Penon de Velez de la Gomera, March – April 1922
An earlier version of this article appeared in the magazine of the Society of Twentieth Century Wargames (SOTCW) The Journal
Penon (crag) de Velez de la Gomera is a small offshore island located 119 km (72.7 miles) southeast of Ceuta. It is a steep rock island with a length of 400 meters northwest-southeast and a width of up to 100 meters, and a height of 80 meters above the sea, it covers about 19,000 square meters in total. There is another smaller island linked to its larger neighbor by a wooded bridge. The islands are situated only 85 meters from the Moroccan shore and can be easily reached by foot at low tides.
The main island is covered in the remains of ruins from centuries of fortifications, built one on top of another. There is little or no plant life and no source of fresh water, though the Spanish built good cisterns. The island was for many years used as a penal colony with prisoners forced to work for mining and farming interests on the Moroccan mainland.
The Riffi attack – March 22, 1922
The Penon was garrisoned by a company of men from the Regiment de Infantries de Africa No68 commanded by a captain. The garrison also had two small cannon and one machine gun. Apart from the garrison there were also a number of prisoners and civilians on the Penon including wives and families of officers.
After dark on March 22, the Riffi using small boats silently approached the small island. They managed to scale the rock without being spotted and then without warning swarmed over the parapet and attacked the soldiers stationed there. The garrison was alerted by gunfire and rushed to man the main defences, just in time, it was low tide and the Riffi were attacking the main island from the shore. Other Riffi tried to cross the connecting bridge between the two islands or fired at the defenders from their vantage point.
The Riffi main attack was beaten off, but the captain was killed and many of the garrison also casualties. Things were so grim that the civilian families were evacuated off the Penon by naval submarine during the nights of 24/25 March.
For the purposes of our game, we decided to ignored the civilians and start at the point where the Riffi were already occupying the smaller island and are making their final all out attack. The Spanish garrison was alerted and had called for reinforcements which were on the way by ship.
Captain, lieutenant, NCO, radio operator, 3 runners
Reduced Rifle company
2 – 9 man platoons (rifles, 1 grenade each)
65mm mountain gun + crew (12 rds)
Hotchkiss MMG + crew
Main body (attacking from the beach and island)
4 -5 groups of warriors – 10 men each (rifles & knives)
2 fishing boats
Each with 7 warriors (rifles & knives)
El Bustamante armed trawler/gunboat
Armed with a 4pdr & 2 Hotchkiss MGs
Half company La Legion
Officer, NCO, standard
2 – 8 man platoons (rifles, 2 – grenades)
The game was a very close run thing, the Spanish defenders fire was unlucky, whilst the Riffi (me) kept rolling 6s. The Spanish slowly withdrew along the island, but were out of officers and virtually wiped out just as El Bustemente arrived! The ships crew used their MGs and 4pdr to good effect as the legionnaires scrambled ashore. Once ashore the battle-cry "Viva la Muerte!" was shouted and the two platoons with colours flying launched a bayonet charge into the remaining Riffi.
We played the game using 20mm figures from my collection. The Infanteria No.68 were mostly British Zulu War figures from Newline Designs with some Bandera and Irregular SCW. My Legion figures are a mix of Bandera, Irregular, Barcino and BUM SCW figures. My Riffi are Blitz Goumiers and Bandera/Irregular SCW Regulares with various plastic Arabs. El Bustamente is the Britannia Miniatures - Armed German Trawler, the crew are a mix of WW2 Kreigsmarine and Russian Naval Marines from Kelly’s Heroes; the Riffi fishing boats were Britannia British Naval Dorys.
The Betrothed of Death by Jose E. Alvarez
An AAR plus photos of our game can be found here: