Spanish Civil War uniform

Republican infantry advance to the front line in the Gaudarama mountains

Uniforms are always interesting. Today we will get acquainted with the uniforms of the parties to a somewhat unusual military conflict – the civil war of 1936-1939. in Spain, where nationalists who stood up for the preservation of traditional Spanish values ​​and republicans who sought to lead the country along the path of democratic development met with weapons in their hands.

History decreed that this internal conflict became in some way a dress rehearsal for World War II. Others even believe that it was in Spain that it began, because if the nationalists and their allies Germany and Italy had not won there, the latter would hardly have decided to go to war in September 1939.

The uniform theme will be supplemented by the English-language historiography of this interesting theme, or rather, a small part of it: several books by the well-known British publishing house Osprey. In Russian, perhaps, it would be best to read on this topic “The Spanish Diary” by M. Koltsov, “In Memory of Catalonia” by J. Orwell and “For Whom the Bell Tolls” by E. Hemingway. However, Hemingway should name one more work: his play “The Fifth Column”.

So how were the soldiers who fought in Spain in 1936 dressed?

At the time, the Spanish National Army wore a mustard green uniform. The officers wore jackets with four pockets (top with a pleat) and breeches of the same color or beige. Privates – short jackets with two pockets and straight trousers or breeches with button fasteners from top to bottom. The officers had boots made of black or brown leather with shoes, but they could wear high lace-up boots. With boots that did not have high tops, it was allowed to wear separate leggings-tops of the same color or khaki-colored windings and white socks wrapped in a roller. The trousers of the soldiers, dressed in field uniforms, had to be tucked into socks. And, of course, the boots of the privates were somewhat rougher than those of their officers. In general, the equipment of the Spanish army was similar to the French, including the cut of some elements of the uniform. The emblems of the military service were sewn on the sharp corners of the collars, worn on the crowns of caps, on the chest flaps of caped overcoats. Pegs of caps also served to place the insignia of officers.

Berets, caps and turbans: uniforms of the Spanish Civil War

Army of nationalists: 1 – kabo, infantry; 2 – a policeman of the “Spanish Phalanx”, 1937; 3 – soldier of the Navarre division “Requet”, 1936. Fig. Jeffrey Burna

The British publishing house Osprey has published many books on the subject of the Spanish Civil War. Here is one of them


Privates and officers wore high caps with a tassel in the front, trimmed along the seam and the edges of the side cuffs with piping. Moreover, on the officer’s caps the edging was gold. The color of the tassel also mattered. Privates and non-commissioned officers of the infantry had red tassels, but for some reason in aviation they were green. The cavalry pilots had silver trim and insignia. The soldiers of the Spanish Phalanx militia wore blue caps.

The positive aspect of these publications is that many of their authors are Spanish historians, and they write on the basis of documents and materials well known to them.


The soldiers of the “Requet” corps (especially units from Navarre) were the most efficient units of the nationalist army. One of the main elements of their uniform was a red beret with a gold tassel. Many fighters on the left on the chest wore the “Heart of Jesus” patch, around which their mothers, sisters or wives usually embroidered a request to God to protect their beloved: “¡Detente! El Corazón de Jesús está conmigo! ” – “Stop! (appeal to the enemy bullet. – Author) May the heart of Jesus be with me! ” That is why these stripes became known as “detente”. They were embroidered in large numbers by the women’s carlist organizations of nationalists. On the left sleeve, the fighters of the Requet also wore an embroidered Burgundy cross, which was a symbol of the Carlist movement, and their officers, the Requet, wore white lilies on the collar, which was a symbol of the House of Bourbons.

Army of nationalists: 1 – senior sergeant of Bandera of the Foreign Legion of Spain; summer campaign, 1936-1937; 2 – 1st class legionnaire, Foreign Legion of Spain, 1938; 3 – tenente (lieutenant), infantry, summer marching uniforms. Fig. Jeffrey Burna

Army of Nationalists: 1 – General de Brihada; 2 – cabo, infantry, winter uniforms; 3 – private, infantry, winter uniforms. Fig. Jeffrey Burna


The Foreign Legion of the Spanish Army also had its own uniform, which wore a gray-green uniform of the general army type, with the emblem of the legion with a crown against the background of crossed muskets, crossbows and halberds.

Emblem of the Foreign Legion of the Spanish Army

A group of Legion officers, summer 1936


But the Muslim parts of the Moroccans, Mauritans and others who were in North Africa wore uniforms in the traditions of the Arab national costume. All of this, including the insignia of the insignia, looked like an army uniform. Although the main vestment of all African Muslim connections was usually a turban.

Here is a detailed account of the Nationalist army with illustrations by Stephen Welch


In general, there were enough bright emblems and stripes on the Spanish uniforms of nationalists, especially, of course, the red berets of the Requet, with gold and silver tassels, which could be spread like pancakes, and small, neat, were striking.

And here is the story of the famous Spanish international brigades. Illustrations by Mike Chapelle


So, a long (from the elbow to the shoulder), with an upward angle, a narrow chevron made of braid of red or green color meant “soldado de example” – in our opinion a corporal. A red triple braid (green in aviation), sewn obliquely above the cuffs on the left and right, denoted a cabo – corporal. The sergeant – sarhento, the galloons were already gold or silver: gold in the infantry and silver in the cavalry. Brihada (senior sergeant or sergeant major, sergeant-major) on a cuff or on his chest, as well as on his cap on the side, wore a double vertical stripe made of galloon.

Spanish Foreign Legion. Everything about him is here … Illustrations by Brian Faustin


On berets, they also wore insignia, both in front and on the side, which depended on the rank. Officer stars on caps were worn in front under a tassel.

The officers’ stars were sewn at the bottom of the sleeve, either on the colored flap on the left of the chest, above the pocket, as well as on the cloak, jacket, or overcoat-cape in the same place.

The red color of the valves corresponded to the infantry, the green was for the mountain rifle battalions, and the blue for the cavalry. A red and black valve distinguished gunners, dark red – engineering troops, yellow – meant military medics, and black – tankers. But the pilots had green trim on their caps, but lapel stars and wings were sewn on a red flap.

Soldier of the Republican army in a traditional overcoat-cape


Officer ranks were designated by asterisks: one gold or silver six-pointed star above the cuff was assigned to Alferes, a junior lieutenant. The tenente (lieutenant) already had two stars, the captain had three, arranged in a triangle. The commander-major had a large eight-pointed star on the cuff; tenente koronel (lieutenant colonel) – two stars; Coronel, Colonel, three Druses located one after another in one line. The General de Brihada wore a four-pointed star on the crosshair of a saber and a staff, embroidered in gold. Two smaller stars on either side of the same emblem were supposed to be the General de Davision. Also, these signs were on the corners of the collar, and on the cap they were shifted to the left.

Army of the Republicans: 1 – Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Republic, General Miakha; 2 – shadow-coronel V. Kopik, commander of the XV international brigade; 3 – cabo, infantry. Behind – a Soviet T-26 tank in camouflage livery of tank units of Republican Spain. Fig. Jeffrey Burna


In summer, instead of jackets and french coats, one could wear gray-green or beige shirts with a longitudinal chest patch corresponding to the rank. Leather jackets were usually issued to specialists in military equipment. The steel helmet had a hemispherical dome, a developed back and visor, which was very similar to the German helmet of the 1916-1918 model. Used in the Spanish army and Adrian’s French helmets. On the helmets, the emblem of the branch of the military was applied in front with a stencil.

Steven Zaloga wrote very interestingly about tanks on the battlefields in Spain.


Tanks were sorely lacking for the Republicans. Therefore, they, having at hand many factories, in large numbers “riveted” such homemade armored vehicles. The abbreviation on the boards meant these or those Spanish trade unions or organizations. For example: UHP, Union of Proletarian Brothers.

But this book can be read in Russian.


Due to the fact that part of the army participated in the mutiny, and part remained loyal to the republic, in the first months of the civil war, the belligerents were very difficult to distinguish. Unless parts of the “Spanish Phalanx” and the “Requet” division were striking with their blue shirts, caps and red berets, and in general the uniforms of the soldiers were the same. You had to be different. Therefore, on October 31, 1936, new elements of military uniform and insignia were introduced in the republican army.

To be continued…

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