Alhucemas landing

Alhucemas landing
Part of Rif War

Spanish troops landing at Al Hoceima Bay on 8 September 1925
Date8 September 1925
LocationAlhucemas (Spanish protectorate in Morocco)
Result Decisive Spanish-French victory
Spain Spain
 France (1925-1926)
Republic of the Rif
Commanders and leaders
Spain Miguel Primo de Rivera
Spain José Sanjurjo
Spain Leopoldo Saro Marín
Spain Francisco Franco
Spain Manuel Goded Llopis
France Philippe Pétain
Abd el-Krim
• 13,000 soldiers
• 24 artillery pieces
• 11 FT-17 tanks
• 6 CA1 tanks
• 3 battleships
• 6 cruisers
• 1 seaplane tender
• 36 smaller ships
• 58 transports
• 160 aircraft
Riffian forces
• 9,000 Riffians
• Specialist mercenaries[1]
• 14 artillery pieces
• Machine gun nests
Casualties and losses
200 dead
109 wounded[2]

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 supported by seaborne air power.

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.


After the disaster of Annual, the Spanish army was unable to regain lost territory. Therefore, a containment policy was taken, 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, while political forces, public opinion and even 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 insurrection of general Primo de Rivera occurred, who at first supported the abandonment of the Protectorate but, in 1924 and after new attacks by Abd el Krim that required a new Spanish retreat to the areas of Tetuan, Ceuta and Melilla, became a strong supporter of going on the offensive to defeat the Riffian leader and restoring Spanish authority in the Protectorate.


On 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 on 1921, aimed at the occupation of Alhucemas, but all of them failed (mainly due to too long ressuply 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. This led to Primo de Rivera to investigate the reasons for the disaster at Gallipoli and carefully plan 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. Groups of foreign mercenaries not quantified
  2. According to the official report, quoted by Martín Tornero (1991).


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