Alhucemas landing

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Alhucemas landing
Part of the Rif War
14. La playa de Morro Nuevo en los dias del desembarco.jpg
Spanish troops landing at Alhucemas Bay
Date8 September 1925 (1925-09-08)
Result Spanish–French victory
Flag of the Republic of the Rif.svg  Republic of the Rif
Commanders and leaders
Flag of the Republic of the Rif.svg Abd el-Krim
  • Army
  • 13,000 soldiers
  • 24 artillery pieces
  • 11 FT-17 tanks
  • 6 CA1 tanks
  • Navy
  • 3 battleships
  • 6 cruisers
  • 1 seaplane tender
  • 36 smaller ships
  • 58 transports
  • Air
  • 160 aircraft
  • Riffian forces
  • 9,000 Riffians
  • 14 artillery pieces
Casualties and losses
  • 200 killed
  • 109 wounded [1]
~700 casualties

The Alhucemas landing (also known as Al Hoceima landing) was a landing operation which took place on 8 September 1925 at Alhucemas by the Spanish Army and Navy and, in lesser numbers, an allied French contingent, that would put an end to the Rif War. It is considered the first amphibious landing in history involving the use of tanks and massive seaborne air support. [2]

Landing operation

A landing operation is a military action during which a landing force, usually utilizing landing craft, is transferred to land with the purpose of power projection ashore. With the proliferation of aircraft, a landing may refer to amphibious forces, airborne forces, or a combination of both.

Al Hoceima Place in Tanger-Tetouan-Al Hoceima, Morocco

Al Hoceima is a riffian town in the north of Morocco, on the northern edge of the Rif Mountains and on the Mediterranean coast. It is the capital city of the Al Hoceima Province. It is situated in the territory of the Ait Waryagher and Ibeqquyen tribes of the Rif region, who speak a Riffian variety of the Berber language locally called Tmaziɣt (Tmazight). The city is a known tourists' destination despite its small size. It has a population of about 60,000 to 90,000. The inhabitants of the city speak Berber (Tarifit).

Rif War war

The Rif War was an armed conflict fought from 1920 to 1927 between the colonial power Spain and the Berber tribes of the Rif mountainous region of Morocco. Led by Abd el-Krim, the Riffians at first inflicted several defeats on the Spanish forces by using guerrilla tactics and captured European weapons. After France's military intervention against Abd el-Krim's forces and the major landing of Spanish troops at Al Hoceima, considered the first amphibious landing in history to involve the use of tanks and aircraft, Abd el-Krim surrendered to the French and was taken into exile.


The operations consisted on disembarking a force of 13,000 Spanish soldiers transported from Ceuta and Melilla by a combined Spanish-French naval fleet. The commander of the operation was the then dictator of Spain, general Miguel Primo de Rivera, and, as the executive head of the landing forces at the beach of Alhucemas bay, general José Sanjurjo, under whose orders were the columns of the chief generals of the brigades of Ceuta and Melilla, Leopoldo Saro Marín and Emilio Fernández Pérez, respectively. Among the participating officers, there was the then colonel Francisco Franco who, for his leadership of the Spanish Legion troops, was promoted to brigadier general.

Ceuta Autonomous city in Spain

Ceuta is an 18.5 km2 Spanish autonomous city on the north coast of Africa, separated by 14 km (9 mi) from Cadiz province on the Spanish mainland by the Strait of Gibraltar and sharing a 6.4 km (4 mi) land border with M'diq-Fnideq Prefecture in the Kingdom of Morocco. It lies along the boundary between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean and is one of nine populated Spanish territories in Africa and, along with Melilla, one of two populated territories on mainland Africa. It was part of Cádiz province until 14 March 1995 when both Ceuta and Melilla's Statutes of Autonomy were passed, the latter having been part of Málaga province.

Melilla Autonomous city in Spain

Melilla is a Spanish autonomous city located on the north coast of Africa, sharing a border with Morocco, with an area of 12.3 km2 (4.7 sq mi). Melilla is one of two permanently inhabited Spanish cities in mainland Africa, the other being Ceuta. It was part of the Province of Málaga until 14 March 1995, when the city's Statute of Autonomy was passed.

Miguel Primo de Rivera Spanish politician; dictator, aristocrat, and military officer who served as Prime Minister of Spain from 1923 to 1930

Miguel Primo de Rivera y Orbaneja, 2nd Marquess of Estella, 22nd Count of Sobremonte was a dictator, aristocrat, and military officer who served as Prime Minister of Spain from 1923 to 1930 during Spain's Restoration era. He deeply believed that it was the politicians who had ruined Spain and that governing without them he could restore the nation. His slogan was "Country, Religion, Monarchy." Historians depict him as an inept dictator who lacked clear ideas and political acumen, and who alienated his potential supporters such as the army. He did not create a base of support among the voters, and depended instead on elite elements. His actions discredited the king and ruined the monarchy, while heightening social tensions that led in 1936 to a full-scale Spanish Civil War.


After the disaster of Annual in July 1921, the Spanish army was unable to regain lost territory. It undertook a containment policy aimed at preventing the expansion of the rebel zone, executed by limited military actions of local nature. In parallel, the Minister of War ordered the creation of an inquiry commission, led by General Juan Picasso González, which developed the report known as Expediente Picasso. Political forces, public opinion, and the army were divided between supporters of leaving the Protectorate and advocates of restarting the military operations as soon as possible.

In September 1923, the coup of general Primo de Rivera occurred, who at first supported the abandonment of the Protectorate. In 1924 and after new attacks by Abd el Krim, which caused a Spanish retreat to the areas of Tetuan, Ceuta and Melilla, he changed to strongly supporting an offensive to defeat the Riffian leader and restore Spanish authority in the Protectorate.

Tétouan City and municipality in Tanger-Tetouan-Al Hoceima, Morocco

Tétouan, nicknamed the White Dove, is a city located in northern Morocco. It lies along the Martil Valley and is one of the two major ports of Morocco on the Mediterranean Sea, a few miles south of the Strait of Gibraltar, and about 60 km (40 mi) E.S.E. of Tangier. In the 2014 Moroccan census the city recorded a population of 380,787 inhabitants. It is part of the administrative division Tanger-Tetouan-Al Hoceima.


In April 1925 a crucial event occurred: Abd el-Krim, confident of his success against the Spanish, attacked the French zone of the Protectorate. This opened the doors for a Spanish-French agreement to make a common front against the Riffians. To this end, in June 1925 the Madrid Conference took place, which set out the necessary actions. Among the agreements reached there were the plan for a Spanish landing on the Alhucemas bay, with the cooperation and support of a combined air and naval Spanish-French force.

French protectorate in Morocco 1912-1956 protectorate in Northern Africa

The French protectorate in Morocco, also known as French Morocco, was a territory established by the Treaty of Fez. Though the French military occupation of Morocco began in 1907 with the bombardment of Casablanca, the protectorate was officially established March 30, 1912, when Sultan Abd al-Hafid signed the Treaty of Fez, and lasted until independence and dissolution in 1956. It shared territory with the Spanish protectorate, established and dissolved the same years; its borders consisted of the area of Morocco between the "Corridor of Taza" and the Draa River, including sparse tribal lands, and the official capital was Rabat.

Alhucemas, home of the kabyle (tribe) of Beni Ouriaghel, to which Abd el Krim belonged, was the focus of the ongoing Rif rebellion. All Spanish land operations, included the Disaster of Annual in 1921, aimed at the occupation of Alhucemas, but all of them failed, mainly due to too long resupply lines.

The Ait Ouriaghel is the biggest Berber tribe of the Rif region of the north-eastern part of Morocco. Ait Waryagher means "those who do not back off/ those who do not retreat". They inhabit most of the territory around the city of Al Hoceima. The Ayt Waryaghar speak the "Western-Tarifit" dialect of the Riffian language.

Battle of Annual battle during the Rif War

The Battle of Annual was fought on July 22, 1921, at Annual in Spanish Morocco, between the Spanish Army of Africa and Berber combatants of the Rif region during the Rif War. The Spanish suffered a major military defeat, almost always referred to by the Spanish as the Disaster of Annual, which led to major political crises and a redefinition of Spanish colonial policy toward the Rif.

The operation initially proposed the landing of 18,000 men, although 13,000 would eventually be landed, to occupy a base of operations in the area of Al Hoceima and deal with an estimated force of 11,000 Riffians. This operation was the first amphibious action that involved Spain in the modern era and this, together with the failure of a similar Anglo-French operation at Gallipoli in 1915 during the First World War, posed a concern. As if it was not enough, the terrain presented difficulties in performing the landing, besides being a well-known area for the Riffians. Aware of the risk, Primo de Rivera investigated the reasons for the disaster at Gallipoli and carefully planned the landing.

The probable knowledge of the planned landing prompted Abd el Krim to fortify the area, placing artillery and mines. These circumstances forced the Spanish command to change the landing site, choosing Cebadilla Beach and Cala del Quemado, west of the Bay of Al Hoceima. The first major effort to seize the beachhead would be exercised in those beaches; once the landing would be successfully achieved, the second effort would be either in some of the adjacent creeks or a deepening and expansion of the initial beachhead, depending on the circumstances.

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  1. According to the official report, quoted by Martín Tornero (1991).
  2. Douglas Porch, "Spain's African Nightmare," MHQ: Quarterly Journal of Military History (2006) 18#2 pp 28–37.