Categories
WW2 Spanish Armored Cars

Improvised Armored Trucks of the Asturias Revolution

Asturias Commune Asturias Commune (1934)
Improvised Armored Truck – at least 6-7 built

Popular insurrections often lack the material capabilities of national armies. This desperation to provide armor can lead to creative alternatives by placing armor plates on truck, bus, or car chassis’ and equipping them with armament, thus creating an armored car or truck. In October 1934, leftist revolutionaries in Asturias used their industrial skills and know-how to create different models of armored (or semi-armored) cars and trucks in their efforts to establish and maintain the short-lived Socialist Asturias Commune.

The Asturias Revolution of October 1934

Popular myth and culture have led to an image of the Second Spanish Republic, established in April 1931, as a radical, progressive, and left-wing state. Whilst there is some substance behind this, it is not entirely true. In the second elections held in November 1933, the centrist Partido Radical Republicano (PRR) of Alejandro Lerroux came to power with the support of the right-wing Confederación Española de Derechas Autónomas (CEDA). Following a crisis of government in September 1934, CEDA removed their support and demanded that the PRR enter a formal coalition with 3 CEDA members to take a ministerial portfolio. Despite opposition from the left, this was done, and as a consequence, the most left-wing elements began to mobilize.
An indefinite revolutionary general strike organized by radical elements of the Partido Socialista Obrero Español (POSE) [left-wing social democrat] and Union General de Trabajadores (UGT) trade union with the support of elements of the Anarchist Party and trade union (FAI and CNT) and the Communist Party (CP) was called for October 5th 1934. Following a few days of strike, the revolution was brutally put down in most of Spain, except in Catalonia, where an independent state was declared by the strikers, only to be toppled by Republican forces a few days later, and in Asturias.

Map of Asturias showing the location of several places named in the article, such as Gijón, Oviedo, Trubia, Mieres, and El Berrón – Source.
In contrast to those in other parts of the country, the Asturias revolutionaries were well organized and armed. They took their weapons from the Trubia and Oviedo arms factory in the region and dynamite from the many coal mines in the region. By October 8th, half of Asturias was under the control of the revolutionaries. According to historian Hugh Thomas, by the 17th, the revolutionaries numbered 30,000 men, though this figure may be exaggerated.
The revolutionaries managed to take most of Oviedo by the 9th, with the exceptions of two military barracks which would remain under siege for the rest of the conflict. Whilst the revolution was unsuccessful in Gijón, the revolutionaries managed to take Avilés and Trubia.
The government response was left to Generals Francisco Franco (who would later become the country’s dictator) and Manuel Goded. The attack on Asturias was made on four fronts. Moroccans and legionnaires from the Army of Africa under the command of Colonel Victor Yagüe landed in Gijón on October 7th and headed towards Oviedo, brutally quelling any resistance in the way. From the south, troops under General Bosch advanced into Asturias through the Puerto de Pajares [Pajares mountain pass] and combated revolutionaries around Mieres until the 15th. Troops under General Eduardo López Ochoa advanced from Galicia in the west and advanced on Trubia. The last front was to the east and was made up by army columns under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Solchaga, who clashed with revolutionaries in El Berrón, outside Oviedo.
On the 11th, the government troops advancing from the south entered Oviedo, promoting the revolutionary committee in charge of the Asturias comune to order a retreat from the city and to dissolve. Not all revolutionaries would follow these orders and a second revolutionary committee was formed to continue the fight. Despite this, Oviedo would fall completely on the 13th and the revolutionaries retreated to a coal pit of Langero where a third revolutionary committee was formed under the leadership of Berlamino Tomás. By the 15th, the revolutionaries sought a negotiated settlement with the priority of not surrendering to Yagüe’s troops, who had used brutal tactics in putting down the revolution. The terms were accepted by General López Ochoa and the last enclave would surrender on the 18th.
Over 1,500 had died on either side in the fortnight the revolution had lasted.

Map showing the main events of the Asturias October 1934 revolution – Source

The Plans for Armor

Except in Trubia (see Trubia Serie A and Tractor Landesa), there was no experience in the region of building armored vehicles, but, as Artemio Mortera Pérez (one of the better known authors of Spanish Civil War AFVs) points out, revolutionary elements had grown up with propaganda, newspapers, and films from the Soviet Union showing improvised armored vehicles built during the Revolution and Civil War, though how correct this is, is hard to determine.
Furthermore, Asturias was one of the most industrialized regions of Spain and had several metalworking factories, coal mines, and arms factories. As such, although mostly lacking specific experience in building armored vehicles, the workforce was industrially adept.
The Revolutionary authorities established requirements for armored cars in a revolutionary action plan as follows:

  • Sloped frontal armor from the mudguards to the top of the engine radiator so as to use less steel in thickening the plate, as it was believed sloped armor, even if using less steel, had a better chance of deflecting bullets than straight sheets.
  • A frontal plate with a small peephole, 4 mm in diameter, for the driver. 4 mm was chosen, as the minimum caliber of Spanish Army rifles and machine guns was 6 mm. This plate also had to have a loophole for a frontal firing machine gun.
  • The rear to be protected by steel plates and to have loopholes for infantry inside the trucks to fire from.

The Revolutionary authorities intended to use the vehicles aggressively. The trucks were to use their speed to surprise the enemy and catch them off guard, with infantry inside firing the guns and throwing grenades and dynamite. With their armor, they were also to be used to provide cover for advancing troops. The Revolutionary authorities believed that the trucks’ armor would be impenetrable and immune to enemy fire.

Design

All vehicles crudely followed the same principles and design.
The idea was to provide armor to civilian trucks with steel sheets and provide them with a frontal firing machine gun. The vehicle was also to have enough space at the back, also covered in steel sheets, for troops to be transported. Loopholes were to be made so they could fire from the inside.
The vehicles’ engines were covered with sloped armored plates. This sometimes also extended into mudguards for the frontal wheels. The positions of the driver and co-driver were made into an armored box, and the open-top behind them was surrounded with armored plates. The lower sides were often given armored plates too, as were the rear wheels. The materials used for the armor were steel sheets and railway rails. The vehicles were covered in grease, which the revolutionaries believed would enable them to repel more enemy bullets. This gave the vehicles a blackish aspect, hence the ‘tiznao’ nickname they received – from the adjective tiznado, meaning sooty.
The exact model of truck used for each vehicle is unspecified, so it is almost impossible to determine. Had these vehicles been converted from military trucks, it would be easier to determine as the options would be narrower.
Overall, their design was rather poor and the armor plates did not offer as much protection as expected.
Note – the different models are so named by the author based on available information and general nomenclature of this type of vehicles up to that point and in the Civil War which took place two years later. None of the vehicles are given a name in the literature and specific details are lacking.

Semi-blindado ‘Duro Felguera’

This was the first vehicle converted and used in action. Very minimally armored, with a metal plate put at the front of the cabin and the sides left unprotected. From photographic evidence, it cannot be seen if the engine position was covered in metal plates. The open-topped rear was covered with plates assembled in a triangular shape, though the rear seems to have been unprotected.
Built in the Duro Felguera metallurgical factory by anarchists of the CNT and FAI, it was first used in Oviedo on October 7th. Under the command of Arturo Vázquez (a PSOE member), it was used in the successful attack on the carabineers HQ’s on Calle Magdalena no. 15, after which it continued down the same street and helped to take the town hall. Its last mission was to head to the Civil Government building and help in its capture, but the driver was killed by a stray bullet, and the co-driver, also wounded, retreated the truck to the corner between Calle Cimadevilla and Calle San Antonio. It can be assumed that the vehicle suffered a breakdown of some kind as it was abandoned. The vehicle would remain in this position until after the revolution was crushed.

Civilians posing for a photo with the semi-blindado Duro Felguera once the revolution had been put down- The FAI and CNT graffiti indicated that the vehicle was converted in the Duro Felguera metallurgical factory as it was taken over by anarchist forces – source: Artemio Mortera Pérez (2007), p. 14.

Blindado ‘Duro Felguera’

This vehicle had a very distinctive rounded armor. It seems to be much smaller than the other vehicles and not based on a truck. There was a semi-cylindrical armored structure on each side of the cabin, which resembled a sentry box and had a large hinged door to the left side. The front of the cabin had an aperture with a forward-opening hatch to provide vision for the driver and to fire from. It seemed to have a crank to start the engine behind the cabin. The sides of the frontal semi-cylindrical structure were decorated with FAI graffiti, whilst on the front, Felguera (the metallurgical factory where it was built) and CNT were written.
This vehicle may have been used on the 10th to attack the Civil Government building down the Calle Rúa approach. In the cross-fire, its two operators were wounded.

Blindado Duro Felguera being inspected from its rear. This conversion was smaller than other vehicles and had a very distinctive appearance. The graffiti indicated that this vehicle too was built by Duro Felguera – source: Artemio Mortera Pérez (2007), p. 15.

Blindado ‘El Aguila Negra’

Not much is known about this vehicle apart from the fact that it was based on a truck used by the El Aguila Negra brewery of Colloto, on the outskirts of Oviedo. The vehicle seems to be wider than the others and has a rounded top. The sides do not appear to be armored.

Blindado ‘El Aguila Negra’ (at the front), another converted vehicle behind it (a Blindado ‘Oviedo’ model ‘b’), and several artillery pieces being inspected by government troops outside the Oviedo arms factory. Their armor of the armored truck is being stripped – source: Artemio Mortera Pérez (2007), p. 18.


Blindado Oviedo Model A illustration by Yuvnashva Sharma. Funded by our Patreon campaign.

Blindados ‘Oviedo’

There were two different models (in this article called ‘A’ and ‘B’) and they were extensively photographed after their capture. Given the lack of graffiti on them, it can be assumed that they were not built by Duro Felguera but rather in the Fábrica de Mieres or Hulleras de Turón factories. However, there is also the possibility they were built in Duro Felguera but not given graffiti.
The ‘A’ variant was the best armored of all the revolutionaries’ vehicles. The frontal wheels were covered all round in a similar fashion to 1930s and 1940s cars. From these, some sort of metal bar joined them with the top of the crew cabin holding them in place. There was a plate at the front with two-louvered grills for the engine placed at an angle in front of the engine cover between the mudguards. On each side of this was a headlamp. The frontal plate in front of the crew cabin consisted of two sheets which met at the center forming a peak, and each had a horizontal vision slit in the middle of them. The cabin had a door to the left side and a hatched-window on the left. The truck’s open-topped rear was covered with a triangular-like shaped structure. The rear wheels were protected by an armored box-like structure.
A short film and photographs taken of it in various locations after the revolution had been put down prove that it was still mobile. As it was one of the sturdier built models, it attracted plenty of interest from government troops and civilians alike.

The ‘A’ variant of the Blindado ‘Oviedo’ pictured in the courtyard of the Oviedo Arms Factory following the end of the revolution – source: Artemio Mortera Pérez (2007), p. 13 and 18.

A soldier poses with the Blindado ‘Oviedo’ serie ‘A’ variant after the end of the revolution – source: Artemio Mortera Pérez (2007), p. 17.

More photos of the vehicle in the Oviedo Arms Factory courtyard with other captured military materiel and government forces posing with them – Source

Still from a film showing the Blindado ‘Oviedo’ serie ‘A’ being driven down Oviedo’s streets with a Spanish soldier riding on its side – Source (where the film can be found)

Soldiers posing in front of a Blindado ‘Oviedo’ serie ‘A’ with the Convento de Santa Clara on Alonso de Quintanilla street in Oviedo in the background- Source
The ‘B’ version was not as well armored as ‘A’ at the front, with its wheels and engine cover exposed. The cabin’s front was protected by a big two-part metal sheet. Each side had a slim vision slit in the lower center half. The plate covered the sides of the cabin too, with a small window hatch on the side. The open-topped back was also covered in a triangular-shaped structure, which had at least one loophole for militiamen to fire from on the left side. The rear had a door for entry and exit, which had an opening for rear fire.

Government forces pose with the Blindado ‘Oviedo’ serie ‘B’ in the aftermath of the Asturias Revolution. Note the soldier pointing his pistol out of the cabin – source: Artemio Mortera Pérez (2007), p. 17.


Front, side, and rear view of the Blindado ‘Oviedo’ serie ‘B’ in the Oviedo arms factory in the aftermath of the failed revolution of October 1934 – Source

Blindado ‘Mieres’

According to a contemporary newspaper this vehicle was supposedly captured in Mieres, a town south of Oviedo, by government forces. If it was built in Mieres, it was most likely also built by Duro Felguera, which had their main installations in the town. This vehicle is slightly different to other vehicles of the revolution and is armored on all sides and it appears to be even riveted in some places. The frontal cabin area has a small hatch which would have allowed for the driver to see forward.

Civilians and troops inspect an armored vehicle in what appears to be Mieres, south of Oviedo. The vehicle seems to have parts of its armor riveted – Source

Unidentifiable Blindado

Only one not very detailed photo of this vehicle exists. It has two headlamps, a three-louver grill in its engine cover, and at least one vision slit in its frontal cabin.

Not much is known of this vehicle. Note the grease liberally applied to the mudguards – source: Artemio Mortera Pérez (2007), p. 15.

Operational Use

Apart from the aforementioned use of the ‘Duro Felguera’ vehicles, very little is known about the operational use of these improvised vehicles.
On the morning of the 10th, one was used in an unsuccessful attack on government positions in Lugones, northwest of Oviedo, and was captured by the troops under General López Ochoa in the process. The identity of this vehicle is difficult to determine and there is a possibility that it was one which has not been described in this article.
On the 17th, the day before the revolution was finally crushed, a group of CNT anarchist militiamen attacked government forces who had advanced from the east in the town of El Borrón. They were supported by a converted truck allegedly equipped with four machine guns. This vehicle was initially successful and forced the government forces to retreat from their stronghold in the town railway repair facilities and abandon their artillery pieces. Concentrated fire forced the converted truck to retreat, but only after its crew and troop detachment blew up the railway lines. According to Francisco Aguado Sánchez, a leading historian of the 1934 Revolution in Asturias, the vehicle was destroyed by artillery fire.

Conclusion

Following the failure of the revolution elsewhere in the country, the revolutionaries in Asturias were doomed, and no matter how inventive they were with their improvised armored cars and personnel carriers, they were not going to succeed. The improvised vehicles themselves were brave efforts by inexperienced men, but ultimately, they were of poor combat effectiveness. After the revolution was put down they were most likely reconverted into their original truck or lorry form.

Sources

Artemio Mortera Pérez, Los Medios Blindados de la Guerra Civil Española. Teatro de Operaciones del Norte 36/37 (Valladolid: AF Editores, 2007)
Hugh Thomas, La Guerra Civil Española (Barcelona: Ed. Grijalbo, 1976)
Julio Gil Pecharromán, La Revolución de Octubre (España), ArteHistoria – Junta de Castilla y León [accessed 28/10/2018]
‘Lordo’, Información y propaganda en la Revolución de Asturias de 1934 (26 March 2010) [accessed 28/10/2018]
Octavio Cabezas, “Prieto, tras la revolución de Asturias”, El País, 16 October 2005

Categories
WW2 Spanish Armored Cars

Ferrol Armored Car

spanish nationalist flagNationalist Spain (1936-1937)
Armored Car – 4-5 built

Improvised Armored Cars in the Spanish Civil War

When war broke out in Spain following the failed coup of Generals Emilio Mola and José Sanjurjo, neither side could field large numbers of armored fighting vehicles. There was a total of 74 armored vehicles throughout the whole country with the governmental forces of the Republic keeping hold of the vast majority of them (58) and the Rebels, (also known as the ‘Nationalists’), only having 16. These vehicles were not the most modern designs and included WWI relics such as the Schneider CA1 and Renault FT, several imaginative indigenous designs, such as the Trubia Serie A and Landesa tanks, and the most numerous vehicle, the Bilbao Modelo 1932 armored car.
To gain the upper hand during the confusing and uncertain first days of the war, each side armed civilian buses, cars, trucks and lorries to use as temporary armored vehicles until a better solution could be found.They were never intended for long-term use. Due to the blackish color given by the iron and other metallic plating, these vehicles quickly gained the nickname of ‘tiznaos’ (from the adjective tiznado – sooty).
The Republicans, who controlled most of the industrial areas, managed to build, with varying success, around 400 of these during the first year of the war, and the Nationalists developed their own models in areas under their control, such as Pamplona, Zaragoza, Valladolid, and Ferrol.
Because of the rushed nature of their manufacture and their poor design, these vehicles were prone to breakdowns and malfunctions, with some vehicles even breaking in half due to the extra weight of their armor of protective steel plates.
While they may not have been the most practical of vehicles, these armored cars had several functions: to transport supplies, weapons and ammunition to friendly troops; for troop and prisoner transport; to impress enemy troops and civilians and inspire allied troops and supporters. Given the unimpressive and uninspiring aspect of these vehicles this may come as a surprise to modern viewers, but, it must be remembered that few Spanish fighters during the Civil War, let alone the civilian population, had been exposed to modern standard tanks or armored vehicles of any kind and these large, noisy and rumbling metallic ‘beasts’ must have had a dramatic impact on all who encountered them.

Design

Following the electoral victory of the left-leaning Popular Front in the February 1936 elections, the political situation in Spain was tense. Foreseeing that these tensions would evolve into violent encounters, several military units across the country took matters into their own hands. Sometime between the months of March and April 1936, in the coastal and strategically important city of Ferrol (in the north of Galicia), the Regimento de Artillería de Costas No.2 (Coastal Artillery Regiment) transformed at least four of the regiments’ Hispano-Suiza 30/40 buses-transports into armored cars. As with many of the other improvised vehicles of the war, the vehicle was named after the town it was built in – Ferrol.

Ferrol No.4 with troops of the Regimento de Artillería de Costas nº2 outside said regiment’s barracks. Source: Blindados Españoles en el Ejército de Franco

Restored version of the Hispano-Suiza 30/40 bus from which the Ferrols were transformed. SOURCE
Unlike many of the other ‘tiznaos’, the Ferrols were built before the war meaning that more time was available to work on the vehicles, and the fact that they were built by qualified military personnel who knew what they were doing and not groups of militiamen, their design was well thought-out and the vehicles resembled modern armored cars, at least more so than other ‘tiznaos’.
As can be expected given the nature of their construction, all Ferrols have differences between them which vary from some models lacking headlights and/or front bumpers whilst others have them, to one example lacking a turret and machine gun. Details of the differences between vehicles will be addressed below. Generally, for all examples of this model, 6-8mm gray painted armored steel plating covered the original vehicle on all sides and a rotatable turret, inspired from the WWI Rolls-Royce Armored Car, was mounted on top with a Hotchkiss Model 1924 7mm (0.27 in) machine gun, which was quite possibly Spanish made. Each side of the vehicle had seven firing holes through which troops inside could fire their rifles, with an additional eight holes on both sides of the turret which could have also serve as a viewing port for the machine gunner. From front to back, the first hole could be found on the top end of the door which served as access for the crew and passengers.
In the front of the turret, 3 viewports could be found. The right one was the driver’s and one of the other ones to the left was for the commander. It can be assumed that the third viewpoint was for another crew member or passenger. Two medium-sized hatches on either side of the vehicle’s front allowed access to the motor for repairs and maintenance otherwise made impossible by the lack of a bonnet in the cladding. The front of the vehicle had two sets of ventilation grilles which were installed to prevent the motor from overheating.

Numbers made

There is an ongoing debate over the number of Ferrols converted. The established view is that there were at least four, but several, especially among the war-modelling community, claim that there was also a fifth, with some highly improbable speculation that a sixth was converted.
Three of the vehicles (Numbers 1*, 1, 3 and 4) are very easy to account for, as they had distinguishable features.
What the main historiography considered to be number 1 had a very different appearance to the rest as it lacked a turret, the front plate consisted of a single inclined metallic plate going from the top of the ventilation grilles to the beginning of the roof of the vehicle and the viewports were all at different heights and angles, unlike the other vehicles, where all three viewports were at the same height and angle.

What is usually considered to be the Ferrol No.1 crossing the bridge between Cabañas and Puentedeume in northern Galicia in July 1936. Note the lack of a turret and distinctive frontal armor plating. Source: Blindados Españoles en el Ejército de Franco
However, newer photographic evidence offered by the archives of the Museo Manuel Reimóndez Portela would suggest that the actual No.1 was more similar to the rest. Its distinctive features are a number 1 painted at the front of the vehicle, a radiator cap or hood ornament on top of the grilles and a circular hatch to access the engine rather than the quadrilocular or rectangular of other models. It also lacks a bumper, has forward lights and text (although faint) over the spider crab insignia. This leads to two options: a) What is usually considered No.1 should be considered as a prototype (1*) and the one in the image below as the actual No.1; or b) That although being built without a turret and fighting for the first few weeks and even months of the war in that configuration at some point in late 1936 or early 1937 a turret, forward lights and other substantial changes were made, though there is no strong evidence supporting these claims and the comparison of both photos does not point towards that direction.

The actual Ferrol No.1 with its distinctive features as the number 1 painted at the front of the vehicle, a radiator cap or hood ornament on top of the grilles and a circular hatch to access the engine rather than the cuadricular or rectangular of other models. This photo was taken in Villamanin (León) on the 22nd of July 1937. It has been recorded that at least two Ferrols fought in this area. SOURCE
Numbers 3 and 4 were photographed together at least four times, which is quite remarkable given that there are only ten known photos of these vehicles. They are easy to identify as there was a number 3 and 4 painted beneath the ventilation grilles. Other differences include both front and back wheels being different and No.3’s lack of a front bumper, which No.4 has.

Ferrol armoured car
Rendition of the Ferrol Armoured Car by Tanks Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet
Ferrols number 3 and 4 easily distinguishable because of the numbers 3 and 4 painted beneath the grilles outside Regimento de Artillería de Costas nº2 barracks. Other differences include both front and back wheels being different and No.3’s lack of a front bumper, which No.4 has. Source: Blindados Españoles en el Ejército de FrancoIdentifying No.2 and the potential No.5 is harder. The photographic evidence is not the clearest and details can be missed to the naked eye, leaving all work on the matter up to speculation.
Author’s Note: After having spent many hours inspecting all available images of the vehicles I have come to the conclusion that at least five vehicles were made. Small details, such as the frame where the mudguards originally sat, the elevation and inclination of different armored plates, the detailing on the spider crab insignia on the side of the vehicle or the peephole on the doors, in my opinion, differ substantially between vehicles leading me to believe more than four were made. I have provided all available photos of the armored car so the reader can make his judgment about the numbers made.

Ferrols number 3 and 4 outside the Pelayo barracks in Oviedo in October 1937 after the conclusion of the war in the north. Source: Blindados Españoles en el Ejército de Franco

Combat History and Performance

With the outbreak of hostilities in July 1936, the Ferrols were the only armored vehicles in Galicia, giving their owners, the Nationalists, an advantage. The first recorded use of these vehicles was on the 20th of July 1936 when they were used to transport grenades, a mortar and machine guns from the coastal artillery barracks to the troops of the No.35 ‘Mérida’ Infantry Regiment. The following day, at dawn, a number of the vehicles carried out similar functions carrying another mortar and ammunition to the Comandancia del Arsenal building and on the return journey, transported the dismissed Chief of the Arsenal to imprisonment. During these journeys, they were in action against elements of the navy loyal to the Republic. In the morning, the commander of the Regimento de Artillería de Costas No.2, Sánchez Esperante, used one of them to visit the officers of the newly proclaimed military government and after their conversation, the Ferrols were used to assault the Town Hall and the People’s House (a community center) which were still under governmental control. Despite intense fire from the defenders, these buildings were soon captured after the rebels threatened to fire the two Plasencia mod. 1870 8cm cannons the Ferrols were transporting against the Town Hall.

Another photo of the Ferrols number 3 and 4 (in the background) outside the Pelayo barracks in Oviedo in October 1937. SOURCE
On the 22nd of July 1936, the Ferrols patrolled the towns around Ferrol crushing any elements loyal to the government and one was sent in the attempted capture of the town of Puentedeume, less than 10 km (6 miles) south, which had a strategically important bridge, but they were unsuccessful due to the opposing forces and terrain. The following day a bigger force accompanied the lone Ferrol and captured the town. The next day (July 23rd), they were used for patrolling duties in the north of Galicia. During these early days, without any armored opposition or organized resistance, the Ferrols proved to be very effective and efficient vehicles.
In late October or November 1936, the Ferrols were split up and sent to different fronts in the North. At least two (most probably numbers 3 and 4), were sent to the Oviedo-Grado sector in Asturias with a foot artillery battery. The other two were sent to the La Robla-Matallana-La Vecilla sector on the Leon front. It is suggested that two Ferrols accompanying the first Galician troops sent to Asturias in the summer of 1936 were knocked out or left inoperative whilst covering troops attacking the town of Bolgues on the Trubia road. These claims, however, are probably false as there is no other recorded presence of the Ferrols until November 1936 and it is likely that the aforementioned vehicles were not Ferrols but other armored cars, very likely captured from the Republican forces.
By February 1937, two of the Ferrols (again, most probably numbers 3 and 4), were defending Oviedo from the Republican attack to take this key city. The crews of the vehicles had taken casualties in the previous months and they were now manned by a combined total of 15 men. They were accompanied by two Trubia tanks protecting the weapons factory-Campo de los Patos sector against the combined total of 40 Republican armored vehicles, though not all were deployed in the same sector as the Ferrols.

Front of the Ferrol No.3 somewhere in Oviedo with Jesús Evaristo Casariego, a Réquete (Carlist militiamen) officer. SOURCE

Fate and Conclusion

Having served for over a year until the conclusion of the war in the north in October 1937, some of the vehicles, at least numbers 3 and 4, could be found in Oviedo, whilst at least one remained in León.
By this point they had exhausted their useful life and with plentiful Italian CV.33/35 and German Pz.I tanks, they were rendered surplus to requirements. Their fate for the remainder of the war is unknown but it seems likely that they were used for some time for patrolling and policing duties before being broken up for scrap or being put back to use into their original pre-conversion role.
Thanks to their more thought-out and, therefore, studier design and production, the ‘Ferrols’ were able to outlive other improvised ‘tiznao’ designs of the early weeks and months of the war, but once modern mass-produced vehicles were available in large numbers and the limitations of the ‘tiznaos’ became increasingly apparent, it was clear that they had had their day.

Links, Resources & Further Reading

Artemio Mortera Pérez, Los Medios Blindados de la Guerra Civil Española. Teatro de Operaciones del Norte 36/37 (Valladolid: AF Editores, 2007)
Francisco Antonio Martín, Los Medios Blindados de Ruedas en España, un Siglo de Historia (Valladolid: Quirón, 2002)
José López Hermida, Los Días del Alzamiento en Ferrol
Lucas Molina Franco and José M Manrique García, Blindados Españoles en el Ejército de Franco (1936-1939) (Valladolid: Galland Books, 2009)
Curiosidades de los CC y blindados. Su historia y reseñas on www.portierramaryaire.com
Los Primeros Años de Hispano-Suiza on hispanosuiza.webcindario.com
Ferrol Armored Car images on vehiculosblindadosdelaguerracivil.blogspot.com.es
Ferrol Armored Car images on Galería Museo Manuel Reimóndez Portela

Categories
WW2 Spanish Armored Cars

Bilbao Modelo 1932

republican flag     Second Spanish Republic (1932-1939)

spanish nationalist flagNationalist Spain (1936-1943)
Armored Car – 48 built

Guardian of the Republic

The Bilbao Modelo 1932 was the official armored car of the Guardias de Asalto (Assault Guard – officially known as Secciones de la Vanguardia del Cuerpo de Seguridad – Sections of the Vanguard of the Security Corps), who were essentially riot polic. They were boxy armored cars based on a Ford commercial truck chassis, with a cylindrical turret armed with a Spansh-built Hotchkiss machine gun. The Bilbao armored car was used by both Republicans and Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War, but the majority remained in Republican hands in 1936, and these were used extensively in the first few months of the war. As more were captured by the Nationalists, they also saw service throughout the rest of the war, albeit in smaller numbers.

Surviving Bilbao Modelo 1932 of the Assault Guard at Parque y Centro de Mantenimiento de Vehiculos Ruedas Numero. 1. Credits: Alcantara Forogratis.

Design

The Bilbao Modelo 1932 was designed by an engineer from SECN (la Sociedad Española de Construcción Naval  / Spanish Society of Naval Construction) with collaboration from a Captain of Engineers from the Cuerpo de Seguridad y Asalto (Security and Assault Corps).
They were built by the Department of Railways of the SECN’s factory in Sestao, near Bilbao, hence the vehicle’s name “Bilbao Modelo 1932”. It is unclear what chassis Bilbao Modelo 1932 was based on. Originally, SECN considered using a 4×2 Ford V8 Model 1930 commercial truck manufactured in Barcelona by Ford Motor Ibérica, but the Ford Factory did not start production of engines until 1939. It is believed that the first series (IE the first 36 vehicles) were based on a Dodge 4×2 Model 1932 with either a Chrysler or Dodge K32 Model 1931 engine.
An iron frame of three joined parts was used to strengthen the vehicle in order to take the extra weight of the armoring. The cylindrical turret was placed in the center of the roof, which mounted a Spanish-built Hotchkiss Model 1924 7 mm (0.27 in) machine gun. This gun was manufactured in Spain for the Army, Navy, and even the Police.
Some Spanish sources mention other types of Bilbao armored cars such as a “Modelo 1935”, but this appears to be a misconception, as there appear to have been no production differences between any Bilbao armored cars.

Technical drawing of the Bilbao Modelo 1932.

Organization

The vehicles were originally divided among Republican security forces. The structure of the Compañías de Asalto is as follows: A Grupo de Asalto (located regionally) would be commanded by a Tentiente Coronel (Lieutenant Commander), which would consist of three Compañías de Seguridad, and integrated into this would be a Seccion Vanguardia, commanded by a Lieutenant, which would include nine Bilbao Modelo 1932s.
In total, there were twelve Grupos de Asalto, which would require one hundred and eight vehicles, but only forty two Bilbao Modelo 1932s were contracted to SECN in 1930. In June, 1932, forty Bilbao Modelo 1932s were supplied, with two remaining in Sestao for an unknown reason. Therefore, many Grupos would not have Bilbao Modelo 1932s, or they would not have a full complement of vehicles in each.

Guardia de Asalto in Barcelona receive their Bilbao Modelo 1932s. Credit: Andreu Puig i Farran, as taken from “Los Medios Blindados en la Guerra Civil España: Teatro de Operaciones del Norte 36/37” by Artemio Mortera Pérez.
In 1933, twelve Bilbao Modelo 1932s were ordered by the Grupo de Autoametralladoras del Regimiento de Caballería de Aranjuez (Armored Car Group of the Cavalry Regiment of Aranjuez). One Grupo would have two Esquadrons (squadrons), which would have six vehicles in each.
At the start of the war in 1936, the Bilbao Modelo 1932s were divided thus: forty were assigned to the Cuerpo de Seguridad, seven to the Ejército de Tierra (missing only one vehicle to be fully equipped), and one was at the Parque Regional de Automóviles de Madrid (Regional Park of Automobiles of Madrid). forty one of these were Republican hands, and the seven of the Ejército de Tierra were in Nationalist hands.
Throughout the war, the vehicles appear to have been used by different, often newly-made organizations.

Guardia de Asalto with a Bilbao Modelo 1932, Toledo, 1936.

Combat

Summer, 1936

On the morning of the 20th of July 1936, two Bilbao Modelo 1932s, along with other military elements, intervened in the attack on the Cuartel de la Montaña, Madrid.
On the 21st of July, four were part of Colonel Riquelme’s column, which advanced on Toledo in order to besiege the Alcazar. Two of these vehicles were destroyed in combat.
On the afternoon of the 20th July, another column (formed in Madrid by Colonel Puigdendolas) is reported to have had no fewer than eight or nine Bilbao Modelo 1932s. These took part in the occupation of Alcalá de Henares (22 miles northeast of Madrid) on 21st July in order to quell a revolt (although no violence was used). The same vehicles later took part in the occupation of Guádalajara on the 22nd July which saw fierce fighting. Later on, two of these Bilbao Modelo 1932s were captured in the Guadarrama mountain range attacking the Nationalist positions at the port of Alto del León, whilst the other seven were taken back to Madrid.
It is possible that two or three Bilbao Modelo 1932s were part of la Columna Vidal of Tentiente Coronel Vidal Munárriz. It is reported that several were in service when the column was reformed after reaching Villareal on 21st July. Whilst two Bilbao Modelo 1932s were apparently kept at SECN in Sestao in 1932, the vehicles in the Columna Vidal may actually just have been locally built armored cars. On the 26th July, the Columna received reinforcements, and the following day, the newspaper “El Liberal” suggested that they received a “carro de asalto”, which might have been a Bilbao Modelo 1932, but this is unclear. It is quite likely that these vehicles were all locally built Tiznaos (a generic term for crude armored cars built in local workshops).

Autumn, 1936

At Madrid, Bilbao Modelo 1932s were added to different Columns. Lieutenant Colonel Mangada’s column, which had five Bilbaos, went to Cebreros (41 miles west of Madrid) and returned to Madrid three days later. These five Bilbaos also had a prominent role in the disruption of a Nationalist assault on the 19th of August on Navalperal de Pinares (40 miles northwest of Madrid).
Two Bilbao armored cars were involved in the defense of Mérida (August, 1936, 40 miles east of the Portuguese border), where they would be captured by the Nationalists. These were then used to enter Badajoz (34 miles west of Mérida).
Other Bilbao Modelo 1932s were known to be part of the Columna Móvil (Mobile Column) organized in Zaragoza, as well as the Ejército Expedicionario (Expeditionary Army) that left Seville in early August.
In mid-September, the Nationalists organized a two-section Armored Company with the Bilbao Modelo 1932s they had captured. This Company would arrive in Madrid, supporting the columns that were besieging the capital.
Different forces used Bilbao armored cars in the north of Spain. Two were with the Column of Commander Galvis near Irun and another four were sent from San Sebastián and Bilbao to stop to the Nationalists advance from Vitoria.

After 1936

The Bilbao Modelo 1932 was only a capable fighting vehicle in urban areas, and was totally unsuitable for combat in any sort of rural area. As a result, after the first few months of the war, the Bilbao Modelo 1932 would typically be kept in reserve or used in rear guard or ‘2nd line’ duties, such as policing and escorts. For example, at the end of 1938 the Agrupacion de Carros de Combate del Sur (Group of Combat Vehicles of the South, which was a Nationalist unit) nominally had a strength of seven Bilbao armored cars in reserve. Of these though only one was operational, five were in repair, and one was destroyed. This was possible due to the appearance of more versatile armored cars such as the BA-3, BA-6, UNL-35, and AAC-1937.
By the end of 1938, the Nationalists had thirteen Bilbao Modelo 1932s, including the seven belonging to the Cavalry, five which they captured from Republican forces, and one destroyed but used for spare parts. Five of these would be converted into flamethrower-carrying variants (see below). There is no information available for Republican numbers.

After 1939

After the Civil War, the remaining Bilbao Modelo 1932s were removed form the Ejército de Tierra’s stocks and were incorporated into the Cuerpo de Policía Armada y de Tráfico (Armed Police and Traffic Corps), formed under Franco in 1941, and likely served the same duties as they did in the Guardias de Asalto during pre-war Second Republic. The Second Republic’s Secciones de Vangurdia became the Banderas Móviles de la Policía Armada (Armed Police Mobile Flags), which, on paper, would be equipped with Bilbao Modelo 1932s for police transport (six men plus a driver).
It is known that the surviving Bilbao Modelo 1932s were assigned to the 10th Bandera Móvil at Valencia, which indicates that only a handful of vehicles survived the war – likely no more than nine. Photos from Policía Armada y de Tráfico magazine show that these were used for training of policemen, although the vehicles were unarmed.

Bilbao Modelo 1932 being used for training by the Policia Armada, post-Civil War. From Policía Armada y de Tráfico magazine, courtesy of Coronel Juan Antonio Penacho, General D. Antonio Nadal, and Octavio Almendros.
With the reorganization of the Fuerzas de Orden Público (Public Order Forces) in 1943 (essentially, a new organization of armed police with the absorption of the Carabineros by the Guardia Civil) the trace of all Bilbao Modelo 1932s is lost, and they were likely retired.
Today, two Bilbao Modelo 1932s still exist. One is on display at the Parque Central de Mantenimientos de Vehñiculos Rueda No. 1 (Torrejón, Madrid), and the other is at the Academia de Logística (Calatayud, Zaragoza).

Bilbao Modelo 1932 ‘Lanzallamas’ – the flamethrower variant

What had previously been considered a myth in early scholarship on Spanish Civil War vehicles was proven reality by private photos taken by the Condor Legion. These Bilbao ‘Lanzallamas’ were essentially  Bilbao armored cars which were captured by the Nationalists, and then armed with heavy flamethrowers.

Context: Flamethrowers in Spain

As early as October, 1936, the Nationalists began training of flamethrower infantrymen under the direction of the Condor Legion. From January, 1937, Commander Peter Jansa (Chief of the Condor Legion’s anti-tank artillery instructors) was put in charge of the training. The Gruppe Von Thoma supplied eighteen flamethrowers of three types: nine standard, four light, and five heavy ‘trench’ (IE improvised) types. On the 17th of October, 1936, the training of a specialist flamethrower company began.
Of the four light flamethrower units, two were sent to the Tercio (Spanish Legion), one remained for training, and one was installed on a Panzer I Ausf. A, which joined other vehicles on October 27th for operations at the Talavera front.

Designing the Bilbao Modelo 1932 ‘Lanzallamas’

Several armored cars were requested in October in order to mount some of the five heavy trench flamethrowers, and the vehicle chosen was the Bilbao armored car. Five Bilbaos were sent to the workshop of the Condor Legion (in the town of Quismondo). Some of these vehicles were damaged and subsequently had to be repaired whilst they were being fitted with flamethrowers. These so-called ‘Bilbao Modelo 1932 Lanzallamas’ were no different from a regular Bilbao armored car, save for a large flame projector poking through the co-driver’s vision hatch, and an internal storage tank.

One of the five Bilbao “Lanzallamas”. The man on the left is a member of the Condor Legion. The distinctive flamethrower pokes through the co-driver’s hatch, and the tank is placed behind. Interestingly, the Hotchkiss machine gun armament has been kept. The turret and the front engine grill are marked with Spanish Nationalist two-tone flags. Source: Author’s collection

The Bilbao was chosen because of its large internal space, and also because multiple vehicles were readily available. Several were captured by the Nationalists after the uprising in 1936, and at least seven more were captured in advance operations at Toledo in September. These captured vehicles (some of which were converted into ‘Lanzallamas’) went on to form the “Compañía de Carros Blindados” (Armored Car Company).
Of the five Bilbao ‘Lanzallamas’, two were left in the Las Arguijuelas Castle for training. This was the first base of the Condor Legion Armored Detachment in Spain, and was an anti-tank training ground for Spanish troops until 1937. The other three ‘Lanzallamas’ were sent urgently to the Talavera front on the 26th of October, 1936.
On the 1st of November, new crews were appointed to be trained on the two reserve Bilbao ‘Lanzallamas’.
Little to no information is available on the combat performance of flamethrowers in the Spanish Civil War, let alone the Bilbao ‘Lanzallamas’.

Bilbao from the Assault Guard
Bilbao Modelo 1932 of Assault Guard, currently on display at Parque y Centro de Mantenimiento de Vehiculos Ruedas N°1.Bilbao Lanzallamas
Bilbao Modelo 1932 ‘Lanzallamas’ (flamethrower version).
Camouflaged Republican Bilbao Modelo 1932, the Plaza de Zocodover, Toledo, 1936.
Camouflaged Republican Bilbao Modelo 1932, the Plaza de Zocodover, Toledo, 1936.

A knocked out Republican Bilbao Modelo 1932 with the corpses of its crew beside it. It was abandoned during the retreat from Talavera to Toledo. Note that the tires are missing, likely having been scavenged.

Different view of the above, after some time had passed. The engine appears to have been removed by this point, likely as salvage. Source: Author’s collection

Different view of the above after even more time has passed. Now, the vehicle has been stripped down for scrap even further. The soldier is of the Condor Legion.

Bilbao ‘Lanzallamas’ with the door open, showing the large internal tank for the flamethrower.

Bilbao Modelo 1932 of the Assault Guard at the barricade of the Plaza de Zocodover, Toledo, September, 1936.

Bilbao Modelo 1932 at the Plaza de Zocodover, Toledo, 1936.

Bilbao Modelo 1932 in La Plaza de Campana, Seville. It was abandoned by its crew on the 18th July, 1936, and later recovered by Captain Gabriel Fuentes.

Bilbao Modelo 1932, on display at the Escuela de Logística, Zaragoza.

Different view of the above.

Bilbao Modelo 1932 being used for training by the Policia Armada, post-Civil War. From Policía Armada y de Tráfico magazine, courtesy of Coronel Juan Antonio Penacho, General D. Antonio Nadal, and Octavio Almendros.

Bilbao Modelo 1932 specifications

Dimensions (LxWxH) 5.44 x 2.07 x 2.6 m
17’10” x  6’9″ x  8’6″
Total weight, battle ready 4800 kg (5.29 US tons)
Crew 3 + 5 (commander, driver, gunner + 5 riflemen)
Propulsion Unknown. Chrysler or Dodge K32 Model 1931 engine.
Speed (road) 50 km/h
Armament 7 mm (0.27 mm) Hotchkiss Modelo 1924
Armor Unknown

Sources

Private correspondence including Coronel Juan Antonio Penacho (the director of military history courses for universities in Spain), General D. Antonio Nadal (director of the Instituto de Cultura y Historia Militar), and Octavio Almendros regarding the Bilbao Modelo 1932, and its post-war use.
Private correspondence with Guillem Martí Pujol, Gorka L Martínez Mezo, and Francisco Javier Cabeza Martinez regarding the Bilbao Modelo 1932’s history, paint schemes, and use of flamethrowers during the Spanish Civil War.
La Maquina y la History No. 2: Blindados en España: 1a. parte: La Guerra Civil 1936-1939” by Javier de Mazarrasa
Camion Blindado Bilbao Mod. 1932 “Lanzallamas“” by Ángel P. Heras.
La Base Alemana de Carros de Combate en Las Arguijuelas, Caceres (1936-1937)” by Antonio Rodríguez González
Los Medios Blindados en la Guerra Civil España: Teatro de Operaciones del Norte 36/37” by Artemio Mortera Pérez
Blindados Españoles en el Ejército de Franco 1936-1939” by Lucas Molina Franco, and Jose Manrique Garcia.
Las Armas de la Guerra Civil: El Primer Estudio Global y Sistematico del Armamento Empleado por Ambos Contendientes” by José María Manrique García and Lucas Molina Franco
Spanish Civil War Tanks: The Proving Ground for Blitzkrieg” by Steven J. Zaloga
AFV Collection No. 1: Panzer I: Beginning of a Dynasty” by Lucas Molina Franco
Revista policía Armada y de Trafico” (1941-1942)” Ministerio de la Gobernación España.
Revista Policía”. Artículos de José Eugenio Fernández Barallobre” Ministerio del Interior, 2003-2004.
Colección de Ordenes generales de la Inspección General de la Policía Armada y de Trafico”, Archivo Histórico del Ministerio del Interior.
Toledogce.blogspot.co.uk
forosegundaguerra.com
castillejadelacuesta-antonio.blogspot.co.uk
lasegundaguerra.com

Panzer I equipped with a flamethrower, which was upgraded along with five Bilbao Modelo 1932s. Source: Private collection of Ruy Aballe, as taken from “AFV Collection No. 1: Panzer I: Beginning of a Dynasty” by Lucas Molina Franco.

Categories
WW2 Spanish Armored Cars

Constructora Field

republican flag Second Spanish Republic  (1936-1937)
Improvised Armored Car/APC – ~10 built

Barcelona’s Boiler Truck

The Constructora Field (sometimes known as the “Barcelona” or even “Camion Blindado 4×2 No.8”, they are all unofficial names) was a series of armored cars from the early Spanish Civil War. With its streamlined design made from boiler plate, and its iconic lettering placed on the front of the vehicle, it truly is unmistakable. A series of around ten was made at the Constructora Field factory in Barcelona.
Constructora Field No.1 Armored Car in Barcelona, San Jaime's Square, just outside the town hall.
Constructora Field No.1 Armored Car in Barcelona, San Jaime’s Square, just outside the town hall. This photograph was taken a day after it was presented to the press.


Hello dear reader! This article is in need of some care and attention and may contain errors or inaccuracies. If you spot anything out of place, please let us know!


Armored trucks in Spain were not made exclusively during the Spanish Civil War. In fact, small batches were produced in Spain and Morocco in the 1920s for convoy duties. However, with the unstable political climate in Spain in the early 1930s, they were produced in greater numbers. When the Civil War broke out in July 1936, at least 400 were produced for Republican militias, with 159 in Catalonia alone, 1936-1937.

Design

The exact truck used for the Constructora Field is unknown. It seems likely that various trucks were used, one of which might have been a Chevrolet SB M1936, and other government issue lorries. It appears as though it was mostly made of four, large, boiler plates, which were all welded together (although there may have been some minor riveting). Holding the superstructure together was likely a wooden framework. Entry was given through the rear, including for the driver, as there were no side doors. They also appear to have all been given large naval-type ventilation pipes which were fitted close to the front of the vehicle.
The prototype Constructora Field was completed on 29th August 1936 and, on the same day, it was presented to the press. The following day, it was presented to locals, with FAI painted on the front. There to greet it was Lluís Companys, the President of Catalonia. The main differences between this prototype and ‘serial production vehicles’ are the rear facing crew ventilation tubes and the lack of the turret. This particular vehicle reportedly saw service with the Columna Ford, made up of members of the UGT and CNT-FAI, possibly on the Aragonese front. It featured nine portholes and could carry eight soldiers, plus a driver. It weighed an estimated 5000 kg and was powered by a Chevrolet 6-cylinder engine.
Workers with Constructora Field No.1, 29th August, at the Constructora Field factory.
Workers with the Constructora Field No.1 Armored Car, 29th August 1936, at the Constructora Field factory.
The series remained in production for about a year, with the final of this series made in August 1937, but the exact number built is unknown. Some sources mention only four being built, but perhaps mean four types of the vehicle. It is known that, at very least, nine were built, because each one was numbered (and photos of No.9 exist). The largest figure stated by sources is 12. However, plenty of other improvised vehicles were made in Barcelona, which might have been mistaken for another Constructora Field.
There were various types of the Constructora Field, and at least four are mentioned by sources – however their exact difference are not explicit. There is also a lack of photos of distinct models – in fact, only photos of No. 1, 2, 9, and another unknown knocked out Constructora Field are readily available to view (although many photos may exist in private collections).
It seems as though all types (with the exception of the prototype) featured a large, cylindrical turret, usually armed with a Vickers machine gun. These turrets were not exactly standardized – some were tall and some were short. The exact shape of the hull and number of boiler plates used appeared to vary, also, giving very slightly different rear hull shapes, as photographs reveal. Another variable feature is the tire protection – it seems that some had metal plates covering at least the front set, but others had metal chains around the skirt of the vehicle. Their protective qualities are dubious at best.
Constructora Field of the FAI-CNT. This one featured a short machine gun turret
Constructora Field of the CNT-FAI. This one featured a short machine gun turret, and tires protected by steel plates.
The protective quality of the armor is also dubious. It was probably ~8 mm (0.31 in) thick, but it was only boiler plate, not armor plate. That being the case, it is possible that anything the slightest bit larger in caliber than rifles would penetrate the vehicle. However, the armor was curved, which was a clear consideration in its construction, meaning that it would be more reliable than the flat constructed improvised armored cars, because bullets would have a chance of ricocheting.
Another problem with the armor was that there is no immediately apparent way of accessing the engine. Whilst there is a small hatch at the front, this would not provide access for major repairs. According to photos, there are small plates on either side of the hull which might give access to the engine. It is suggested that perhaps the top armor plate could lift up, but this seems dubious. Also, another major consideration regarding the engine is overheating. The chassis, especially with turreted versions, would be heavily stressed, and during hot summers, the engine would inevitably overheat. The armor would certainly insulate the engine, meaning that a breakdown and cooling period could last a very long time. Like most other gun trucks, due to their high ground pressure, they could also not be used off-road.

Other types?

Stranger types might exist, too, with concave armor, as opposed to the more commonly seen convex type. Their turrets are much different in construction to the ones seen on others, too. Whilst they might be a different vehicle all together, their plaques on the front fender appear similar in design to the Constructora Field’s, although the words appear to be different. They may be a different, but similar vehicle series made in Barcelona.

Sources

Carros de Combatante y Vehículos Blindados de la Guerra 1936-1939” by F.C. Albert
“Las Armas de la Guerra Civil: El Primer Estudio Global y Sistematico del Armamento Empleado por Ambos Contendientes” by José María Manrique García and Lucas Molina Franco
“Spanish Civil War Tanks: The Proving Ground for Blitzkrieg” by Steven J. Zaloga
Modellingmadness.com
Mundogsm.com (1st thread, Spanish)
Mundogsm.com (2nd thread, Spanish)

Unknown camouflaged Constructora Field of the CNT-FAI.
Unknown camouflaged Constructora Field of the CNT-FAI.

The Constructora Field No.9 later captured by Nationalists
The Constructora Field No.9 later captured by Nationalists.

Knocked out Constructora Field No. 2 armored Car of the Columna Ascaso, probably on the Aragonese front
Knocked out Constructora Field No. 2 Armoured Car of the Columna Ascaso, probably on the Aragonese front. This vehicle was captured by the Nationalists. More photos.
Constructora Field No.9 Caspe March, 1938Constructora Field “No.9”, Caspe, March, 1938. Slogan “[Spanish]: Tereul will be the grave! [Catalan]: Long live freedom of the people”. This one features metal chains to protect the tires and undercarriage.
Other side of Constructora Field No. 9 at the Exposicion de material de guerra tomado al enemigo
Other side of Constructora Field No. 9 at the “Exposicion de material de guerra tomado al enemigo” in San Sebastian, 1938. Slogan: “[Catalan]: Down with Fascism! [Spanish]: They will not pass!” The front part of the hull appears to be held up by a trolley jack, as it is missing its front wheels (and possibly the entire front axle).
Possibly a late type Constructora Fields next to other unknown improvised vehicles.
Possibly a late type Constructora Fields next to other unknown improvised vehicles. The iconic lettering plaques on the front of the fenders indicate that these are possibly Constructora Fields, even though they appear to be a different type of vehicle with their convex armor, and differently shaped turrets.
Another possible late type Constructora Field.
Another possible late type Constructora Field. It features many common features with its predecessors, such as the pistol ports, chains to protect the tires, hinged armor skirts around the tires, and this turret is slightly similar to earlier types.
Constructora Field No.1 in Barcelona
Constructora Field “No.1” in Barcelona. San Jaime’s Square, just outside the town hall.

Categories
WW2 Spanish Armored Cars

AAC-1937

Hello dear reader! This article is in need of some care and attention and may contain errors or inaccuracies. If you spot anything out of place, please let us know!

republican flag Second Spanish Republic (1937-1939)
Heavy Armored Car – Approximately 70-90 built

The Spanish BAI / BA-6

The AAC-1937 (Autometralladora blindado medio Chevrolet-1937), sometimes known as the “Chevrolet 6×4 1937”, was an armored car made by the Republican forces in Spain during the Civil War. It was, essentially, a copy BA-3/6 (although it closely resembles a BAI).
Its armament varied quite a bit – usually two machine guns (various models), but sometimes a French 37 mm (1.46 in) gun, and even cannibalized Soviet turrets with 45 mm (1.77 in) guns were used. Like many AFVs in the Spanish Civil War, it changed hands quite a lot, and saw service with Republicans, Nationalists, and even with the French and Germans during WWII. With such an impressive list of users, it seems odd that it is such an obscurity.

Context: Soviets in Spain

The Soviet Union had a major interest in Spain before the Civil War even began. The possibility of securing a satellite state in Western Europe would be excellent for Comintern. After the overthrowing of the monarchy in 1931, the radical left political parties, such as the PSOE (Spanish Socialist Workers Party), PCE (Spanish Communist Party), and unions such as the UGT (General Workers Union), and Anarchist CNT (National Confederation of Labor) were able to secure power.
Knowing that the balance between traditional, Catholic Spain, and modern, socialist Spain could be tipped one way or the other at any moment, the USSR attempted to influence the situation. After successive failed governments, and several elections, 1931-1936, whereby power swung from the far left to the far right, Civil War inevitably broke out between Republican forces (a conglomerate of left-wing parties and organizations) and the Nationalist forces (a similar conglomerate of traditionalist forces such as CEDA, Carlists, and the Falange, supported by much of the armed forces and Guardia Civil).
The Republicans desperately needed arms, as the Nationalists controlled half of available rifles, and two thirds of the machine guns and artillery pieces, thus giving them the upper hand. Worse still, due to an agreement of non-intervention from France and Britain, the only viable option was to buy from the Soviet Union (although small shipments were secured from France, it was far from sufficient). By this time, the Soviets were less concerned about receiving a new satellite state as much as they were about stopping the spread of Fascism.
By spending some of its gold reserves to pay for the aid, it is estimated that Spain received 242 aircraft, 703 artillery pieces, 731 tanks, 300 armored cars, 15,000 machine guns, 500,000 rifles, and 30,000 sub-machine guns from both Soviet and Comintern sources, as well as over 2000 Soviet personnel, mainly consisting of pilots and tank crews, but also engineers and military advisers.

Design process

By 1937, the German and Italian navies had control of, or were blockading, all Spanish ports, meaning that the USSR could not supply more tanks and armored cars to the Republicans. Knowing this, the Republican government turned to local industry to produced AFVs.
There was, apparently, a specification for a heavy armored car, and a number of prototype armored cars were made in April, 1937, generally based on the BA-6 design. One which the Republicans liked the most was a prototype of the AAC-1937. It was based on a Chevrolet SD 1937 lorry chassis, and produced at the General Motors Factory in Barcelona.
However, there was a problem – the Chevy SD 1937 only had two axles which was a problem for heavy armored cars, as the vehicle would not be stable enough. To fix the problem, a GAZ-AAA truck, taken from a damaged BA-6 was cannibalized, and the Chevrolet SD 1937 was modified to have three axles.
This was only made possible by the fact that Soviet lorries were, in effect, copies of American designs. As a result, the newly modified armored car was similar to the BA-6, but it was slightly more agile because it had a stronger engine with 10 hp more than its counterpart.
The original Chevrolet SD 1937 lorry
The original Chevrolet SD 1937 lorry.
The armor for the hull was made at a factory in “Altos Hornos de Sagunto“, Valencia; the same place where armor for the UNL-35 (a Spanish copy of the FAI / BA-20) was made. It was made from 8 mm (0.31 in) plates welded together. The bodywork looked like a typical Soviet armored car. The major differences were the engine access hatches, the tires, and the mudguards.
The AAC-1937 usually had a four man crew, including a driver, commander, gunner (to operate the turret gun/guns), and a co-driver (to operate the hull machine gun). However, the main armament and turret configuration seem have varied a lot. Some appear to have locally built BAI-like turrets (although not round, but welded from many plates), sometimes featuring a machine gun, and sometimes a machine gun and a 37 mm (1.46 in) Puteaux gun. The original configuration is unknown, however. Sources give the following suggestions:
1. Single machine gun (MG-13s, DTs, and Maxim guns being the most common), in what appears to be a locally built turret, fairly similar to the BAI turret.
2. Cannibalized T-26, BT, and BA-6 turrets – which there is photographic evidence for the AAC-1937 using.
3. Other sources also suggest that the original locally built BAI turrets were later rearmed with French 37 mm Puteaux guns, believed to be taken from old FT tanks. Photographs certainly show 37 mm guns, but whether they were originally designed to feature them, or were later upgraded to feature them, is a mystery.
A variety of AAC-1937 models in Republican service, circa 1937.
A variety of AAC-1937 models in Republican service, circa 1937. Some appear to have cannibalized BT/T-26/BA-6 turrets, and others appear to have only an offset machine gun in their locally built turrets.
It is most likely the case that their armaments varied from batch to batch – each batch dictated by what was available – Spanish armored cars of the period are not known to have been too well standardized. As mentioned, the original configuration remains unknown. Whilst it does make sense that these armored cars would follow the Soviet heavy armored car doctrine, and therefore feature a large caliber gun as the original, the Spanish also followed a more European doctrine of just having machine guns.
In any case, AAC-1937s, in their various models, started leaving production lines in April 1937. Four were made every month, but by March, 1938, there was a shortage of steel armor plates as a result of the Nationalists dividing Republican held territory in two. Small numbers were made until February, 1939, when Catalonia was captured by Nationalists. A reported 70 were built in total, but perhaps as many as 90, according to combat data.
Nationalist T-26 and AAC-1937 with a T-26 turret (and original Republican hull colors).
Nationalist T-26 and AAC-1937 with a T-26 turret (and original Republican hull colors). They both appear to be knocked out. Date and location unknown.

In Combat

Parallels with the UNL-35 do not end with the design process. Similar to the UNL-35’s combat history, the first piece of combat that the AAC-1937s saw was during the suppression of an anarchist uprising in Barcelona in May, 1937. After this, they were in service with the Republican 1st (Catalonia) and 2nd (Center South) Armored Divisions. During the war, an estimated thirty were captured by the Nationalists. They were reportedly rearmed with MG-13 machine guns.
Fighting in Spain might have been troublesome for a heavy armored car. If the UNL-35 is anything to go by, they would probably suffer from engine overheating. However, it must be remembered that these were not crudely built improvised gun trucks which would be mechanically stressed by the weight of their armor. These were fairly professionally built with high quality materials – in effect, they might have been mechanically better than their Soviet counterparts!
With the Nationalist victory in the Catalan Offensive in February, 1939, AAC-1937s crossed over into France with retreating Republican forces. Those which were left operational in Spain were used by the Nationalists until the 1950s with Cavalry units.
AAC-1937 in Nationalist service, possibly post-Civil War. The machine guns appear to be dummies. The hull marking appears to be a Cavalry unit.
AAC-1937 in Nationalist service, possibly post-Civil War. The machine guns appear to be dummies. The hull marking appears to be a Cavalry unit.
The total number of those captured by France is unknown, but probably few more than twenty. At some time around May, 1940, France took out roughly twenty AAC-1937s from storage to fight against the Germans. According to photos, they saw very limited service, seeing as though France was quickly defeated.

German AAC-1937

The remaining AAC-1937s (believed to be about thirty) were then used by the Germans for security operations in the Eastern Front. Designated “Pz.Kpfw 612“, many of these received nicknames, such as “Tiger“, “Cheetah“, “Leopard“, “Jaguar“, and “Panther“. Various models were used by the Germans, mainly comprising of their own field conversions such as: A troop transporter (by removal of the turret), a SPAAG (by replacing the turret with an AA dual-MG 34), and one modified to fit an MG 34 in the turret. Sources also discuss rail conversions, and a command version, but photographic evidence of these has not been seen by the author.
Germany deployed their AAC-1937s on June 22nd, 1941, in reserve duties near Moscow. However, the fighting at Moscow was brutal and as a result, these armored cars were called upon for front-line duties. They were knocked out in a matter of days.
At least three AAC-1937s reportedly saw service at Leningrad with the Division Azul, but were also quickly lost.
By winter, 1942, it is believed that there were three remaining AAC-1937s in German service, which were sent for security/anti-partisan duties, although exactly where is unclear. Probably in the RSFSR.
German Army, Spanish Built AAC-1937 armoured car named Jaguar captured by Soviet forces.
German Army, Spanish Built AAC-1937 armoured car named ‘Jaguar’ captured by Soviet forces. As taken from “Tanks Illustrated No. 16, Operation Barbarossa” by Steven J. Zaloga and James Grandsen. Grandsen suggests that AAC-1937s were purchased by Germany and “presumably used by Brandenburger units to confuse Soviet forces” but this does not seem to be true at all.

Links/sources

“Las Armas de la Guerra Civil: El Primer Estudio Global y Sistematico del Armamento Empleado por Ambos Contendientes” by José María Manrique García and Lucas Molina Franco
“Spanish Civil War Tanks: The Proving Ground for Blitzkrieg” by Steven J. Zaloga
“Tout les blindés de l’armée française 1914-1940” by Francois Vauvillier
“Comintern and the Spanish Civil War” by Svetlana Pozharskaya
“The Battle for Spain, The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939” by Anthony Beevor
“A Short History of: The Spanish Civil War” by Julian Casanova
“The Spanish Civil War” by Stanley G. Payne
Amonov.livejournal.com
beutepanzer.ru
knigo-man.livejournal.com
fdra.blogspot.co.uk
regimiento-numancia.es
dishmodels.ru
guerra-abierta.blogspot
vehiculosblindadosdelaguerracivil.blogspot

AAC-1937 reported specifications

Dimensions (L,W,H) 4.4 x 2.25 x 2.4 m (14.4 x 7.38 x 7.9 feet)
Total weight, battle ready 4.8 tons (4354 kg)
Crew 4 (commander, gunner, driver, secondary gunner)
Engine Chevrolet, 78 hp, 8 cylinder gas
Speed (road) 62 km/h (39 mph)
Range Unknown, estimated 250 km (155 miles)
Armament Various. Usually 2x machine guns
Armor 8 mm (0.31 in)
Total production Approximately 70 to 90

A Soviet BAI, for comparison.
A Soviet BAI, for comparison.
Republican AAC-37 in green livery. Turrets are believed to have just been armed with single machine guns, originally.
Republican AAC-37 in green livery. Turrets are believed to have just been armed with single machine guns, originally.
Nationalist captured AAC-37 with a T-26 turret. Some others received BT turrets.
Nationalist captured AAC-37 with a T-26 turret. Some others received BT turrets.
French camouflaged AAC-37 as shown in a depot, possibly 1940
French camouflaged AAC-37 as shown in a depot, possibly 1940.
French AAC-37 used in 1940, captured by German troops. Probably original Republican colors
French AAC-37 used in 1940, captured by German troops. Probably original Republican colors.
Camouflaged AAC-37 at a French depot, possibly 1940. Probably original Republican colors.
Camouflaged AAC-37 at a French depot, possibly 1940. Probably original Republican colors.
Beutespähpanzer AAC-37(f). About 20 captured were used in the Eastern Front
Beutespähpanzer AAC-37(f). About 20 captured were used in the Eastern Front, some were named after animals, like this “Jaguar”. armed here with a MAC Mle 1931 machine gun.
AAC-1937s in Nationalist service. The first one did not have a 37 mm gun, just an off-set machine gun. The one behind appears to be a BA-6, as it features a BT turret, but the differently shaped and notably lower placed mudguards indicate this to be an AAC-1937
AAC-1937s in Nationalist service. The first one did not have a 37 mm gun, just an off-set machine gun. The one behind appears to be a BA-6, as it features a BT turret, but the differently shaped and notably lower placed mudguards indicate this to be an AAC-1937.
Camouflaged AAC-1937, in a storage warehouse in France. French tanks can be seen behind it. Possibly in original Republican colors.
Camouflaged AAC-1937, in a storage warehouse in France. French tanks can be seen behind it. Possibly in original Republican colors.
AAC-1937s in France- possibly 1939, shortly after they were captured from the Spanish Republicans.
AAC-1937s in France- possibly 1939, shortly after they were captured from the Spanish Republicans. However, the camouflage appears more like a French type.
Different view of the above.
Different view of the above.
German soldiers pose with a French AAC-1937 - one of the few to actually see combat with France. Possibly in original Republican colors.
German soldiers pose with a French AAC-1937 – one of the few to actually see combat with France. Possibly in original Republican colors.
German AAC-1937 converted into a SPAAG with twin AA MG-34s. The different wheel shape and lower mudguards are the only real giveaway that this is not just a BAI.
German AAC-1937 converted into a SPAAG with twin AA MG-34s. The different wheel shape and lower mudguards are the only real giveaway that this is not just a BAI.
German conversion of an AAC-1937 into a turretless vehicle. This photo was likely taken around Moscow, winter, 1941-2.
German conversion of an AAC-1937 into a turretless vehicle. This photo was likely taken around Moscow, winter, 1941-2.
Interior of a German AAC-1937 turret. The MAC Mle 1931 machine gun is distinctive with its round drum on the side of the gun.
Interior of a German AAC-1937 turret. The MAC Mle 1931 machine gun is distinctive with its round drum on the side of the gun.

Video


Short footage of AAC-1937 “Jaguar” in combat on the Eastern Front. Probably near Moscow, 1941.

Categories
WW2 Spanish Armored Cars

Hispano Suiza MC-36

republican flag Second Spanish Republic (1935-1936)
Armored Car – 5-15 built

A pre-war homegrown

The Hispano Suiza MC-36 was a truck-based, little-known vehicle from the Spanish Second Republic. It was actually only a prototype vehicle, and was intended to see service with the security forces, but it lost out on the contract to the smaller Bilbao armored car. Very little is known about the vehicle, seeing as though it was produced in such small numbers, but some photographs do exist, and they provide a wealth of information.
Nationalist MC-36. Slogan: Viva Espana!
Nationalist MC-36. Slogan: Viva Espana!
It was based on the very large Hispano Suiza T-69 truck chassis. Hispano Suiza was a Spanish engineering firm founded in 1904, which, among other things, made luxury cars and commercial trucks. The Republican government took control of the Spanish side of the company during the Civil War in order to produce weapons, armored cars, and other vehicles. Similarly, it also had a French subsidiary which was taken under control by the French government in 1937 (by owning 51% of the shares) for the same reason – war-material production. However, the MC-36 was actually a pre-Civil War armored car, which was in direct competition with the Bilbao to be produced for the Republic’s security forces – probably the Assault Guard or Police.
They were reportedly built in Barcelona, with the hulls made in Madrid by La Sociedad Comercial de Hierros. It ultimately lost the competition, perhaps due to the Bilbao’s simpler design and smaller size.


Hello dear reader! This article is in need of some care and attention and may contain errors or inaccuracies. If you spot anything out of place, please let us know!


The MC-36 looks as though it would have been very unwieldy in urban combat – a rough estimate based on a scale model reveals it to be 7.4 meters long, which could make traversing around narrow streets an issue.
The shape of the armor is interesting as well. Such a sleek design would allow it to be fairly aerodynamic for such a large vehicle, although the overall benefit is dubious due to the weight of the vehicle. The engine cover also appears to be very well designed – its grill system would allow the engine to be air-cooled (although the engine was probably water-cooled, also). This is important, as armored vehicles in Spain tended to suffer from engine problems as a result of overheating. However, the protection from shrapnel and even small arms fire offered by the grill design is dubious.
They were armed with a dome-shaped turret (which appears riveted together from many plates) with a Hotchkiss machine gun. It appears as though the machine gun would have had minimal elevation, as a result of the basic pistol port that it was poked through, as opposed to having an integrated ball-mount design. Two or four pistol ports can be seen on the side of the hull (sometimes seen with two light machine guns poking out, although photos are not clear enough to definitively say how many there were), and the rear windows could also open. Entry appears to have been done by side doors, certainly for the drivers, but possibly for the passengers as well, as no other discernible entrances can be seen. The tires were each protected by a slightly smaller armored tire, as seen in photos. It could reportedly carry up to ten people, which was quite a lot, and perhaps shows that there was an intention for use as an APC during riots, too.
Riot control is certainly something that would be on the minds of the security forces of the time. There were three elections, 1931-1936, and various deadly events across Spain, such as the Asturian Miners’ Strike (1934) – a protest against the entry of CEDA (a right-wing Catholic-conservative party) into government, which had to be crushed by the armed forces, and cost the lives of over 2000 (260 of which were Republican soldiers). Spain was simply unstable. Armored cars would give security forces a means of protected transport for their staff, but also allow effective fire to be laid down onto armed rebels, thus minimizing casualties for the security forces. One of the biggest concerns during unrest in Spain was rebels capturing buildings and locking the area down with snipers. Having an armored car that could fit ten men meant that the vehicle could easily drive up to the building and allow the crew to storm the building, without fear from being shot by snipers.
Supposed prototype MC-36 being presented to police official
Supposed prototype MC-36 being presented to police officials.
An estimated 5-15 vehicles were built (probably closer to 5), and were committed to combat in the Civil War with Republican forces. They were most likely sent to the southern front, with unknown combat results. Interestingly, the T-69 truck was used for towing field guns and artillery pieces during the Civil War, but there is a substantial lack of information on them.

In Combat

More is perhaps known about their service with the Nationalists. According to slogans on the side of one vehicle, they were in service under Lieutenant Colonel Carlos Asensio Cabanillas (hence the slogan: “Columna Madrid, Tte. Coronel Asensio“). Assuming that this is more than just a slogan, these MC-36s were captured somewhere between Seville and Madrid, as this is where Cabanillas’ forces saw combat.
The Nationalists also did one huge modification – adding a T-26 turret to at least one. It is unknown why this was done, and if only one was modified in this manner. It was, reportedly, the command vehicle for “Agrupacion de Carros del Sur“. The Nationalists would have quite liked to operate a captured T-26, seeing as though they were easily the best tanks in the war, owing to their deadly 45 mm (1.77 in) gun. Perhaps the T-26 it came from was damaged, save for the turret, and this is why the turret was salvaged and placed onto a suitable chassis. Whilst quite a heavy turret (an estimated 0.94 tons), the chassis would be able to carry such a load, although it would raise the center of mass substantially, thus making it top heavy and more prone to toppling over. The MC-36 with a T-26 turret has been photographed in service with Agrupacion del Ejercito del Sur during the Victory Parade in Seville, 17th April, 1936, and again in Andalucia.
The MC-36’s production run remains unknown, as do specific details about its armor thickness, weight, and top speed. It is likely that the armor was roughly 10 mm (0.39 in) thick, as per most armored cars of the period. Its very streamlined shape (more so with the Hotchkiss turret) would mean it was aerodynamic, but at the speeds of most armored cars of the time, this would have been very close to irrelevant. Moreso, it would undoubtedly be a heavy and road-bound vehicle, therefore, it is likely that it could hit speeds of no higher than 40 km/h (25 mph) in the best of conditions.

Side-note: A Chinese Copy?

Photographs of this vehicle must have also appeared in China, too, in around 1936/7, as the Nationalists built an improvised armored car that is simply too similar-looking to be a coincidence, especially with regards to the turret, although nothing is known about this vehicle, aside from what can be seen from the photograph. It is also unclear what gun is used in the turret, although it appears to be a low caliber gun, possibly a mountain gun, mortar, or some kind of jacketed-machine gun, such as the Lewis gun.
Sources:
Las Armas de la Guerra Civil: El Primer Estudio Global y Sistematico del Armamento Empleado por Ambos Contendientes” by José María Manrique García and Lucas Molina Franco
“Spanish Civil War Tanks: The Proving Ground for Blitzkrieg” by Steven J. Zaloga
“The Battle for Spain, The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939” by Anthony Beevor
“A Short History of: The Spanish Civil War” by Julian Casanova
“The Spanish Civil War” by Stanley G. Payne
Automania.be
Miniarons.eu
ww2history.ru
vehiculosblindadosdelaguerracivil.blogspot
shushpanzer.ru

The original MC-36 featuring the 'Hotchkiss hemispheric turret' in Nationalist service
The original MC-36 featuring the ‘Hotchkiss hemispheric turret’ in Nationalist service, “Columna Madrid Tte. Coronel Asensio“.The field conversion T-26 turret-armed MC-36 in Nationalist service
The field conversion T-26 turret-armed MC-36 in Nationalist service.
Nationalist MC-36. Slogans: Columna Madrid, Viva Espana.
Nationalist MC-36. Slogans: Columna Madrid, Viva Espana.
Different view of the above MC-36. Slogan: Columna Madrid, Tte. Coronel Asencio.
Different view of the above MC-36. Slogan: Columna Madrid, Tte. Coronel Asencio.
Nationalist MC-36. Possibly the same as above at a different point in time
Nationalist MC-36. Possibly the same as above at a different point in time (hence the similarity of the slogans, particularly when “Columna Madrid” is compared closely), or, at least part of the same column. This one does not have the additional armored wheels protecting the tires.
Republican MC-36. Slogan: Partido Comunista
Republican MC-36. Slogan: Partido Comunista
Unknown MC-36. Republican service. Appears to be the same vehicle as above.
Unknown MC-36. Republican service. Appears to be the same vehicle as above.
Nationalist MC-36 with a T-26 turret. Falangist markings are seen on the wheelguards.
Nationalist MC-36 with a T-26 turret. Falangist markings are seen on the wheelguards.
Different view of the above MC-36. Postwar parade in the south.
Different view of the above MC-36. Postwar parade in the south.
Possibly a second MC-36 in Nationalist service with a T-26 turret. Above photos do not show a headlamp on the gun, but it may have just been removed or added at a different point in time.
Possibly a second MC-36 in Nationalist service with a T-26 turret. Above photos do not show a headlamp on the gun, but it may have just been removed or added at a different point in time.
Categories
WW2 Spanish Armored Cars

UNL-35

republican flag Second Spanish Republic (1937-1939)
Light Armored Car – 120-200 built

The Spanish FAI / BA-20

The UNL-35 was perhaps the most mass-produced armored vehicle in Spain during the 1936-1939 Civil War. Built by Unión Naval de Levante, it was essentially a better copy of the Soviet BA-20, owing to its use of a truck chassis, as opposed to a saloon car. It is sometimes suggested that the UNL-35 is a Spanish copy of the FAI, which makes sense, as FAIs were actually sent to Spain. However, the UNL-35 seems to have more in common with the BA-20. The easiest way to tell them apart from a BA-20 is the four-piece wheel guards, the differently-shaped turret, and the Spanish scenery in the background of photos. Sturdy, reliable, sensible, the UNL-35 was kept in service with the Spanish army until retirement in 1957, but also may have seen service in WWII with the French and even the Germans.


Hello dear reader! This article is in need of some care and attention and may contain errors or inaccuracies. If you spot anything out of place, please let us know!


Context: Soviets in Spain

The Soviet Union had a major interest in Spain before the Civil War even began. The possibility of securing a satellite state in Western Europe would be excellent for the Comintern. After the overthrowing of the monarchy in 1931, the radical left political parties such as the PSOE (Spanish Socialist Workers Party), PCE (Spanish Communist Party), and unions such as the UGT (General Workers Union), and Anarchist CNT (National Confederation of Labor) were able to secure power. Knowing that the balance between traditional, Catholic Spain and modern, socialist Spain could be tipped one way or the other at any moment, the USSR attempted to influence the situation. After successive failed governments, and several elections, 1931-1936, whereby power swung from the far left to the far right, Civil War inevitably broke out between Republican forces (a conglomerate of left-wing parties and organizations) and the Nationalist forces (a similar conglomerate of traditionalist forces such as CEDA, Carlists, and the Falange, supported by much of the armed forces and Guardia Civil).
The Republicans desperately needed arms, as the Nationalists controlled half of available rifles, and two-thirds of the machine guns and artillery pieces, thus giving them the upper hand. Worse still, due to an agreement of non-intervention from France and Britain, the only viable option was to buy from the Soviet Union (although small shipments were secured from France, it was far from sufficient). By this time, the Soviets were less concerned about receiving a new satellite state as much as they were about stopping the spread of Fascism. By spending some of its gold reserves to pay for the aid, it is estimated that Spain received 242 aircraft, 703 artillery pieces, 731 tanks, 300 armored cars, 15,000 machine guns, 500,000 rifles, and 30,000 sub-machine guns from both Soviet and Comintern sources, as well as over 2000 Soviet personnel, mainly consisting of pilots and tank crews, but engineers and military advisers, too.

Design process

The UNL-35 was built in the naval factories of the Unión Naval de Levante, Valencia, eastern Spain. It was certainly a reflection of Soviet influence – the factory was managed by a Soviet advisory engineer, Polkovnik Nikolai Alimov, in conjunction with Spanish engineers and technicians. It was, essentially, a Spanish copy of the BA-20. The BA-20 used the GAZ-M1 saloon car as its basis, whereas the UNL-35 used the more reliable and tougher ZIS-5 three-ton truck (although other trucks were known to be used in small series such as the GAZ-AA, an unknown Chevrolet, and an unknown British truck, as proven by the right-hand driving), therefore making it a technically superior vehicle.
Construction of a UNL-35
Construction of a UNL-35. Still from “Roig I Negre”, 2006. (See sources)
A wooden base was used on the bottom of the vehicle, and 8-10 mm (0.31-0.39 in) sloped plates were welded and riveted, which made it a much sturdier design. These steel plates were built in another factory, Altos Hornos del Mediterráneo, in Sagunto, Valencia, which was being supervised by another Soviet engineer, A. Vorobyov. Munitions, possibly for the vehicles themselves, were built in the same factory as the vehicle itself, the complex being split into four separate production lines.
There were two large access doors on either side of the hull for the crew. The engine compartment, too, featured armor plating with small access shutters at the front and sides, but the exact shape varied depending on the exact model. The tires were replaced with airless tires, thus meaning that they could not get a flat or be shot out by small arms fire. There was a ball-mounted machine gun for the co-driver to operate, as well as a similar one fitted in the turret, although these weapons were removable and are not always seen in photos.
Some minor differences between UNL-35s exist, and this tends to do with which truck was used as the basis. The biggest visible difference is one British truck-based UNL-35, which has the driver and co-driver positions swapped. Other differences include headlights being mounted on the side of the engine compartment or on top of mudguards, a small armor plate above the engine ignition crank (just below the front engine shutters), a small step fastened to the hull, just below the side-door, and the engine access hatch shapes (some are rounded rectangular, some are simple rectangles).
Various machine guns were fitted to the UNL-35 including the DP-28 and MG08. Photos are not clear enough to positively identify all machine guns, but it is also possible, if not probable, that they used MG34s, Hotchkiss Mle 1914s, and Maxim M1910s.
Production started in early 1937, with approximately five vehicles built each month. By spring, 1938, the UNL factories were evacuated and production moved to Elda and Pertel in Alicante, south of Valencia. Final production of the UNL-35 ended in 1939.
At least one UNL-35 is on display at the Museo de Medios Acorzados, Madrid, but is reportedly a replica. Another replica has also been built using original blueprints, featuring Nationalist colors, and is on sale for 16,000 Euros.
Replica UNL-35 in Nationalist camouflage with re-enactors.
Replica UNL-35 in Nationalist camouflage with re-enactors. Currently for sale.

In Combat

Specific details on the UNL-35’s combat are seemingly unavailable. Based on what is known about the vehicle’s specifications, it would not be unreasonable to make speculative comments on how it would fare. Its 8-10 mm (0.31-0.39 in) of armor seems rather poor, but it is actually in line with interwar armored vehicle standards – the Soviet BA-20 had a maximum of 10 mm, the British Lanchester 6×4 had up to 9 mm (0.35 in), the Italian CV-33 had up to 10 mm, the Polish wz.34 had up to 10 mm, and even the German Panzer I Ausf.A had a mere 13 mm (0.51 in). With its rivet and weld construction, it was a sturdy machine, unlike Soviet vehicles which suffered from poor quality welds, or the drawbacks of purely riveted designs. Riveted designs are easy to produce, but heavy machine gun fire could cause spalling and kill the crew. Although the rivet and weld design would mean that the vehicle could probably be very easily repaired and pressed into service again, as it would not be totally ruined. It would, crucially, have no trouble withstanding small arms fire and light shrapnel from hand grenades, although raids from the German Legion Condor would be, without question, fatal.
The UNL-35 is not without its problems. According to Zaloga in “Spanish Civil War Tanks: The Proving Ground for Blitzkrieg“, protected trucks made in Republican areas, whilst used daringly, were overburdened by the armor plating, and the engines would often overheat, or the suspension would buckle. Whilst more or less referring to the improvised trucks and the inferior Bilbao armored car, it appears as though the UNL-35 may have suffered from the same problems. Many photos show the UNL-35 with the front and side engine access compartments open. It is more than plausible that this is to stop the engine overheating, which would be a serious problem during Spanish summer offensives, especially in the warmer climate of central Spain (which is generally the hotter area of Spain) and the Mediterranean coast (which occasionally sees high temperatures due to North African winds). To make matters worse, the ZIS-5 (which appears to have been the most commonly used truck basis) had a water-cooled engine, which could seriously inconvenience a depleted unit of UNL-35s.
A further problem is highlighted in that it had a very narrow wheel base, but the vehicle itself was rather tall. The UNL-35 was clearly not the most stable vehicle, and was probably road-bound, much like the BA-20, due to its very high ground pressure. UNL-35s built on the ZIS-5 truck appear to have dual-wheels, but others, such as the one based on the British truck, have very thin single wheels, which would make the vehicle very precarious.
The UNL-35 saw action on all fronts, except for the north, as by April 14th, 1938, the northern cities of Barcelona, Tarragona, and Gerona were isolated from Valencia. The Nationalists had pushed through to the Mediterranean Sea during the Aragon Offensive, which effectively split the Republican-controlled zone in half. This meant that it would be logistically impossibly to send any UNL-35s to the northern front.
A pair of captured UNL-35s in service with the Nationalists. The engine hatches are probably open to stop the engine from overheating.
A pair of captured UNL-35s in service with the Nationalists. The engine hatches are probably open to stop the engine from overheating.
It is reported that they first saw service in the May Events in Barcelona, 1937, in support of the Assault Guards from Valencia, where Republican factions fought one another for control of Catalonia. The UNL-35 would also see service in the Battle of Brunete (6th July – 25th July 1937), and at Segovia, Teruel, and Belchite.
After the Civil War, the remaining UNL-35s supposedly changed hands quite often. Some vehicles were captured and put into use by the Nationalists and Spanish Army well until 1957.
It is reported that some UNL-35s were used French cavalry units against German forces in 1940 at Dunkirk along with some AAC-1937s (which was a copy of the BAI in the same way that the UNL-35 was a copy of the BA-20). They were confiscated during the Republican retreat into France – one photo reportedly shows four in France, and another possibly shows some behind an AAC-1937 with a French Gendarme posing near them, meaning that at least four were known to be in France. Due to the fall of Barcelona during the Catalonia Offensive, in early February, 1939, Spanish refugees, including soldiers, marched to France. By the 5th, Republican soldiers were allowed to cross over, but it was sealed by Nationalist forces on the 9th. There is no apparent information available on what happened to any weapons brought across the border, if they were allowed at all, but it is likely that they were all confiscated. Whether or not they were actually pressed into service with France is a different matter.
According to “Tout les blindés de l’armée française 1914-1940“, at least twenty-two UNL-35s were seized and were given to the Minister of Colonies, Georges Mandel, in April 1939, although their final fate is unknown.
German forces also supposedly deployed captured French UNL-35s and AAC-1937s into service at the Balkans, Eastern Front. Photos exist of the AAC-1937s in German service, but not of the UNL-35, although markings would probably be similar.

UNL-35 specifications

Dimensions (L-w-h) 3.7 x 1.9 x 2.3 m (12ft2x6ft3x7ft7)
Total weight, battle ready 2.3 tons
Crew 3 (driver, co-driver, commander)
Propulsion ZiS-16, 6 cyl, petrol, 73 hp
Speed (road) 50 km/h (30 mph)
Range 230 km (145 mi)
Armament Various machine guns (see notes)
Armor 8-10 mm (0.31-0.39 in)
Total production 120-200

Sources, Links, and more information

“Las Armas de la Guerra Civil: El Primer Estudio Global y Sistematico del Armamento Empleado por Ambos Contendientes” by José María Manrique García and Lucas Molina Franco
“Spanish Civil War Tanks: The Proving Ground for Blitzkrieg” by Steven J. Zaloga
“Tout les blindés de l’armée française 1914-1940” by Francois Vauvillier
“Comintern and the Spanish Civil War” by Svetlana Pozharskaya
“The Battle for Spain, The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939” by Anthony Beevor
“A Short History of: The Spanish Civil War” by Julian Casanova
“The Spanish Civil War” by Stanley G. Payne
“Roig I Negre”, (Spanish / Catalan) 2006, a TV3C documentary on Anarchism in Catalonia and Aragón.
Panzornot.net (Provides many stills from “Roig I Negre”)
The UNL-35 on Wikipedia (Spanish)
Regimiento-numancia.es (Spanish) (Seemingly the ‘official’ website of a Regiment that used the UNL-35)
Miniarons.eu (Page available in English, Spanish, and Catalan) (Spanish scale model making company)
Network54 Forums
MundoGSM Forums (Spanish) (General forum discussion on Spanish Civil War armored cars)
Minecreek.info
Taringa.net

A BA-20, for comparison
A Soviet BA-20 armored car, for comparison.
UNL-35 captured by the Nationalists, date unknown.
UNL-35 captured by the Nationalists, date unknown.
UNL-35 in Republican colors, 2nd Division of Armored Cars, Barcelona, 1937
UNL-35 in Republican colors, 2nd Division of Armored Cars, Barcelona, 1937.
UNL-35 in Republican colors, 1937.
UNL-35 in Republican colors, 1937.
Nationalist camouflaged UNL-35 in 1939.
Nationalist camouflaged UNL-35 in 1939.
UNL-35 of the Ejercito Popular Republicano, Fábrica 22.
UNL-35 of the Ejercito Popular Republicano, Fábrica 22.
Camouflaged UNL-35, unknown date. Possibly outside the UNL factories waiting to be armed.
Camouflaged UNL-35, unknown date. Possibly outside the UNL factories waiting to be armed.
A UNL-35 based on a British truck, hence the driver's and co-driver's positions being swapped. Small arms fire has left many dents in the mudguards, and smashed the glass of the right headlight.
A UNL-35 based on a British truck, hence the driver’s and co-driver’s positions being swapped. Small arms fire has left many dents in the mudguards, and smashed the glass of the right headlight.
A column of UNL-35s after crossing the French border.
A column of UNL-35s after crossing the French border.
Several UNL-35s on parade in Barcelona
Several UNL-35s on parade in Barcelona, in service with the Cavalry Regiment “Numancia”.
A replica UNL-35 on display at the Museo de Medios Acorzados, Madrid
A replica UNL-35 on display at the Museo de Medios Acorzados, Madrid.
Sideview of a camouflaged UNL-35.
Sideview of a camouflaged UNL-35.
Column of UNL-35s. Probably Republican service.
Column of UNL-35s. Probably Republican service.
UNL-35 in Nationalist service
UNL-35 in Nationalist service. This appears to be a 6×4, but it seems as though a spare wheel or some kind of oil drum is just behind the rear wheel, thus giving the illusion of 6×4.
A UNL-35 being prepared at the factory. It appears to have a water-cooled MG08 installed in the turret.
A UNL-35 being prepared at the factory. It appears to have a water-cooled MG08 installed in the turret.

Video from “Roig I Negre” of some UNL-35s being prepared.