Sunday, January 24, 2016

Could have it worked on Malta?


      The Taking of Corfu.
      By Roberto Gentilli (Translated by L. Pavese)
      Corfu, or Kérkyra (Corcyra), is the northernmost of the Ionian Islands. Its elongated and sinuous surface measures about mi² 226 and lays just a few miles off the coast of Epirus, just south of the Strait of Otranto.

The high commands of the three Italian armed forces had begun to take into consideration the occupation of the Ionian Islands as early as in the summer of 1940, as the first phase of the military operations against Greece. The operation was code-named “G Emergency”, and the occupation was going to be accomplished by a landing of the Royal Army Infantry Division "Bari".

On October 13, 1940, General Badoglio transmitted to the Italian Royal Navy the advanced notice for the readying of the naval assets necessary for the landing, to which the Italian Royal Air Force (and specifically the 4th Squadra Aerea based in Apulia, and the Air Force of Albania) would provide the aerial cover. Nevertheless, on October 28, the day of the Italian attack against Greece, due to the adverse weather conditions the landing on Corfu was postponed; and it was delayed day after day, until Benito Mussolini himself cancelled it on November 2nd. 

After six months of extremely hard fighting, in which the Italians fought with valor but paid for their aggression with very high losses, the German intervention, in April of 1941, destroyed in just a few days the resistance of the Greeks and of the British forces that backed them.

1940. Two Z.506 of the 190th Squadiglia of the 86th Gruppo of the Regia Aeronautica, Italian Royal Air Force, on a mission above the snowy peaks of Epirus.

On April 20th, the Greek armies of the Epirus and Macedonia agreed to surrender unconditionally to the Germans, extending the armistice to include Italy on the 23rd of that month. At that point, the Italians put the invasion of Corfu back on the agenda, mainly to avoid that the fall of more territory in the hands of the Germans rendered the Italian sacrifices vain.
The Regia Marina, the Italian Royal Navy, got the plans they had devised six months earlier back in motion, but as early as April 27 a CANT Z.506 Airone of the 35th Stormo, overflying Corfu, launched a message ordering the Greek garrison to surrender, and observed that a white flag had been hoisted on the semaphore in response. Immediately, General Ilari, the commander of the 4th Squadra Aerea, phoned Rome; and after talking to the General Staff it was decided to entrust the capture of Corfu directly to the Royal Air Force.
The 35th Stormo, based in Brindisi, was a very peculiar Regia Aeronautica unit. It had been formed on the SIAI S.55, and then it had transitioned on the maritime bomber version of the Z.506. The commander of the Stormo was Colonel Enrico Grande, a very valiant and skilled officer from Apulia, who had already fought as a volunteer in WWI.
In his memories, the somewhat acidic Francesco Pricolo wrote that at the time of his appointment as Air Force Chief of Staff  "…besides the groups in my aerial squadron, only three or four among all the other groups in the rest of the Air Force could be employed trustfully, without the need of further training. The Stormo of seaplanes of the 4th Zone, led by Colonel Grande, was among them".
In fact, the Stormo had already been heavily engaged, first in the battle of Punta Stilo, during which Colonel Grande placed a bomb that failed to explode on the deck of the aircraft carrier HMS Eagle, and later in Greece, carrying out numerous bombing mission on the mountainous terrain of the mainland (with seaplanes!), and losing seven crews.
After having quickly coordinated the action on Corfu with General Ilari and with General Barba, who was the commander of the bombers of the 4th Squadra, Colonel Grande left from Brindisi with five seaplanes the morning after, on the 28th of April.

The preparation of the aircraft for the air invasion. The Z.506 are silver, with yellow engine cowlings, a tricolor rudder and the white band around the fuselage.

The small expeditionary force included a Consul of the Militia, Gianni Cagnoni, with nine Militia troopers, two Navy officers, two Army officers-interpreters and two war correspondents. After having reached the island, at about 9 o’clock in the morning, Grande launched a message on the Old Citadel, the ancient Venetian fortress on which the white flag had been observed the day before, ordering the surrender; but in response the Greeks hoisted a German flag!

En route to Corfu Colonel Grande talks to his Adjutant Lieutenant Luigi Bancassi, in the cockpit of a Z.506.
It wasn’t an encouraging beginning, nevertheless Colonel Grande decided to alight on the water, off the beach of Mandukion.
Although the war against Greece was at the end, it was clear that the occupation of the island of Corfu was not going to be just a mere formality. To begin with, the island garrison, which consisted of 3000 well equipped soldiers, was well entrenched on the hills of the interior, which reached almost 3000 feet, and was not part of the Army of the Epirus that had already surrendered. Therefore, their intentions were unknown, and the possibility that they decided to resist could not be excluded. Furthermore, Corfu had been one of the secondary targets for the Italian bombers, when the interior of the country was obscured by cloud cover, and there was an unconfirmed report that the 41st Gruppo had hit a movie theater with a great loss of life; therefore, among the Greek population the anti-Italian sentiment was very strong.

Colonel Grande and Consul Cagnoni land in Corfu, and below an aerial image of the first two CANT Z.506 that beached on the shore of Corfu

As soon as he had landed, with his small band of soldiers of fortune, Colonel Grande was approached by a few Greek officers. He demanded the surrender of the island and made them prisoners; then Grande reached the town of Corfu, where he raised the Italian flag on the old fortress.

The situation, though, was problematic: the commander of the Greek presidio, Dimitros Polixes, was with his troops in the mountains, for an inspection, and his adjutant had managed to inform him by phone of the microscopic size of the Italian forces and then escape.
The Italians could have been overwhelmed and massacred at any time, but Colonel Grande and his men, with a good dose of impudence, managed to keep the situation under control. In the sky above the island, formations of Italian bombers flew uninterruptedly at low altitude, as a dissuasive deterrent to any inclination of resistance on the part of the Greek forces.

FIAT BR.20 bombers fly over Corfu, during the early phase of the invasion.

Among the bombers there flew the S.M. 79 of General Pricolo, who followed with trepidation the unfolding of the events from above. The Italians negotiated the surrender of the city with the Greek civilian and religious authorities, and in the afternoon the military commander of the presidio, to whom an ultimatum made credible by the airplanes had been given, was finally found. Meanwhile, four more CANT Z.506’s had landed twenty-four more Carabinieri and a few airmen.
The Greek commander declared he had already secretly negotiated the surrender with the Germans, and in fact a few Germans showed up on a motorsailer to see what was going on. 
The Italians moved into the interior, capturing on the way a column of 300 Greek soldiers. The night passed calmly, and the day after the Greek commander finally agreed to surrender. An Italian infantry regiment arrived aboard two ships, reinforcing the occupational force, which remained under the command of Colonel Grande, who was the senior officer.

Under the castle of Corfu Colonel Grande, Consul Cagnoni and an interpreter talk with a Greek officer (with the British style uniform).
 With two trucks and four requisitioned cars the force moved into the interior of the island and obtained the surrender of the three Greek battalions, meeting just a halfhearted resistance, which a burst of sub-machine gun fire in the air was enough to quell.

On April 29, Italian reinforcements landed on Corfu to complete the occupation of the Greek island.

   On April 30, 1941, the Italian Royal Army completed the occupation. In purely Italian fashion, Colonel Grande was transferred to Milan; maybe because he had proved himself too effective.
Besides the personal courage of the participants, the aerial occupation of Corfu was a great achievement for the Italian Royal Air Force. It was probably the first example of an enemy territory conquered by air power alone. Notwithstanding the hesitation of the Italian Royal Navy and Royal Army, the very rapid preparation of the plan, the coordination of the aerial formations that alternated over the entire day on April 28, and the radio communications provided by a Z.506 at anchor in the bay of Corfu, and by reconnaissance airplanes in flight, had been impeccable. 

   It begs the question if in the early days of the war a similar operation wouldn’t have also been possible in Malta. Five Z.506’s and twenty men wouldn’t have certainly been enough: The Britons in Malta were not in the same spirit as the Greeks of Corfu, who were furious but faced the reality of a war that for them by then was over.
Nevertheless, the same audacity could have also paid dividends in Malta, since the Italian airplanes could have obscured the sky of that island as well, and if it is true that the British already considered the loss of Malta inevitable.
History is not made with ifs and buts, but it is certain that people like Colonel Grande and his men wouldn’t have hesitated a second before alighting in the middle of the Grand Harbour.

This article was originally published on the May 1979 issue of the Italian aviation magazine JP4.
You comment, as usual, will be greatly appreciated.
Thank you.
Leonardo Pavese

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Italian Album

A few beautiful and interesting pictures, and hopefully rarely seen in the United States.
Your comments will be greatly appreciated.
Thank you.

Rome, Centocelle Airport (now closed), April 15, 1909. The Wright brothers were in Italy to show their airplane and hopefully win over more clients. The first airplane to fly in Italy had been Delagrange’s Voisin, on May 25,1908.

1919. The Royal Army wants to contribute to the development of air transportation. A SVA (Savoia Verduzio Ansaldo) of the 66th Fighter Squadriglia of the Italian Royal Army is loading the mail for the Pisa, Piacenza, Milan, Turin postal route.

The Caproni Ca.1 (Ca.300 HP)  three-engine airplane was a former bomber, redesignated Ca. 31 and Ca.32 in the post-war period and modified for passenger service with the installation of a cabin. It usually was equipped with three Colombo D. 110 engines or, as an alternative, three 350 hp FIAT A.1o/I.F.-V.

The Caproni Ca.5 was one the first military triplanes that were modified with an enclosed cabin to transport up to ten passengers. This version, with I.F.-V.6 or FIAT A.12 bis engines, was designed by Dr. Tommaso Sarri.

The beautiful FIAT AL (Aereo Limousine), equipped with a 300 hp FIAT A.12 engine, could carry five passengers at km/h 185 (100 knots) and was the first passenger airplane built by FIAT.

The beautiful Dornier “Mercurio” (Hermes) air-ambulance, could carry ten passengers with a 685 hp BMW engine. It was built by CMASA (Costruzioni Meccaniche Aeronautiche Società Anonima), under license from Dornier for a Swiss operator. German company Dornier licensed the construction of aircraft to foreign countries, to elude the restrictions imposed by the Treaty of Versailles. The fourth man from the left is Antonio Locatelli, who was killed by Abyssinians guerrillas in Ethiopia,  in 1936, and decorated with a gold medal for military value.

One of the early Italian civilian passengers routes was the Milan to Venice that was instituted in 1920, and was flown solely  by rigid airships. This is the Esperia, in flight over the Po Valley. The Esperia was actually German Zeppelin LZ120 Bodensee, the first airship built by the yard of Friedrichsafen after WWI, which had carried out a very successful passenger service, before being turned over to Italy in July of 1921 as part of the war reparations.

Breda gets into the act.
This Breda B.1, registered I-BAGM and christened Italia, was a Caproni Ca.5 bomber modified at the aircraft workshop of Bresso (Milan). It flew the Milan to Rome route.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Libya from the Air (With a Brief Look at Morocco)

Cyrenaica: A two-seat SVA in air-cooperation with a Squadriglia of Italian Royal Army's armored cars. 

The Italian Royal Army was the first armed force in the world to employ aircraft in combat, during the 1911-12 Italo-Turkish War for the control of the territory that became modern Libya. After the end of WWI the Italian airplanes were back in force on their Fourth Shore (as the Italians called Libya), and it was there, where airplanes had fought for the first time in history, that the European colonial forces grew their wings and learned to fly.

The following is a translation of an excerpt of an Italian "Storia dell'Aviazione," written by various authors and published in weekly installments in Italy by Fratelli Fabbri Editori S.p.A. beginning in 1973 (this comes from issue N. 42). After the Libyan chapter I added a page about what the Spanish airmen were facing in Morocco at about the same time.

I hope you will find it interesting, and your comments will be very appreciated.
Thank you, L. Pavese.

  Air Forces in the Colonies 

At the beginning of the war against the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Kingdom of Italy had already been experiencing some troubles with taking control of the military situation in Libya.
During the two years from the completion of the initial occupation (1912) to the outbreak of hostilities in Europe (1914), the Italian troops had not been able to subjugate the rebel Libyan tribes or to gain complete control of the inland territories, let alone the oasis that was still in the hands of Ahmed Sharif as-Senussi, a religious chief hostile to Italy.
At the outbreak of WWI, the Italians had withdrawn all the aircraft from Libya, and they were not going to redeploy any other airplanes there until 1915. Therefore, for a period of about fifteen months, the Italians troops in Libya were deprived of the precious support of the air force, in the country where the airplane had received its baptism of fire.
Unwilling to tie down men and materials in the new colony, the Italian government gave the order to abandon all the inland garrisons, postponing the problem of the full pacification of Libya to after the end of the war in Europe. As a result, the occupation of the northern African country remained limited to a narrow band of land along the coast; but communications became precarious very soon, because coasting navigation was imperiled by enemy submarines and also because the Libyan rebels were supplied with weapons by the enemies of Italy.
As the Italian war effort increased on the European front, the disturbance actions grew in intensity on the part of the Libyans, who became more and more daring and also attacked – sometimes successfully – very important towns and garrisons.
For this reason, in the second half of 1915, the Italians were forced to rebuild an air force in Libya, not only for the purpose of maintaining communications between the garrisons but, above all, to perform a careful reconnaissance of the territory. But the requirements of the operations against the Austro-Hungarians did not permit the Italians to deploy to Libya the necessary number of aircraft, which caused the air operations to be very limited in scale; although practically every land operation was supported by aerial reconnaissance. In particular, the availability of several Caproni tri-motors, which with machine guns and light bombs easily controlled the caravans of camels crossing the desert, turned out to be very advantageous. But, above all, the availability of reconnaissance aircraft always kept the Italian military leaders well informed about the movement of the enemy and the concentrations of the guerrilla forces.

Tripolitania: a  tethered balloon extends the visual range of a mechanized unit. 

Flour from the air

In December 1918, right after the end of WWI, the Italian air force in Libya was vigorously reinforced. In mid 1919, it numbered 90 aircraft (20 of which were still being assembled) and 6 observation balloons.
The airplanes were immediately employed to extend surveillance and to maintain the mail connections among the presidios without interruptions. In several occasions, the military aircraft transported passengers, evacuated casualties and also performed demonstration flights for friendly Libyan chieftains.

Meanwhile the Italian military high command was elaborating a new strategy of movement, based precisely on the use of the air force. This new operational doctrine foresaw the almost complete elimination of burden animals, the replacement of heavy and automatic weapons with more modern ones and the assignment of several aircraft to each unit. This objective, that was eventually achieved, was to reach the high level of agility that was the only way to fight effectively the highly mobile camel-mounted rebels.
The fine-tuning of the new techniques, the training, the concentrations of troops and the completion of the necessary political steps took about three years. During that period, the contribution of the air force in Libya was significant; but the airplanes became essential in the six following years, from 1922 to 1927, when Libya was completely reconquered and totally pacified.
The Italians also employed the aircraft extensively for logistical tasks. Significant was the example of the garrison of Aziziya, cut off by the rebels who had also interrupted the railroad to Tripoli. Five Caproni tri-motors and a few reconnaissance SVA were charged with re-supplying Aziziya. In about two months, from mid February to mid April, five Caproni’s air-lifted more than forty metric tons of food and three tons of various material; they transported an entire company of Eritrean Askari (213 men) and evacuated 65 wounded and sick troops and 53 civilians.

1921: A tri-motor Caproni Ca.3 has just transported a group of Askaris to Aziziya. 

Another one has evacuated civilians.

Medevac with a Ca.3: Note the two stretchers secured to the fuselages.

And even the SVA’s carried food, by tying several bags of flour on the engine cowling with ropes. (That caused also an unusual accident, when one of the bags ripped in flight creating a flour-storm that reduced visibility to zero and forced the pilot of a SVA to crash land).

Libya 1914. Max Slevogt

The retaking of Libya.

At the beginning of 1922, the Italians started a series of wide ranging operations aimed at regaining total control of the country. Initially greater importance was given to Tripolitania, and it was clear from the beginning that the new tactics based on very mobile units supported by aircraft was bearing fruit.
In July of 1923, after one year of operations, the area of Misurata could be considered totally pacified. During that period the air force flew 2139 war missions, dropping more than 18 metric tons of bombs and fragmentation bombs. The airplanes transported more than kg 24000 of supplies, and the pilots landed many times on improvised airstrips to exchange information with the troops.

Italian bombs explode among the rebels

One of the tasks of the Italian air force was also to strafe and bomb the camps of the bands of raiders who, taking advantage of the situation, raided the peaceful Berber people.
During one of these missions, near the Egyptian border, a Caproni with a crew of four was forced to land for mechanical problems on the other side of the border. The aircraft was attacked by a band of raiders who killed the four airmen. The commanding officer was Major Ferruccio Capuzzo, the commander of the Italian air force in Cyrenaica. A fort was dedicated to his name, which was going to be the theatre of epic battles during the Second World War.
In December, when the Italian-British treaty for the definition of the Libyan - Egyptian border was signed, the oasis of Giarabub, the base of the Senussi Sect, remained in Italian territory. The immediate invasion of the oasis was decided. The occupation was completed in February of 1926 with a mechanized unit consisting of tanks, armored cars and trucks, supported by aircraft. Only a few hours after the entry of the Italian troops in the oasis the Caproni tri-motors were taking off with the mail and with the reports of the journalists  that followed the Army.
At the same time another Italian Army column headed for the oasis of Jalo.

Airfield of Slonta:  line-up of Ro.1 reconnaissance aircraft.

Just to give an idea of the conditions in which the Italian aviators were often forced to operate, these few lines excerpted from the report of Colonel Maletti, who led the unit, should suffice:
“A very violent wind was blowing...We heard the roar of an engine. That weather seemed to me absolutely forbidding for flying. The machine, that rocked in a terrifying way, flew over the field at such a low altitude that everybody thought it was looking for a place to land.
“I had the appropriate signals deployed, but the aircraft did not land.
“While it glided to launch a message, we saw it caught suddenly in a downdraft, just over the crest of of dune on which it dropped all at once at a height of not more than a meter or two.
“We thought it was doomed; but it managed to recover and it dropped a sack of bread among our tents, and in it a message in which the aviators said that the atmospheric conditions did not allow them to continue the reconnaissance and that they were forced to return to the base.
“We learned later that the aircraft (a two-seat SVA) had not returned to the base.I ordered the search to start right away...”
In fact the aircraft had been overwhelmed by the desert wind and it had been forced to do an emergency landing; but the officers, the pilot Milanti and the observer De Giuli managed to reach an Italian fort after a two days march.

Bases in the desert

In 1927 the conquest of Libya had been practically accomplished. But there remained several hotbeds of rebellion, and therefore it was necessary to intervene again in the Gebel (the Green Mountain) of Cyrenaica and proceed to the occupation of the Fezzàn and of the oasis of Kufra.
The participation of the Air force in these operations, which were completed in 1931, was actually far more demanding and risky than before. On one hand there was the all but infernal weather, the terrain that was not favorable to off-the-field landings, the interminable missions; and on the other hand the different tactics of the rebels, who had formed very small and extremely mobile units, and had given up carrying along their tents, their families, their burden animals with the baggage and basically all the impedimenta that would make them more detectable.

1927: The 37th Squadriglia SVA on the airfield of Tobruck.

The provisions for the Italian aircraft were carried by caravans of camels burdened with gasoline, oil and bombs. These caravans established forward bases near the combat zones, to allow the aviators to rearm and refuel quickly and return to the sky over the battlefield.
In the words of a pilot that participated in those operations:
“The base usually consisted of an airstrip with a rough or sandy surface (and when one had to take off at gross weight it made one’s hair stand up), a large depot full of barrels of gasoline and oil, a pile of crates of explosive and about twenty tents to house the aviators...
“The ground troops had themselves preceded, escorted and protected by the air force. The airplanes had established their base in Serdeles and they had been flying for a few days without interruption, from dawn to sunset, one pair of aircraft relieving another.
“They encountered unbelievable difficulties to orient and navigate in that fantastic ocean of sand , in which one dune resembles the other: when one thought he had fixed in one’s head the shape of a dune as a reference point, there were ten or one hundred dunes that looked just the same...
“It was not possible to land on the dunes. The wheels would sink causing the plane to overturn. The troops were too far to be able to rescue the crew, but the aviators did not think about that; they didn’t want to...”

1931: Lieutenant Colonel Lordi, chief of staff of the Italian Air Force in Cyrenaica, with Prince  Amedeo, Duke of Aosta, after a reconnaissance flight over Kufra. (Lordi would die in the March 24, 1944  massacre of Fosse Ardeatine .)    
In January of 1931, with the invasion and occupation of the oasis of Kufra ( in which Italian aircraft flew over areas never before overflown by anybody), the conquest of Libya was finally completed; although mopping up operations against isolated bands of rebels went on for some time after that.
Although in the language of the time most of the missions in Libya were called “Colonial police operations,” it is obvious that they were truly military operations. In particular the constant air support given to the land units expanded the operational horizon and demonstrated the possibility of a very close cooperation between ground and air forces.

A few years later, with more advanced techniques and aided by radio communications, the Germans first and later the Allies would demonstrate beyond doubt the validity of the concept of air-cooperation with ground forces.

Something else was going on in Eastern Africa; but that's another story.

Meanwhile, in Morocco...

The Rebellion of Abd el-Krim

While the Italian Air Force was seriously engaged in Africa, against the rebels and the raiders of inland Libya, the Spanish military aviators had their hands full with a large scale operation against the rebel tribes of the Riff.
The use of military aircraft, in this sector, had begun right after the Italians had employed the aircraft, for the first time in history, in the Libyan War of 1911-12.
As early as 1913, the Spanish Army’s air arm had recorded her first casualty: Lieutenant Pilot Rios Angueso, killed by a rifle shot from the Moroccan rebels, near Tetuàn.
At the beginning of the 1920’s, the operations in Morocco took an unexpected turn for the worse, due to the fighting spirit of a valiant and very combative Muslim leader, Mohammed ibn Abd el-Krim, the son of a great Moroccan ruler, who had previously been and ally of the Spaniards in the fight against the rebels, but had switched sides due to the harshness of Spanish General Silvestre.
Cuban born General Manuel Fernández Silvestre y Patinga, who was the territorial military commander, distinguished himself for his brutal treatment of both enemies and allies that ultimately caused widespread rebellion.

General Silvestre 

In June of 1921, at a place known as Anoual, near the Mediterranean coast, Abd el-Krim inflicted the Spanish forces a severe defeat. In the battle, the Spaniards suffered 11,000 casualties, and lost an immense quantity of rifles and ammunition. General Silvestre went to his tent and committed suicide.
Faced with such unfavorable turn of events, the Spanish Army decided to strengthen its aviation component, and created several escuadrillas equipped mainly with British aircraft, like the Bristol Fighter, to supplement the French Bréguet.

Spanish Breguét XIV's bombers over Morocco

The intervention of the aircraft was decisive. In several cases the Spanish presidios were able to resist the attacks of el-Krim’s men only thanks to the aerial carousels of the airplanes that made great use of light bombs and machine guns.
Very often the Spanish aircraft attacked from a very low altitude, and for that reason they suffered numerous casualties. The rifle fire was intense and efficacious, and the number of wounded pilots who were forced to land grew very rapidly. The Spanish aviation also launched artillery grenades loaded with Yprite gas; but the fact that the bombs were launched in small number, and dispersed, greatly reduced the lethality of the gas.

A Ghost Air Force.

The echo of the feats of the valiant Muslim leader in the whole of Morocco, had raised Abd el-Krim to a position of preeminence among the other rebel chieftains; and Abd el-Krim thought that he could take advantage of his high prestige to unite all the tribes in the fight against Spain.
In 1922, after very subtle diplomatic work, Abd el-Krim proclaimed the Republic of the Riff, which he meant to have internationally recognized. He even appointed a cabinet with four departments (Foreign Affairs, Home, Justice and Finances), and a fifth “ghost’ ministry. The latter, entrusted to the qaid Haddou, was the Department of the Air Force.
As one can imagine, this was sensational news among the Western powers. For the first time, peoples that were considered backwards and rebellious, in a colonial territory, were trying to avail themselves of the most advanced weapon available at the time, to face an imperialist power on a levelled field.
Indeed, Abd el-Krim was rightfully convinced that the air arm was the true strong point of the Spanish Army; and he hoped to be able to counteract with comparable weapons.
Today, it is still being discussed if the Moroccan leader had actually ever had any aircraft at his disposal.
According to some sources, Abd el-Krim did actually buy a few transport airplanes, from a French-capital commercial company that had tried to set up an air transport network in North Africa. The company had gone bankrupt, and the aircraft, supposedly, had been picked up by the government of the Republic of the Riff.
A very rudimentary hangar was actually sighted by Spanish reconnaissance aircraft, and a sizable strike force was launched to destroy it. The mission was accomplished in 1924; and nobody ever heard again of Abd el-Krim’s Air Force.

The Last Resistance.

Regardless of the apparent ease with which the Spaniards had maintained control of the air, the military operations in Morocco went on, for the remainder of 1924, in a much less than satisfactory way.
The entire territory was up in arms, and the garrisons, the presidios and the forts of the Spaniards were besieged by rebel groups that sometimes numbered thousands of militiamen.

A Spanish air arm unit on the the airfield of  Tauima (Melilla)

During this period, the air arm did all it could to resupply the besieged forces with food, ammunition, drugs and most of all ice, to preserve the victuals and to make it possible for the men to resist the infernal temperature of those lands.
The Spanish aviators perfected their air-resupply techniques, based on the use of a large number of airplanes. Part of these aircraft attacked the enemy, who was usually just a few dozen meters from the Spanish lines; while other airplanes flew at a height of a few feet, to drop the supplies safely. The technique was necessary because of the small perimeter of the forts and the redoubts; and by the fact that a miss of just a few feet would have delivered supplies to the rebels.
Nevertheless, the insurgent forces were led by smart leaders, who by that time had become experts at that sort of guerrilla and had set up units armed with rifles, with the sole task to fire at the supply airplanes, ignoring the other aircraft. This cost the Spaniard a skyrocketing increase in casualties, that reached levels never since touched by any colonial air corps. But regardless these successes, that put the Spanish forces on the defensive for the entire 1924, the star of Abd el-Krim was about to set.

The Moroccan leader on the cover of Time in 1925

 In 1925, Abd el-Krim launched his men against the French territory, aiming at the city of Fez. In this instance too, the French managed to contain the pressure of the rebel forces with the massive use of their colonial air force. The determining factor in the war though was that the French and the Spaniards had agreed to proceed jointly, and Abd el-Krim was caught in a crossfire.

French Potez XXV's, based in Biskra, Algeria, at the time.

In 1925, the Spaniards landed in force and launched a great number of airplanes against the rebels, which included the German Dornier Wal seaplanes, license-built in Italy. The insurgents were defeated, and under the pressure of the joint Franco-Spanish forces, especially the air forces, the army of the Republic fell apart.
Abd el-Krim obtained an honorable peace settlement, and was exiled with his family to the island of Réunion, in the Indian Ocean.