Alhucemas landing

The Alhucemas landing (also known as Al Hoceima landing) was a landing operation which took place on 8 September 1925 at Alhucemas of 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]

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.

Alhucemas landing
Part of the Rif War
14. La playa de Morro Nuevo en los días del desembarco

Spanish troops landing at Alhucemas Bay
Date8 September 1925
Result Spanish–French victory
 Republic of the Rif
Commanders and leaders
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


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.


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.

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 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.



  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.


  • Bachoud, André: Los españoles ante las campañas de Marruecos. Madrid, Espasa Calpe, 1988
  • Goded, Manuel: Marruecos. Etapas de la pacificación. Madrid, C.I.A.P., 1932
  • Hernández Mir, Francisco: Del desastre a la victoria. Madrid, Imprenta Hispánica, 1927
  • Larios de Medrano, Justo: España en Marruecos. Historia secreta de la campaña. Madrid, Stampa, 1925
  • Martín Tornero, Antonio (1991): El desembarco de Alhucemas. Organización, ejecución y consecuencias. En: Revista de Historia militar, año XXV, nº 70. Madrid, Servicio Histórico Militar. ISSN 0482-5748
  • Matthieu, Roger: Mémoires d' Abd-el-Krim. París, Librairie des Champs-Elysées, 1927
  • Ros Andreu, Juan Bautista: La conquista de Alhucemas. Novela histórica. Las Palmas, Tipografía La provincia, 1932
  • Woolman, David S.: Abd-el-Krim y la guerra del Rif. Barcelona, Oikos-Tau, 1988
  • Domínguez Llosá, Santiago: El desembarco de Alhucemas. 2002. ISBN 978-84-338-2919-1

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Second Melillan campaign (1909–1910)

Third Melillan campaign (1911–1912)

Rif War (1921–1926)

Ifni War (1957–1958)

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Rif War

The Rif War was an armed conflict fought from 1920 to 1927 between the colonial power Spain (later joined by France) and the Berber tribes of the Rif mountainous region. 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.In 1909, Rifian tribes aggressively confronted Spanish workers of the iron mines of the Rif, near Melilla, which led to the intervention of the Spanish Army. The military operations in Jebala, in the Moroccan West, began in 1911 with the Larache Landing. Spain worked to pacify a large part of the most violent areas until 1914, a slow process of consolidation of frontiers that lasted until 1919 due to World War I.

The following year, after the signing of the Treaty of Fez, the northern Moroccan area was adjudicated to Spain as a protectorate. The Riffian populations strongly resisted the Spanish, unleashing a conflict that would last for several years. In 1921, the Spanish troops suffered the catastrophic Disaster of Annual, the biggest defeat in the history of Spain, in addition to a rebellion led by Rifian leader Abd el-Krim. As a result, the Spanish retreated to a few fortified positions while Abd el-Krim ultimately created an entire independent state: the Republic of the Rif. The development of the conflict and its end coincided with the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera, who took on command of the campaign from 1924 to 1927. In addition, and after the Battle of Uarga in 1925, the French intervened in the conflict and established a joint collaboration with Spain that culminated in the Alhucemas landing which proved a turning point. By 1926 the area had been pacified; Abd-el-Krim surrendered in July 1927; and the Spanish regained the previously lost territory.

The Rif War is still considered controversial among historians. Some see in it a harbinger of the decolonization process in North Africa. Others consider it one of the last colonial wars, as it was the decision of the Spanish to conquer the Rif — nominally part of their Moroccan protectorate but de facto independent — that catalyzed the entry of France in 1924.The Rif War left a deep memory both in Spain and in Morocco. The Riffian insurgency of the 1920s can be interpreted as a precursor to the Algerian war of independence, which took place three decades later.

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Siege of Larache (1689)

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Spanish protectorate in Morocco

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Treaty of Aranjuez (1780)

The Treaty of Aranjuez was signed on December 25, 1780, between Spain and Morocco. Based on the terms of the treaty, Morocco gained territories ceded by Spain. In return, however, Morocco recognized Spanish rule over Melilla. The treaty defused tensions, lessening the chance that Morocco would agree to British requests to declare war on the Spanish, as in 1774.

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