Reginald Rankin.

In Morocco with General d'Amade online

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feet long, and behind them rides the Sultan, all in
white on a white horse, whose bridle and saddle
and breastplate are of Mecca green. Beside him,
on either side, walk two men with large kerchiefs,
which they flick rhythmically to drive away pre-
sumptuous flies from the Shereefian nose. Behind
comes the umbrella-carrier, and behind again a
crowd of gorgeous courtiers. The bands outvie
each other in din ; the troops salute ; the Sultan
rides into the centre of the square. Then the
chiefs are presented to his Majesty by the Minister
for War ; " May you live for ever ! " cry the tribes-
men in unison ; the Sultan touches his breast with
his forefinger, but his answer " May you have
peace ! " is inarticulate. So the function proceeded
witli a repetition which might have proved mono-


tonous had not an opportune madman intervened,
and by mimicking the War Minister to a nicety
flung the whole assemblage into laughter.

Afterwards there was a powder-play. The Moors
are fonder of this diversion than of almost anytliing
else in the world ; and the most unlikely rap-
scallion will produce two or three dollars for the
hire of an old musket in order to take part in the
game. The whole affair is intensely puerile and
boring to a degree. A line of horsemen forms up,
and at a signal dashes off at full speed, the riders
firing off their guns in every direction and in
every position, some leaning over their horses' ears,
others lying back over their saddles, others again
taking cover behind their horses' shoulders, and
astonishing their imaginary foe by winging him
with a shot fired round their horses' necks.

There is a great deal of yelling, and at the end
of a two hundred yards' scurry the unfortunate
ponies are pulled up so short that they sit on their
haunches and drip blood from their mouths. Crow
Indians do the same thing, and do it better. But
it was amusing to a European to hear the cate-
gories into which the competitors were divided.

" His Majesty's cooks " gave a performance ;
and a more unculinary set of individuals it would
be impossible to conceive. " The keepers of his
Majesty's Zoo " next paraded ; leaving the mangy
wapiti still unsulphured, and the perpetually per-
spiring polar bear still ungroomed.


"The Carpet-beaters," the "Lady Whippers,"
the "Tent-pitchers" and a host of others followed,
whose names sounded strangely familiar in con-
nection with English Polo Tournaments.

The Sultan is watching the powder-play from
an upper window ; it is the last Hediya in which
he will ever take part. Perhaps he knows it ;
those eyes of his see far. We ride home with the
crowd, and near the dark tunnel leading to our
hotel a mob is collected. Presently a man, white,
ghastly, bleeding from a dozen wounds, his burnous
soaked with blood, rushes unhindered from a house
and vanishes. What happened there we shall
never know ; perhaps a brutal murder, perhaps a
righteous vendetta. This is Morocco, where the
issues of life and death are hidden from the


About the middle of March M. Regnault, tlie
French Minister in Morocco, and General Lyautey,
who came over from Algeria, met in Casablanca.
Their mission was to discover the appropriate
methods for mitigating the hostility of the well-
thrashed Chaouiyans, and for the introduction of
Arcadian harmony into a land where inter-tribal
feuds and raids are the very breath of the inha-
bitants' nostrils. It must be confessed that the
mission was a redundant futility.

The French Government must have been aware
that the only thing to do with a mehallah of
fanatics is to fight it ; indeed, the mission was
expressly precluded from interfering with General
d'Amade's military plans. On the other hand, the
Government knew that over the greater part of
the Chaouiya the villagers had already returned
to their homes, were occupied as usual with their
agricultural pursuits, and were being encouraged,
by every inducement in General d'Amade's power,
to bring in those of their friends who still remained
intransigent. A priori it was difficult to see what
useful purpose the mission could serve ; and in the


event its sole contribution to the settlement of the
Chaouiya was a report which the French Govern-
ment ought not to have needed — to the effect that
General d'Amade had done, and was doing, every-
thing humanly possible to establish not merely
normal conditions, but a reality of peace and
security in the Chaouiya.

General d'Amade was certainly fortunate in the
choice made by the Government of the personnel
of the mission. General Lyautey was slightly his
senior at St. Cyr, and they have remained close
friends ever since. An ambitious and unscrupulous
man in General Lyautey's position might have
used it in order to obtain for himself the reversion
to the Chaouiya command ; but General Lyautey,
as senior officer, scrupulously refrained from im-
pairing General d'Amade's authority even by taking
part in the fighting ; and when the column moved
out from Ber Rechid to its last considerable fight
at Fekkak, General Lyautey, much, it may be
surmised, against his inclination, refused to be
present even as a spectator, and stayed behind to
practise his administrative persuasiveness on sub-
missive Kaids.

The difficulties the mission had to contend with
were not inconsiderable. Their object was to
restore the jxarden of flowers between Casablanca
and Mediouna to its former status of ploughland,
and to eflect this it was necessary to set up new
tribal executives in the place of those dispersed and


deposed by their share in recent events. To this
end Sultan Abd-ul-Aziz had chosen certain of his
adherents as governors of districts, and with a list
of them in his pocket General Lyautey held a series
of palavers with leading tribesmen. He insisted
that the desolate country should be forthwith re-
peopled ; that the sacked and battered homesteads
should be rebuilt ; that the camel and the donkey
should plough their way through the mallow. The
tribesmen, apparently, had no objection to return-
ing and to carrying out General Lyautey's instruc-
tions ; but when the question of administration
was broached, and Abd-ul- Aziz's nominees were
propounded as their governors, they became ex-
ceedingly recalcitrant. Indeed, they all declared
they would have none of Abd-ul-Aziz or his nomi-
nees ; they were Hafidists to the backbone, and
would sooner go on fighting than accept such

Here was a dilemma. If the Mission insisted
on an executive of Abd-ul- Aziz's nominees, they
were driving tribesmen already submitted into the
ranks of the militant, and indefinitely postponing
the realisation of the Arcadia they had been sent
out expressly to achieve. If, on the other hand,
they admitted Hafidist rulers into their scheme,
they were playing into the hands of the Prince
who was responsible for preaching the Holy War
against Christians, and for organising mehallahs
to fight French troops. This was, perhaps, the


first definite intimation that the French had of the
probable trend of political events in Morocco ; and
when the provocation they had received from Mulai
Hafid is considered, the subordination of their own
impulses to the opinion of their enemies, displayed
in this and in subsequent negotiations, marks a
very high level of moderation and insight.

Amongst all the tribesmen who came to sit
outside General Lyautey's little tent, and to talk
to the big, bluff, vigorous soldier, there were no

There were the Kaids of the Mediouna tribe,
and of the Oulad Zian ; the Oulad Hariz, who
dwell round about their capital of Ber Rechid,
had long been quietly working on their farms.

It was hoped that a short campaign against
the M'Dakra might induce them, too, to fall into
line with the rest of the tribesmen, and to submit
themselves to the good ofiices of the Mission.

While the latter remained at Ber Rechid,
General d'Amade, on the 27th, led the Littoral to
the Oued Ai'ata, the march between the Oulad
Hariz and M'Dakra tribe-lands, where, the same
evening, he was joined by the Tirs from Mediouna.

On this expedition Kann and I had the plea-
sure of the society of Walter Harris, who had come
down from Tangier to lay bare the secrets of the
Mission. He brought with him two of his servants,
a capital camp outfit, and a large but invertebrate
tent, which depended for support chiefly on the


heads of its occupants. Ho bouglit my black liorse
(for I could not resist a small prolit), and conse-
quently I rode my mule Ayesha, who was so fond
of the horse that no efforts on my part could ever
induce her to leave him ; so after Harris I always
went, willynilly, like iron to a lodestone, to an
accompaniment of deafening brays.

The 27th was the wettest and coldest day I
experienced in the Chaouiya. The rain fell in
torrents, and made travelling exceedingly difficult
in a country where small streams with steepish
banks were not infrequent. One of our mules fell,
and did some damage to its load ; the transport
animals all came in dog-tired. It was instructive
to listen to Harris's account of his journey through
this very district with the Sultan a few years pre-
viously, and to contrast the orderly and peaceful
progress of the alien French with the trail of rapine
and desolation left behind him by the Father of his

Harris, as usual, made friends in a minute with
sundry natives, who gave him sour milk to drink,
and made no secret of their political views. The
story was the same all along the road. The Faithful
were the Nazarenes — the Nazarenes were the truly
Faithful, for their own countrymen ground them
down and pillaged them, while the French main-
tained order and stole nothing. Many of them ex-
pressed the fervent wish that the French might
never go away ; it would be so hard to go back to


the old days of iusecurity, of blighted hopes, of
terror. Let those who urge France to withdraw
from the Chaouiya ponder these things, and let
France consider whether it is not the highest
mission of civilisation to bring peace to the rude
hearths of a down-trodden peasantry.

On Saturday, March 26, the force rested at the
Oued Aiata. Its strength amounted to thirty-five
companies of infantry, four batteries of field-guns,
four mountain-guns, two naval quick-firers, four
squadrons Chasseurs, one squadron Spahis, and 120

During the day natives came in with the report
that the M'Dakra had been strongly reinforced by
Hamara Akka, the independent Kaid of the Zezian,
a hundred miles away to the east, through whose
territories the Sultan himself dare not go.

On Sunday the 29th the force marched in two
columns, the Tirs due east, the Littoral slightly
north-east, a distance of perhaps three miles sepa-
rating them when the action began about noon.
For fifteen or twenty iniles we went through a
country of which not a yard was uncultivated ;
vast fields of wheat, barley, flax, and chickpeas
succeeded one another in limitless abundance. But
by noon the force had reached the uncultivable
hills, on whose summits the cavalry had already got
in touch with the M'Dakra, where sheets of delicate
convolvulus turned their faces to the sun, pale to
the pursuing stranger, and deepest blue when he


looked into thuir oyes. Here for two lioiirs tlie
Littoral, with whom was the General, halted, while
away on the rolling downs to the right (south) tlie
Tirs could be descried deploying into battle array.
The fight resolved itself into two parts — that in
which the columns fought separately, and that in
which they converged and drove the enemy across
the Oued Fekkak.

Against the Littoral on the left (north) a con-
siderable body of Moors, who made a fortified
farm their pivot of manoeuvre, employed their
usual enveloping tactics. Holding the French to
their ground by sending clouds of horsemen across
their front (east) at a most respectful distance,
they directed their chief efforts to getting on a
ridge in their rear (west), and in this they were
successful. This movement forced the General to
send up reinforcements, and the somewhat un-
usual sight was seen of two bodies of troops, back
to back, at a distance of some two hundred yards,
firing in opposite directions at their common

At this time, about three o'clock in the after-
noon, the fight was pretty. The two batteries
with the Littoral were kept hard at work, and
there were plenty of casualties in the long line
of Tirailleurs, just below the crest line, who were
beating back the rear attack.

A tremendous fusillade was coming from the

Tirs, and about four o'clock General d'Amade,



who had by that time completely beaten off the
Arabs on his rear and left, marched eastwards to
rejoin it. The Tirs had borne the brunt of the
fighting, for the bulk of the Ai'ab force had fol-
lowed the deep valley of the Fekkak southwards,
and suddenly hurled itself over its western heiglits
on to the advancing French. Early in the day a
squadron of Chasseurs and a squadron of Spahis
had ridden into a body of Moors concealed in the
high grass, and two officers, Silvestre of the 6th
Chasseurs, and Du Boucheron of the 1st Spahis,
who gave his name to the place, and six men
fell. After some smart collisions with the Arabs
on its left the Littoral, about four o'clock, effected
a junction with the Tirs, and the combined columns
united to drive the Arabs down the western heights
of the Fekkak ravine, across the narrow stream,
and up and beyond the frowning wall of moun-
tain beyond. That was incomparably the finest
view I saw in Morocco, and it lost nothing from
the fact that we were the first Europeans who
had ever looked across the rolling sea of the
Achacli hills.

Below us lay the gloomy gorge, hundreds of
feet deep, through which the narrow streak of
river glittered. Sheer from its further bank rose
a steep wall of crag and boulder, dotted with
lentisk-bushes where the red earth gave them
foothold, and away in undulating endlessness to
right and left rose hundreds of isolated rounded


hills, light green with barley on their lower flanks
and pink-topped in the evening glow.

But it was not the moment to admire the
scenery ; the Arabs, still on the near heights, dis-
puted every inch of ground, and the fight was
carried on hotly over a two-mile front. Every gun
was in action shelling the natural fortresses across
the gorge, to which the fainter-hearted of the
Moors were already retreating ; the thunder and
the din are unforgettable.

I was with a company of Tirailleurs ; a dip in
the ground, and a cactus-covered ridge beside a
little slirine, presently shut out the view, and
forced the line to defile in column by the road-
way through the cactus. As it deployed on the
far side a heavy fire came from Moors lying
on the crest, and five Tirailleurs fell in half a
minute. The company lay down and returned the
fire, and then again advanced. It was here that
an unwounded Tunisian Tirailleur lay prone and
took no notice of the order to go on. He said he
was ill and could not walk ; his officer thought he
was shamming, and, shortening his sword, he put
two inches of it into him. The Tirailleur got up
with a yell, but he only went a few yards and
then fell, vomiting blood. No one could have been
nicer to the man than his lieutenant, who apolo-
gised freely for what he had done, and was jubilant
at the thought that the proud record of his com-
pany was still unbroken.


The French had now cleared the western heights
of the enemy, who made their way in the little
parties characteristic of Arab fighting across the
stream, and up the steep paths beyond into the
safety of the hills. The French occupied the line
of the heights, but made no attempt to pursue the
enemy into the impossible country to which they
were retreating. Every gun and every mitrailleuse
turned its attention to the white dots straggling
up to the rocky pinnacles and towers across the
gorge, and the now familiar presence of Mahmoud's
Hafidist mehallah was betokened by the whiz of
shells from his mountain gun.

One or two of these came uncommonly close
over Harris, sitting on his horse enjoying the
spectacle, with Ayesha and me, as usual, in close
attendance. Out of regard for the feelings of sub-
scribers to the Times, I induced him to dismount
and sit down ; a very few minutes' later Mahmoud's
little gun did a thing unparalleled in the whole of
our experience ; it sent over a shell which actually
burst in the cactus a hundred yards behind us, and
did some little damage to a mule. And then Harris
thanked me for making him get off, which he had
hitherto forgotten to do.

The strange bursting of Mahmoud's shell was
too much for the gunners. With one accord they
made haste to locate him, and presently every
muzzle was pointed at the very spire of the rock-
fortress across the ravine. The converging shrapnel


searched every cranny of the boulders, and there-
after Mahmoud spoke no more.

Only the approach of night put an end to th(;
cannonade. The sun sank, lighting the sea of the
eastern hills with a saffron radiance, and tlie columns
wound their way homewards through the darkening
cornfields, ineffectively sniped by distant Arabs.

Black against the western glow stood out the
lines of men and guns as they marched on noise-
lessly through the soft plough. On and on they
trudged under the dim light of the stars over a
rough and difficult country, and it seemed as though
the bivouac would never be found. At the bottom
of a steep descent, in a basin in the hills, a halt was
called, and the flicker of lanterns moving hither
and thither through the dark groups lit up a scene
recalling Dord's pictures of the " Inferno." The fact
was the transport was lost ; or, perhaps, the trans-
port would have said that we were lost. Personally,
being very tired, I lay down in the sopping corn,
and, courting destruction at the heels of Ayesha,
went to sleep. It seemed very soon afterwards
that Harris woke me up, for the column was moving
again along a road flanked by a precipitous bank,
down which many an unwary animal fell. Then
we got into a fig orchard, where low branches
struck us unseen blows, and emerged into the road
again to find eerie figures working with pick and
shovel in the blackness, trying to make it practi-
cable for a string of halted arabas. There was no


need to inquire their burden ; from some came
stifled groans, otliers were silent. At 10 p.m. the
troops reached their bivouac, after seventeen hours'
fighting and marching, with a loss of nine killed
and forty wounded. The next day the columns, at
7.30 in the morning, retired to the heights over-
looking the western plain, where the fighting began
on the previous day. The undaunted M'Dakra
began sniping long before camp was struck, and the
march to Dar ould Sebbah — the farm-fort on the
ridge now called Du Boucheron — had to be pro-
tected by a screen of cavalry and some companies of
infantry detached with a battery of field-guns. But
the attack on the rearguard was never serious, and
the casualties on the French side were only three
wounded. Our road led down a delightful dell
between low hills ; a rippling brook ran through
an orchard of figs flanked by graceful palms, and
the grass beneath the figs was white with great
daisies. Further on the ground was hoed into
neat squares for melon-growing ; an irrigation
channel led to them from the stream ; between the
beds plums and apples and pomegranates were
planted, and roses and quinces hedged the gar-
den in.

The melon grown in these parts is the musk-
melon — long-shaped, green-fleshed, and of exquisite
flavour. Dar ould Sebbah had a familiar look ; it
was the farm the French took on the 8th March,
before the shelling of M'Karto. Standing on the


summit of a ridge, within sight of Ber llechid
across the plain, and commanding the ground in
every direction, it is an extremely strong position,
and was there and then selected by General
d'Amade as the site of a post to overawe the
M'Dakra. The mission came over from Ber Rechid
to confirm the selection, and as Du Boucheron it
ranks as the most important of the " dctachements

Desultory fighting took place during the whole
day, but it would be hardly worth while to mention
it were it not for one extraordinary scene which
took place within range of the French guns.

The M'Dakra, who had come out to fight the
French, now acting entirely on the defensive,
suddenly formed into two bodies, and set upon one
another with great ferocity. It transpired after-
wards that one party was for surrender, and having
enlisted the services of some M'Zamza, fell suddenly
upon the intransigents. But the latter were the
tougher in battle as in purpose, and the hands-
uppers had to give in and go on fighting.

On April 1, at noon, the French flag was hoisted
over Du Boucheron, the walled house on the hill.
The main body of the troops was encamped on
spurge-clothed slopes across a little valley, and
stood to arms outside their tents. The bugles
sounded " Au drapeau ! " ; the troops presented
arms ; in the middle of the square the General and
his stafi* saluted.


That evening news came that a Goumier, carry-
ing despatches to Ber Rechid, had Ijeen robbed of
his letters by natives. A small force of Spahis and
Goumiers were sent to capture and punish the
malefactors, and w^hen on their quest were accosted
by a German, who informed them that the thieves
in question were his proteges and must on no
account be injured either in their persons or their
properties. Scant attention was paid to this cool
request ; indeed, most people believed that if the
natives had not been German proteges they would
not have interfered with French mail-bags.


To all appearance Casablanca is destined to be a
second Suakin. The declarations of the Council of
Ministers at Paris and at Madrid seem to prove that
France and Spain are going to confine themselves
strictly within the limits of the Act of Algeciras,
and that desjoite the cordial understanding which
prevails between the two Powers and England, no
final action is to be taken at present with regard to
the settlement of the Moroccan question. Yet in
1908 the British flag waves over the wide lands
which lie between Wady Haifa and Mombasa, and
the reasons why Casablanca may yet be the base
whence French influence will spread over El Mogreb
el Aksa are not less potent than those which led
Lord Kitchener from Wady Haifa to Khartoum
and from Khartoum to Gondokoro.

What would the refusal of France to deal with
the Moroccan question now mean to the world ? If
she shirks the larger issue involved in the proclama-
tion of Mulai Hafid and his preaching of the Jehad
and restricts her operations to the mere policing of
the Chaouiya, her " great refusal " will incalculably
increase the power of PanTslam, and will go far to
convince non-Europeans that Europe has ceased to


be a conquering force. To many a Mohammedan
Morocco is what Palestine was to the contem-
poraries of Peter the Hermit, and Fez is the one
Muslim sanctuary still inviolate in Africa. For three
centuries the shores of the Western Mediterranean
felt the consequences of the Spanish and Portuguese
failures in the sixteenth century — before Algiers, at
the Goletta and at Kassr-el-Kebir ; nor were these
consequences wholly obliterated until France in the
nineteenth century carried her flag into the Sahara.
Those who have read the Times articles on the
Hedjaz Railway know that Islam can profit by the
scientific methods of the present day, just as the
Algerians and Tunisians profited by the lessons of
Elizabethan seamen, and it is therefore certain that
if France shrinks from undertaking the settlement
of the Moroccan question her failure to do so will
shake the position of all the European Powers in-
terested in the African world. Have those who
know the East forgotten the results of the Turkish
victories over the Greeks in 1897? Do we wish

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Online LibraryReginald RankinIn Morocco with General d'Amade → online text (page 16 of 18)