Balfour and the 28 Jan 1913 date of Fleming?? I suspect the former is the event at Arcila and the latter when El Raisuni was arrested himself.] The Spanish authorities subsequently apologised, forced Silvestre to free El Raisuni, and recalled Silvestre.

Feb 1913: El Raisuni Takes Up Arms

El Raisuni settled into his mountain fortress at Tazrut and called the Djebalan tribes to rise against the Spanish(Fleming, 1991).

13 Feb 1913: Spanish Occupy Tetuán

On 13 Feb 1913 a Spanish force under Gen. Afrau occupied Tetuán, the capital of the Djebala and chief town in northern Morocco, without a shot being fired(Fleming, 1991; Furneaux, 1967; Balfour, 2002, says 18 Feb). Tetuán subsequently became the seat of the Spanish Protectorate and hence of the Caliph.

Feb – May 1913

Although ordered to be respectful the Spaniards began to abuse the inhabitants (Balfour, 2002; Fleming, 1991). Afrau set up a 8 km wide security cordon around the city as Moroccan resistence began to take a toll on the Spanish. The sherif Mohammad Ben Sidi Lahsen raised funds for military brotherhoods to oppose Spanish expansion. Afrau asked for another 10,000 troops to defend the city – a request which caused the Minister of Defence to call him incompetent. Alfrau extended his operations along the supply routes between Tetuan, Ceuta, Larache, and Tangier. He built small permanently garrisoned forts to guard the roads.

Spanish posts of the time were typically a triangle of blockhouses (blocao) (Fleming, 1991). Each blockhouse would have been 6 m by 4 m wooden structures, with sandbags 1.5 m up the walls, and a corrugated iron roof (Preston, 1995). They were surrounded by 3 or 4 strands of barbed wire. A typical garrison for a blockhouse was 21-30 men and these had to be provisioned by armed convoys. The posts tended to be located on hill tops for defence, but typically this meant they were without a water source. So the convoys had to bring in water as well. Occasionally the blockhouses communicated by heliograph and signal lamps.

15 Apr 1913: Franco Transfers to Regulares

Franco transferred to the Regulares (Preston, 1995). He arrived for duty on 21 Jun 1923 and was posted to the garrison to Tetuán.

May 1913: Revolt in the Djebala

El Raisuni brought a strong force to the outskirts of Tetuán and, when riots broke out in the city, he attacked (Furneaux, 1967). The rebellion quickly spread as the Djebalan tribes rose against the Spanish (Fleming, 1991).

The Riffi leader in the easter zone, Mohammad Amzian, died in action in May 1913 (Balfour, 2002). This essentially brought hostilities to a close in that sector with the Kert River as the boundary of Spanish control. ‘Untamed’ tribes occasionally made brief and bloody incursions across the riverbed.

Aug 1913: Gen Alfau Resigns

The pacific Gen. Alfau couldn’t cope with El Raisuni’s revolt and the militant attitude of the Spanish Government and either resigned(Fleming, 1991) or was recalled (Furneaux, 1967). Gen. José Marina transferred from Melilla to replace Alfau. Silvestre was reinstated in command at Larache. Spanish troops in the area were brought up to 40,000.

14 Aug – 27 Sep 1913: Franco in Action

Franco began to make a name for himself through cold-blooded bravery in several operations against El Raisuni (Preston, 1995). Franco won the Military Merit Cross 1st Class for local victory on 22 Sep.


14 Jan 1914

A royal decree allowed the King to communicate directly to officers without first consulting the government or the military hierarchy (Balfour, 2002).

1 Feb 1914: Battle at Beni Salem

Battle at Beni Salem on the outskirts of Tetuán (Preston, 1995). Franco was promoted to captain as a result.

28 Jul 1914 – 11 Nov 1918: World War I

The major powers fought World War I (WW1) from 28 Jul 1914 to 11 Nov 1918. There were repercussions in Morocco. Between Jul 1915 – Nov 1918 the Spanish adopted a strategy of temporization against El Raisuni, putting diplomacy before armed might (Fleming, 1991) .

28 Jul 1914: War in Europe

As the European powers engaged in war, the Spanish adopted a strategy of temporization against El Raisuni putting diplomacy before armed might (Fleming, 1991) . Silvestre opposed this strategy and advocated total war.

German agents were active in both the French and Spanish zones. Abd-el-Malek, the Algerian Chief of the Sultan’s police Force in Tangier, became a German agent (Furneaux, 1967). Suspecting his dealings had been discovered he fled to the Rif mountains with an associated called Far and a sack full of German gold. They stirred up the southern Tribes, declared a Holy War against the French, and started attacking French posts. The Sultan, backed by French gold, responded by declaring a Holy War against the Germans. Malek’s bands dwindled and he fled to the Spanish zone.


8 May 1915: El Raisuni’s Agent Strangled

On 8 May 1915 El Raisuni’s agent in Tanger, Ali Akalay, was strangled (Fleming, 1991; Balfour, 2002, says 12 May). A subsequent investigation found the Moorish mayor of Arcila and a number of Spanish officers were responsible.

9 Jul 1915: High Commissioner Jordana

Although not implicated in the Ali Akalay murder both Silvestre in Larache and Marina in Ceuta were removed from their posts (Fleming, 1991). Gen Francisco Gómez Jordana, the commanding officer in Melilla, was promoted to High Commissioner.

Sep 1915: Accord with El Raisuni

The industrious, capable and tactful Jordana managed to win over Raisuni and the two signed an accord in Sep 1915 (Fleming, 1991). El Raisuni called off his men in return for regaining control of the Djebala.


German agents had roused the tribes in the Anjera region in the north-western part of the Protectorate near Ceuta (Balfour, 2002). To quell the unrest Jordana deployed 20,000 Spanish troops in the area. He also exploited tribal divisions and blood feuds to mobilise pro-Spanish groups against those who were not collaborating.

29 Jun 1916: Spanish Take El Biutz

Spanish forces took the mountain top village of El Biutz 9-10 km to the west of Ceuta (Preston, 1995). The rebels had been massing in the hills, and El Biutz was their main stronghold as it dominated the road from Ceuta to Tetuán. Although the village was defended by entrenched machine guns and riflemen, the Spanish launched a frontal assault up the hill in the early hours of 29 Jun 1916, led by the 2nd Tabor of Melilla. As the attack progressed more Tribesmen poured down the back of the hill behind the Spanish catching them in a cross fire. The Spanish forces took heavy casualties, including the commander of the leading company of Regulares. Captain Francisco Franco assumed command of this company, broke through the enemy encirclement and played a significant part in taking the village. Sometime during the action Franco was shot in the stomach, but continued to direct his men. Franco was subsequently promoted to Major as a result of his actions (28 Feb 1917, with effective from 15 Jun 1916) and posted back to Spain .


At some point during 1917 the incentives for Spanish officers serving in Morocco were removed so fewer had a colonial vocation and more were just doing their obligitory service (Balfour, 2002).

Spring 1917

In protest at their meagre wages in the context of high inflation, a number of infantry and cavalry officers established Juntas throughout peninsular Spain (Fleming, 1991).


11 Nov 1918: End of WW1

WW1 came to and end.

18 Nov 1918: Jordana dies

High Commissioner Jordana died of a heart attack at his desk of (Fleming, 1991).

Abd_el-Krim.jpg (42172 bytes)

Ad el-Krim

Dec 1918: Abd-el-Krim Returns Home

In Dec 1918 Abd-el-Krim took a leave of absence from his post in Melilla and returned to his home village (Fleming, 1991).


Jan 1919: Abd-el-Krim Forms Harka

Abd-el-Krim recalled his brother, Mhammed Abd-el-Krim, from Madrid (Fleming, 1991). The two brothers and their uncle, Abdselam, began to organise a war band (harka) to meet the inevitable Spanish invasion. A harka was a group of warriors of any size.

At some point in 1919 the Spanish Office of Native Affairs stopped paying certain notable Beni Urriaguel their pensions, including Adb-el-Krim and his brother (Fleming, 1991). The money went instead to younger more pro-Spanish members of the tribe.

Feb 1919: High Commissioner Berenguer

“No more soldiers need shed their blood”

( Berenguer quoted in Furneaux, 1967, p. 50)

Recruits in Africa

Dámaso Berenguer, now a General, returned to Morocco as High Commissioner for the Protectorate and Generalissimo of the Spanish forces in Morocco (Fleming, 1991; Furneaux, 1967). Berenguer’s instructions were to stop temporizing and put El Raisuni out of business. However, after conferring with the French to the south Berenguer adopted a policy slow conquest, hence the quote above, rather than the military approach used in the past. He would use money and other inducements to divide and conqueror the tribes. Where possible he would use friendly Harka against their hostile neighbours. Berenguer drew up a three year plan for the pacification (Preston, 1995). He would start with the Anyera to the east of Ceuta, then move on to the Djebala (including Tazarut and Xaüen) Berenguer reached Tetuán in Feb 1919 and tried to put his strategy into operation.


Xaüen is also spelt Xauen, Chaouen, Shawan, Chauen, Chefchaouence and Chechaouene (Woolman, 1968).

?? one of my sources says Berenguer returned in Aug 1919. Must find it. ??

21 Mar 1919: Spanish Occupy Alcazarseguir

As part of phase one of Berenguer’s plan, the Spanish occupied Alcazarseguir in the Anyera territory near Ceuta (21 Mar 1919) (Preston, 1995). El Raisuni, reacting to the new aggressive stance of the Spanish authorities, broke off communications, and occupied the hills around Tetuán recommenced guerrilla war by attacking Spanish supply convoys (Fleming, 1991). Berenguer sent troops to dislodge him (Furneaux, 1967). In the campaigns of 1919-1922 the Spanish troops operating in the western sector built hundred of small blockhouses and road side encampments from Tetuán to Xaüen and up the Lau River to the Mediterranean.

Summer 1919: Spanish Campaign in Djebala

Troops of Berenguer at Tetuán and Gen. Emilio Barrera in the south launched a campaign to suppress El Raisuni and pacify the Djebala (Fleming, 1991). They pushed into the rugged uplands south of Tetuán, suffered high casualties, and didn’t get very far (Balfour, 2002).

In the eastern sector, the Spanish under Gen. Luis Aizpuru cautiously advanced into the Central Rif (Fleming, 1991).

Jul 1919

Raisuni launched a couter attack against the Spanish (Balfour, 2002). His men cut the Tangier-Tetuán road.

Sep 1919

A second Spanish drove El Raisuni back into his mountain retreat of Tazrut (Balfour, 2002; Fleming, 1991). The offensive achieved its objectives despite high Spanish casualties.

End of Sep 1919: Spanish Occupy Fondak fort

The Spanish occupied Fondak fort on the Tangier-Tetuán road in the western sector (Fleming, 1991).

7 – 27 Oct 1919: Astray Studies French Foreign Legion

Millán Astray studies the French Foreign Legion at Tlemcen and Sidi bel Abbés with a view to creating a Spanish equivalent (Scurr, 1985).

Winter of 1919 – 1920: Eastern Front Stabilised

By the winter Gen. Luis Aizpuru had established a front from the mouth of the Kert River south to Zoco del Telata (Fleming, 1991)

1920-26: Rif War or Third Rif War


1920: Spanish Unified Military Command

In 1920 the three military commands of Larache, Ceuta, and Melilla were made subordinate to a single military command (Fleming, 1991).

Jan 1920

The Spanish public reacted badly to the new bloodshed in Morocco and demanded more efficient officers (Furneaux, 1967). The King gave Gen. Silvestre, a man known to rely more on ‘cojones’ (‘balls’) than military acumen, command of the troops although Berenguer retained his role as High Commissioner and title of Generalissimo (Fleming, 1991). Balfour (2002) says Silvestre was the commander in chief of the eastern zone from 1920, so it is possible he didn’t control the troops in the west. I think this likely given Berenguer seemed to retain direct control in that theatre.

Mid 1920

Silvestre crossed the Kert River (Balfour, 2002). This was probably the event which tipped Abd-el-Krim into open opposition to the Spanish.

4 Sep 1920: La Legion Created

A Royal Order authorised the formation of the Regiment of Foreigners (Tercio de Extranjeros) – known popularly as ‘La Legion’ (Scurr, 1985). Millán Astray commanded and Major (Commandante) Francisco Franco Bahamonde was his second in command (from 27 Sep 1920) (Preston, 1995). Although called a “Foreign Legion” in reality 90% of the unit were Spanish in origin. This brought the total Spanish forces in Morocco up to 63,000 with 24,000 being in Melilla (Furneaux, 1967).

Sep 1920: Elder Krim dies

The Elder Krim died and Abd-el-Krim’s succeeded him as judge of Axdir (Furneaux, 1967).

Oct 1920: Council of the Caids of the Rif

Abd-el-Krim organised a great council of the Caids of the Rif at Kama, but failed to convince them of a joint policy against Spanish aggression (Furneaux, 1967). He did manage to come to an agreement with the Temsaman, a small tribe based to the east of the Beni Urriaguel on the road from Melilla. Although they wouldn’t commit men to the conflict the Temsaman agreed to light watch-fires when the Spanish invaded.

14 Oct 1920: Spanish Take Xaüen

Implementing phase two of Berenguer’s plan, three Spanish columns took the mountain city of Xaüen with relatively little bloodshed (Fleming, 1991; Preston, 1995; Scurr, 1985). Viewed as a holy city by the Berbers, Xaüen was also El Raisuni’s major city. Tucked into a deep gorge in the southern Djebala, the historic fortified redoubt was viewed as unconquerable. The city was taken largely because of a military Arabist, Colonel Alberto Castro Girona. Girona entered the city disguised as a charcoal burner, then bribed and threatened the local notables into surrender. The Spanish then began to build small posts and blockhouses in the surrounding countryside, and had a strong policing force to guard the Tetuán-Xaüen road. Franco and the Legion were amongst the guards. Meanwhile the Spanish forces moved east along the Gomara coast.

1920primerajurabanderalalegion.jpg (94548 bytes)

First Bandera
of La Legion (1920)

16 Oct 1920: Legion Depot at Dar Riffien

The Legion established their depot at Dar Riffien(Scurr, 1985).

31 Oct 1920: Legion Has Three Banderas

By 31 Oct 1920 the Legion could parade three battalions (Banderas)(Scurr, 1985).


By the beginning of 1921 Silvertre’s troops had penetrated far into the eastern zone (Balfour, 2002).

7 Jan 1921: First Legion Casualty

The Legion fights its first battle (??). The 2nd company was attacked and Balthasar Queija Vega became the first Legionary to die in combat.

Preston (1995) points out that the Legion were a brutal lot, including Franco. Prisoners were mutilated and killed. Prisoners were often decapitated and their heads exhibited and/or given as gifts to visitors.

15 Jan 1921: Spanish at Annual

In the face of little resistence the Spanish established a forward position at Annual near Mt Izumar (Balfour, 2002). Annual was an abandoned, desolate village. Over 100 km of tortuous mountain track separated it from Melilla.

16 Jan 1921: Action on Zoco el Arbaa and Xarquia Xeruta Road

The Legion experienced its first significant fight. The 4th company of 2nd Bandera was attacked when guarding the road between Zoco el Arbaa and Xarquia Xeruta. Captain Don Pompilio Martinez Zaldivar was killed. In response, the 5th and 6th companies decimate the enemy and drive them off.

Feb 1921: Slowly, Slowly in the West; Charge in the East

In the west Berenguer resumed his gradual penetration by slowly surrounding El Raisuni’s stronghold at Tazarut (Preston, 1995). His men began a ring of blockhouses surrounding Tazarut. By 29 Jun 1921 the blockhouses formed a line between Xaüen and Uad Lau, and a line between Xaüen and Alcazarquivir. The Legionaries were part of Colonel Castro Girona’s column whose task was to establish a line of blockhouses between Xaüen and Uad Lau (Scurr, 1985).

Furneaux (1967) says that in Feb 1921 the King transferred Silvestre to Melilla in the eastern sector where he replaced the cautious Aizpuru. Silvestre’s instructions from the King were to break the Moroccan deadlock. This is at odds with Balfour (2002 who has Silvestre in command in the east at least as early as mid 1920.

17 Feb 1921: Spanish Take Monte Arruit

Silvestre took Monte Arruit in preparation for advancing across the Amekran River (Preston, 1995). Silvestre laughed in response to Abd-el-Krim’s warning that if Silvestre crossed the Amekran the tribes would resist in force. The general viewed the Riffi as “Petticoat Soldiers” (Silvestre quoted in Furneaux, 1967, p. 54).

Mar 1921

Silvestre presented his plan for the final assault on the Beni Urriaguel (Balfour, 2002). The plan called for a line of defensive positions stretching from the coast for 40 km to the south. The land offensive would go through the territory of the Temsman towards Alhuacemas. There would be three prongs to the attack on the 32 km wide front. Many staff officers advised caution given Silvestre only had about 12,000 troops to cover a 80 km wide front.

Balfour (2002) says there were 25,720 troops in the eastern zone and gives this round figure breakdown:

  • 13,000 Spanish Infantry
  • 1,000 Cavalry
  • 3,000 Artillery
  • 1,500 Engineering Corps
  • 1,200 Quartermaster-stores
  • 600 Medical staff
  • 5,300 Native troops

Balfour (2002) mentions the fact that the southern Spanish position had to be supplied with water by two trucks travelling 38 km each way. The 21 outposts around that position were in turn supplied by camel.

13 Apr 1921

The Spanish stationed on the island near Alhucemas shelled the market (Balfour, 2002).

Jun 1921

The Spanish noticed that Riffi tactics were changing (Balfour, 2002). They now undertook staggered retreats when abandoning a position.

1 Jun 1921: Rif Overrun Post at Abarrán

Major Jess Villar set up a fortified post at Abarrán, five km west of Annual in the eastern sector (Fleming, 1991). Most of the force returned to Annual but Villar left 200 Regulares and 50 Spanish (including two captains and a lieutenant) to defend the post. By mid-afternoon 1,000 Riffi, in two groups, had surrounded the post. One of the Regulares fired ten shots as a signal to the rebels within and without the fort to attack. Those outside cut the barbed wire and rushed the walls (Balfour, 2002). 179 loyal troops were killed in the fighting including the officers. Some artillery pieces were also captured and displayed in nearby villages. The survivors were forced to retreat to Buy Meyan. This Riffi success brought the remaining Temsaman into Abd-el-Krim’s camp.

5 Jun 1921: Berenguer Confronts Silvestre

Alarmed at the events at Abarrán Berenguer sailed to Sidi Dris and summoned Silvestre to a conference (Fleming, 1991). Berenguer instructed Silvestre to make no further advances, an order he complied with. over the next six weeks Abd-el-Krim built up his forces. In contrast the only reinforcements Silvestre asked for was permission to create a new unit of Regulares. [Balfour (2002) says Silvestre asked for more troops and arms but Berenguer declined.]

Silvestre subsequently built four more positions near Annual including one six km south on Mt. Igueriben (Balfour, 2002). A daily mule train kept the 300 soldiers in the Igueriben position supplied with water. This convoy had to travel 4-5 km each was and suffered constant attacks by the Riffi with the resulting losses in men and animals.

27 Jun 1921: Rif Attack ‘Muñoz Crespo’ and Buharrat

The 1st and 3rd Banderas fought off Rif bands at the hill positions of ‘Muñoz Crespo’ and Buharrat (Scurr, 1985). The Legion suffered 13 dead (including one officer) and 27 wounded.

29 Jun 1921: Spanish Surround Tazarut

The Spanish lines of blockhouses finally surrounded Tazarut in the west (Preston, 1995).

8 – 14 Jul 1921

Abd-el-Krim directed Riffi insurgents to increase harassment of Silvestre’s lines in the eastern sector (Fleming, 1991).

16 Jul 1921: Riffi Attack Igueriben and Buy Meyan

Riffi attacked Silvestre’s advanced posts at Igueriben and Buy Meyan (Fleming, 1991). Igueriben was surrounded and hence besieged. [Balfour (2002) says 17 Jul.]

17 Jul 1921: Rif Besiege Igueriben

The Riffi attacked all along Silvestre’s line – particularly at Igueriben (Fleming, 1991). All efforts to relieve Igueriben failed. The water supply at Igueriben ran out almost immediately (Balfour,2002). Silvestre began to telegram Berenguer for reinforcements.

20 Jul 1921

Silvestre mobilised all disposable forces in Melilla to send to the front (Fleming, 1991). Essentially the entire Spanish force in the eastern sector was about to be concentrated at the front.

21 Jul 1921: Spanish Evacuate Igueriben

Late in the afternoon Silvestre arrived at Annual with the reinforcements from Melilla (Fleming, 1991). Silvestre promptly organised 4,000 men into a relief column for Igueriben. Twice Silvestre led cavalry charges toward the besieged outpost, but was driven back by Riffi artillery and machineguns, captured from the Spanish at Abarrán and now entrenched on the Annual-Igueriben road. Silvestre ordered the evacuation of Igueriben but only two of the defenders made it out. Some defenders committed suicide but most was cut down by the Riffi.

22 – 23 Jul 1921: Disaster of Annual

At 1000 hours on 22 Jul 1921 Silvestre ordered the retreat from Annual (Fleming, 1991). The withdrawal soon became a rout and the Spanish army of 14,000 men was destroyed by only 3,000 Riffi under Abd-el-Krim.

By evening of 23 Jul Abd-el-Krim’s men had occupied the crests of the Gurugú Mountain overlooking Melilla (Scurr, 1985). Behind them scattered Spanish forces made desperate stands against the victorious tribesmen. It took 3 weeks for the Riffi to take all the isolated outposts. There were major massacres at outposts near Melilla, Dar Drius, Monte Arruit (9 Aug) and Nador (2 Aug). The Spanish suffered 13,192 casualties over three weeks, including 8,000 dead and hundreds captured. Silvestre was one of the dead.

In the western sector the planned assaulted on Tazarut was called off on 22 Jul 1921 so Legion reinforcements could be sent east (Preston, 1995; Scurr, 1985). At 0400 on 22 Jul 1921 hours Franco force marched the 1st Bandera and 4th Company of the 2nd north towards Fondak and Tetun, arriving at 0945 on 23 Jul. There they were joined by the rest of the 2nd Bandera and trained to Ceuta, where they boarded a ferry for Melilla.

1921primerajurabanderalalegion.jpg (113297 bytes)

First Bandera
of La Legion (1921)

24 Jul 1921: Legion Arrives in Melilla

Civilian morale at Melilla was boosted when the 1st and 2nd Banderas of the Legion arrived at 1400 hours (Scurr, 1985). The Legion occupied defensive positions in the suburbs.


Pack Mules

25 Jul 1921: Legion Advance Inland

Reinforced by two tabors of Regulares of Ceuta, the two Legion Banderas occupied the hills of Sidi Hamed and the Atalyón but were not allowed to advance further (Scurr, 1985). Three Spanish Infantry Battalions took over garrison duty in Melilla.

Over the next few weeks detachments of the Legion fought several actions against the Riffi tribesmen, either defending their sandbagged blockhouses, or escorting pack-mules to the forward positions (Preston, 1995; Scurr, 1985).

2 Aug 1921: Rif Take Nador

From his position in the outskirts of Melilla, Franco watched the last Spanish defenders of Nador being overcome (Preston, 1995). The authorities denied his request to relieve the siege.

9 Aug 1921: Rif Take Monte Arruit

Monte Arruit fell to the Riffi (Preston, 1995). Primero de Rivera’s brother, Fernando, was one of the dead (Fleming, 1991).

8 Sep 1921: Convoy to Casabona

A large Spanish convoy was blocked trying to reach a strongpoint at Casabona (Scurr, 1985). Franco led the escort column – 2nd Bandera, two companies of the 1st, and two tabors of Regulares of Ceuta – against the Riffi tribesmen entrenched in positions dominating the road (Preston, 1995). Bayonet charges and close quarter fighting were the order of the day. The Legion suffered more than 90 casualties and the Regulares about 100.

12 Sept 1921: “Reconquista” begins

This was the beginning of what was called the reconquest (Reconquista) (Fleming, 1991).

14 Sep 1921: Spanish Relieve ‘El Malo’

Men from an army Disciplinary Battalion relieved the defenders of the exposed blockhouse at Dar Hamed, known as “the bad one” (El Malo) (Scurr, 1985).

15 Sep 1921: Rif Take ‘El Malo’

The Rif surrounded ‘El Malo’ at Dar Hamed. Riffi artillery fire wounded the Spanish officer in charge of the blockhouse, and killed several men (Scurr, 1985).



15 volunteers (under Corporal Seceso Terroro) from the 1st Bandera on Atalayón reached the blockhouse as darkness fell (Scurr, 1985). Two men were wounded as they crossed the wire. The Rif attacked again, but were held by the Legionaries’ rifle fire and grenades. Toward midnight the Riffi brought up their artillery and pounded the blockhouse into rubble – there were no survivors.

17 Sep 1921: Action at Amadi Gorge

The Spanish launched a major attacked against Nador, 16 km to the south of Melilla (Scurr, 1985). At 0700 hours the 1st and 2nd Banderas, the Regulares of Ceuta, and three Spanish Infantry Battalions advanced from Sidi Hamed. The Spanish suffered fire from Riffi artillery on Gurugú Mountain, but the Riffi positions were bombarded by a more impressive Spanish array including planes, artillery, and the guns of the offshore fleet. Riffi machine gun and rifle fire halted the advance at the Amadi gorge. Millán Astray was wounded in the chest and evacuated. Franco led the 1st and 2nd Banderas along the heights above the gorge. Although exposed to heavy fire the Legion cleared the gorge edge of tribesmen as far as Monte Arbós. The two Banderas suffered 33 casualties.

18 Sep 1921: Republic of the Rif

The Confederal Republic of the Tribes of the Rif, or the Republic of the Rif in short, was created on 18 Sep 1921 (Wikipedia: Republic of the Rif). Axdir was the capital and the Riffan was the currency. Abd-el-Krim became head of state (Emir of the Rif) on 1 Feb 1923. Spanish and French forces dissolved the Republic on 27 May 1926.

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One Riffian
State Bank of the Riff

1923-10-10_rif_bank_note_5.gif (73783 bytes)

Five Riffians
State Bank of the Riff

Within the Republic Abd-el-Krim maintained tight control on the various kabyles by handpicking the leaders, and putting Beni-Urriaguel in as their lieutenants … and to keep and eye on them (Fleming, 1991). Influence on the kabyles outside the Republic relied on Beni-Urriaguel military reputation and terror. Feuds were outlawed and the towers near every house were demolished. Of course not all kabyles were keen to accept Riffi overlordship and there was some inter-tribal fighting, at least in the Djebala.

Also on 18 Sep 1921 the Legion entered Nador where mutilated Spanish corpses had littered the town since the Disaster of Annual – the smell was appalling (Scurr, 1985). The Legionaries spent the next six days burying the dead.

2 Oct 1921: Action at Sebt

Franco with the 1st and 2nd Banderas and the Regulares of Ceuta successfully assaulted ravines and trenches at Sebt (Scurr, 1985). The Legion suffered 150 casualties. Franco and his men were the vanguard of Gen. Berenguer’s new westward offensive toward the River Kert; Gen Sanjurjo was the operational commander.

5 Oct 1921: Spanish take Atlatlen

Sanjurjo’s column took Atlatlen (Scurr, 1985).

8 Oct 1921: Spanish take Segangan

Sanjurjo’s column took Segangan (Scurr, 1985).

10 Oct 1921: Action on Gurugú Mountain

Heavy fighting on the crests of Gurugú Mountain resulted in 121 casualties for the Legion (Scurr, 1985).

23 Oct 1921: Action at Monte Magán

In the western sector, the new 4th Bandera conducted bayonet charges against rebel ‘harkas’ (bands) around Monte Magn (Scurr, 1985).

1921-10-24_Spanish_corpses_at_Montearruit.jpg_colour.jpg (29403 bytes)

Spanish corpses at
Monte Arruit (24 Oct 1921)

24 Oct 1921: Spanish Occupy Monte Arruit

The Legion occupied Monte Arruit in the eastern sector (Scurr, 1985). They had to bury the corpses of the 800 Spanish that tried to make a stand here during the retreat from Annual in July. [Preston, 1995, says 23 Oct.]

Oct 1921 also saw the expansion of the Legion(Scurr, 1985). A 4th Bandera was raised at Dar Riffien and a third rifle company was added to each Bandera. The 13th and 14th Companies joined the 1st and 2nd Banderas respectively on 24 Oct.

28 Oct 1921: Action at Monte Magán

More bayonet charges by the 4th Bandera at Monte Magán (Scurr, 1985). They suffered a total of 72 dead and 212 wounded during the fighting of 23 and 28 Oct.

Nov 1921: 5th Bandera

The Legion gained a 5th Bandera(Scurr, 1985).

10 Nov 1921: Astray in

Millán Astray arrived back in Ceuta (western sector) although his chest wound hadn’t fully healed (Scurr, 1985). In conjunction with larger Spanish columns, he spent the next couple of months leading the 3rd, 4th and new 5th Banderas in operations in the Beni Arós and Djebala regions.

Franco and 1st Bandera at Ras Medua

Franco and 1st Bandera
at Ras Medua

18 Nov 1921: Action on Uisán Mountain

Back in the eastern sector, the 1st and 2nd Banderas, with some native police, scaled a steep ravine and took the old forts on Uisán Mountain (Scurr, 1985). As the weather deteriorated over the next few days, operations were extended to Ras Medua, Tauriat Hamed and El Harcha.


10 Jan 1922: Spanish Capture Dar Drius

The Spanish captured Dar Drius on 10 Jan 1922, an important rail depot in the eastern sector (Scurr, 1985; Fleming, 1991, says 9 Jan 1922). Franco was prevented from wrecking vengence on the inhabitants of the village (Preston, 1995). [Preston (1995) says 8 Jan.]

During a retreat from Dra el Asef in the western sector on 10 Jan 1922, Millán Astray was wounded in the leg and evacuated again on 18 Jan (Scurr, 1985). This retreat was also notable for an incident where the 8th Company of the Legion (in the 3rd Bandera) resorted to knife work when fighting off ten times their own numbers.

Mid Jan 1922: Dar Drius Blockhouse

After an attack by Riffi, the Legionary defenders of a blockhouse near Dar Drius appeal for help to the Spanish commander of the village (Preston, 1995). The officer ordered his entire Legionary contingent to the rescue. Major Franco decided that 12 was enough and called for volunteers. When the entire unit stepped forward, Franco chose 12 and they made their way to the blockhouse. After a night of fierce fighting Franco and the 12 volunteers returned carrying the bloody heads of 12 tribesmen.

14 Feb 1922: Astray in

Millán Astray arrived at the Legion camp at Dar Drius (Scurr, 1985).

Mid-March 1922: Operations Against Beni Said and Beni Ulixech

Gen. Berenguer authorised Gen. José Sanjurjo, commanding in the eastern sector, to resume operations against the Beni Said and Beni Ulixech (Fleming, 1991; Scurr, 1985).

14 Mar 1922: Schneiders Attack

The six French 1921 Schneider CA-1 of the armoured battery were the first Spanish tanks into combat (14 Mar 1922) (Tanks: Spanish).

18 Mar 1922: Action at Ambar

The first action of the first Spanish tank company (12 French Renault FT-17s) was against the Beni Said kabyle on 18 Mar 1922 (Tanks: Spanish). This was a joint operation between the tank company and Legion infantry. They were to drive the Beni Said from the towns of Tugunz and Ambar. Rain caused leaky roofs and mechanical problems due to wet ignitions. None the less the attack started at 0600 hours. Advancing at 4mph the tanks soon out-distanced the legionaries. Facing tanks was a new experience for the Beni but they learnt quickly. When rifle fire didn’t stop the FT-17s the tribesmen climbed on the tanks and stabbed and shot through the vision slits. With no supporting infantry the tanks could do little about this. With on-going ignition failures, gun failures, and lacking infantry support, the tanks called it a day and withdrew. The Spanish left two FT-17s on the field.

Millán Astray led the 1st and 2nd Banderas on an advance on Ambar (Scurr, 1985). The Legion suffered 86 casualties during fierce but unsuccessful counter-attack by the rebels.

12 May 1922: Spanish Take Tazarut

After months of manning outposts and escorting convoys the 3rd and 5th Banderas joined the final occupation of Tazarut – El Raisuni’s stronghold, although the man himself escaped (Fleming, 1991; Scurr, 1985).

9 Jul 1922: Berenguer out; Burguete in

Berenguer resigned for the 4th time after the Supreme Military Court issued its indictment against him (Fleming, 1991). This time it was accepted. His replacement was Gen. Ricardo Burguete.

Aug – Dec 1922: Negotiations with El Raisuni

In Aug Burguete began negotiations with El Raisuni (Fleming, 1991; Preston, 1995). These ended with the Spanish giving El Raisuni authority over the central Djebala in exchange for formal submission to the Caliph (4 Dec 1922). Similar negotiations with Abd-el-Krim failed so Burguete recommenced operations in the eastern sector.

Sep 1922: 6th Bandera

A 6th Bandera joined the Legion(Scurr, 1985).

26 Oct 1922: Spanish Take Tizzi Azza

After considerable opposition, the Spanish took Tizzi Azza (Fleming, 1991). This was a fortified hill top position to the south of Annual in the eastern sector (Preston, 1995). This brought the Spanish roughly back to the line held by Silvestre in Jun 1921.

Start of Nov 1922: Siege of Tizzi Azza

The Rif pre-empted a Spanish attack from Tizzi Azza by taking the dominating heights above the town and firing down into the garrison (Preston, 1995). They forced the Spanish to dig in for the winter and inflicted 2,000 casualties over the course of the siege.

Nov 1922: Legion Camp at Ben Tieb

2nd Bandera started work on an advanced camp for the Legion at Ben Tieb(Scurr, 1985).

13 Nov 1922: Astray out; Valenzuela in

Due to political considerations Lt. Col. Rafael de Valenzuela Urzais replaced Millán Astray as commander of the Legion (Scurr, 1985). Valenzuela had founded and led the Group of Regulares of Alhucemas.

1922-23: French Interfere in Beni Zerwal

The majority of the Riffi grain came from the fertile alluvial plain around the Uarga River on the border of the French and Spanish Protectorates (Fleming, 1991). Most of the Beni Zerwal in the centre was allocated to the Spanish zone, but in 1922-23 the French began to interfere in the internal affairs of this kabyle.


17 Jan 1923: Franco out

At his own request Franco left the Legion for a posting back to his old regiment in Oviedo (Scurr, 1985).

Also on 17 Jan 1923 the military command of the protectorate was decentralised (again) (Fleming, 1991).

27 Jan 1923: Spanish Ransom Prisoners

Acting against the wishes of the army, the Spanish government paid Abd-el-Krim for the return of the prisoners taken at Annual in Jul-Aug 1921 (Fleming, 1921). The 45 officers (including the second in command, General Navarro), 245 soldiers, and 40 civilians cost the Spanish people 4,270,000 pesetas.

1 Feb 1923:

Abd-el-Krim became head of state of the Republic of the Rif (Emir of the Rif) on 1 Feb 1923 (Wikipedia: Republic of the Rif). Fleming (1991) says Abd-el-Krim also announced the creation of the Republic, but according to Wikipedia: Republic of the Rif the actual creation was in 1921.

17 Feb 1923: Burguete out; Silvela in

Luis Silvela, a civilian, replaced Gen. Burguete as High Commissioner (Fleming, 1991).

10 Apr 1923: Abd-el-Krim Initiates Negotiations

Abd-el-Krim initiated negotiations with the Spanish, but they lead nowhere (Fleming, 1991)

Late May 1923: Rif recommence military action

With the failure of the negotiations in April, the Rif recommence aggressive action (Fleming, 1991).

In mid-1923 Abd-el-Krim organised his pan-Riffi military force including Beni Urriaguel regulars supplemented by tribal harkas (Fleming, 1991).

5 Jun 1923: Relief of Tizzi Asa; Valenzuela Killed

A Spanish supply convoy left Tafersit for the outpost at Tizzi Asa, besieged since November the previous year (Scurr, 1985). Col. Gómez Morato commanded the column, while Lt. Col. Valenzuela led the vanguard (1st, 2nd and 4th Banderas, and a Tabor of Regulares). Fire from entrenched tribesmen halted the Regulares at Iguermisen ravine. With Legion machineguns pinning the rebel harka in place, the 1st and 2nd Banderas attacked the right flank and the 4th to the left. Morato on the extreme right ordered a general attack. Valenzuela sent the 1st and 2nd Banderas charging up the slope toward the enemy entrenchments. During the grenade and bayonet work amongst the trenches, Valenzuela and his escort were shot down. The scattered Legionaries rallied to their nearest officer and drove the Riffi from the trenches. This allowed the convoy to reach Tizzi Asa (Preston, 1995). Legion casualties were 186 including the dead Valenzuela.

The Spanish tank company ( 12 French Renault FT-17s) were used to protect the convoy to Tizzi Asa (Renault FT-17 Tanks in the Rif War).

8 Jun 1923: Franco in

The newly promoted Lt. Col. Franco was given command of the Legion (Preston, 1995; Scurr, 1985).

2 – 13 Jul 1923: Negotiations with Abd-el-Krim

Another round of fruitless peace negotiations (Fleming, 1991).

22 Aug 1923: Spanish Relieve Tifaruin Outpost

9,000 Riffi were besieging the outpost at Tifaruin outpost near the mouth of the river Kert (Scurr, 1985). On 22 Aug 1923 the Spanish broke the siege. The Regulares of Alhucemas and Melilla were blocked on the direct approach, so Franco led the 1st and 2nd Banderas in a wide flanking movement to the right of the enemy entrenchments. His attack on the Riffi flank and rear allowed to the Regulares to break through to Tifaruin.

Sep 1923: Riffi Aggression

During Sep 1923 the Riffi attacked 70 of the 76 front line Spanish positions in the eastern sector; Riffi attacks occurred on 28 of the 30 days of the month (Fleming, 1991).

12 – 15 Sep 1923: Coup D’état in Spain

Gen. Miguel Primo de Rivera staged a successful coup d’état in Spain (Scurr, 1985).

The war in Morocco had cost the Spanish 2,300,000,000 pesetas since 1909 and 23,000 casualties since 1916 (Fleming, 1991).

By early autumn 1923 the most important tribes in the Djebala had agreed to cooperate with Abd-el-Krim (Fleming, 1991). This was bad for El Raisuni as his supporters bailed. One of his youngest and most able commanders, Ahmed Heriro, defected to Abd-el-Krim and became a major Rif leader in the Djebala.

Oct 1923: Riffi Aggression

During Oct 1923 the Riffi attacked 38 of the 76 front line Spanish positions in the eastern sector; Riffi attacks occurred on 23 of the 31 days of the month (Fleming, 1991).

12 Oct 1923: Negotiations with El Raisuni

The Spanish and El Raisuni failed to come to agreement at Sidi Musa (Fleming, 1991). The Spanish no longer viewed El Raisuni as a force in the Djebala.

About this time the Spanish again tried to negotiate with Abd-el-Krim (Fleming, 1991).

7 Oct 1923: Spanish Draft Down

In the deliberate effort to rely more on volunteer and indigenous troops, the Spanish began to send conscript units home (Fleming, 1991). 29,000 conscripts were sent home early. Another 26,000 were to be discharged in the first three months of 1924. Plans for the new draft were also reduced, from 92,000 in 1923 to 78,000 in 1924 (i.e. down by 20%).

1 Nov 1923: New Reserve Units

Rivera created two new reserve divisional brigades in the southern ports of Alicante and Almeria (Fleming, 1991). Each included four cavalry regiments, two artillery batteries, and an infantry company. There purpose was to provide immediate reinforcements to Africa, in the case of an emergency.

Nov 1923: Riffi Aggression

The Riffi intensified their attacks against Tifaruin and Tizzi-Azza in early Nov 1923, however overall Riffi activity was low in November compared to the preceding and following months (Fleming, 1991). During Nov 1923 the Riffi attacked 10 of the 76 front line Spanish positions in the eastern sector; Riffi attacks occurred on 7 of the 30 days of the month.

Dec 1923: Riffi Aggression

During Dec 1923 the Riffi attacked 48 of the 76 front line Spanish positions in the eastern sector; Riffi attacks occurred on 23 of the 31 days of the month (Fleming, 1991).

10 Dec 1923: Ominous Quiet

Gen. Castro Girona wrote that the protectorate was passing through a period of ominous quiet (Fleming, 1991). In this quiet period Abd-el-Krim was extending his control into the Uarga region and the Gomara. El Raisuni increasingly relied on Spanish troops to control his own followers.


Jan 1924: Riffi Aggression

During Jan 1924 the Riffi attacked 37 of the 76 front line Spanish positions in the eastern sector; Riffi attacks occurred on 22 of the 31 days of the month (Fleming, 1991).

Early Jan 1924: Riffi Invade Gomara

Riffi harkas invaded the Gomara and imposed a tribute system to support their occupation (Fleming, 1991). The Riffi were also fighting certain Djebalan qa’ids in Jan-Feb.

18 Jan 1924: Protectorate Reorganised

Rivera gave the High Commissioner back overall civilian and military command of the protectorate (Fleming, 1991).

To allow defence in depth the Melilla, or eastern, sector was subdivided into a vanguard zone (zona de vanguardia) and a rearguard zone (zona de retaguardia) (Fleming, 1991). The former were the advanced positions on the Silvestre Line. A Spanish column was based at each of Dar Quebdani, Dar Drius and Tafersit. Franco’s Legion was based at Ben Tieb. In the rear zone the the Spanish concentrated troops at Tistutin, Nador, Segangen, and Melilla.

Organisation in the western sector remained unchanged (Fleming, 1991).

To the south the forces in the French Protectorate had been steadily declining, reaching a low of 65,258 in 1924 (Fleming, 1991).

19 Jan 1924: Ahmed Heriro Joins Riffi

Abd-el-Krim paid Ahmed Heriro – a key follower of El Raisuni’s in the Djebala – to throw his lot in with the Riffi (Fleming, 1991).

Feb 1924: Riffi Aggression

During Feb 1924 the Riffi attacked 48 of the 76 front line Spanish positions in the eastern sector; Riffi attacks occurred on 20 of the 29 days of the month (Fleming, 1991).

16 Feb 1924: Heriro Besieges M’Ter

A Riffi harka under Ahmed Heriro besieged M’Ter on the Mediterranean (Fleming, 1991). The siege lasted a month and was tight enough that the Spanish had to supply the output from the air. The Riffi had two captured guns and shelled the outpost every day.

Abd-el-Krim also began four months of exploratory raid, leading up to his offensive on 27 Jun 1924 (Fleming, 1991).

22 Feb 1924:

Spanish intelligence believed Abd-el-Krim controlled the coast to Gomara and inland as far as the boundary with the French protectorate (Fleming, 1991).

25 Feb 1924 – Jun 1924: Legion Opens Up Supply Routes

Franco led his Banderas in numerous operations to open up the supply routes to Tizzi Asa, Sidi Mesaud, and other outposts (Scurr, 1985).

Mar 1924: Riffi Aggression

A troublesome month for the Spanish. During Mar 1924 the Riffi attacked 59 of the 76 front line Spanish positions in the eastern sector; Riffi attacks occurred on 22 of the 31 days of the month (Fleming, 1991).

1 Mar 1924: Riffi Attack in East

Riffi forces attacked Tizzi Azza, Azib de Midar, and Afgrau (Fleming, 1991). Tizzi Azza was the hardest hit of the Spanish outposts and the defenders resorted to hand-to-hand combat to drive off their attackers.

3 Mar 1924: Cataluña at M’Ter

The Spanish cruiser Cataluña arrived at M’Ter but two Riffi guns caused extensive damage and forced the ship to limp back to Cadiz for repairs (Fleming, 1991).

7 Mar 1924: Spanish Relieve Tizzi Azza

Columns under Lt. Col. Franco and Lt. Col. Llanos broke the siege of Tizzi Azza (Fleming, 1991). The Spanish suffered 22 dead and 167 wounded against estimated Riffi losess of 120 dead and 70 wounded.

Apr 1924: Riffi Aggression

A troublesome month for the Spanish. During Apr 1924 the Riffi attacked 58 of the 76 front line Spanish positions in the eastern sector; Riffi attacks occurred on 23 of the 30 days of the month (Fleming, 1991).

13 Apr 1924: Terrorist Attack in Tetuán

Terrorist Attack in Tetuán (Fleming, 1991).

May 1924: French Cross the Uarga

The French forces on the northern border occupied the area north of the Uarga river, in the area of the Beni Zerwal, to secure it against the Riffi (Fleming, 1991). By the end of Jun 1924 the French had a 120 km long line of posts and blockhouse from Biban in the west to Kifan in the east. Negotiations also created a pro-French camp within the Beni Zerwal.

During May 1924 the Riffi attacked 39 of the 76 front line Spanish positions in the eastern sector; Riffi attacks occurred on 19 of the 31 days of the month (Fleming, 1991).

Sanjurjo took over command in Melilla about this time (Fleming, 1991).

1 May 1924: Riffi Besiege Sidi Mesaud

On 1 May 1924 400 of the Beni Urriaguel regulars besieged the advanced post of Sidi Mesaud in the eastern sector (Fleming, 1991). The garrison commander called for reinforcements and Rivera started a bombing campaign.

6 May – 16 Sep 1924: Spanish Bombing Campaign

The Spanish air units were concentrated in Melilla on 5 May (Fleming, 1991). Spanish planes bombed the area between Sidi Mesaud and Axdir on 6, 8, and 9 May. The aim was the systematic “destruction of villages and livestock, the dispersion of all manner of concentrations and markets and above all, the burning of crops” (p. 140). The Spanish used incendiary, fragmentation, and poison gas. None-the-less the siege of Sidi Mesaud continued. And the air attacks also continued … for four and half months on an almost daily basis.

10-12 May 1924: Spanish Break Siege of Sidi Mesaud

In three days of hand-to-hand combat columns of Legionnaires and Regulares under Lt. Col. Franco and Lt. Col. Pozas broke the siege of Sidi Mesaud (Fleming, 1991).

Jun 1924: Riffi Aggression

During Jun 1924 the Riffi attacked 38 of the 76 front line Spanish positions in the eastern sector; Riffi attacks occurred on 21 of the 30 days of the month (Fleming, 1991).

By June Abd-el-Krim had about 80,000 men in arms due to the support of Beni Said, Beni Hassan, Beni Hozmar and many others in the western sector (Fleming, 1991; Scurr, 1985). They were well supplied with weapons and ammunition including 100 artillery pieces. (Scur says 200 artillery pieces, but Fleming has a convincing argument for at most 100 guns.)

5, 9 and 25 Jun 1924: Spanish Intelligence

The Spanish intelligence services noted Ahmed Heriro’s forces had increased and that he was poised near the Uad Lau Line (Fleming, 1991). An attack was obviously imminent.

27 Jun – 13 Dec 1924: Lau Campaign

On 27 Jun 1924 2,000 Riffi and Djebalan warriors attacked the weak Uad Lau Line in the western sector (Fleming, 1991). By 17 Jul they were closing in on Tetuán-Xaüen Road and by 5 Sep has surrounded Xaüen. Several Spanish columns fought their way to the beleaguered city (10-30 Sep). The Spanish evacuated the Xaüen outposts (2 Oct – 14 Nov) and then abandoned the city (15-17 Nov. The subsequent retreat to Tetuán was fiercely contended but the survivors reached safety by 13 Dec. The retreat left Ahmed Heriro’s forced only 10 km south of Tetuán.

27 Jun 1924: Riffi Attack Uad Lau Line

The Riffi attacked the weak Uad Lau Line in the western sector (Fleming, 1991). The attackers were Beni Urriaguel regulars under Ahmed Heriro and harkas of the Djebalan kabyles of the Beni Said, Beni Hassan, and Beni Hozmar. Rivera thought there were 2,000 in the Riffi force. The attack initially had two prongs. A number of Spanish outposts along the river were quickly cut off and subjected to daily attacks. The worst attacks were against Koba Daras and Hoj.

Jul 1924: Riffi Aggression

During Jul 1924 the Riffi attacked 47 of the 76 front line Spanish positions in the eastern sector; Riffi attacks occurred on 22 of the 31 days of the month (Fleming, 1991).

1 Jul 1924:

Abd-el-Krim added a third prong to the attack on the Uad Lau Line (Fleming, 1991).

2 Jul 1924

Gen. Luis Bermudez de Castro replaced Gen. Montero in Ceuta (Fleming, 1991). The Spanish reinforced the western front with troops from the Peninsular and from Melilla.

6 Jul 1924: Spanish Relieve Koba Daras and Hoj

Two columns under Gen. Julian Serrano Orive relieved the Koba Daras and Hoj outposts (Fleming, 1991).

14 Jul 1924:

Spanish intelligence reported that Heriro had received 1,200 reinforcements from the central Rif (Fleming, 1991).

17 Jul 1924: Riffi Close in on Tetuán-Xaüen Road

The Riffi began to close in on the southern section of the Tetuán- Xaüen road (Fleming, 1991).

Aug 1924: Riffi Aggression

During Aug 1924 the Riffi attacked 31 of the 76 front line Spanish positions in the eastern sector; Riffi attacks occurred on 18 of the 31 days of the month (Fleming, 1991).

First Week of August

Abd-el-Krim launched a new series of attacks on the Uad Lau Line (Fleming, 1991). The attacks focused on Infertan, Tazza, and Solano to the southwest and west of Cobba d’Arsa, and on the Uad Lau Valley between Dar Acobba and Taguesut. By 8 Aug the Riff had cut Spanish communications to the south and to Xaüen in particular.

7 Aug 1924

Sanjurjo in the eastern sector launched various reconnaissance probes to relieve pressure on the west (Fleming, 1991). Abd-el-Malek – now a high paid supporter of the Spanish – led his harka on one such probe on 7 Aug 1924. Despite support from the Spanish air force his band was driven back by a Riffi counter-attack and Abd-el-Malek was killed in the retreat.

13 Aug 1924

In the peninsular a brigade under Gen. Alberto Castro Girona was prepared for immediate assignment to Morocco (Fleming, 1991).

In the western sector of the protectorate the Spanish organised four columns under Gen. Serrano, Gen Grund, Gen. Riquelme, and Lt. Col. Permúy (Fleming, 1991). The columns had orders to rescue the cut off positions but the Riffi were well entrenched and most of the local kabyles were hostile, if not in open revolt, so this was easier said than done. In the end the rescue attempt was a complete failure. For example, Column Riquelme was held on the road north of Xaüen for three weeks.

15 Aug 1924: Riffi attack Afrau and Tifarauin

Riffi attacked Afrau and Tifarauin and it took 2,000 Spanish and two days to break the siege (Fleming, 1991).


Legionaries at Dar Darius (1923)

20 Aug 1924: Spanish Withdrawal

The Spanish began withdrawing from the Lau sector of the western sector (Scurr, 1985). [Seems a bit early for the planned withdrawal, which was actually announced 10 Sep, so I suspect this is the unplanned response to Riffi atttacks.]

End of Aug 1924:

After the reinforcements of Jul-Aug the Spanish had 100,00 men in the Protectorate (Fleming, 1991). But with the failure of the four relief columns the Riffi had cut the roads and communications, had captured a number of small positions and forced the Spanish to evacuate others. The Ifartán encampment was abandoned after an eight day siege. The commander of the blockhouses at Sentafa had the position burned, then committed suicide, leaving his surviving men to be slaughtered by the Riffi. All the positions around Buharrax were out of water and under siege with no hope of rescue. Because Column Serrano was blocked Solano had to be abandoned. Various small Spanish detachments disappeared on the roads.

Sep 1924: Riffi Aggression

During Jan 1924 the Riffi attacked 26 of the 76 front line Spanish positions in the eastern sector; Riffi attacks occurred on 15 of the 30 days of the month (Fleming, 1991).

4 Sep 1924:

Eight more Peninsular battalions were sent to Morocco (Fleming, 1991).

5 Sep 1924: Riff Surround Xaüen

By 5 Sep the Abd-el-Krim’s harkas control the Gorgues Mountains to the south-east of Tetuán (Scurr, 1985). 10,000 Spanish soldiers (including the 6th Bandera) were surrounded in the Xaüen district, mainly in the city itself.

5 – 21 Sep 1924: Spanish Open Road to Xaüen

Spanish columns including Banderas 2 through 5, spend September clearing the enemy from their positions in the Gorgues Mountains, thus opening the road to Xaüen (Scurr, 1985).

6 Sep 1924: Queipo Rescues Riquelme

A column under Queipo de Llano – subsequently considered battle hardened veterans – rescued Column Riquelme on the Tetuán-Xaüen road allowing both to retreat to Ben Karrich (Fleming, 1991).

8 Sep 1924: Rivera Arrives

Rivera arrived in the protectorate to take charge (Fleming, 1991).

10 Sep 1924: Spanish Withdrawal

Rivera announced his play to evacuate the 400 exposed outposts in the three most threatened sectors: the Lau valley, the Tetuán-Xaüen road, and the gorges of the Beni Arós (Preston, 1995; Scurr,1985). The troops were to withdraw to the more defensible coastal fringes. Abd-el-Krim stepped up his attacks as the Spanish withdraw. According to Fleming (1991) about 233 posts in the western sector were actually abandoned.

10 – 12 Sep 1924:

Queipo de Llano veteran column and Girona’s newly arrived brigade fought their way 20km down the Tetuán-Xaüen road (Fleming, 1991). At El Fondak de Ain Yedida waited for reinforcements before the final push to Xaüen.

13 Sep 1924: Queipo Annoys Dictator

After a minor confrontation Rivera relieved Queipo de Llano of his command (Fleming, 1991). Further more on 24 Sep Queipo was sentenced to a month’s prison sentence.

15 Sep 1924

Riquelme took over command in Larache (Fleming, 1991).

18 Sep 1924: Spanish Attack Gorgues Heights

The Riffi had artillery in the Gorgues Heights 7 km south of Tetuán and could fire into the capital (Fleming, 1991). Two columns under Castro Girona and Frederico Berenguer (Dámaso’s brother) attacked the heights on 18 Sep 1924. It took Lt. Co. Franco’s Legionnaires until 22 Sep to clear the area.

23 Sep: Spanish Relief Columns Head for Xaüen

On 23 Sep two Spanish columns left Tetuán for Xaüen, under Serrano and Col. Enrique Ovila (Fleming, 1991; Scurr, 1985). Column Girona joined them on the drive south. The 1st, 3rd, 4th and 5th Banderas formed the vanguard of these columns. [Preston (1995) says the legion led Column Girona alone, but this is unlikely.]

A fourth column, advancing from the west under Col. Carrasco, was forced back to Larache by Djebalan opposition (Fleming, 1991)

27 Sep 1924

Riquelme began to abandon the advanced posts in the kabyle of Beni Aros (Fleming, 1991).

28 Sep 1924: Serrano Reaches Zoco el Arbáa

Gen. Serrano’s column reached the small outpost of Zoco el Arbáa, halfway between Tetuán and Xaüen (Fleming, 1991).

The vanguard of Column Girona, under Franco, relieved the Spanish positions at Xeruta and Dar Akoba (Fleming, 1991).

29 Sep 1924: Spanish Reach Xaüen

An advanced Spanish force under Col. Virgilio reached Xaüen (Fleming, 1991).

30 Sep 1924: Serrano Enters Xaüen

Gen. Serrano’s column reached Xaüen on 30 Sep after fierce fighting (Scurr, 1985).

Oct 1924: Riffi Aggression

During Oct 1924 the Riffi attacked 39 of the 76 front line Spanish positions in the eastern sector; Riffi attacks occurred on 20 of the 31 days of the month (Fleming, 1991).

2 Oct 1924

Column Girona arrived in Xaüen on 2 Oct (Scurr, 1985).

2 Oct – 14 Nov 1924: Spanish Evacuate Xaüen Outposts

As soon as the city was relieved parties of Legionaries and Regulares evacuated the Spanish personnel from the 100 outposts around Xaüen (Scurr, 1985). Casualties were heavy with some of the rescue parties being almost destroyed (Fleming, 1995). The Riffi demanded a ransom of two rifles for each man to be evacuated but rarely kept to the bargain. All Spanish forces were concentrated in the city itself by 14 Nov.

16 Oct 1924

General Primo de Rivera, the Spanish dictator, named himself High Commissioner of Morocco (Fleming, 1991; Scurr, 1985). Rivera tried to initiate peace talks with Abd-el-Krim. As a result it seems that Abd-el-Krim ordered Ahmed Heriro to reduce any offensive action, but the negotiations came to nothing.

21 Oct 1924: Astray Loses Arm

Millán Astray, now on the staff of the High Commission, had his left arm shattered in an action near Fondak fortress (??). The arm subsequently had to be removed.

30 Oct 1924

All Spanish forces had been successfully withdrawn from the Beni Arós sector (Scurr, 1985). The 2nd Bandera were responsible for protecting the withdrawal.

Nov 1924: Riffi Aggression

During Nov 1924 the Riffi attacked 27 of the 76 front line Spanish positions in the eastern sector; Riffi attacks occurred on 16 of the 30 days of the month (Fleming, 1991).

By Nov 1924 the Spanish had some 125,000 troops in Morocco (Fleming, 1991).

5 Nov 1924

By 5 Nov 1924 141 Spanish advanced posts had been evacuated and the men concentrated in Xaüen (Fleming, 1991). According to Preston (1995) the Spanish had 10,000 soldiers in Xaüen, but Fleming (1991) gives this as the number in Girona’s column alone when they left.

15 Nov – 13 Dec 1924: Spanish retreat from Xaen

Between 15 and 19 Nov all Spanish troops and civilians (along with some Jewish and Moroccan civilians) evacuated Xaüen covered by Franco with five Banderas of the Legion (Fleming, 1991; Scurr, 1985). Once again the Spanish were organised in two columns under Generals Serrano and Girona. The Beni Urriaguel attacked the flanks of the retreating columns. Franco’s legionaries protect the retreating columns in appalling weather conditions against heavy attacks. The two columns were consolidated into one when Serrano was killed (19 Nov). The surviving Spanish reached Tetuán on 12 Dec.

15 Nov 1924: Column Girona Leaves Xaüen

Girona led the way with 10,000 men on the evening of 15 Nov and reached Zoco el Arbaa on 18 Nov with little trouble (Fleming, 1991).

El Raisuni, who was in Xaüen, refused to retreat with the Spanish, and instead headed for his fortress at Tazarut (Fleming, 1991).

17 Nov 1924: Legion Evacuates Xaüen

Just after midnight on 17 Nov Franco silently pulled his rearguard out of Xaüen, leaving straw dummies in Legionary uniforms to man the walls (Scurr, 1985).

18 Nov 1924: Column Girona Reach Zoco el Arbáa

Column Girona reached Zoco el Arbáa on 18 Nov with little trouble (Fleming, 1991).

19 Nov 1924: General Serrano Killed

Due to heavy rain and Riffi attacks 19 Nov found the Spanish spread between Dar Acobba and Zoco el Arbáa (Fleming, 1991). Some 7,000 Riffi and Djebalis under Ahmed Heriro attacked the spread out troops. Heriro overran the post of Dar Acobba. Capt. Arredondo’s 1st company of the 1st Bandera was completely wiped out when covering the withdrawal from Xeruta (Scurr, 1985). Gen. Serrano and a fair number of other Spanish were also killed at Xeruta. Despite these loses the surviving Spanish continued to fight their way up the road.

19 Nov – 25 Nov 1924: Zoco el Arbaa Surrounded

With Gen. Serrano dead the Spanish were consolidated into one column at Zoco el Arbáa (Scurr, 1985). It took until 25 Nov for all the survivors to reach the post (Fleming, 1991). The Spanish remained at Zoco el Arbáa for three weeks under 24 hour a day harassment from Heriro’s harkas.

Dec 1924: Riffi Aggression

During Dec 1924 the Riffi attacked 40 of the 76 front line Spanish positions in the eastern sector; Riffi attacks occurred on 21 of the 31 days of the month (Fleming, 1991).

On the southern border the French and Spanish authorities secretly began to cooperate to stop the flow of contraband into the Rif Republic (Fleming, 1991). French officers began to stop convoys entering the Spanish Protectorate. These efforts we taking their toll on the Riffi by Feb-Mar 1925.

7 Dec 1924: No More Evacuations

Rivera ordered that no more posts would be evacuated (Fleming, 1991).

10 Dec 1924: Zoco el Arbaa Break Out

The Spanish at Zoco el Arbaa broke out on 10 Dec and headed for Ben Karrich (Fleming, 1991; Scurr, 1985).

11 – 13 Dec 1924: Tetuán

Still protected from heavy attack by the legionary rearguard, the Spanish column limped into Tetuán (Scurr, 1985). The last units entered on 13 Dec 1924 (Fleming, 1991). Legion casualties in the entire retreat were about 1,000; the rest of the column experienced a similar number of casualties.

The retreat left Ahmed Heriro’s forced only 10 km south of Tetuán (Fleming, 1991). The northern Djebalan kabyle of Anyera took the opportunity to rise in revolt, disrupting communications between Tetuán, Ceuta and Tangier.

16 Dec 1924:

The Spanish began several blockhouses southwest of Tetuán to close access to the San Martín River valley (Fleming, 1991).

17 Dec 1924

Gen. Saro and Lt. Col. Franco were ordered to suppress the Anyera (Fleming, 1991). Saro organised his column in Tetuán and Franco’s was organised in Dar Riffien.

21 Dec 1924: Lyautey’s warning

In one of many commiques to his government, Lyautey warned of imminent Riffi attack and requested reinforcements (Fleming, 1991). This is what he asked for; the numbers in brackets are what the government promised:

  • nine infantry battalions (five)
  • two engineering companies (two)
  • two spahi squadrons (zero)
  • two mountain batteries (zero)
  • one signal half-company (zero)
  • two air squadrons (zero)

23 Dec 1924: Anyera Campaign

The Saro column was ready by 23 Dec 1924, and in conjunction with the Franco column, launched a campaign against the Anyera (Fleming, 1991). The rugged terrain and tough defence made it slow going.


Jan 1925: Riffi Aggression

During Jan 1925 the Riffi attacked 19 of the 76 front line Spanish positions in the eastern sector; Riffi attacks occurred on 13 of the 31 days of the month (Fleming, 1991).

14 Jan 1925: Failed Alcázarsequir Landing

With the Anyera campaign going poorly Franco was ordered in early Jan 1925 to organise an amphibious landing at the northern port of Alcázarsequir (Fleming, 1991). He was assigned six large K-type landing craft, two Bandera of the Legion, a mountain battery, and various service units. Weather and strong currents made the landing impossible and the mission was cancelled.

18 Jan 1925

Sanjurjo was expecting an imminent Riffi attack in the eastern sector (Fleming, 1991). Spanish intelligence has noticed a large build up of Riffi troops on this front.

19 Jan 1925: Rivera Back in Spain

Rivera returned to Spain after five months in Morocco (Fleming, 1991).

23 Jan 1925: Heriro Captures El Raisuni

Ahmed Heriro attacked Tazarut with of Riffi Regulars plus Djebalan and Gomaran irregulars; 4,000 men in total (Fleming, 1991). After a few hours of hard fighting they captured El Raisuni. El Raisuni was transported to the central Rif and prison. The Riffi also captured large amounts of money, rifles and ammunition. The uncommitted kabyles of the southwest Djebala subsequently joined the Riffi cause. Rebel harka began operating in the relatively quite area of Larache.

Feb 1925: Riffi Aggression

During Feb 1925 the Riffi attacked 35 of the 76 front line Spanish positions in the eastern sector; Riffi attacks occurred on 21 of the 28 days of the month (Fleming, 1991).

7 Feb 1925: Franco Makes Colonel

Franco was promoted to full Colonel and allowed to keep the Legion despite the fact that post was for a Lieutenant Colonel (Preston, 1995).

17 Feb 1925: Army of Africa Reorganised

The Army of Africa was reorganised (Fleming, 1991; Scurr, 1985):

  • The Tercio of Foreigners (aka the Legion) was officially renamed the Tercio of Morocco. A 7th Bandera and a Squadron of Lancers joined the Legion(Scurr, 1985). and that it brought the total Legion numbers to 7,716 troops and 251 officers. (Scurr, 1985, says the rename happened 16 Feb 1925 and the additional troops were raised 1 May 1925).
  • Each of the five brigades of Regulares – presumably by brigade Fleming means Grupo de Regulares – was increased by 15%, increasing the total from 14,255 to 16,927.
  • More conscripts would be sent home. 18,000 men (23 battalions) by 23 Mar 1925, and 35,00 by 17 Apr.

Mar 1925: Riffi Aggression

During Mar 1925 the Riffi attacked 16 of the 76 front line Spanish positions in the eastern sector; Riffi attacks occurred on 12 of the 31 days of the month (Fleming, 1991).

Late Mar 1925: Riffi Concentrations Dissolved

Spanish reconnaissance reported that the Riffi troops that had been concentrated on the eastern front for a push against the “Silvestre Line” were no longer present (Fleming, 1991).

29-30 Mar 1925: 2nd Alcázarsequir Landing (“modesta operación”)

In Mar 1925 the Spanish organised a second amphibious landing at Alcázarsequir, this time under Gen. Federico de Sousa Regoyos (Fleming, 1991). He was assigned two Bandera of the Legion under Franco and a battalion (presumably Tabor) of Regulares under Lt. Col. Alvarez. A Spanish Naval-Aerial force began to bomb and strafe the settlement late on 29 Mar. The vanguard, under Franco, rapidly landed at 0100 hours on 30 Mar and captured the port with little opposition. Rivera described it as a “modesta operación”. The Spanish continued to bomb the Anyera and to pour troops into the area, their forces in the area reaching 10,000 men, but it took over a year to pacify the tribe.

Apr – Jun 1925: Riffi attack French along Uarga River

Abd-el-Krim attacked French positions along the Uarga River 6,000 men in five harka (Fleming, 1991; Scurr, 1985). By June more than 3,000 French troops were dead or missing, and two thirds of the French advanced posts had been captured. Nearly all of the Rif tribes rallied to Abd-el-Krim. The Riffi reach within 30 km of Fez.

In parallel the Spanish were negotiating with Abd-el-Krim but as usual nothing came of this (Fleming, 1991). By this stage Abd-el-Krim controlled 75% of the Spanish Protectorate.

Apr 1925: Riffi Aggression

During Apr 1925 the Riffi attacked 33 of the 76 front line Spanish positions in the eastern sector; Riffi attacks occurred on 22 of the 30 days of the month (Fleming, 1991).

13 – 15 Apr 1925: Riffi Push into Beni Zerwal

On 13 Apr 1925 Mhammed Abd-el-Krim led 6,000 Riffi, Gomarans and Djibalis into the kabyle of the Beni Zerwal (Fleming, 1991). Mhammed’s men were divided into five harkas (Scurr, 1985). The invaders had pacified the tribe within threes and then pressed on south. [The number of invaders is variously given as 6,000, 1,500, and 4,000 with 4,000 more in reserve.]

19 Apr 1925: El Raisuni Dies

El Raisuni died in Riffi captivity at Tamasint in the Beni Urriaguel (Fleming, 1991).

25 Apr 1925: Riffi Cross Spanish-French Frontier

Mhammed Abd-el-Krim divided his force into two large groups and sent them across the Spanish-French frontier to attack the French positions north of the Uarga River (Fleming, 1991). General Chambrun had 18 infantry battalions, six cavalry squadrons and 12 batteries on the northern border. The Riffi overwhelmed the French line, taking post after post by siege, and the French hurriedly began to fall back.

May 1925: Riffi Aggression

During May 1925 the Riffi attacked 47 of the 76 front line Spanish positions in the eastern sector; Riffi attacks occurred on 23 of the 31 days of the month (Fleming, 1991).

1 May 1925

The date Scurr (1985) says the 7th Bandera and Squadron of Lancers joined the Legion.

2 May 1925: French Withdraw to Uarga

The French withdrew to the Uarga river and reorganised into three groups (Fleming, 1991). Reinforcements from other parts of Morocco were sent north : five infantry battalions, three batteries, and two air squadrons.

Tercio of Morocco(aka the Legion) was officially renamed the Tercio (Scurr, 1985).

Alhucemas Landing

The idea of a landing at Alhucemas Bay, in the heart of the Rif, had been “in the air” for some time, but it was only 11 May 1925 when the Spanish began to make serious plans (Fleming, 1991). The Riffi almost immediately began to reinforce and fortify the coast.

11 May 1925: Plans for Alhucemas Landing

Rivera instructed the Moroccan Chief of Staff, Gen. Ignacio Despujol, to begin planning for the Alhucemas Landing (Fleming, 1991).

14 May 1925: Riffi Reinforce Alhucemas Bay

Spanish intelligence noticed the Riffi reinforcing Alhucemas Bay (Fleming, 1991).

Late May 1925: 2nd Riffi Offensive

The second Riffi push brought them across the Uarga River to within 20 km of Taza and 30 km of Fez (Fleming, 1931).

In late May and early Jun 1925 the Riffi also launched strong offensive against the advanced posts of Tizzi Asa in the east and a slightly weaker attack against the “Primo de Rivera Line” south of Tetuán (Fleming, 1991).

Jun 1925: Riffi Aggression

During Jun 1925 the Riffi attacked 41 of the 76 front line Spanish positions in the eastern sector; Riffi attacks occurred on 21 of the 30 days of the month (Fleming, 1991).

First Week of Jun 1925: Taza Evacuated

Gen. Chambrun evacuated the civilian population of Taza in fear of local tribes rising to join the Riffi (Fleming, 1991).

4 Jun 1925: French Losses

Officially French loses to date were 318 killed, 1,115 wounded, and 195 missing (Fleming, 1991).

Late Jun 1925: French Losses

The French had lost 48 of the some 66 important front line positions, plus the large aerodrome of Ain Mediuna (Fleming, 1991). The Riffi had captured 51 cannon and 200 machine guns. French losses reached 3,000 (Scurr, 1985).

17 Jun – 25 Jul 1925: Franco-Spanish Accords

The French and Spanish agree six accords relating to Morocco (Fleming,1991):

  1. Stop imports of arms into Morocco (22 Jun)
  2. Impede terrestrial flow of munitions and food into the Central Rif (8 Jul)
  3. Peace terms to offer the Riffi (11 Jul)
  4. Status of Tangier (21 Jul)
  5. Defining the Franco-Spanish Boundary (25 Jul)
  6. Joint military operations should the Riffi refuse the peace terms (25 Jul)

21 Jun 1925: No Riffi Reinforcement to South

With firm knowledge of the impending landing at Alhucemas, Abd-el-Krim refused his southern forces additional reinforcements (Fleming, 1991). The Riffi began an intense watch of the coast from Sidi Dris to Uad Lau. Abd-el-Krim began to fortify the Beni Urriaguel coast. They laid an improvised minefield about 100 m from the coast, backed by entrenchments. The Spanish knew of at least 100 Riffi posts. Each had a garrison of 30, 50 or 100 men, with machineguns and cannon.

Jun – Aug 1925: Spanish Landing Drills

During Jun to Aug 1925 the Saro Brigade conducted drills for the proposed Alhucemas landing at Río Martín (Fleming, 1991). Initially it was just the vanguard, but in mid-June all the unit commander were told of their involvement in the operation. With more units the exercises became increasingly complex and the final simulation involved all three columns of the brigade. Meanwhile, during Jul – Aug, the Pérez Brigade was practicing at Yazanen.

Late Jun 1925: 3rd Riffi Offensive

The third Riffi offensive was south of the Uarga and threated Tazza and the Fez-Tazza-Uxda road and railroad (Fleming, 1991).

Jul 1925: Riffi Aggression

During Jul 1925 the Riffi attacked 18 of the 76 front line Spanish positions in the eastern sector; Riffi attacks occurred on 11 of the 31 days of the month (Fleming, 1991).

7 Jul 1925: Lyautey out; Naulin in

Gen. Stanislas Naulin replaced Lyautey as commander-in-Chief of the French Moroccan forces, although Lyautey remained Resident General (Fleming, 1991).

17 Jul 1925: Riffi Cut Fez-Ain Aicha Road

A Riffi attack north of Fez cut the road between Fez and Ain Aicha (Fleming, 1991).

20 Jul 1925: French Losses

60,000 French and African troops were now trying to stop the Riffi landslide (Fleming, 1991). French losses had reached 1,005 killed, 3,710 wounded, and 995 missing.

Aug 1925: Riffi Aggression

During Aug 1925 the Riffi attacked 42 of the 76 front line Spanish positions in the eastern sector; Riffi attacks occurred on 20 of the 31 days of the month (Fleming, 1991).

11-12 Aug 1925: First Joint Franco-Spanish Operation

Gen. Riquelme’s Spanish and Gen. Freydenberg’s French forces conducted combined operations in the Larache Sector (Fleming, 1991).

13-15 Aug 1925: Spanish Commanders Reconnoitre Coast

Saro, Pérez, Franco and Martín inspected the coast and Melilla front several times (Fleming, 1991).

14-15 Aug 1925: Franco-Spanish Condemn Riffi Stance On Independence

On 14 Aug 1925 the French condemned Abd-el-Krim’s persistent demand for Riff independence (Fleming, 1991). The Spanish followed suit the next day.

20 Aug 1925: Riffi Bombard Peñón de Alhucemas

After Col. Angel Monasterio, the commanding officer at Peñón de Alhucemas in Alhucemas bay, neglected to pay the Riffi the normal protection money, the Riffi bombarded the fortress-island for 2.5 hours killing Monasterio and 11 others, and wounding 23 (Fleming, 1991).

22-23 Aug 1925: Spanish Bombard Riffi Batteries

In response to the Riffi attack on Peñón de Alhucemas the Alfonso XIII shelled the Riffi batteries behind the Playa de Suani (Fleming, 1991).

Last Week Aug 1925: Spanish Landing Forces Concentrate

The forces designated for the Alhucemas landing began to concentrate in Ceuta and Melilla (Fleming, 1991).

28 Aug 1925: French Offensive along Uarga River

Marshal Pétain (of Verdun fame) launched an offensive along the Uarga River with 160,000 French troops (Scurr, 1985). This was part of a combined Franco-Spanish operation that would also involve 75,000 Spanish troops.

29 Aug 1925: Riffi Conference in Xaüen

In a conference in Xaüen Abd-el-Krim informed his commanders that he would personally direct the coastal front (Fleming, 1991). To threaten Tetuán Mhammed Abd-el-Krim and Ahmed Heriro would take the offensive against the “primo de Rivera Line”.

Sep 1925: Riffi Aggression

During Sep 1925 the Riffi attacked 44 of the 76 front line Spanish positions in the eastern sector; Riffi attacks occurred on 20 of the 31 days of the month (Fleming, 1991).

1 Sep 1925: General Instructions for Alhucemas Landings

The Spanish command issued the final instructions to the commanders involved in the Alhucemas Landing (Fleming, 1991). The plan was:

  • 5 Sep: The Saro brigade was to depart Ceuta
  • 6 Sep: The Saro was to bombard Uad Lau in the afternoon, simulate a landing, and then sail for Alhucemas in the evening. The Pérez Brigade was to depart Melilla, sail to Sidi Drius, bombard the Riffi positions and simulate a landing, and remain off shore.
  • 7 Sep: At 0400 hours the first two columns of the Saro brigade were to land on Cebadilla beach and secure Morro Nuevo. 12 landing craft would then be made available to the Pérez Brigade.
  • 8 Sep: In the morning the Pérez Brigade would land at either Cala Bonita or Cala del Quemado.

2 – 4 Sep 1925: Alhucemas Landing Force Assembles

The various units involved in the landing began to assemble at the embarkation points (Fleming, 1991).

3 – 13 Sep 1925: Siege of Kuddia Tahar

?? TODO ??

3 Sep 1925: Siege of Kuddia Tahar

In an effort to divert the allies, the Riffi attacked the Spanish advanced positions on the western front (Fleming, 1991; Scurr, 1985). Kuddia Tahar in the Gorgues mountains was the hardest hit. The Riffi assaulted the post several times on 3 Sep, destroyed its tents and parapets, cut its telegraph to Tetuán, and killed 10 defenders. A Spanish mobile column managed to break through heavy Riffi artillery fire to reinforce and resupply the post but the siege continued. This post was seen by both sides as the key to Tetuán and its loss would nullify the Spanish Landing at Alhucemas.

According to Spanish intelligence Abd-el-Krim had, by 3 Sep 1925, concentrated 5,000 men and 21 cannon around Alhucemas Bay (Fleming, 1991)

4 Sep 1925: Siege of Kuddia Tahar

The Riffi attacked Kuddia Tahar and the neighbouring position Nator (Fleming, 1991). All but one of the Spanish guns were destroyed. Water and food stocks were low and Riffi artillery impeded Spanish supply efforts. On the night of 4-5 Sep the Riffi took Nator and its advanced blockhouse.

5 Sep 1925: Siege of Kuddia Tahar

On the morning of 5 Sep 1925 the Riffi assaulted Kuddia Tahar again (Fleming, 1991). They killed several defenders including the commanding officer, Captain José Gómez Saracíbar. Lt. Angel Sevillano, a young engineer, took command.

Also on 5 Sep the Saro brigade embarked at Ceuta and Río Martín and sailed for Uad Lau (Fleming, 1991). The Pérez Brigade began to embark on 5 and had completed by 0700 hours on 6 Sep, whereupon they sailed for Sidi Drius.

6 Sep 1925: Spanish Simulation Landings

From 0815 hours to 1800 hours the North African Fleet and Saro Brigade conducted operations against Uad Lau (Fleming, 1991). The fleet shelled the hills behind the town, then from 1200 hours to 1400 hours ground troops in landing craft simulated landings. At one point point Riffi machine guns engaged Spanish battleships armed with 30 cm guns, with the predictable result. At 1800 hours the fleet moved off under the cover of a smoke screen. The Pérez Brigade and French Squadron conducted similar diversionary attacks against Sidi Drius from 1700 to 2000 hours.

7 Sep 1925: Weather Hinders Landing

Thick fog and strong currents delayed the Saro convoy so at 1200 hours Rivera postponed the landing by a day (Fleming, 1991). At 1400 hours the Spanish began to bombard the beaches of Esfiha and Suani from Peñón de Alhucemas and the two ships that had already arrived. At Sidi Drius Pérez simulated another landing.

8 Sep 1925: Ceuta Column Lands at Alhucemas

“the day of one of the most brilliant pages in Spanish military history”

Gen. Saro cited in Fleming (1991, p 298)

The landing was scheduled for 0400 hours but the strong current caused yet another delay (Fleming, 1991). None

At 0620 or 0630 hours 50 Spanish and French naval vessels started pounding the 20 Riffi batteries entrenched in positions overlooking the beaches (Fleming, 1991; Scurr, 1985). For four hours the Spanish fleet shelled the Riffi positions on the cliffs behind Beadilla beach and the battery at Morro Nuevo. At 0830 hours 76 aircraft joined the attack. By 1100 hours tugs and gun boats were towing the landing craft of Saro’s Brigade toward Cebadilla beach. 8,000 men, three batteries and 10 tanks filled the WWI vintage landing craft. At 1140 hours and still 1,000 metres the landing craft cast off and proceeded alone. Strong currents drove the landing craft along the coast to Ixdain beach. This was a lucky coincidence, although the Spanish would only find out afterwards, as the Bocoyan harka guarding Ixdain beach had been sent home.

Riffi artillery pounded the Spanish landing craft as they approached, and Riffian machinegun and rifle fire started taking their toll when the Spanish landing craft grounded 50 metres out from the beach (Fleming, 1991; Scurr, 1985) . Franco commanded the mixed Legionary, Moroccan, and Spanish Regular force in the vanguard – see Alhucemas Landing Force. When the landing craft grounded his men leapt into the water and waded ashore. The first wave comprised the 6th Bandera (Maj. Rada) on the left and Lt. Col. Muñoz Grandes’ harkas of Tetuán in the centre and right. The 24th Company, 6th Bandera, were the first ashore advanced along the beach and encountered a mine field at the original planned disembarkation point. . The 22nd Company soon landed to their east and captured Morro Rocoso overlooking Cebadilla beach. [I’m guessing about the respective roles of the 22nd and 24th companies?? not sure where the 23rd rifle company of the 6th bandera was??] Muñoz Grandes’ harka took the slope in the centre and held it against Riffi counter-attacks.

The second wave was landed by 1230 hours (Fleming, 1991; Scurr, 1985). This included the native police (Mehal-la) of Larache, who reinforced Muñoz Grandes’ harka in the centre, the 7th Bandera (Maj. Verdú), supporting the 6th bandera, a battery of mountain guns, machine guns and mortars.

Franco quickly ordered an assault on enemy positions on two hills overlooking the beach (El Fraile and Morro Nuevo). The native police (Mehal-la) of Larache attacked in the centre; the 6th and 7th Banderas attacked on the left, and a harka of Moroccan irregulars attacked on the right. El Fraile was secured by 1305 hours. The Legionaries took the entrenched Rif artillery position on Morro Neuvo at bayonet point, and by 1500 hours, still suffering heavy Riffi bombardment, Franco’s men were digging in. Total Spanish losses in the initial landings were minimal (Scurr says 144; Fleming says 1 dead and 94 wounded). Franco’s 10 light tanks were landed on the beach of Los Frailes. Franco also had a battalion of Regiment No. 3 Africa – not sure about their involvement.

Martín Column (Col. Benito Martín Gozález) landed at 1305 hours after which Saro and his staff joined them on the beach (Fleming, 1991).

By 8 Sep the Riffi had 2,000 men, nine cannon and machine guns attacking Kuddia Tahar, in the west (Fleming, 1991). They had cut off the post from outside help. 176 of the original 200 man garrison of were were dead (Scurr, 1985).

9 Sep 1925: Siege of Kuddia Tahar

Rivera diverted two banderas (Lt. Col. Amado Balmes; probably 2nd and 3rd Banderas) and a tabor of Regulares (Maj. Romagosa) from the Pérez Brigade to Ceuta to form a relief for Kuddia Tahar (Fleming, 1991; Scurr, 1985).

10 Sep 1925: Siege of Kuddia Tahar

On 10 Sep Rivera organised three relief columns for Kuddia Tahara (Fleming, 1991; Scurr, 1985). The relief effort was under Gen. Sousa and the column commanders were Col. Fanjul, Col. perteguer and Lt. Col. Balmes.

11 Sep 1925: Siege of Kuddia Tahar

The Kuddia Tahar relief columnsset out on 11 Sep and had to fight hard through the difficult Gorgues Mountains (Fleming, 1991).

The Melilla Column under Gen. Fernández Pérez landed on the beach of Los Frailes10 (Scurr, 1985).

12 Sep 1925: Siege of Kuddia Tahar

The Kuddia Tahar relief columns reached the small outpost of Dar Gasi, 2 km from Kuddia Tahar, on 12 Sep (Fleming, 1991). According to Scurr (1985) the columns took the village of Dar Gasi in hand-to-hand combat.

13 Sep 1925: Siege of Kuddia Tahar

From that point Riffi resistance evaporated and the columns reached Kuddia Tahar on 13 Sep(Fleming, 1991; Scurr, 1985). The relief was spearheaded by the 2nd and 3rd Banderas who suffered 144 casualties during the operation. The Spanish found more than 140 Riffi dead and recovered some 100 rifles.

9 Sep 1925: Siege of Kuddia Tahar

Rivera sent the two banderas (Lt. Col. Amado Balmes; probably 2nd and 3rd Banderas) and tabor of Regulares (Maj. Romagosa) back to the Pérez Brigade (Fleming, 1991.

11 Sep 1925: Riffi Counter-attack at Alhucemas

Abd-el-Krim counter-attacked at Alhucemas (Fleming, 1991). The attack was ill-planned and hurried … and failed. Abd-el-Krim ordered his subordinates in other theatres to rush troops to Alhucemas.

16 Sep 1925: Saro and Pérez Landed

By 16 Sep 1925 both the Saro and Pérez brigades had been completed landed (Fleming, 1991). Saro had a camp near the Ixdain and Cebadilla beaches, whereas Pérez was entrenched on Morro Nuevo. The Riffi were shelling the two camps on a daily basis and Spanish casualties remained high.

In the south the French Gen. Pruneau had retaken the strategic position of Biban (Fleming, 1991).

20 Sep 1925: Beachhead Secured

By 20 Sep, and despite repeated Riffi counter-attacks, 15,000 troops had landed at Alhucemas Bay and the Spanish position was secure (Fleming, 1991; Scurr, 1985).

Adb-el-Krim was also bringing in reinforcements, such that his force reached 10,000 men (Fleming, 1991).

22 Sep 1925: Spanish Reconnoitre Monte Malmusi and Morro Viejo

In the early hours of 22 Sep a Spanish force probed toward Monte Malmusi and Morro Viejo where the Riffi had an artillery emplacement (Fleming, 1991). The column consisted of the harkas of Tetuán (Lt. Col. Muñoz Grandes), Larache (Lt. Col. Jiménez Pajarero), and Melilla (Maj. Enrique Varela). After two hours of hand-to-hand combat, including a fierce Riffi counter-attack, the reconnaissance force retreated back to the Spanish lines.

23 Sep 1925: Monte Malmusi and Morro Viejo

A general Spanish advance targeted three notable points in the Riffi lines: Morro Viejo, Malmusi Bajo, and Cuernos of Xaüen (Malmusi Alto) (Fleming, 1991; Scurr, 1985). The last of these was the highest at 500 m and dominated the Axdir plain. From what I can tell Malmusi Alto was the peak of Monte Malmusi and Malmusi Bajo was on the lower slopes. The Riffi had prepared positions including minefields and trenches. They also fought from the mountain side caves.

From right (west) to left (east) the front line Spanish commanders were (Fleming, 1991):

Saro Brigade – in front of Cebadilla beach

Franco – as far east as Cuernos of Xaüen

Pérez Brigade

Manual Goded – with a left and right flank

At 0730 hours Goded advanced against relatively little opposition (Fleming, 1991; Scurr, 1991). By 0925 hours his left wing had captured Morro Viejo and his right was in possession of Malmusi Bajo. The 2nd and 3rd Banderas were involved, and were probably the left and right flank forces respectively.

To the west Franco had a tougher time against fierce Riffi resistance (Fleming, 1991). His objective was the vital Cuernos of Xaüen (Malmusi Alto). At 0620 hours, under cover of an air and artillery barrage, two Bandera (6th and 7th) and harkas of Tetuán (Major Muñez Grandes) moved forward (Scurr, 1985). Easily clearing the first enemy lines, the Spanish force assaulted the heights of Monte Malmusi at 1045 hours. They suffered 215 casualties but by the morning of 24 Sep had cleared the tribesmen from the trenches and caves on the mountain. The clearances involved heavy use of mortars, grenades, bayonets and knives. [I have pieced together the disjointed accounts in Fleming and Scurr. Scurr mentions the troops and the location but not Franco. These units were part of Franco’s column at the landings, so I assume they were still his. Fleming places Franco at the same location]

[Not sure about the activity of Martín and Campins.]

Overall the Riffi lost 200 dead, one cannon, four machine guns, 300 rifles and hand grenades (Fleming, 1991). More significantly the Spanish had penetrated 10 km into the interior.

28 Sep 1925: Lyautey out

The French Government removed Lyautey as Resident General of their Protectorate (Fleming, 1991).

After Abd-el-Krim requested a harka of Beni urriaguel regulars from his brother in the Djebala, Mhammed replied that this would be risky given the western tribes were on the brink of revolt (Fleming, 1991).

29 Sep 1925: Rain

Early autumn rain caused a one day delay to the next Spanish advance at Alhucemas (Fleming, 1991).

The Franco-Spanish efforts to block contraband entering the Rif was starting to cause a shortage of rifles and ammunition (Fleming, 1991).

30 Sep 1925: Spanish Advance to Next Range of Hills

As part of a general Spanish advance, the Spanish captured the hills of Monte Palomas, Cónico and Buyibar (Scurr, 1985) and/or Palomas, Taramear, Buyibar Bajo, and Sedum (Fleming, 1991). The attack started at 0730 ours and involved two columns from each of Saro’s and Pérez Brigades, namely Franco, Martín, Goded, and Vera. Four hours of hard fighting brought high casualties and Spanish success.

In the south the French were approaching the Franco-Spanish border (Fleming, 1991).

Oct 1925: Riffi Aggression

During Oct 1925 the Riffi attacked 19 of the 76 front line Spanish positions in the eastern sector; Riffi attacks occurred on 13 of the 31 days of the month (Fleming, 1991).

Ahmed Heriro had an artillery emplacement south of Tetuán which subjected the city to constant bombardment (Fleming, 1991). From Oct 1925 the Spanish began attempts to neutralise the position.

1 Oct 1925: Spanish Cross the Isly River

Goded’s troops crossed the boundary between the kabyles of Bocoya and the Beni Urriaguel at the shallow the Isly River (Fleming, 1991). By the afternoon they were within a few kilometres of Axdir.

2 Oct 1925: Spanish Burn Axdir

Goded’s vanguard, the harka of Melilla (Maj. Enrique Varela), captured Axdir and burnt down Abd-el-Krim house and those of his relatives (Fleming, 1991; Scurr, 1985).

5 Oct 1925: Spanish Promotions

Sanjurjo, Saro, Pérez and Despujol all got promoted for their involvement in the Alhucemas landings (Fleming, 1991).

6 Oct 1925: Steeg in

Theodore Steeg became the new French Resident General (Fleming).

8 Oct 1925

French and Spanish forces met at Zoco el Telata (Scurr, 1985).

Nov 1925: Riffi Aggression

During Nov 1925 the Riffi attacked 13 of the 76 front line Spanish positions in the eastern sector; Riffi attacks occurred on 10 of the 30 days of the month (Fleming, 1991).

2 Nov 1925: Commissioner Sanjurjo

Sanjurjo replaced Rivera as High Commissioner (Fleming, 1991). Gen. Girona got command of the Melillan sector, Federico Berenguer got the Ceutan sector, and Saor got the Axdir sector.

Dec 1925: Riffi Aggression

During Dec 1925 the Riffi attacked 16 of the 76 front line Spanish positions in the eastern sector; Riffi attacks occurred on 12 of the 31 days of the month (Fleming, 1991).

Spanish Intelligence was reporting the almost total disintegration of Abd-el-Krim’s authority in the rebel areas (Fleming, 1991).


Jan 1926

After the Alhucemas landing Rivera once again began to send conscripts back to Spain (Fleming, 1991). 36,146 men, of the 134,747 troops in African Army, were slowly repatriated.

1 Jan 1926

An 8th Bandera joined the Legion(Scurr, 1985).

Early Jan 1926

the Beni Tuzin unsuccessfully plotted to assassinate Abd-el-Krim (Fleming, 1991).

29 Jan 1926

The unrest amongst the western tribes meant Djebalan forces were attacking Ahmed Heriro and his Riffi (Fleming, 1991).

3 Feb 1926: Franco out; Astray in

Franco was promoted to Brigadier-General and had to leave the Legion (Preston, 1995; Scurr, 1985, says 9 Feb). Millán Astray replaced him as commander of the Legion.

Late Feb 1926

Ahmed Heriro’s artillery south of Tetuán launched a particularly heavy bombardment, causing the Spanish to mount a significant attempt to neutralise the position (Fleming, 1991).

4 Mar 1926: Astray Out

The Spanish launched an attack against Ahmed Heriro’s artillery south of Tetuán (Fleming, 1991). Four infantry columns and 11 artillery batteries were involved. The main columns under Col. Luis Orgaz and Col. Millán Astray were comprised predominately of Legionnaires and Regulares. They were supported by columns under Lt. Col. Aureliano Alvarez Coque and Lt. Col. Eduardo Sáenz de Buruaga. The 8th Bandera took Loma Redonda, a hilltop in the Gorgues mountains (Scurr, 1985). The Riffi counter-attack caused high numbers of Spanish casualties. Millán Astray was shot in the face while supervising the 8th Bandera dig in. He was evacuated (again), lost his right eye, and was badly scarred. Col. Prats took command of Astray’s column and the advance continued despite artillery fire and bad weather.

7 Mar 1926: Spanish Take Yebel Bu Zeitung

Column Orgaz had pushed through the mountains south-west of Kuddia Tahar and encircled the Rif position at Yebel Bu Zeitung (Fleming, 1991). Orgaz stormed the position in the afternoon and captured “El Felipe”, the Riffi cannon that had been plaguing Tetuán for six months.

15 Mar 1926: Anyera Pacified

After the fall of Yebel Bu Zeitung dissidents from the northern Djebalan kabyle of Anyera began to submit to the Spanish (Fleming, 1991). On 15 Mar 1926 the Anyera officially surrender and the area was finally pacified. South of Tetuán factions of the Beni Hozmar swapped allegiance from the Riffi to the Spanish.

15 Apr 1926

40,000 French troops, three divisions, launched their spring offensive against Abd-el-Krim’s remaining 40 kabyles (Fleming, 1991; Scurr, 1985). The offensive had three prongs: from the southwest, the south, and the southeast. [Scurr says 325,000 but this is probably an estimate of the total French forces in the Protectorate.]

Ironically French, Spanish and Rif were just starting negotiations at Uxda (Fleming, 1991). The first meeting was on 15 Apr but officially the talks run from 27 Apr to 1 may when they were suspended.

Late Apr 1926

Both the French and Spanish pushed 10 km into the kabyle of Metalza and joined forces at the strategic market of Sebt de Ain Amar (Fleming, 1991).

By this stage Abd-el-Krim had about 16,500, predominantly Beni Urriaguel, regulars in the Central Rif (Fleming, 1991; Scurr, 1985).

8 – 10 May 1926: Iberloken River and Loma de los Morabos

43,000 Spanish troops joined the allied offensive advancing south into the kabyles of Beni Urriaguel, Tensaman, and Beni Tuzin (Fleming, 1991; Scurr, 1985). [Scurr, says 140,000 Spanish, but this is more than the the total Spanish forces in the Protectorate.]

Gen. Girona led a force from Axdir against the Riffi on the Iberloken River (Fleming, 1991). The Spanish were divided into four columns under Col. Benigno Fiscer, Col. Emilio Mola, Col. Amado Balmes and Gen. Angel Dolla. The Riffi entrenched on the Iberloken River were well supplied and backed up by artillery. Legionnaires (1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 7th, and 8th Banderas), Regulares, Mehal-la and Spanish Regulars fought the Riffi in battles on and around the heights of Loma de los Morabos. They Riffi put up a stout defence from 8-10 May and inflicted high casualties on the attacking columns. Girona lost 125 dead (including Col. Fiscer) and 748 wounded.

Col. Miguel Ponte another from Metalza and Col. Miguel Campins led a column from Azib de Midar, both located in the southern tip of the Melillan sector (Fleming, 1991). The seventh column (Col. Sebastian Pozas) started out from the kabyle of Beni Said. Campins and Pozas met little resistance on 8 May but on 9 May the Riffi put up a heroic but futile defence of the market town of Tzlatza de Aslef. The Spanish operated in conjunction with the French 3rd Division. The Spanish lost 128 casualties.

10 May 1926: Riffi Attack Primo de Rivera Line

1,000 Djebalis and Gomarans (under Ahmed Heriro and Ahmed Budra) attacked Spanish posts in the Primo de Rivera Line south of coastal position of Río Martín (Fleming, 1991). They isolated three important positions and got to within 11 km of Tetuán.

11 May 1926

Girona had taken Loma de los Morabos and advanced east to the Nekor River (Fleming, 1991).

15 May 1926: Temasint

Girona’s columns pushed towards Temasint in the kabyle of Beni Urriaguel (Fleming, 1991).

16 May 1926: Abd-el-Krim Flees

Abd-el-Krim fled to the village of Snada in Beni Iteft (Fleming, 1991).

17 May 1926: Beni Urriaguel Occupied

Girona had occupied most of the kabyle of Beni Urriaguel and subjugated some clans in the Beni Tuzin (Fleming, 1991).

Sanjurjo organised two columns (Col. Prats; Lt. Col. Eugenio Sanz de Larín) to the isolated posts south of Río Martín (Fleming, 1991). They had the support of six artillery batteries and unit of the Spanish navy.

18 May 1926: Optical Contact with French

Girona established optical contact with the Franco-Spanish forces advancing from the south (Fleming, 1991).

19 May 1926

Col. Prats and Lt. Col. Sanz de Larín moved south of Río Martín supported by six artillery batteries and unit of the Spanish navy (Fleming, 1991). They caught, and routed, the rebels on a low plain between the Martín River and the isolated Spanish positions. Heriro and Budra left 99 dead on the field and 25 prisoners.

20 May 1926: Franco-Spanish Contact

The French advancing from the south met Girona’s troops coming from the north dividing the Riffi territory in two (Fleming, 1991).

23 May 1926

While Girona had been advancing towards the French, Pozas had occupied Sidi Drius and Annual, then moved into the kabyles of Tensaman and Beni Tuzin (Fleming, 1991). By 23 May the entire area behind the new front line was pacified.

A French Division (Col. Corap) occupied Targuist (Fleming, 1991).

24 May 1926: Abd-el-Krim Contacts French

Abd-el-Krim and Col. Corap at Targuist began negotiations for the former’s surrender (Fleming, 1991).

26 May 1926: Abe-el-Krim Releases Prisoners

As a pre-condition for his own surrender Abd-el-Krim released 283 captives (Fleming, 1991). The 130 Spaniards included no officers because all officers had been shot earlier in retribution for Spanish air raids. The remaining 153 were French, Algerians and Senegalese.

27 May 1926: Abd-el-Krim Surrenders to French

Abd-el-Krim surrendered to French troops at Targuist and was subsequently exiled to Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean (Fleming, 1991; Scurr, 1985). For most Spaniards this symbolised the end of the Rif Rebellion, however fighting continued into 1927.

1st and 2nd Bandera (1921)

28 May 1926: Astray in

Millán Astray rejoined the Legion at Dar Riffien (Scurr, 1985).

The actions of Girona’s columns and the Third French Division forced the surrender of the Bocoyan kabyle.

31 May 1926

The Beni Iteft, Beni Bu Frah, and Mestasa surrendered to the Spanish (Fleming, 1991).

Jun – Dec 1926

Spanish began pacification operations against the kabyles (Scurr, 1985). Pacification largely fell to indigenous units under Spanish control (Fleming, 1991).

Early Jun 1926

The Spanish organised a harka of 1,000 men (Maj. Oswaldo Capaz) near the eastern front. Capaz’s task was to bring the Gomara into submission through diplomacy and/or force.

12 Jun 1926: Capaz’s Raid

Capaz led his harka into the Gomara on 12 Jun 1926 on phase 1 of his raid (Fleming, 1991). Given the objective was conquest the term “raid” was rather inappropriate.

13 Jun 1926

In the final act of the the allied campaign of May-June 1926, Girona’s columns under Ponte, Balmes and Mola established a front through Beni Bu Frah in the eastern Gomara (Fleming, 1991).

18 Jun 1926: Capaz Takes Punta Pescadores

Capaz occupied Punta Pescadores and forced the submission of the Beni Ghemil, Mestasa, and Metiua (Fleming, 1991). Capaz garrisons the village and moved on along the coast.

25 Jun 1926

Mola relieved the French occupants of Targuist (Fleming, 1991).

26 Jun 1926

Capaz reached M’ter, then turned inland to confront the beligerant Beni Haled (Fleming, 1991).

3 Jul 1926

Capaz occupied Zoco el Jemis on the northern border of the Beni Haled (Fleming, 1991).

4 Jul 1926

The Spanish air force raided the Beni Haled and the northern part of the tribe began to submit to Capaz (Fleming, 1991).

6 Jul 1926

With much of the northern Beni Haled subjugated Capaz returned to the coast and headed for Uad Lau (Fleming, 1991).

13 Jul 1926

Capaz occupied Uad Lau (Fleming, 1991). In less than a month Capaz had forced the submission of nine kabyles.

14-17 Jul 1926

Capaz rested at the coastal post of Emsa (Fleming, 1991).

18 Jul 1926

Capaz launched phase 2 of his raid by moving south into the central Gomara (Fleming, 1991).

24 Jul 1926

Capaz occupied Amiadi in the Beni Haled (Fleming, 1991). While he was there the Beni Erzin and most of the remaining Beni Haled submitted.

Late Jul 1926

Ahmed Heriro extended his rebellion from Djebala into the Gomara (Fleming, 1991). His main force occupied Beni Zeyel.

4 Aug 1926

Abandoning the safe course of retreating to the coast, Capaz left two companies in Amiadi and headed for Xaüen in the Djebala (Fleming, 1991). On his march he had to skirt Heriro’s main force in Beni Zeyel.

9 Aug 1926

Capaz captured an enemy scouting party and a Riffi munitions dump (Fleming, 1991).

10 Aug 1926

Capaz occupied Xaüen without incident and settled down to wait for the columns coming from the north and west (Fleming, 1991). Capaz obviously got a promotion out of this because by Sep he was Lt. Col. Capaz.

By this stage there were two main rebel groups (Fleming, 1991). The first was in the cedar forest of Senhadja Srir in interior of the Gomara, under Se-litan. The other was in the central and southern Djebala (Beni Aros and Sumata) under Ahmed Heriro and Ahmed Budra.

11 Aug 1926

Federico Berenguer, with three columns, advanced along the Tetuán-Xaüen road, received the submission of Beni Hosmar, Beni Hassán, and some of Ajmás, and entered Xaüen (Fleming, 1991).

23 Sep 1926

By 23 Sep Girona has subjugated the ketama (Fleming, 1991). He initial had two columns (Col. Pozas; Captain Luis Ostariz) but in September Lt. Col. Capaz brought a column from Xaüen. 55 of the 66 tribes in the Protectorate had now totally submitted, and another seven and partially surrendered.

Nov 1926

The Spanish brought the Army of Africa to less than 100,000 men through further repatriation (Fleming, 1991).

3 Nov 1926

To further protect the Tetuán-Xaüen road, the Spanish invaded the Djebalan kabyles of Beni Ider, Beni Aros, and Beni Lait (Fleming, 1991). Col. Lopez Gómez attacked from the west, Col. Francisco Patxot from the east, and Maj. Natalio López Bravo from the north. Ahmed Heriro was fatally wounded near Sarrama in the Beni Ider.

Mid Nov 1926

Beni Ider and most of the Beni Aros were subjugated (Fleming, 1991).

5 – 10 Dec 1926

Columns under Col. Emilio Canis and Lt. Col. Aureliano Alvarez Coque subdued the Beni Lait (Fleming, 1991).


Mar – Jun 1927: Sehadja-Ketama Campaign

The Ketama kabyle and their allies revolted in the Rif (Scurr, 1985). The Legion (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 6th and 8th Banderas) took the field against them. The operations in March involved fighting through snow and ice. The Ketama were pacified by June.

26 Mar 1927

The Senhadjan rebel Sel-liten had invaded southern Gomara and on 26 Mar 1927 raided the small Spanish post at Tagsuit (Fleming, 1991). they killed all but one of the indigenous defenders.

27 Mar 1927

Sel-liten ambushed and mauled a relief column under Captain Luis Ostáriz (Fleming, 1991).

28 Mar 1927

In response to Sel-liten’s actions, Sanjurjo organised 7,000 men in three columns (Col. Mola, Col. Pozas, Lt. col. Luis Solána) to sweep the rebel area and eliminate resistance (Fleming, 1991).

1 Apr 1927

The Spanish columns left Targuist in the Rif and headed into the Senhadjan mountains (Fleming, 1991). They easily occupied the kabyle of Beni Bechir and moved onto the Senhadja.

11 – 14 Apr 1927

On 11 Apr 1927 a freak snowstorm cut off and isolated the three Spanish columns in the mountains (Fleming, 1991). For three days they suffered bad weather and frequent enemy attacks.

18 Apr 1927

The three columns continue their sweep towards the Senhadja (Fleming, 1991).

22 Apr 1927

Mola occupied Taberant on the south of the kabyle of Senhadja (Fleming, 1991).

29 Apr – 13 May 1927

Against stiff opposition another three columns (Col. Luis Castelló, Col. Balmes, Col. Canís) subjugated the remainder of the Beni Aros in the central Djebala (Fleming, 1991).

14 – 23 May 1927

After being reinforced Castelló and Balmes took on the formidable Sumata, and subjugated them by 23 May 1927 (Fleming, 1991)..

1 – 7 May 1927

Mola and Pozas subjugated the Ketama (Fleming, 1991). Sel-litan fled towards Xaen.

Jun 1927

The Spanish squeezed the last rebels into a small area south of Xaüen (Fleming, 1991)

18 Jun 1927: Astray out

Millán Astray promoted to Brigadier General and left the Legion for good (Scurr, 1985).

8 Jul 1927

Se-liten fled into the French Protectorate (Fleming, 1991).

10 Jul 1927: Spanish Protectorate Pacified

After Spanish forces occupied the hillocks of Yebel Tangaia and Yebel Taria in the Djebala, and the 7th Bandera occupied Bab Tazza in Gomara, the Spanish Protectorate was declared pacified (Fleming, 1991; Scurr, 1985).


See my page on Rif War Sources for an annotated bibliography.

Alvarez, J. E. (2001). The Betrothed of Death: The Spanish Foreign Legion during the Rif Rebellion, 1920-1927. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press.

Balfour, S. (2002). Deadly Embrace: Morocco and the Road to the Spanish Civil War. Oxford University Press.

Bueno Carrera, J. M. (1983). La Infanteria de Linea; El Ejercito de Alfonso XIII. Madrid. [Spainsh]

Fleming, S. E. (1991). Primo de Rivera and Abd-el-Krim: The Struggle in Spanish Morocco, 1923-1927. New York: Garland.

Furneaux, R. (1967). Abdel Krim: Emir of the Rif. London: Secker & Warburg.

Grávalos González, L., and Calvo Pérez, J. L. (2000). Los Uniformes de 1912: Reinado de Alfonso XIII [Spanish]. Valladolid, Spain: Quiron Ediciones.

Munoz Bolaños, R., de Mesa Gutierrez, J. L., Lazaro Avila, C., & Nunez Calvo, J. N.. (2001). Las Campanas de Marruecos (1909-1927) [Spanish] . Madrid.

Preston, P. (1995). Franco: A biography. London: Fontana (first published 1993).

Scurr, J. (1985). The Spanish Foreign Legion (Men-at-Arms 161). London: Osprey.

Wikipedia: First Rif War

Wikipedia: Tragic Week

Woolman, D. S. (1968). Rebels in the Rif. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.

4 thoughts on “Timeline for the Third Rif War 1920-25”

  1. While researching the Italian Campaign in Ethiopia (1896), I ran across a foote note on ANNUAL. I kept looking for more information on the subject and discover your site. I’m very impressed with the “timeline” and all the events which took place. It’s a piece of history I haven’t heard of before and I find it amazing that this took place in 1920s. Thank you very much for this extraordinary insight on colonial expansion from Europe and their darker side in history (like our own countrys’ dark side)!

  2. Great work Steven, the most exhaustive and complete timeline for the Rif War I have ever seen, not even in Spanish are there such a full list of events. Excellent.


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