Biography of Manuel Fernández Silvestre (1871-1921)

Military Spanish, born in Caney, Cuba, on December 16, 1871. Dead in Annual (Morocco), on July 21, 1921.

He was born in a family of military tradition, his father was commander Víctor Fernández and Pentiaga, married Eleuteria Silvestre Quesada, his mother remarried. On August 30, 1889 it attained square of cadet in the infantry Academy in Toledo, where he/she distinguished himself for his studies, as well as the cavalry implementation Academy, where he/she earned the rank of second lieutenant. It is in these years of military training when he/she had as fellow student to Dámaso Berenguer Fusté, also born in Cuba and two years less than Manuel Fernández Silvestre. Your overseas destination was his homeland, Cuba, where he/she arrived in Buenos Aires steam, on November 15, 1895 upon landing in Nuevitas. In the following two years he/she remained continuously in campaign, conducting operations against pro-independence rebels. In this period were distinguished by its value and it was creating in his around the legend of his good fortune. On May 8, 1896 at the head of his squad, he/she participated in the so-called action of Arango, where he/she only killed twenty-eight enemies using only melee weapon. That same year, on December 2, was shot in the forehead in Sabana de corn, wound that narrowly not caused the death. Quickly recovered, on 13 and 14 December 1896 could again prove their worth in the action of Pinar del Rio, where, after killing the enemy on three of the horses riding, managed a fourth to return to combat. In the summer of 1897, in the month of July, he/she joined square hospital, suffering from malaria. On January 11, 1898, in the action of charity and already ascended to the rank of Captain, Manuel Fernández Silvestre was again wounded by two shot during the initial charge made by his squad. Other injuries, in the second charge, there were three bullet as well as thirteen hacked, spread throughout the body. On that day, he/she received 18 wounded, with a total of 22 injured in two years, resulting in a serious loss of his left arm.

After the defeat of the war of Cuba, landed in La Coruña on August 29, was promoted in September by merits of war in the last mentioned action, with the rank of Commander. In Spain he/she married on December 15, 1899 Elvira Duarte of Oteiza, Manuel had a daughter name Elvira, and a son, name. After a series of destinations in Peninsular barracks of Alcalá de Henares, Guadalajara, Madrid and Zaragoza, he/she was appointed in January 1904 to North Africa, Melilla. There he/she was put in charge of Cavalry of Alcantara hunters battalion. The members of this unit was able to print them his vision and acting military, so that years later, after repeated loads with melee weapon against the enemy on 22 and 23 July 1921, the maximum Spanish military decoration, the Cruz Laureada de San Fernando was awarded to the unit.

In 1908, he/she obtained the official title of Arabic language interpreter, whose study was dedicated since arriving in Melilla. He/She was awarded the highest rating among 14 students who obtained such a title that year. A young 26 years rifan teacher, Muhammad Abd al-Krim, qualified with outstanding consideration.

On January 19, 1907 died his wife suddenly. In such circumstances, Manuel Fernández Silvestre craft in their world, devoting to their studies of Arabic and in command of his unit.

In 1911 began the anti-espanoles movements in North Africa: Berber family of the Banu Laek, allies of the Spaniards, are killed in the city of Larache; on 13 July of that year the Spanish residents in Larache have of disarming on the docks of the port of the city fearing an attack. Manuel Fernández Silvestre, now with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, was sent aboard the battleship Spain, coming from Casablanca. Upon arrival he/she began talks with one of the local indigenous chiefs, called Al-Raisuni, which reaches an agreement that leaves the doors open to Spanish residents. Those same years the situation in Morocco between Spain and France was tense. Silvestre accumulated Spanish troops in Larache and reached an agreement with Al - Raisuni in the summer of 1912 to attack the city of Arcila, where at that time was a detachment of French troops doing the laying of the telegraph line between Arcila and Tangier. On 17 August the French abandoned clay. This situation poses a diplomatic crisis between Spain and France, which concluded, following the assassination of Canalejas, then head of Government, with the abrupt signing on November 30, 1912 an agreement of distribution of Morocco between the two countries. Spain stayed with 21,000 square kilometers in the North of Morocco, poor, rugged and unruly part population area, while France stayed with 415.000 square kilometers in the South of Morocco.

In January 1913, Manuel Fernández Silvestre was promoted to the rank of Colonel, appointment he/she received in Madrid where he/she was as a guarantor of the al - Raisuni candidature for the post of Caliph. The situation became complicated when Captain Guedea, on behalf of Manuel Fernández Silvestre, freed a few captives prisoners of Al - Raisuini. Such facts, he/she presented his resignation, which was rejected by the Government. At this time began the rift of wildlife with political power. In spite of this and what happened in Arcila, amounted to brigadier on 16 June 1913, although apparently he/she was relieved of his position in a manner reserved by a telegram received from the Minister de Guerra.

After the end of the first world war, the Spanish protectorate in North Africa was transformed into its political and administrative division. The three previously existing General command were reduced to Ceuta and Melilla, while he/she received the post of commanding general of Ceuta. Soon after, the general Berenguer, Cuban as he, fellow military student, two years younger and also with the favour of the King, received the post of High Commissioner, stood above Manuel Fernández Silvestre. Thus began the differences between Berenguer and wildlife on the pacification of the protectorate; Although both appreciated each other, Sylvester was more impulsive and field disobeyed more than one order. This could be because he/she hoped the appointment of a High Commissioner, suffering a major disappointment when Dámaso Berenguer received the charge. However, was Berenguer who suggested him for the general command of Melilla, after the cessation of wildlife as commanding general of Ceuta.

This situation occurred in 1920 the revolt of Al - Raisuini, starting a new war, which meant an increase of military expenditures and discontent and demoralization among the recruits. However, in that same year was created the legion and was the taking of the town of Chefchaouen. At the same time began operations in the area of the surrounding Melilla Rif, necessary for fast start-up start-up of mining operations. From Melilla, with a Spanish garrison around 30,000 soldiers, Silvestre started in 1921 the occupation of several villages. In the month of may reach the river Ameqran, by the rifian as the limit of Spanish expansion. Silvestre, unaware of this situation moved across the River, so the flanks of the advance foreigns and also too extended their own lines. On 17 July the rifian troops, under the command of the former Professor of Arab general Silvestre, Muhammad Abd al - Krim, attacked the Spanish lines. NI Berenguer or wildlife thought to be part of one greater plan, and on July 18 the Spanish troops began to retreat. On July 21, 1921 it was attacked and encircled Annual, the stronger position of Spaniards in the area. Started a flight in rout and Silvestre, unable to organize the defense or at least one orderly withdrawal, killed himself or was killed by the rifian. Era. (See war of Morocco).


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G. AYACHE: origines Les guerre du Rift. Publishing Maspero, Paris, 1982.

M. MARTIN: Spanish colonialism in Morocco. Publishing Ruedo Ibérico, Paris, 1973.