Monday 22 April 2024

Battle for the Peñas de Kaiat

Battle for the Peñas de Kaiat

Morocco, 19th August 1923 by Richard Baber

Comandante Benigno Fiscer Tornero (OC I Tabor, Grupo Regulares de Tetuán)

The first battalion of Regulares was formed on June 30th 1911, under the command of Col. Damaso Berenguer (who later in August 1919 would become High Commissioner to the protectorate) The battalion was made up of native troops under Spanish officers were modelled on similar units created by the French. This unit was titled: Grupo de Fuerzas Regulares Indigenes de Melilla No1, (literally 1st Fusilier Regiment of Natives from Melilla). The battalion consisted of four companies of infantry and a squadron of cavalry scouts. By the next year the strength had increased to six companies of infantry and three squadrons of cavalry.

NCO from Grupo Regulares de Tetuán
(Tetuán units wore the blue sash) 

 The Regulares took part in many of the major battles across the protectorate and were highly regarded by their officers for the bravery and skills. It is with this "high regard" in mind we find that of the five Grupos de Regulares that served in the protectorate only one Tabor (battalion) was ever awarded the Collective Military Medal (Spain`s second highest decoration). The action by the Tabor also resulted in more citations for individuals than any other Regulares unit in a single action. What follows is a brief account of the action which led to the awards and some ideas of how to recreate the action on tabletop.


In early 1923, the Spanish military have withdrawn from large parts of the protectorate though they tried to hold a solid line of defence from the sacred city of Tetouan and along the Wad (river) Lau. For the most part Abd el Krim`s forces are mostly in the Eastern Zone, but there have been several major (and costly) engagements including Coba Darsa during June-July. It was along the Wad Lau that Grupo de Regulares d`Tetuán No1 found itself with four (4) Tabors (battalions) of infantry and one of cavalry. These units occupied strong-points and blocaos (blockhouses); escorted supply convoys or carried out patrol activities. Unfortunately the prolonged inactivity by the Spanish military made Abd el Krim bolder and he attempted to expand his rebellion into Yebela in the Western Zone by sending harkas (war bands) to attack Spanish positions, etc. This was part of a two-fold strategy - attack the Spanish and keep his own warriors busy whilst at the same time spreading notice of his own power (baraka) into and among the Yebela tribes.

 In early 1923, the area of ​​Yebela remained calm and the Spanish finished the construction of a proper road that connected Tetouan with Xauen. A serious attempt at a treaty by the High Commissioner, which included a pact on behalf of the Government with the Raisuni, provides a time of relative tranquillity in this part of the Western Zone.

In the months of March and April Abd el Krim, who had the intention of extending his fight to the western zone and winning the support of the Yebela Kabyles, violently attacked M'Ter's post several times - Abd el Krim referred to this position as "the Door of the Western zone" this is quoted in several international newspapers of the time. During the month of May Riffi aggression steps up all along the Wad Lau Valley, causing the Spanish to carry out transfer more troops to the area. The military situation of the Spanish troops continued to be unravel with groups of warriors from local kabyles (previously neutral or even friendly to the Spanish) began to attack speculative targets. Some positions felt themselves more in a state of siege than simply security/police posts.

Meanwhile, in the region of Gomara in June, an attack was being prepared on the city of Xauen and at the end of the month the brother of Abd el Krim leads an attack on the position of Tazza which, in accordance to the tactics usually employed by the guerrillas of the Rif, had been attacked without rest by the harkas day and night. Supply lines to forward positions were cut and the need for a re-supply mission became critical to break the siege but the Minister of State did not authorize its shipment not to upset negotiations with The Raisuni by flooding his area of control with more Spanish troops! The High Commissioner decided nevertheless to send the convoy without prior notification to the Government once again demonstrating a breakdown in communications between the Spanish authorities in Morocco and those of the Madrid government.

 In August 1923 negotiations with the Raisuni had reached impasse and the military situation is aggravated by the pressure of the harkas on the more advanced positions of the line Wad Lau - Xauen - Wad Lucus. The general uprising in the Western Zone escalated with the arrival of a large harka led by Ahmed Heriro (one of Abd el Krim`s top field commanders) which increased the number of raids and actually cut communications between Tetouan and Xauen. There were also uprisings in the area of ​​Larache much further west. The whole of the Yebela was now in a state of general rebellion pressing the Spanish forces on all fronts.

Soldado Grupo Regulares de Tetuán

 The Battle

In this period of heightened tension and increased military action, bases and outposts still had to be re-supplied and their garrisons rotated. 1st Group of Regulares d` Tetuán were assigned to the River Lau section of the front throughout July and were fully committed to convoy escort, garrison and outpost duty.

 On August 16 news reaches the Spanish of enemy movements which threatened communications between the vital positions of Talambot and Adgos and a column was formed to cover the area.

Under the command of Commander Fiscer (officer commanding I Tabor of the Group of Regulars of Tetuán No1)

His command is composed of:

I Tabor de Regulares de Tetuán

1º Squadron of Cavalry of the Group of Regulares of Tetuán

10 charges of the Mobile Ammunition Park

Medium Section of the Mountain Ambulance

After a couple of days of searching for the enemy with no result, so on 19 August the column was returning to base when it approached the heights known as Peñas de Kaiat, where scouts reported an enemy presence. An attempt by a company from I Tabor to set up an observation post was countered by enemy fire, other Riffi began firing upon engineers constructing a better track near the rocks.

Commander Fiscer with the rest of the Tabor moved forward only to find a large number of the enemy, strongly entrenched; whose intention was to form a strong blocking position and cut the Road between Taguesit and Tazza and intercept communications with Adgos.

Commander Fiscer gives the order to halt the Taguesit column and for all available forces to occupy the most dominant point on the high ground and to attack the enemy. He reinforces the most advanced company with four machine guns to secure and hold the enemy's centre while the other two companies supported by four machine guns from 3rd Legion Bandera which was stationed at Adgos, moved to attack the Flanks.

The battle progressed, with two companies of the Tabor assaulting the crests where the enemy was entrenched, the fighting was intense and the enemy only finally dislodged after vicious hand-to-hand combat! The actions of I Tabor is well supported by the companies of 3rd Bandera and other units of Regulares and the Tercio deployed on the flanks to the east and west.

The enemy consisted of a force of 200 to 250 men, well dug-in and hidden in many of the caves in this rocky outcrop. Thanks to the rapid dispositions made by Commander Fiscer, his command without any artillery preparation and using rapid movement and a decisive, almost reckless assault, surprised and overcame the enemy.

 Given the number enemy troops and their excellent positions, which allowed them to pour deadly fire on the attackers. The decisive and prompt action of the Commander and the bravery and speed of which his men carried out their assault reduced the casualties considerably from what would have occurred if the assault had been allowed to falter! Also by the Tabor relatively quickly occupying enemy positions, the possibility of the enemy bringing up more men and reinforcing the blocking position was neutralized, all this without artillery support! In fact the only support the Tabor received was by its own machine guns and those provided by 3rd Legion Bandera and of course the advances made by those supporting units both Regulares and Legion.

During the fighting, Commander Fiscer kept moving up and down the line, giving and providing clear and accurate orders, this helped his mens morale and contributed to the success of the attack.

 At 1700 hours on 19 August the Spanish forces established and fortified a post 200 meters west of the massif. Equipped with 8 machine guns of the 3rd Bandera and 1 Section of rifles, this position provided cover fire allowing those forward elements of I Tabor and of the Tercio retreat step by step towards Adgos. Such a withdrawal under fire whilst in direct contact with a skilled and determined enemy could easily lead to a disaster, but once again Commander Fiscer demonstrated his command abilities taken personal control over the withdrawal which was handled with great skill by the entire command.

Due to the exemplary nature of how they performed during this action, I Tabor was awarded the Collective Military Medal by Royal Order on February 16, 1924.

 The I Tabor casualties of this day were four Officers and twenty-six Troops killed and three Officers and thirty-three Troop wounded.

Collar badge of I Tabor

 Individual Award winners

Comandante Benigno Fiscer Tornero (OC I Tabor, Grupo Regulares de Tetuán)

Capitán Carlos Muñoz Güi (OC 2nd Company, I Tabor)

Capt. Güi (mounted) with his company

Teniente Fernando Herrero de Tejada y Francia (1st Coy. I Tabor)

Teniente Manuel Peñarredonda Samaniego (2nd Coy. I Tabor)

Teniente Samaniego

Teniente Celestino Ruiz Sáenz de Santamaría (3rd Coy. I Tabor)

Sargento Domingo Chao Martín (2nd Coy. I Tabor)

Sargento Fernando Relimpio Carreño (3rd Coy. I Tabor)

Cabo Ceferino Santamaría Pérez (1st Coy. I Tabor)

 Grupo Regulares Indígenas de Tetuán nº 1 today has the title - Grupo Regulares de Ceuta nº 54 and I Tabor, Grupo Regulares de Tetuán survives today as - Tabor "Tetuán" I / 54.

 The scenario

Obviously this is a fairly straight forward attack/defence over rocky terrain, with the Spanish forces first trying to clear the high ground then dig in against possible counter attacks. I decided to cut the table in two with a winding rough road representing the track between Taguesit and Tazza.


Riffi – the Berbers must keep the road closed for 20 turns, if they manage this they gain a strategic victory, if they fail but break or destroy any attacking Spanish units this should be considered a tactical win.

Spanish – the Spanish forces must clear the Peñas de Kaiat and open the road for the supply column within 20 turns to win, no other result is acceptable.

My table


Now my first problem is I don`t own enough Regulares to field an entire Tabor on tabletop, so I was forced to compromise and give 3rd Bandera of La Legion a bigger role. I decided the Regulares would attack the left side of the Peñas whilst the legionnaires attacked the right.

 I Tabor, Grupo Regulares de Tetuán No1

                    My Regulares are a mix of Bandera, Irregular, Barcino & Tumbling Dice 

2 companies each with:

2 x 10 man Pelotónes + HQ

Machine gun Pelotón

                                                        3rd Bandera Spanish Foreign Legion

Now all these except one of two more recent additions were painted by Matt Slade Painting Services at a time when I was getting a few articles published in Miniature Wargames but had no time to paint my own stuff.

               My Legionnaires are a mix of Irregular, Bandera, Barcino and Barcelona Universal Models


3 x 10 man Pelotónes (each has an LMG)

Machine gun Pelotón

Riffi Harkas

My Riffi are from all over the place - Irregular, Bandera, Italeri, Airfix, Early War Miniatures, Blitz, Force20, Shellhole Scenics

Can be dug in (medium protection) or hidden from view at the start of the game

 Right hill

4 x 10 warrior Hamsein (all armed with rifles, swords, knives, etc)


Left hill

3 x 10 warrior Hamsein (all armed with rifles, swords, knives, etc)

Reinforcements on turn 10

1-3 10 man Hamsein

4 LMG team

5 Juramentados (men sworn to die in battle) armed only with close combat weapons attack a random Spanish unit and fight until destroyed

6 10 man Hamsein with inspired leader (adds +1 to all morale/combat rolls to all with command radius)

                                                                     The game

Saw the Regulares on the left and 3rd Bandera on the right with the Riffi waiting among the hills

3rd Bandera

1st Tabor

What followed was 11 turns of painful advance against a determined enemy, who used the terrain to slip around the flanks and attack when the opportunity presented. The Legion and Regulares advanced in leaps, one platoon covering the next all supported by their machine guns which also leapfrogged to keep up with the advances and continue their support.

Legion pack mule carrying an MMG moves up towards the next firing position

One Regulares platoon moved straight down the track throughout the game, this brave move effectively outflanked the Berber defence plan on its own!

The rest of the Tabor took to the heights to root out the enemy


 On the right the Legionnaires performed splendidly

Finally fighting on the left concluded in an epic and confused melee with the Regulares victorious

Once they defeated the immediate foes the Regulares dug in to defend the track

On the right the Legion gained the heights and fortified them with their MMGs

A very different game, all infantry with no artillery. Casualties on the Spanish side were far higher than the historical battle – lucky dice!! But they still had the organisation and command to react and counter the Riffi defenders; of course they also had the machine guns which allowed them to lay down suppressing fire from a distance allowing their infantry to get close and clear stubborn enemy positions.





  1. Very nice. This wasn’t something I was aware of, so it’s handy to have more background info. If the Rif War in the Spanish consciousness at all, or is it something they’d rather not remember/talk about?
    I recognise quite a few miniatures from my own collection - sadly most of mine are in the “unpainted lead” pile. ☹️

    1. The Rif War isn`t as taboo as the Civil War, lots of good groups with very clever guys talking about it. Baraka Miniatures in Madrid now produce a fine range of 28mm figures and they do a lot of writing on the topic also. Yes a lot of comercial 20mm among my collection, most of these serve double duty in my Civil War games also.

  2. Another beautiful combination of history and game set-up & report. And inspiring gaming too. Well done. I have stuck at 20mm for my Rif and Spanish (both colonial and SCW) having found the inspiration from your time editing The SOTCW Journal. Your pieces are still inspiring. Pity there is not an outlet for them in print. You might get inspired to ponder how you solo game these historical incidents and battles and report on that for Lone Warrior journal of the Association of Solo Wargamers. In fact you might enjoy it as a way of widening your gaming contacts now you are in Spain. I can wholly recommend it. It is $15 for four pdf copies. Has a mix of periods with lots of different gaming styles. Now based in USA but retaining a friendly and welcoming style in its Journal albeit not a very active nor open forum to match. Take care. Carl, North Yorkshire

    1. Cheers Carl, thanks for the comments and input - much appreciated. I`ll take a look that group, I was a member way back, eventually The Journal and SOTCW took over my interest.