Bt5 1 St Tank Division Ebro Campaign 1938

Prior to the Teruel fighting in late 1937, the Republican tank force was consolidated into a tank division with the surviving BT tanks in a separate regiment. In a departure from the usual practice, the turret was painted in the Republic flag colors of purple, yellow, and red. It is unclear if this was done with a BT-5 that had been recaptured from the Nationalists, or was simply a way of distinguishing the relatively rare BT tanks.

Spanish Civil War TankTank Soviet Destroyed
The final delivery batch of T-26 tanks were the Model 1937, which had the P-40-UM antiaircraft machine-gun mount on the roof. This Republican tank was captured by the Cuerpo de Ejército Marroquí and put on display with other captured equipment at an exhibition in San Sebastián in 1938. (NARA)

a three-axle truck chassis patterned on the Soviet BA-3 armored car. This was called the Blindado Modelo B.C. and was based on the Ford SD 1.5 ton truck with Thornton Truxmore Timken Third Axle Drive (6x4). About 275 were ordered and about 70-140 were completed at the Hispano-Suiza plant in Barcelona starting in 1937. Some of the later vehicles were built on imported Chevrolet 1.5 ton Series S Model 1937 and Series T 1938 trucks. The standard version was fitted with a locally designed turret with a short 37mm French SA.18 gun as used on the Renault FT tank, but a small number were fitted with the larger 45mm gun turrets from damaged Soviet tanks and armored cars. The Nationalists sponsored at least two tank-production schemes, the Ansaldo Carros de Combate de Infantería in 1937 with Italian help, and the Carros Verdeja, designed by a Spanish tank officer; however only single prototypes were built.

In May 1938, the Republican armored force had 176 tanks and 285 armored cars, and in December 1938, 126 tanks and 291 armored cars. The character of the armored force continued to shift in the direction of a road-bound force tied to armored cars and protected trucks as the inventory of tanks shrank due to combat and mechanical attrition.

The last major campaign in which Soviet tank crews participated was the bitter fighting for Teruel from December 15, 1937, to February 22, 1938. The first of the new tank divisions was committed to the fighting, consisting of two T-26 battalions, the remnants of the International Tank Regiment, and other supporting units with a total of 104 tanks. The division was not used as a unified force nor had it ever been intended to be used as such. Instead, component battalions were assigned to support various divisional attacks. The fighting took place under difficult circumstances - extremely cold weather,

The most widely manufactured armored vehicle in Spain during the war was the UNL-35 armored car built in Valencia on a light truck chassis. It was armed with a single machine gun in the hull and one in the small turret, and a pair is seen here in 1938 after being captured by the Nationalists. (NARA)

Turret Gun Cars For Irish Civil WarLancia 1zm 1939
A column of derelict Republican vehicles in Madrid after the Nationalist victory in 1939. The UNL-35 armored car seen here is missing both its turret- and hull-mounted machine-guns. (Author's collection)

heavy snow, poor roads, and in mountainous country. The tank units were praised for their efforts by the infantry they supported. While the Teruel campaign has seldom attracted much attention for its tank actions, it was carefully studied by the Red Army. What was striking about the campaign was that the tank force was able to function at all. By the end of 1937 the tanks had exceeded their expected mechanical lifespan, yet the tank units were able to maintain a respectable fraction of their tanks in combat on a daily basis, and overall losses were modest under the circumstances - 24 tanks, of which seven were captured by the Nationalists. A total of 63 tanks, more than half the force, required overhaul, which was managed by the units in the field. It was a remarkable accomplishment, and reflected the growing skill of the Spanish tank crews, the maintenance units, and the tank support infrastructure created by Spanish industry. This legacy helps account for the ability of the Republican tank force to maintain its size and fighting potential for most of the remainder of 1938, in spite of the cutoff in Soviet technical aid. By the time of the summer battle along the Ebro River in 1938, the Republican tank force had been worn down to a fraction of its former size, and 17 tanks were destroyed and 18 captured in the last major Republican offensive.

Chevrolet 6x4 Model 1937

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The Blindado B.C. was a larger 6x4 armored car built on Ford or Chevrolet truck chassis. The usual armament was a French SA.18 37mm gun and DT machine gun in the turret, with an additional DT machine gun in the hull aside the driver. This particular example is in Nationalist hands with an Italian Lancia 1ZM armored car behind it. (NARA)

The fighting in the latter half of 1938 went badly for the Republican forces; Cataloniawas cutoff fromthe rest ofthe Republican-held territory and Franco'sforces graduallyoverwhelmed theremaining strongholds. Bythisstage of the war, thearmoredforces on both sidesweremechanically exhausted thoughtheycontinuedtobeusedon asmallscale.In viewoftheindifferent performanceof Italiantank units during mostofthewar, theRaggruppamento Carristiperformed remarkablywellin thecampaignsin late 1938 andearly 1939. It wascommitted asthe spearhead of CTV motorized columnson deep-penetration missions,including a 200km deepraid duringthe final campaign inCatalonia inApril 1939. Ofthe157Italian tankettesdeployed in Spain, 87 wereknocked out and about 70remainedat the end of thewar.

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