Battle of Annual

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.


In early 1921 the Spanish Army commenced an offensive into northeastern Morocco from the coastal regions they already held. The advance took place without extended lines of communication being adequately established or the complete subjugation of the areas occupied. In the course of the Spanish offensive, the Spanish commander General Manuel Fernández Silvestre had penetrated almost 130 kilometres into the enemy lines but during the hasty advances, neither defensible forts nor accessible water supply points had been put in place. The territory newly occupied by the Spanish was garrisoned only by multiple small makeshift blockhouses (blocaos), each manned by a handful of soldiers (typically 12-20). These outposts were widely spread, typically located in high places, distant from water sources and lacking good communications with the main positions[7]

On July 22, 1921, after five days of skirmishing, 5,000 Spanish troops occupying the advanced encampment of Annual[7] were attacked by 3,000 Riff fighters. General Silvestre, who had arrived at Annual only the day before, decided upon a withdrawal along the line of the previous Spanish advance. A last radio message sent just before 5 a.m. advised Silvestre's intention to evacuate Annual later the same morning. At about 10 am the garrison began to march in column from the encampment but confused leadership and inadequate preparation meant that any hope of an orderly withdrawal quickly degenerated into a disorganized rout.[7] The Spanish conscripts, under heavy fire and exhausted by the intense heat, broke into a confused crowd and were shot down or knifed by the tribesmen. Only one cavalry unit, the Cazadores de Alcántara, kept in formation and was able to conduct a fighting retreat.

The riffi irregular forces were commanded by Muhammad Ibn 'Abd al-Karim al-Khattabi (usually known as Abd el Krim), a former civil servant at the Spanish administration in the Office of Indigenous Affairs in Melilla and one of the leaders of the tribe of the Aith Ouriaghel.

The overextended Spanish military structure in the Western Spanish Protectorate in Morocco crumbled. After the battle, the Riffian Berbers began to advance eastward, where they overran more than 130 Spanish blocaos.[8] The Spanish garrisons were destroyed without mounting a coordinated response to the attacks. At the end of August 1921, Spain had lost all the territories it had gained in the area since 1909.[8] General Silvestre disappeared and his remains were never found.[9] According to one report, Spanish sergeant Francisco Basallo Berrcerra of the Kandussi garrison, [10][11] identified the remains of Silvestre by his general's sash. A Moorish courier from Kaddur Namar claimed that, eight days after the battle, he saw the corpse of the general lying face down on the battlefield.[12]

Spanish retreat

Carga del rio Igan
Charge of the river Igan by Augusto Ferrer-Dalmau

At Afrau, on the coast, Spanish warships were able to evacuate the garrison. At Zoco el Telata de Metalsa in the south, Spanish troops and civilians were able to retreat to the French Zone. Spanish survivors of the battle retreated some 80 km to the sprawling fortified encampment of Monte Arruit, built between 1912 and 1916 and located south of Melilla. Here a stand was attempted under the leadership of General Felipe Navarro. As this position was surrounded and cut off from supplies, General Dámaso Berenguer Fusté, Spanish High Commissioner in the protectorate, authorized its surrender on August 9. The Rifeños reportedly did not respect the conditions of surrender and killed 3,000 Spanish soldiers.[13] General Navarro was taken prisoner, along with 534 military personnel and 53 civilians[14] who were ransomed some years later.[13]

Melilla was only some 40 km away, but was in no position to help: the city was almost defenceless and lacked properly trained troops. The exhausted and demoralized survivors of Annual who reached Melilla were in no condition to effectively reinforce the existing garrison. [15] However, the Riffian tribal forces had largely dispersed following the capture of Monte Arruit, leaving Abd-el-Krim with insufficient men to lay siege to Melilla. In addition citizens of European nations were living in Melilla, and he did not wish to risk international intervention.[15] Abd-el-Krim later stated that this was his biggest mistake.[16]

Spain quickly assembled about 14,000 reinforcements[15] from elite units of the Army of Africa which had been operating south of Tetuan in the Western Zone. These mainly comprised units of the Spanish Legion newly recruited in 1920, and Moroccan Regulares. Transferred to Melilla by sea, these reinforcements enabled the city to be held and Monte Arruit to be retaken by the end of November.

Desastre de Annual
Retreat of the Spanish troops to Melilla after the battle of Annual

The Spaniards may have lost up to 22,000 soldiers at Annual and in subsequent fighting.[5] German historian Werner Brockdorff states that only 1,200 of the 20,000 Spanish troops escaped alive,[3] though this estimate of losses appears exaggerated. Rif casualties were reportedly only 800.[4] Final official figures for the Spanish death toll, both at Annual and during the subsequent rout which took Riffian forces to the outskirts of Melilla, were reported to the Cortes Generales as totaling 13,192 killed.[17]

Materiel lost by the Spanish, in the summer of 1921 and especially in the Battle of Annual, included 11,000 rifles, 3,000 carbines, 1,000 muskets, 60 machine guns, 2,000 horses, 1,500 mules, 100 cannons, and a large quantity of ammunition.[18] Abd el Krim remarked later: "In just one night, Spain supplied us with all the equipment which we needed to carry on a big war."[18] Other sources give the amount of booty seized by Rif warriors as 20,000 rifles (German made Mausers), 400 machine guns (Hotchkisses), and 120 to 150 artillery pieces (Schneiders).[19][20][21]


The political crisis brought about by this disaster led Indalecio Prieto to say in the Congress of Deputies: "We are at the most acute period of Spanish decadence. The campaign in Africa is a total, absolute failure of the Spanish Army, without extenuation." The Minister of War ordered the creation of an investigative commission, led by General Juan Picasso González, which developed the report known as Expediente Picasso. The report detailed numerous military mistakes, but owing to the obstructive action of various ministers and judges, did not go so far as to lay political responsibility for the defeat. In all, the defeat is often thought of in Spain as the worst of the Spanish army in modern times.[22]

The reasons for the crushing defeat may lie with Silvestre's tactical decisions and the fact that the bulk of the Spanish army was formed by poorly trained conscripts.[13] Popular opinion widely placed the blame for the disaster upon King Alfonso XIII, who according to several sources had encouraged Silvestre's irresponsible penetration to positions far from Melilla without having adequate defenses in his rear. Alfonso's apparent indifference – vacationing in southern France, he reportedly said "Chicken meat is cheap" when informed of the disaster[23] even though other sources render the quote as "chicken meat is expensive" when informed about the ransom demanded by Abd-el-Krim for the officials made prisoners in Mount Arruit–[13] led to a popular backlash against the monarchy. The crisis was one of the many that, over the course of the next decade, undermined the Spanish monarchy and led to the rise of the Second Spanish Republic.

On 2 July 2012, the cavalry regiment Cazadores de Alcántara was awarded the Laureate Cross of Saint Ferdinand by the Council of Ministers for their rearguard action in Annual.[24]

See also


  1. ^ David S. Woolman, p. 97. Rebels in the Rif, Stanford University Press
  2. ^ M S Gill: Immortal Heroes Of The World, Sarup & Sons, 2005, ISBN 8176255904, page 242.
  3. ^ a b Werner Brockdorff: Geheimkommandos des Zweiten Weltkrieges, Verlag Welsermühl, 1967, page 168.
  4. ^ a b Johannes Ebert, Knut Görich, Detlef Wienecke-Janz: Die große Chronik Weltgeschichte – Band 15 Der erste Weltkrieg und seine Folgen, wissenmedia Verlag, 2008, ISBN 3577090758, p. 203. (in German)
  5. ^ a b Long, David E.; Bernard Reich (2002). The Government and Politics of the Middle East and North Africa. p. 393.
  6. ^ Martha Eulalia Altisent: A Companion to the Twentieth-Century Spanish Novel, Boydell & Brewer Ltd, 2008, ISBN 1855661748, page 259.
  7. ^ a b c ABC (Spain)(in Spanish)
  8. ^ a b Sasse, 2006, page 40.
  9. ^ David S. Woolman, page 91 "Rebels in the Rif", Stanford University Press
  10. ^ Sgt Berrcerra was a survivor of the Dar Quebdani massacre – where 900 Spanish soldiers were reportedly killed in cold blood after surrendering
  11. ^ Annual: horror, masacre y olvido|El País
  12. ^ Juan Pando, Historia Secreta del Annual (Madrid: Ediciones Temas de Hoy, 1999), 335–36.
  13. ^ a b c d [1], accessed August 8, 2016
  14. ^ Juan Pando, Historia Secreta del Annual (Madrid: Ediciones Temas de Hoy, 1999), p. 335.
  15. ^ a b c Sasse, 2006, p. 41.
  16. ^ J. Roger-Mathieu, Memoires d'Abd-el-Krim (Paris, 1927)
  17. ^ David S. Woolman, p. 96. Rebels in the Rif, Stanford University Press
  18. ^ a b Dirk Sasse, Franzosen, Briten und Deutsche im Rifkrieg 1921–1926, Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, 2006, ISBN 3486579835, p. 157. (in German)
  19. ^ Margaret Peil, Olatunji Y. Oyeneye: Consensus, Conflict, and Change: A Sociological Introduction to African Societies, East African Publishers, 1998, ISBN 9966467475, p. 54.
  20. ^ Martin Windrow: French Foreign Legion 1914–45, Osprey Publishing, 1999, ISBN 1855327619, p. 14.
  21. ^ Jean-Denis G. G. Lepage: The French Foreign Legion: An Illustrated History, McFarland, 2008, ISBN 9780786432394, p. 125.
  22. ^ La derrota más amarga del Ejército español - (in Spanish)
  23. ^ Woolman, 102
  24. ^ " - Documento BOE-A-2012-7367". Retrieved 2019-01-13.

Further reading

  • Woolman, David S. Rebels in the Rif – Abd El Krim and the Rif Rebellion. Stanford University Press, 1968.

External links

Coordinates: 35°07′12″N 3°34′59″W / 35.120°N 3.583°W

Ait Ouriaghel

The Ait Ouriaghel (also written as Ayt Waryaɣar or Ayt Uryaɣal in Berber) 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.

The Ayt Waryaɣar were the main group which participated in the Rif wars (see Republic of the Rif) against the Spanish Protectorate in Morocco at the beginning of 20th century. The Spanish authorities considered it the nucleus of insumisión to the colonial authority in the Eastern zone of the protectorate (see Battle of Annual).

During the Rif War of 1921-1926, the leadership of the Aith Waryaghar was concentrated in the Al-Khattabi family and, in particular, in the person of Muhammad bin Abd el-Krim al-Khattabi. Its centre was the small locality of Ajdir in the bay of Al Hoceima. Muhammad bin Abd el-Krim al-Khattabi made an alliance with the tribesmen of the Ait Touzine tribe to stop the Spaniards at the Nekor river in Temsamane.

Annual, Morocco

Annual or Anoual (Arabic: أنوال‎ Anwāl) is a settlement in northeastern Morocco about 60 km west of Melilla. There, during the Rif War or War of Melilla, on July 22, 1921, the Spanish army suffered a grave military defeat against the Rifan Berber army, known as the Battle of Annual.

Ifni War

The Ifni War, sometimes called the Forgotten War in Spain (la Guerra Olvidada), was a series of armed incursions into Spanish West Africa by Moroccan insurgents that began in October 1957 and culminated with the abortive siege of Sidi Ifni.

The war, which may be seen as part of the general movement of decolonization that swept Africa throughout the later half of the 20th century, was conducted primarily by elements of the Moroccan Army of Liberation which, no longer tied down in conflicts with the French, committed a significant portion of its resources and manpower to the capture of Spanish possessions.

Jaime Camps

Jaime Camps (28 February 1896 – 3 August 1921) was a Spanish sprinter. He competed in the men's 100 metres at the 1920 Summer Olympics. He was killed in action during the Battle of Annual.

José Sanjurjo

General José Sanjurjo y Sacanell, 1st Marquess of the Rif (Spanish: [saŋˈxuɾxo]; 28 March 1872 – 20 July 1936), was the senior of the three leaders of the Nationalist coup of July 1936, which started the Spanish Civil War.

He was killed in an air crash on the third day of the rebellion, when he was flying in from Portugal, to take up his position in command of Franco and Mola. Surprisingly, he had chosen to fly in a small, overloaded plane, because the pilot was a friend of his. Sabotage was suspected, but never proved.

Juan García y Margallo

Juan García y Margallo (12 July 1839 – 28 October 1893) was a Spanish governor of Melilla (1891–93) and general who was defeated and killed during the Rif War, which is also called the Margallo War after him. Is the great grandfather of Spanish diplomat and former Minister of Foreign Affairs José Manuel García-Margallo.

Juan Picasso González

Juan Picasso González (Málaga, 22 August 1857 – Madrid, 5 April 1935) was a Spanish military man and general who participated in the Rif War with the Spanish Army of Africa in late 19th century and early 20th century. He was a military investigation instructor known for "Expediente Picasso" (Picasso Files), an investigation report related to the historical defeat of the Spanish Army, some 20,000 soldiers and officers, of which some 8,000 were killed, against the Riffian rebels at the Battle of Annual, 1 July 1921, known as The disaster of Annual.

He was the second-degree uncle of the worldwide famous painter and sculptor Pablo Picasso, through one of his Picasso family nieces.

Born at Málaga in 1857 he entered the Academia de Estado Mayor, 1876, being number one of the school and an accomplished horse rider, participating in October 1893 in a military confrontation in the North African seaside town of Melilla.

List of Spanish colonial wars in Morocco

There have been several Spanish colonial wars in Morocco or Hispano-Moroccan wars:

Conquest of La Mamora (1681)

Hispano-Moroccan War (1859–1860)

First Melillan campaign (1893–1894)

Second Melillan campaign (1909–1910)

Third Melillan campaign (1911–1912)

Rif War (1921–1926)

Ifni War (1957–1958)

Manuel Fernández Silvestre

Manuel Fernández y Silvestre (December 16, 1871 – July 22, 1921) was a Spanish general.

Silvestre was the son of the lieutenant colonel of artillery Victor Fernández and Eleuteria Silvestre. In 1889 he enrolled in the Toledo Infantry Academy, where he met with the future high commissioner of Spanish Morocco, Dámaso Berenguer.


Melilla (US: mə-LEE-yə, UK: meh-, Spanish: [meˈliʎa]; Tarifit: Mřič) 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.

Melilla, like Ceuta, was a free port before Spain joined the European Union. In 2011 it had a population of 78,476, made up of Catholics of Iberian origin (primarily from Andalusia and Catalonia), ethnic Riffian Berbers and a small number of Sephardic Jews and Sindhi Hindus. Spanish and Riffian-Berber are the two most widely spoken languages, with Spanish as the only official language.

Melilla, like Ceuta, is officially claimed by Morocco.

Miguel Cabanellas

Miguel Cabanellas Ferrer (1 January 1872 in Cartagena – 14 May 1938) was a Spanish Army officer during the Spanish Civil War.

A cavalry officer, as a major he managed the creation of the African Regular troops (Moroccan troops in the Spanish army). In 1921 he participated in the reconquest of the Rif after the Battle of Annual. He was promoted to brigadier general and made envoy to the island of Menorca as military governor. Miguel Primo de Rivera permitted him to go into the reserves in 1926, which led him to participate in a revolt frustrated in 1929. For his support of the republicans, on 17 April 1931 the provisional government of the Republic named him commander in chief of Andalusia. Later he was named commander of the troops in Morocco and replaced José Sanjurjo in the main directorate of the Civil Guard. In 1934 he was a delegate of the Radical Republican Party. In July 1936 he was head of 5ª Organic division based in Zaragoza, where on 19 July he declared his support for the Nationalists. Due to his seniority, he was president of the Junta de Defensa Nacional that on 21 September 1936 proclaimed Francisco Franco head of government and Generalissimo - though Cabanellas was the only one who dissented to this choice. He warned his fellow rebel generals that "You don’t know what you have done because you don’t know him as do I, given that he was under my command in the African Army… If you give him Spain, he is going to believe that it is his and he will not allow anyone to replace him in the war or after it, until his death." He was later Chief inspector of the Army until his death.

Paul Prosper Henrys

Paul Prosper Henrys (or Paul-Prosper) (13 March 1862 – 6 November 1943) was a French general.

In his early career, Henrys was stationed in French Algeria. In 1912, he participated in the French conquest of Morocco under general Hubert Lyautey. In May 1914, he received command over all French troops fighting in the Zaian War. Henryswas replaced by Colonel Joseph-François Poeymirau in July 1916 and was sent to fight the Germans on the Western Front.

Henrys commanded the French army on the Salonika front (L'Armée d'Orient) in the final year of the First World War. Subsequently, he was the chief of the French Military Mission to Poland during the Polish-Soviet War.


04/07/13 général de brigade

24/11/14 général de divisionService history:

28/09/12-27/07/16 - cavalry commander of units in Morocco

27/07/16-20/05/17 - commander of 59th infantry division (reserve)

20/05/17-12/12/17 - commander of 17th army corps

31/12/17-01/04/19 - commander of the French army in the East (on the Balkan front)

01/04/19-30/09/20 - chief of the French Military Mission to Poland

28/06/22-13/03/24 - commander of 33rd army corps in the Rhineland.

13/03/24- placed in reserve

Perejil Island

Perejil Island (Spanish: Isla de Perejil, Berber: Tura or Toṛa, Arabic: تورة‎, romanized: Toora) is a small, uninhabited rocky islet located off the coast of Morocco, just 200 metres from the mainland coast. Its sovereignty is disputed between Spain and Morocco. It was the subject of an armed incident between the two countries in 2002.

Perejil Island crisis

The Perejil Island crisis was a bloodless armed conflict between Spain and Morocco that took place on 11–20 July 2002. The incident took place over the small, uninhabited Perejil Island, when a squad of the Royal Moroccan Navy occupied it. After an exchange of declarations between both countries, the Spanish troops finally evicted the Moroccan infantry who had relieved their Navy comrades.

Restoration (Spain)

The Restoration (Spanish: Restauración), or Bourbon Restoration (Restauración borbónica), is the name given to the period that began on 29 December 1874 — after a coup d'état by Martínez Campos ended the First Spanish Republic and restored the monarchy under Alfonso XII — and ended on 14 April 1931 with the proclamation of the Second Spanish Republic.

After almost a whole century of political instability and many civil wars, the aim of the Restoration was to create a new political system, which ensured stability by the practice of turnismo. This was the deliberate rotation of the Liberal and Conservative parties in the government, so no sector of the bourgeoisie felt isolated, while all other parties were excluded from the system. This was achieved by electoral fraud. Opposition to the system came from republicans, socialists, anarchists, Basque and Catalan nationalists, and Carlists.

Second Melillan campaign

The Second Melillan campaign (Spanish: Guerra de Melilla ) was a conflict in 1909 in Morocco around Melilla. The fighting involved local Riffians and the Spanish Army.

Siege of Melilla (1774)

The Siege of Melilla was an attempt by the British-backed Sultanate of Morocco to capture the Spanish fortress of Melilla on the Moroccan Mediterranean coast. Mohammed ben Abdallah, then Sultan of Morocco, invested Melilla in December 1774 with a large army of Royal Moroccan soldiers and Algerian mercenaries. The city was defended by a small garrison under Irish-born Governor Don Juan Sherlocke until the siege was lifted by a relief fleet in March 1775.

Sieges of Ceuta (1694–1727)

The Sieges of Ceuta (also known as the Thirty-year Siege) were a series of blockades by Moroccan forces of the Spanish-held city of Ceuta on the North African coast. The first siege began on 23 October 1694 and finished in 1720 when reinforcements arrived. During the 26 years of the siege, the city underwent changes leading to the loss of its Portuguese character. While most of the military operations took place around the city walls (Muralles Reales), there were also small-scale penetrations by Spanish forces at various points on the Moroccan coast, and seizure of shipping in the Strait of Gibraltar. The city was placed under a second siege in 1721 until 22 April 1727.

Yusef of Morocco

Yusef ben Hassan (1882 – November 17, 1927) (Arabic: السلطان يوسف بن الحسن‎) was a Sultan of the Alaouite dynasty. He ruled Morocco from 1912 until his death in 1927.

Spanish–Moroccan conflicts
Major conflicts
Key people

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