Tanks of the Spanish Civil War. Confrontation in numbers and colors

The Spaniards willingly put Soviet T-26 tanks in their museums: this is also theirs. That is, the USSR supplied them not only to the Republicans, but also … to the Francoists! After all, if not for the Soviet Union, they would not have seen these tanks as their ears! Tank T-26 in the artillery museum in Cartagena

I left the hut
I went to fight
To land in Grenada
Give it to the peasants.
M. Lights. Grenada

Behind the pages of civil wars. The topic of the Spanish Civil War aroused great interest among the readers of “VO”, so today it will be continued.

That war is disgusting in any form is an axiom that does not require proof. But the most disgusting form of war is civil war, during which the idiocy of people increases so much that a brother can raise his hand against his brother, children betray their parents, and a neighbor goes with a pitchfork to a neighbor. It was in Russia, and the consequences of this nightmare are still felt (!), And a war of similar intensity took place in 1936-1939. in Spain. Well, both countries are peasant in essence, hence the similarities. However, Soviet historians for a long time assessed it as … “the national liberation war of the Spanish people”, and this interpretation needs certain explanations. It should be borne in mind that then on Spanish soil various forces and vectors of development collided simultaneously: democracy and totalitarianism, market and anti-market relations, and all this happened in a backward peasant country to the core, with a mass of feudal remnants, with the patriarchal psychology of the masses. … But from a political and also from a military point of view, it was a kind of prelude to the Second World War, let’s say: its “dress rehearsal” at the European theater of operations, where both military equipment and tactics of its use on the battlefield, in the air and on sea.

And here he is, but in a different coloring. Please note that the tank is a commander, that is, with a handrail antenna. But only the antenna racks are cut off from it. Museum in Valencia

But for some reason it was this aspect of the Spanish war that was the worst known in our country! Although, perhaps, you can say this: it is known, but not too deeply. The Navy and the Air Force were lucky: since there is about Spain in the memoirs of Admiral Kuznetsov, and there are works of modern authors on Spanish battleships. The famous “Spanish Diary” by Mikhail Koltsov is full of detailed and emotional descriptions, but can they be trusted 100% today? There are a number of works on Spanish aviation. For example, a lot of attention was paid to Spanish planes at one time by such a magazine as “Modelist-Constructor”, but the tanks of that war were not too lucky. There was also an article about them in the journal Technics and Armaments, but that was a long time ago. A monograph was planned for the journal Technics for Youth, but it never came out. The artist prepared illustrations for it, the author ordered photographs from the Imperial War Museum in London, the magazine issued an announcement, but that was the end of it. True, they managed to publish it in the St. Petersburg publishing house “Polygon” (1999). However, it was also published a long time ago, the circulation was not too large, so that today it has already become a bibliographic rarity. And besides, judging by the questions asked in the comments on “VO”, it is unlikely that the topic of Spanish events will be exhausted in the foreseeable future, as, indeed, the topic of the Great Patriotic War, on which many archival materials are still closed, and open on it “everything” is planned only … in 2045!

Tanks of the Spanish Civil War.  Confrontation in numbers and colors

T-26 stationed in Salamanca

So learning more about the tanks of the Spanish war will hopefully be not only interesting, but also instructive. Indeed, this material, like the books of the Polygon publishing house, is based on research by Spanish and English authors. In particular, the work of Hugh Thomas, which was not yet translated into Russian at that time. Well, the reason why little has been written about her in the past is quite understandable. We lost the “war” there, and our historians in Soviet times simply could not use Western sources! Well, who would have dared to write to the Spanish Ministry of Defense before 1975 and ask for photos and information on this topic? And then … too. Well, our former Spanish military advisers, who later became our “prominent military leaders”, clearly did not try to tell about their own mistakes, even if they were made to please the almighty leader. After all, it was obvious who was better able to use the experience of Spain. However, even today this experience, in addition to purely academic interest, also has practical significance: civil wars and local military conflicts on the planet continue as before. This is the first thing. Secondly, conclusions are drawn from them, and very often the same erroneous ones. Thirdly, the availability of a variety of information teaches people to think, and this is useful in any system, any ruler and in any macro- and microeconomic situation!

Figures and facts of war

Let’s start with the funniest fact that clearly shows how things stand with our historical information, namely, that the exact number of Soviet T-26 and BT-5 tanks sent to Republican Spain is still unknown. At the same time, Western historians usually exaggerate the amount of equipment supplied, but ours, on the contrary, try to underestimate. Well, we will begin to get acquainted with these figures from Wikipedia, which knows everything: “… in total, during the years of the civil war, the USSR supplied Republican Spain with 297 T-26 tanks, 50 BT-5 tanks and 120 armored vehicles (80 BA-6, 33 FAI and seven BA-I), and also sent 351 specialist tankers, and the same figures are given by the historian A. Rozin (“Supply of the Spanish Republic with weapons. 1936-1939”)

Model T-26 in 1:35 scale, and it is the Spanish version, today many model firms are producing …

I. P. Shmelev, a recognized authority on the history of BTT in our country, wrote in his monograph “T-34” that 362 tanks were sent to Spain, but there are other data – 347. But the figures of the Spanish historian Rafael Trevino Martinez absolutely others: about 500 T-26 and 100 BT-5 tanks, and that’s not counting the many armored vehicles.

And you can assemble such a beautiful model!

The number of 362 tanks is also found in the French historian BTT Raymond Surlemont. He cited such data in the magazine “Armoredkar”, but added at the same time that the USSR in Spain, in addition to tanks, supplied another 120 FAI armored vehicles and another cannon BA-3 / BA-6.

But the English historian Hugh Thomas, whose monograph on the history of the Spanish Civil War in the West has already gone through several editions and is recognized in English-speaking countries as perhaps the most solid research on this topic, reports that there were about 900 tanks in Spain sent from Russia. , and even adds 300 BA to them. Our modern historians A. Isaev, V. Goncharov, E. Drig, I. Koshkin, A. Masterkov and M. Svirin in the book “Tank Breakthrough. Soviet tanks in the battles of 1937-1942. ” claim that this data is also inaccurate and should not be trusted.

It turns out that only our Defense Ministry can shed light on the history of deliveries to Spain, but it is silent, like a partisan before the Gestapo. Therefore, the only thing that can be talked about with absolutely certainty and proof is not about the quantity, but about the quality of the military equipment supplied to the Spaniards. There is no doubt that the tanks delivered to the republicans from the USSR in all their combat characteristics were superior to the vehicles sent to the Francoists from Germany and Italy! So, the Italians supplied Franco 149 of their “light tanks” (in our opinion, tankettes) CV 3/35 Fiat-Ansaldo and another 16 armored cars “Lancia-Ansaldo” EM model as early as 1917. The first five tankettes entered the country on August 16, 1936, and armored cars on December 22, but were used only for training. On September 29, 10 more tankettes arrived, three with flamethrowers, and so on, throughout the war. They created a company with mixed crews and showed it to General Franco on October 17, 1936 at a military parade. They went into battle on October 21 on the road leading to Madrid, near the village of Navalkarnero. And although they knocked the Republicans out of him, one tankette was lost in the process. However, the fact of victory was obvious, so the nationalists immediately named their “tank unit” “Navalkarnero”! Then, on October 29, these same tankettes met for the first time with T-26 tanks. And the meeting ended with the fact that our tank knocked out officer P. Berezi’s tankette with a direct hit, and her entire crew was killed. And the second tankette was also damaged, although our tank received serious damage, but only … from the fire of nationalist artillery. And in the fall of 1936, in the battles for Madrid, an Italian tank company lost four vehicles, three tankers were killed, seventeen were wounded and one was reported missing. On December 8, 1936, another 20 tankettes were sent from Italy.

T-26 “radio”, that is, with a walkie-talkie, but for some reason a sawn-off hand-held antenna, and, therefore, without a walkie-talkie. But with a “Voroshilov machine gun” and an anti-aircraft machine gun mount. Army of the Republic

These battles showed the Italians the complete unsuitability of their vehicles in the fight against tanks from the USSR. For example, near Guadalajara, the Italians lost 45 tankettes (and about ten CV3s were captured by the Republicans in good condition). While the Republicans themselves lost seven tanks and five guns. And what? They immediately sat down, thought, and … began to use their tankettes as part of mixed units, along with armored vehicles, motorcycles with machine guns, cavalry and motorized infantry of nationalists. They received the name “fast units” (just like our “rapid response” units!), And it turned out that in this capacity they operate much better! Attacking where the Republicans did not have tanks, they occupied Santader, and already in March-April 1938 they carried out a successful offensive in the mountainous region of Montenegro. In July 1938, they were reinforced with the German 37-mm RAK-36 guns, after which they were able to break through the Republican front at Teruel and advance over a distance of more than 100 kilometers!

Italian “tanks” in the battles of Guadalajara. Bundesarchiv, Germany

However, it was only in December 1938 that the last 32 Italian tankettes arrived in Spain. Now this part of the expeditionary corps received the name of the regiment and already consisted of a headquarters, two battalions of tankettes with Italian crews (two companies in each), a battalion of tankettes with Spanish crews, a motorized battalion, one company of armored vehicles, another company of motorcyclists and an infantry company of the Bersagliers. This also included the Orditi battalion, as well as an artillery battalion from a battery of 65-mm Italian mountain guns, a battery of 37-mm German RAC-36 and a fairly large number of 47-mm and 45-mm trophy guns.

T-26 “radio”, republican, in camouflage

In December 1938, this unit advanced in Catalonia and once again managed to break through the Republican front. However, all these defeats were very carefully compensated by the efforts of the republican press. So, on January 17, 1939, when the Republican troops were retreating along the entire front, the newspapers published a message about the feat of a corporal named Celestino Garcia Moreno, who in the Coloma de Queralt area met face to face with 13 Italian tankettes and … with the help of hand grenades successively blew three of them. Then he opened the hatches on them with a pickaxe and took five tankers prisoner, after which 10 surviving tankettes turned into a shameful flight! But no matter what heroic deeds the Spanish Republican soldiers performed, on January 26, nationalist tanks still entered Barcelona, ​​and on February 3, 1939, the Italians lost their last tankette during the assault on the city of Girona, quite close to the border with France. On February 10, they already reached the border, capturing 22 republican tanks, 50 guns and about 1000 machine guns during the offensive! On February 28, 1939, the armored units of the Italians entered Alicante, after which they participated only in parades: on May 3 at the parade in Valencia and on May 19 during the parade on the occasion of the victory in Madrid. In total, the Italians lost 56 tankettes, but they fully justified their motto “Quickly to Victory”!

T-26 in the livery of the nationalists

PS The administration of the site and the author are grateful to A. Sheps for the high quality drawings of tanks provided for the design of the cycle.

To be continued…

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