Bombardment of Casablanca (1907)

The Bombardment of Casablanca (Arabic: قصف الدار البيضاء; French: Le bombardement de Casablanca) was a French naval attack taking place from August 5–7 in 1907 that destroyed the Moroccan city of Casablanca. France used mainly artillery fire from battleships to bomb the city and targets in the surrounding area, causing an estimated 1,500–7,500 deaths. The bombing followed the insurrection of Casablanca of July 30, 1907, in which tribes of the Chaouia revolted and took control of the city in opposition to French presence in the customs house and the construction of a railroad over a sacred gravesite specifically, and to French colonization generally.

Bombardment of Casablanca
Part of French Conquest of Morocco

The French cruiser Gloire bombarding Casablanca, August 1907 printed on a postcard.
Date5–7 August 1907
Result French victory

The bombing of Casablanca was a portent event in the history of Casablanca as it marked the beginning of the French conquest of Morocco from the West.


After capturing Oujda, French forces turned their sights to Casablanca, domain of the tribes of the Chaouia, known for producing ferocious soldiers.

Five years before the Protectorat, Casablanca was occupied, but the battles continued. Dozens of battles took place within the city, in the periphery, and finally, deeper into the Chaouia.

In 1907, the presence of French agents controlling customs duties, in addition to the start of intense, alienating, and clearly colonial construction, came to a head.

On July 29, a delegation of Chaouia tribes presented itself to Moulay Lamine—governor of the province and uncle of Morocco's young sultan, Abdelaziz El-Alawi—with the desire to demolish the works under way. Another delegation met with the city's pasha, Si Boubker Ben Bouzid Slaoui, protesting and demanding an end to the construction on the port, the destruction of the railroad, and the removal of the French supervisors at the customs house. On July 30, the turmoil in the city increased. In the morning, a public crier sent by the Oulad Hriz tribe called the population to end all relations with the French.

Hajj Hammou, qa'id of the Oulad Hriz tribe, called for jihad and prepared for battle with the French and the Spanish and their associates. People of the Chaouia took to the streets and violence broke out that afternoon, leading to the death of nine European laborers working for la Compagnie Marocaine, the French company chosen to build the port. The protesters stopped the train, the tracks of which ran over the Sidi Belyout necropolis on the way to a quarry up the shore, with a pile of rocks on the track, and attacked the European workers aboard—four French, three Italian, and two Spanish.[1]


Following the insurrection of July 30, 1907, thousands of warriors from the Chaouia, apparently allied with Ma al-'Aynayn, took Casablanca. France, surprised due to poor intelligence, urgently sent for a fleet, which left from Algeria. Saint Aulaire, the diplomat in charge of the French Legation in Tangier, under instruction from Paris, called a number of warships to Casablanca, including the Linois-class cruiser Galilée which was dispatched from Tangier that very night and which arrived on August 1, and the cruiser Du Chayla which arrived on August 4 from Toulon. The morning of August 5, 66 men disembarked from Galilée to protect the French consulate, a move which was criticized by other European powers present in Casablanca, as it aggravated the situation in the city.[2] Foreign warships arrived on the scene, including the English cruiser HMS Antrim[3] and the Spanish gunboat Álvaro de Bazán, which landed 30 men to protect the Spanish consulate.[3] The French protected cruiser Forbin arrived from the Azores. In the late afternoon, once French forces had occupied the French, Swedish, and Portuguese consulates in Casablanca, entering through the Portuguese consulate, Galilée commenced bombardment. On August 7, a French squadron coming from Algeria arrived: Gloire, Gueydon, Dupetit-Thouars, and Condé. They were soon joined by Jeanne d'Arc, Nive, and the hospital ship Shamrock transporting terrestrial forces.

Casablanca was almost entirely destroyed after the bombardment.

Galilée and Gloire bombarded the qasbah causing numerous casualties—"rebels" and civilians alike. The working class neighborhood known as Tnaker (تناكر), located near the port, paid the heftiest price, taking shrapnel from shells filled with "mélinite," a nitric compound adopted by the French government. Houses of worship, including the great mosque and the sanctuary of Sidi Qairawani, were not spared.

The gates to the medina were especially targeted to prevent the entrance of Chaoui combatants.

The bombardment continued through the night and into the morning of August 6. 31 soldiers disembarked from Du Chayla; 44 from Forbin. The Moroccans, despite the considerable losses suffered from the incessant bombardment, continued to fight, inspiring unease within the French troops. The squadron of Rear-Admiral Joseph-Alphonse Philibert brought General Antoine Drude's troops, including first French and Algerian tirailleurs, to shore at the beach of Sidi Belyout, where they were met with Moroccan fire.

On August 7, the disembarked troops of General Drude and the marine riflemen of Rear-Admiral Philibert were able, after fierce combat, to retake control of the city.[4] According to eyewitnesses and diplomatic sources, a "revolution" seemed to have started in Morocco. Some had the premonition that this was only the beginning of a long war between the French and the Moroccans.

Over three days of bombs raining down from the French warships, then carnage and pillaging from troops on the ground, what had been a prosperous city of 30,000 inhabitants was transformed into a field of rubble with nothing spared, with the exception of the European neighborhood.

French sources put the death toll at a conservative 600–1,500, while German sources estimate 2,000–3,000. Moroccan sources, supported by European testimonies, attest that only few rare inhabitants of the city survived after the carnage.

On September 6, the commercial ship Magnus brought the 400 Jews who had fled at the beginning of the insurrection, back to Casablanca from Tangier and Gibraltar.

Notes and References

  1. Adam, André (1968). Histoire de Casablanca: des origines à 1914. Aix-en-Provence: Ophrys.
  2. Adam, André (1969). "Sur l'action du Galilée à Casablanca en août 1907". Revue des mondes musulmans et de la Méditerranée. 6 (1): 9–21. doi:10.3406/remmm.1969.1002.
  3. texte, Parti social français Auteur du (1907-08-06). "Le Petit journal". Gallica. Retrieved 2019-07-19.
  4. Étienne Taillemite, Dictionnaire des marins français, Tallandier, 2002, p. 420
  5. Missing or empty |title= (help)
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