Categories
Argentinian armor

Nahuel DL. 43

Argentinian armor Argentina (1943-1950s)
Medium Tank – 12-16 Built

Argentina is known in military circles for being one of the few South American states having in its arsenal a domestically-built tank, the Tanque Argentino Mediano (TAM), which has spawned a family of vehicles including Self-Propelled Guns, rocket launchers, and ambulances, all based on the same chassis. However, less well-known is a similar idea which dates back to 1943 – the Nahuel DL 43.

Context – A Tumultuous Country

Between 1916 and 1930, Argentina was governed by different brands of the ‘Radicals’ of Unión Cívica Radical, which, despite introducing some progressive measures, were also responsible for some of the most brutal repressions of worker and student movements. During this time, Argentina acquired its first military vehicle, the Model 25 Vickers Crossley armored car.

By 1930, economic stagnation and constant political violence would lead to the first of the many military coups which would hamper Argentina’s progress. The following period is remembered as ‘the infamous decade’ and was characterized by corruption and political persecution. The regime had deep fascist sympathies and the army’s appearance became very similar to that of Germany. In 1937, Argentina acquired a number of Vickers Carden-Loyd Model 1934 light tanks from Britain, intended to be used as training vehicles in preparation for acquiring bigger and more powerful tanks. The initial plan to buy a number of LT vz. 38’s from Czechoslovakia was scuppered by the Munich Agreement (1938). Argentina was unable to procure tanks from its traditional vendor, Britain, nor its ideological associate, Germany. With the eruption of the Second World War, Argentina’s pro-Nazi sympathies were not approved of by the USA, thus leading to a short period of political isolation and making the importation of foreign tanks impossible. A local solution therefore had to be found.

Alfredo Aquiles Baisi

Lieutenant Colonel Alfredo Aquiles Baisi was a second-generation Italian immigrant with a distinguished career. From a military family, he had been a military attaché to the Argentinian mission to the USA. He would go on to design the uniform for Argentinian tank crewmen and had overseen the modification of some tractors into assault vehicles named ‘Vinchuca’.

In 1942, the Argentinian regime passed Ley 12.709, a law which created the Dirección General de Fabricaciones Militares [Eng: General Directorate for Military Manufacturing]. This institution was tasked with organizing different industries across the country for the production of a domestic tank to fulfill the role of main armored vehicle in the Argentinian armored forces. In 1943, the Directorate gave the job of building a 35-tonne (38.5 tons) tank to Baisi.

Alfredo Aquiles Baisi in his military uniform. Source: www.taringa.net

Development and Prototype

Remarkably, Baisi and his team were able to deliver a 1:1 scale wooden model, designated ‘251’, within forty-five days.

The wooden model was considered satisfactory and the relevant authorities asked for a prototype. Work on this prototype, and presumably the wooden model too, took place at the Esteban de Luca Arsenal in Boulogne Sur Mer, on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. The prototype, numbered ‘C 252’, short of its turret, was finished after two months work and shown to impressed military authorities at the arsenal where it was being built. Not long afterward, it was tested in front of a crowd including the President and other civilian and military leaders. The results were favorable enough for a production series to be requested.

Allegedly, according to some of the sources, Baisi’s dream was to create a family of military vehicles based on the Nahuel chassis.

Design

Regarding the design and vehicle specifications, it is worth noting that these are as stated in the secondary sources popularised by authors such as Ricardo Sigal Fagliani. These are prone to exaggerations and chauvinistically overstate the abilities of Argentinian produced vehicles and Argentina’s capabilities in general. Alternatively, the original specification may have been incorrectly recorded by some author and then the mistake has been passed on as the correct data over the years. Because of this, specifications must be taken with a pinch of salt.

External Appearance and Armor

Despite claims by Argentine military authorities that the Nahuel was an indigenous project which was not inspired by any foreign tank, in appearance, it resembled an M4 Sherman and M3 Lee/Grant hybrid. The front of the tank consisted of a flat inclined plate forming a beak at the front where it met the bottom plate. At some point, presumably between 1947 and 1948, a slit with a sliding panel was retrofitted on the frontal plate to improve the driver’s vision. There was a headlight on each side of the front of the tank just above the tracks.

Two Nahuels on parade. In the page this photo has been taken from, it is labelled as being taken on a parade in July 1944, though this cannot be the case. Other photos in 1944 show the Nahuel with the twin machine guns in the front of the hull, whereas in this photo, they have been removed. Additionally, the vision slit for the driver can be seen in both Nahuels and these were not added until about 1947 or 1948. Source: www.militariarg.com

The frontal armor was 80 mm (3.1 in) thick, which according to some sources was the same thickness on the sides and the turret, though this seems unlikely, and the bottom and rear were 25 mm (0.9 in) thick. The armor was welded and riveted and made out of homogenous nickel steel. The steel plates were of good quality, although at first several US reporters had claimed that the tank’s armor had been made using scrap metal from old warships.

However, it is worth noting that according to the sources, the vehicle had roughly the same dimensions and weight as the M4 Sherman, yet supposedly had more armor on the side of its hull and side of its turret. This is very unlikely if not impossible: either the vehicle weighted substantially more or the armor on its sides and turret was not as thick as the sources claim.

The turret turned 360º and was cast in one piece. Inside was the turret basket which housed the commander, gunner (right), and loader (left). In front of the turret, at the top of the roof of the hull, were two entry and exit hatches. At the top of the turret was a two-piece hatch for the commander.

Carried on the sides of the Nahuel were a number of tools, such as shovels and pickaxes, among others.

Undercarriage and Suspension

The track system consisted of three suspension bogies per side, with two wheels at the bottom and a return roller at the top, basically, a Vertical Volute Spring Suspension (VVSS) as seen on the M4 Sherman. Additionally, each side had two extra return rollers at the top, a drive sprocket wheel at the front and an idler wheel at the back. The tracks had seventy-six individual steel links on each side.

Edited photo focusing on the Nahuel’s undercarriage showing the VVSS suspension. Source and edit: www.militariarg.com

Armament

The main armament of the Nahuel was the Krupp 1909 Model 75 mm gun. The Dirección General del Ejército [Eng: General Army Directorate] had initially made ten available from stocks, though there were many more in depots, some of which had never been used and were still boxed. The gun itself weighed 130 kg (287 lb).

The 75 mm Krupp gun had a maximum range of 7,700 m (8,420 yds) and was able to fire ten rounds per minute. There was a plan to replace this gun with the Bofors Model 1934 75 mm gun which had a higher muzzle velocity, though it never materialized.

Initially, secondary armament consisted of four machine guns. One 12.7 mm (.50 Cal) was placed coaxially and three 7.63 mm Madsens in the front plate, one slightly to the left of the right track and two placed centrally. In 1948, the two central machine guns were removed, as they were impractical and of limited use.

Interior

The interior was divided into three sections: front, middle/combat section, and rear/engine compartment. The front section housed the driving mechanisms (transmission and steering gear) and radio. The driver was seated to the left, whilst the radio operator, who was also the machine gunner, was on the right. The radio was locally manufactured by Dirección Material de Comunicaciones del Ejército [Eng: Army’s Communications Material Directorate] but was based on a Telefunken model. All crewmembers could communicate with each other by means of phono-electric circuits.

Behind the driving compartment, in the middle section, were the commander, gunner, and loader, all having to share the space in the turret. The Nahuel’s ammunition was stored in containers in the turret ring. Discarded shells were also placed in these containers, but always at a safe distance from the live rounds, as the heat of the discarded shells could set the live ones off. With three crew members, the main gun breech, a heavy machine gun and ammunition, it is worth re-evaluating the sources’ claim that the turret was 80 mm thick all round, the same thickness as the turret on the Tiger I.

Internally, there was central heating, ventilation, gas ejectors, and hand weapons for the crew.

Engine

The engine on the Nahuel was a modified aircraft Lorraine-Dietrich 12 E.B. 12 cylinder V-shaped engine, also known as the Lorraine 12E Courlis. In normal conditions, the engine had an output of 450 hp, but back in 1931-32, the engines had been modified by Fábrica Militar de Aviones [Eng: Military Aircraft Factory] to an output of 500 hp. The engine had a carburetor fuel system, ran on petrol (gasoline), had a liquid cooling system, and was ventilated by a fan. This engine was most likely taken from the Bréguet 19 aircraft Argentina had in service. The tank had a top-speed of 40 km/h (25 mph) and range of 250 km (155 mi).

The hydraulic gearbox had four forward gears and one reverse, and was built by the small Pedro Merlino mechanical workshop just outside Buenos Aires.

Color Scheme and Markings

The Nahuel was painted entirely in olive earth brown.

On each side of the turret was a sky blue and white roundel, above which was written in white ‘Ejército Argentino’ [Eng: Argentinian Army]. Underneath, also in white, was written ‘Agrup. Patag.’, short for Agrupación Patagónica [Eng: Patagonia Group]. Originally, on a number of vehicles which had paraded Buenos Aires in 1944, the bottom writing was ‘Escl. Bl. Cdo.’, short for Escuela Blindados Comando.

On either side of the rear of the hull and on the right side of the upper rear plate were identification numbers written in white consisting of a superscript lower-case ‘c’ and a number, for example ‘c 130’. On the side of the hull, above the first road wheel, ‘D.L. 43’ was written in white and, just behind this, a picture of a tiger or a jaguar.

Rear side view of Nahuel ‘c 73’ at the exhibition held in Buenos Aires to commemorate the first anniversary of the 1943 Revolution. Note the ‘c 73’ written at the side and rear of the vehicle. Also note the jaguar painted towards the front of the hull side. The photo quality does not allow to fully appreciate the roundel on the side of the turret. Source: www.fundacionsoldados.com.ar

Production and Numbers Built

After the first prototype had been constructed, a short series was ordered. A total of eighty different state and private enterprises collaborated on producing different parts for the tank and all branches of the armed forces provided assistance. For example, the Air Force supplied the aforementioned engines, whilst the Navy contributed the communications system, which Oscar Baisi, Alfredo Baisi’s bother, had helped to develop and offered their armor laboratory for different tests.

There is some discrepancy among sources on the exact number of vehicles built. Most commonly, twelve is the accepted amount, though Ricardo Sigal Fogliani, who has written extensively about the vehicle and has had some access to official documentation, claims that as many as sixteen were built. Other sources do state, however, that only twelve were completed and that an additional four were never finished, meaning that both numbers could be correct. Sigal Fogliani asserts that a 1950 army inventory indicates the availability of thirteen Nahuel.

Name

The background of the vehicle’s name is one of myths and contentious truths. The vehicle was officially designated ‘Tanque Nahuel Modelo Baisi 1945’, after its creator, by the Argentine military authorities in the Military Bulletin No. 210 of June 26th 1944. However, it is more commonly known as Nahuel DL 43 or more simply as just Nahuel.

Nahuel means tiger, puma, or jaguar in the Mapudugun language of the native Araucanian Mapuche people who inhabited parts of modern Argentina in pre-Columbian times. It is not exactly known why this name was chosen. There are two versions of the same story: 1. According to US intelligence reports which were somehow acquired by the Argentines, Argentina was referred to as a ‘lion without teeth’, alluding to its great capacity but poor military; and 2. In a US communiqué to Brazil outlining potential plans for an invasion of Argentina if it were to steer to closely to the Axis powers, which was allegedly intercepted by German spies and then passed on to Argentina, it said that Brazil should be confident as ‘the tiger [Argentina] does not have any teeth’. Both versions seem unlikely as either variation of the feline not having teeth are not common sayings or idioms in the English language. This story may just be a product of chauvinistic propaganda, which is not uncommon for the place and period, and the exact reasons for choice of name remain unclear.

The ‘DL’ in the name is also a product of much speculation. Allegedly, when the tank project was presented to de facto President Edelmiro Julián Farrell, he enthusiastically responded shouting “¡Déle, déle nomás!”, roughly translating to ‘go ahead without hesitation’. ‘Déle’ in Spanish sounds very much like ‘DL’. This is highly unlikely.

Lastly, the number 43 in the name most probably refers to the year the project began, 1943, but some have claimed that the 43 was chosen in honor of the year of the 1943 Revolution.

Service History

On June 4th 1944, on the first anniversary of the 1943 Revolution which had ended the ‘Infamous Decade’ and had given rise to Juan Domingo Perón, two engine-less Nahuels (numbers ‘c 73’ and ‘c 74’) were placed in a commemorative exhibition on the Buenos Aires Avenida 9 between Sarmiento and Cangullo streets. One of the highlights for visitors was when the two tanks fired their main guns to inaugurate the event.

Nahuel ‘c 74’ and Nahuel ‘c 73’ (in the background) at the exhibition held in Buenos Aires to commemorate the first anniversary of the 1943 Revolution. Source: fdra-terrestre.blogspot.com

The next public appearance of the Nahuel was on July 9th 1944, when ten Nahuels rolled down the streets of Avenida del Liberador in Buenos Aires as part of a military day event. The lead tank (‘c 121’) was driven by Baisi himself.

Nahuel ‘c 121’ being driven along Avenida del Liberador in Buenos Aires by Baisi on July 9th 1944. Source: www.militariarg.com

Whilst the idea had been to create a longer series and adapt the chassis to create a family of vehicles for different purposes, in the end, none of this came to fruition. With the end of the Second World War, and Argentina, following the 1943 revolution and the fortunes of war, having abandoned its pro-Axis sympathies, buying cheap American and British tanks became a more economically viable option. Argentina was also able to exchange their abundant agricultural products with countries lacking foodstuffs, such as Britain, for tanks. Argentina would purchase around 300 Sherman tanks, of which more than 1/3 were Sherman ‘Fireflys’. This made the Nahuel obsolete, as the later model Shermans were better overall tanks with superior firepower, thicker armor, superior design, and much cheaper.

In a cruel turn of fate, several Nahuels were used as target practice for Sherman tanks. By 1962, not one Nahuel was left on the army inventory and most were scraped. Despite the best efforts of individuals to find remnants of a Nahuel, it can be safely said that none survive to this day.

The Paraguayan Nahuel?

In the 1960’s or 70’s, writing for a Spanish military magazine, historian Georg von Rauch claimed that during Peron’s visit to Paraguay in 1953, two Nahuels and other pieces of military equipment were donated to Paraguay as a symbol of goodwill between the two nations. von Rauch has since claimed that he found this information in a US G2 report. Efforts to verify this have proved unsuccessful and it is most likely that this never actually happened. At that time, Paraguay only had fifteen M3/M5 Stuarts provided by the USA at the end of the Second World War, meaning that the Nahuel would have for some time been able to provide an increase in firepower and armor for the Paraguayan armed forces. Ultimately, Paraguay would receive nine second-hand Shermans from the USA in 1960.

Conclusion

The Nahuel was a brave and competent effort from a designer and workforce with no experience in building modern armored fighting vehicles. However, it is not as unique and remarkable as the chauvinistic Argentine press and amateur or military historians like to claim. Baisi’s dream of creating a family of indigenous military vehicles on a common chassis would have to wait.



Illustration of the Nahuel DL 43 medium tank, produced by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet.

Nahuel D.L.43 specifications

Dimensions 6.22 x 2.33 (or 2.63, contested) x 2.95 m (20.7 x 7.8 x 9.8 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 35 tons (77,160 lbs)
Crew 5 (commander, driver, co-driver/machine-gunner, gunner, loader)
Propulsion FMA-Lorraine-Dietrich 12 Eb, W12, WC, 500 hp, 14.3 hp/tonne
Maximum speed 40 km/h (25 mph)
Suspension Vertical Volute Springs (VVSS)
Range on road 250 km (155 mi)
Armament Main: 2.95 in (75 mm) Krupp M1909
Secondary: 1 x 7.62 mm (0.3 in) Allan machine gun
3 x Madsen 7.62 mm (0.3 in) light machine-guns
Armor Maximum glacis front 80 mm (3.3 in)
Total production 12-16

Sources

Anon., Armas Argentinas: El tanque Nahuel, FDRA – Fuerza Terrestre, (1 June 2015) [accessed 06/08/2019]
Anon., Militariarg [accessed 06/08/2019]
Javier de Mazarrasa, La Maquina y la Historia Nº11: La Familia Acorazada TAM (Valladolid: Quirón Ediciones, 1996)
Juan Carlos Heredia, Siguiendo las huellas del Nahuel para reconstruirlo en 1:35, Fundación Soldados, [accessed 06/08/2019]
‘PanzerArg’, El primer tanque argentino: Nahuel DL-43, Taringa!, (23 November 2016) [accessed 06/08/2019]
Ricardo Sigal Fagliani, Blindados Argentinos de Uruguay y Paraguay (Ayer y Hoy Ediciones, 1997)


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 Prototypes

Carro de Combate de Infantería tipo 1937

Nationalist Spain (1937-1938)
Light tank – 1 Prototype

The Carro de Combate de Infantería tipo 1937, more commonly known as C.C.I. tipo 1937, was one of many Spanish attempts to create an indigenous tank superior to all the available tanks by cannibalising them. However, sometimes over-enthusiasm and a desire for quick results came at the expense of a well-thought-out design.

The ‘Carro de Combate de Infantería tipo 1937’ also known as the ‘CCI tipo 1937’. This photo shows the vehicle factory-fresh, without a coat of paint – Photo: Molina Franco & Manrique García (2009), p. 44.

Context – The Spanish Civil War in 1937

In mid-July 1936, a group of Spanish Army officers initiated a coup against the democratically elected government of the Second Spanish Republic. They failed in their initial goals and consequently, the country was divided in a civil war fought between the Republicans (also known as the ‘Loyalists’), and the Nationalists (the ‘Rebels’). Soon enough, foreign powers would become involved providing material and in some cases, troops. Italy and Germany came in support of the Nationalist and airlifted the core of their forces from Spanish North Africa onto the Peninsula, whereas the USSR supported the Republic. The Nationalists, led by General Franco, attempted to take Madrid and end the war in November 1936, but the city resisted.

Map showing the progress of the Spanish Civil War in July 1936, March 1937, March-April 1938, and February 1939. Note the Nationalists are in blue and Republicans in purple – Photo: SOURCE
By 1937, the Nationalists had the upper hand. Beginning in March that year, they commenced the ‘War in the North’, an operation to take over the Republican positions along the north coast. They would be successful in this, with Bilbao falling on June 19th, Santander on August 25th, and Gijón, the last main Republican holdout in the region, on October 21st.
This northern region of Spain was one of the only industrialized regions in the country and it also had important mineral resources. This area had also produced several armored fighting vehicle (AFV) designs over the years, including the Trubia Serie A, The Bilbao Armored Car, and the Trubia-Naval.
In this context, when Nationalist troops took the North, two unrelated tank projects would emerge, the Verdeja, and the CCI tipo 1937.

Genesis

After capturing Bilbao and the Vizcaya region in June 1937, the Nationalist wanted to take advantage of the facilities which came to be at their disposal for the purpose of tank production. One of these facilities was the Sociedad Española de Construcción Naval (SECN), located in Sestao, northern Bilbao. Until the city fell, the factory had been building and repairing Trubia-Naval tanks for the Republicans. Nationalist authorities however, declined to continue the production of this tank given how unreliable and deficient it was. They would, though, use the expertise of the factory workers. For this purpose, a Panzer I, a Fiat-Ansaldo CV.33, and a T-26B, the three most common tanks in the conflict, were taken to Sestao to be studied with the goal of creating a new tank based on the best features of each, although it seems no features of the T-26 were actually adapted. A cursory glance at the Trubia-Naval should make it obvious that it also had some influence, with the rear being almost an identical copy and sharing the same engine. The separate Verdeja project which began a year later would commence in a very similar way.

The CCI tipo 1937 resembled the Trubia-Naval in several ways – Photo: Artemio Mortera Pérez (2007), p. 66.
The design for the new tank was agreed upon at some point in August-September 1937. On September 15th 1937, the Nationalist army gave a contract to SECN to build an initial series of 30 tanks, soon after, construction of a prototype began.

Design

Exterior

The tank’s sides consisted of slightly angled plates. To the front, below the turret, to each side were double-hinged-doors for crew access. At the very back of the tank was a ventilation radiator with eight louvres. The rear resembled a Trubia-Naval in appearance. Atop the rear was another radiator to allow the engine fumes to leave the tank. Behind the turret was a hinged hatch to access the engine from the outside. In appearance, the welded turret resembled that of a Renault FT, though the cupola was rather different. The upper frontal plate had a vision slit for the driver on the left and on the right, a position for two machine guns copied from the Italian Fiat CV’s, though on a different side of the vehicle.
Armor was poor overall and was incapable of deflecting 7.92mm rifle fire. Inferior materials were used for its construction, as initially, chromium nickel steel for the armor was not available. The area where this was produced was still under Republican control. Whilst the exact armor thickness is unspecified, but given the factories experience with AFV production, they would have known that anything under 10mm was totally unsuitable. An educated guess on the armor thickness based on weight and dimensions of the vehicle would indicate that it did not exceed 10-12mm. The 12mm bottom plate of the CV.33-35 was sufficient enough to withstand 7.92mm rifle fire, so it can almost certainly be assumed that the armor was of an inferior thickness to this.

Rear view of the CCI tipo 1937, the bit which most resembles the Trubia-Naval – Photo: Mortera Pérez (2011), p. 110.

Suspension and Tracks

The suspension was copied from the CV, only it was slightly longer. This could have been done by adding links to lengthen the tracks. It consisted of two sets of three bogies and an additional solitary auxiliary wheel at the rear by the idler wheel. There were no return rollers at the top, instead, there was a simple wooden beam holding the track into place.

Side view of the CCI tipo 1937 which shows the the tracks to be almost identical to those of the CV33-35 – Photo: Mortera Pérez (2011), p. 111.

CCI Tipo 37
Illustration of the ‘Carro de Combate de Infantería tipo 1937’ or ‘CCI tipo 37’, produced by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet (click to enlarge).

Armament

The main gun, the 20mm gas-operated Italian Breda M-35, was in the turret. The 20mm Armor-Piercing (AP) round weighed 147 grams and could penetrate up to 40mm of armor at 250m at a 90º angle of impact. This gun had been used in the joint Spanish-Italian Fiat CV.33/35 ‘Breda’ prototype and the very limited production Panzer I ‘Breda’. The idea to equip the CV and the Panzer I with the Breda gun was to give them the capability to engage the Soviet-supplied T-26 of the Republican forces. Initially, there had been plans to equip the CCI tipo 1937 with a 45mm main gun similar to that of the T-26, but this did not materialize. This was probably rejected as the turret was not big enough to house it and the gun was not available in large enough numbers. Furthermore, the suspension was probably not adequate enough to absorb the gun’s recoil. The frontal machine gun position housed two Hotchkiss Mod. 1914 7.92mm machine guns which appear to be magazine fed from above.

Frontal-side view of the CCI tipo 1937 showing its 20mm Breda machine gun main armament and mount for two Hotchkiss machine guns – Photo: Mortera Pérez (2011), p. 111.

Interior

The hull was divided into three sections: the driving compartment at the front, the fighting compartment in the center, and the engine compartment in the rear. It is not specified how many crew-members the tank had, but it can be assumed that at least three: a driver, a frontal gunner in charge of the dual 7.92mm machine guns, and a gunner in charge of loading and firing the main gun who was presumably also the commander. The engine was a 6-cylinder MAN 100 hp truck engine as used in the Trubia-Naval which was readily available in numbers in the factory. It is not known if this was a petrol or diesel engine though. The tank had three forward gears with a maximum speed of 24 km/h, and one reverse giving 5.5 km/h. Other mechanical elements of driving were probably taken from the Fiat CV tank.

Tests and Demise

Initial reactions to the prototype by those testing it, in spite of the feeble armor, were very satisfactory. Even in June 1938, by which point the serious deficiency of the CCI tipo 1937’s armor should have been noted, the template for the Bandera de Carros de Combate de la Legión [The Spanish Legion’s Tank Division] indicated that the unit was to have 30 CCI tipo 1937’s. However, despite the tank having successfully passed most of the tests with flying colors, including firepower, mobility, and obstacle evasion, the Army, by this point realizing the tank’s clear deficiency in regards to its armor, could simply not accept a tank with such thin armor, and thus rejected it. Furthermore, the Nationalists had, by this time, captured enough Republican T-26’s to make up a capable tank force for the conditions and circumstances of the Spanish Civil War. A few years later, General Joaquín García Pallasar, an artillery officer and close friend of Franco, who had also been very closely involved with the Fiat CV ‘Breda’ project, wrote his reflections on the CCI tipo 1937 project. Writing in August 1940 for the ‘Ejército‘ magazine, he claimed that the tank had not been properly studied by its creators and they put their will to help and create a tank before taking the time to think how best to build it.

Side view of the CCI tipo 1937 – Photo: Molina Franco & Manrique García (2009), p. 45.
The experience of the CCI tipo 1937 would not be wasted though. Following the rejection of the CCI tipo 1937, SECN decided to build a lightly armored tank destroyer using a similar, but improved chassis and suspension. The Spanish Army showed no interest in this vehicle. After this, SECN took the gun off and presented it as an artillery tractor which was tested by the Spanish Army, though, with the Spanish Civil War ended and the country in ruins, there was no need for military investment.

The Controversy Over Who Built The Tank

Whilst photographic evidence of the tank being tested clearly shows it at the SECN factory in Sestao, it is important to note that according to Artemio Mortera Pérez, Lucas Molina Franco, and José María Manrrique García (three of the leading historians of AFV use in the Spanish Civil War) some Italian publications claim the tank was built by the Italian company of Ansaldo to be sold to Spain. They do not specify which publications make this claim, making their initial claim not stand as strong. If this is the case, however, it is patently not true.
Interviewed factory workers are adamant that there was no foreign (German or Italian) contribution to the project. However, Colonel Valentino Babini, the commander in charge of the Raggrupamento Carristi of the Corpo Truppe Volontarie [Tank Regiment of the Volunteer Troop Corp], writes in his documents of an Italian artillery technician supporting the Spanish engineers building the tank, and highlights the fact that the CCI tipo 1937 copied some features from Italian tanks. This is by no means the only controversy between Italian and Spanish claims surrounding tanks during the Spanish Civil War, with the Fiat CV.33/35 ‘Breda’ being a notable example. This shows that alliances are not always as straightforward as it may seem and that tensions always exist.

Conclusion

The CCI tipo 1937 did not provide Nationalist forces with a significant improvement over the T-26’s they had. Its main armament was sufficient enough at the time to deal with Republican armor (including the Soviet T-26, BA-6 and FAI, and Spanish-built vehicles such as the UNL-35 or AAC-1937), but its speed was disappointing for a light tank, and its armor was simply appalling, being easily penetrated by 7.92mm rifle fire. It was a decent idea in principle, just poorly delivered. Although in most aspects superior to the Fiat CV (overall) and Panzer I (firepower and mobility), it could not compete with the T-26, and when the latter became available in sufficient number to the Nationalists, there was no need for a newer tank.

Specifications

Dimensions N/A
Total weight, battle ready 8 tonnes
Crew 3 (Driver, frontal gunner, gunner/loader)
Propulsion 6 cylinder MAN 100 hp
Max speed 24 km/h (14.91 mph)
Armament 1 x 20mm Italian Breda M-35
2 x 7.92mm Hotchkiss Mod. 1914 machine guns
Armor Not specified, unlikely to exceed 10-12mm
Production 1

Sources

Artemio Mortera Pérez, Los Carros de Combate “Trubia” (Valladolid: Quirón Ediciones, 1993)
Artemio Mortera Pérez, Los Medios Blindados de la Guerra Civil Española Teatro de Operaciones de Aragón, Cataluña Y Levante 36/39 Parte I (Valladolid: Alcañiz Fresno’s editores, 2011)
Joaquín García Pallasar, “Progresos de la Artillería”, Ejército, August 1940
L. Curami and A. Ceva, La Meccanizzazione Dell’esercito Italiano Dalle Origini al 1943 (1994)
Lucas Molina Franco and José Mª Manrique García, Blindados Españoles en el Ejército de Franco (1936-1939) (Valladolid: Galland Books, 2009)

Categories
WW2 Spanish Prototypes

Carro de Combate Ligero para Infanteria Modelo 1936

Second Spanish Republic (1936)
Light Tank – Paper Project

The Carro de Combate Ligero Para Infantería Modelo 1936, also known as the ‘Trubia L.A. nº1’, is one of the many tanks that were imagined but never delivered. Although it never left the drawing board, it went on to heavily influence the Trubia-Naval, the most heavily produced tank of the Second Spanish Republic.

Original blueprint of the tank from Trubia arms factory showing the side profile of the vehicle. Drawn by Victor Landesa Domenech and Rogelio Areces.

Context – The Landesa Domenech-Areces Partnership

In 1935, Commander Victor Landesa Domenech, an artillery officer attached to the Trubia arms factory in Asturias (Northern Spain) and Rogelio Areces, the Trubia arms factory’s Chief Engineer, teamed up with Captain Carlos Ruíz de Toledo, a Commander in charge of Batería de Carros de Asalto de Artillería [Artillery Tank Battery] in its first engagements during the Rif War, to design what would become Spain’s first indigenous tank on their own initiative . The idea was to design a tank to overcome the major faults of the Renault FT, Spain’s most readily available tank at the time. With increased firepower in an innovative system involving two overlapping, independently moving turrets, each armed with a Hotchkiss M1914 7mm machine gun and marginally better armor and engine power, the prototype improved upon the FT.
The design was deemed a success and a new improved model was ordered; this would be the Trubia Serie A. The main difference of the serial version compared with prototype was a larger size, an additional crew-member, and most importantly, a new suspension system (‘Orion’) and engine acquired in Germany. This system was supposed to improve upon traditional systems in addition to enhancing turning capabilities and minimizing the effects of the tracks on roads. In this integrated track design, the links were suspended from the chassis and held together by a lateral metal wall. This system was designed to prevent the tracks from coming off when maneuvering.

The first serial Trubia Serie A in the factory it was built. Photo: Artemio Mortera Pérez (2007), p. 8
Four of these tanks were built and tested in 1926. During the tests, deficiencies in the tank (especially in the new suspension system which kept breaking) were noted, and modifications were recommended, with at least one of the tanks being modified and re-tested far more successfully in May 1928. Although there was some interest in the tank, political instability and lack of funding condemned the vehicle.
Despite this setback, Landesa Domenech and Areces would collaborate again and in 1930-32 designed a tractor for military and agricultural use, which they christened ‘tractor Landesa’. This tractor would be pressed into Army service in 1935 following a series of successful trials. It also had a military upgrade which saw service in the October Revolution of 1934 in Asturias and during the Spanish Civil War.
The success of their tractor design (based on the same principles of the Trubia Serie A), prompted the two engineers to design a new light tank which they intended to exhibit to the Army.

Design

The design of the L.A. nº1 owed much to the Landesa tractor and shared many of its features.

External Appearance

It was basically the Landesa tractor but in reverse, with the engine at the back and the crew compartment at the front. The rearmost part had the engine ventilation consisting of eleven or twelve vertical lats in the front grille, with an additional twelve-lat grille placed horizontally on each side tilted slightly inwards. The hull side was angled at 64º-66º and had two large hatches on each side for crew access. The large size in comparison to the rest of the tank would have most certainly affected armor effectiveness.

An original blueprint from the Trubia arms factory showing a face on view of the tank with the turret traversed to the left. Drawn by Victor Landesa Domenech and Rogelio Areces.
The turret was placed atop the hull and consisted of a circular structure with a shallow dome at the top. To the front was the main armament and on each side, there appear to be oval stroboscopes with horizontal turn allowing for continual vision.
The uppermost frontal plate raises some questions. There appears to be both a vision slit on the left and another oval stroboscope on the right. This position would be used only by the driver, so it is difficult to understand why the designers considered two different vision devices. From this plate, the armor extended almost horizontally and then almost vertically creating a slightly angled plate which had a machine gun. Below this, the armor took a rounded shape.


The Carro de Combate Ligero para Infanteria Modelo 1936 compared to an Average height (1.7 meters/ 5 feet 9 inches) person.


Four-angle illustration of the Carro de Combate Ligero para Infanteria Modelo 1936

Both of these illustrations are by Saiful ‘Giganaut’ Adli Azari, funded by our Patreon Campaign.

Armor

The armor on the L.A. nº1 was one of the tank’s most innovative, interesting and distinguishable features. It consisted of conventional armor and composite armor.
The sides and front of the vehicle consisted of an outer layer which was 13mm thick and the inner layer a mere 3mm thick with a 25mm space in between. The rear was angled at 66º whilst the front was angled at 64º. It is unknown if the spaced section of the armor was filled with wood, cotton, sand, glass, or if at all. Due to simplicity, wood would have most likely been used as the filler. This type of armor would have been effective against HE rounds and small arms fire. The rear, top and bottom of the tank were 3mm thick. The turret armor thickness is unspecified. All armor was made from chromium-nickel steel.

Original blueprint from the Trubia arms factory, showing a top-down view of the Carro de Combate Ligero Para Infantería Modelo 1936 as drawn by Victor Landesa Domenech and Rogelio Areces

Armament

The tank was supposed to mount a 40mm gun but there are no details as to which one. However, considering that Landesa Domenech and Areces had intended their previous design (Trubia Serie A) to be equipped with a 40mm Spanish-built modified Ramírez Arellano 40mm infantry gun, it is not too far-fetched to imagine they would consider this gun again. The gun was to have 8º depression and 30º elevation.
To the right of the driver was a 7mm Hotchkiss machine gun.

Body-on-Frame and Tracks

Each track consisted of a long ellipse-shaped structure formed by two parallel steel sheets and was covered by a mudguard. Between the two sheets, there was a track for the track rollers to travel through. Between the steel sheets, there was some sort of drum brake.
Unlike in most other vehicles, the track rollers were integrated into the tracks and moved in unison with the track links along the tracks set between the two sheets.
This was an updated copy of the one on the Trubia Serie A and Landesa tractor, albeit, smaller.

Interior

The driving and combat compartment housed the driver, who sat at the front, and the gunner/loader, who was positioned behind him. Given the small size of the tank, the gunner/loader would have had to sit or crouch when inside the tank. Behind them was the engine compartment which housed the engine, an 80hp 6 cylinder MAN D-0530 engine. This engine was supposed to give the tank a top speed of 42 km/h. The gearbox had 3 forward gears and one reverse.

What Became of the Project?

Although the ascension of José María Gil-Robles to the Ministry of War in May 1935 revitalized interest in tank development, this would not last, and with the leftist Popular Front taking office in February 1936, the appetite would be satisfied for the time being.
The design did, however, resurface a few months later in August 1936 in the shape of a new almost identical tank, the Trubia-Naval. As such, this paper design could almost be considered its genesis.

Conclusion

How effective this tank would have been in the early stages of the Spanish Civil War is impossible to tell. Armament-wise it would have been the most powerful available and its speed was superior to any other Spanish tank at the time.
Nevertheless, there were some major flaws in the design as later demonstrated by the Trubia-Naval. The experimental suspension system was outdated and proved not to work, as its complexity meant it had a tendency to break. The armor, although innovative, had not been tested and what results it may have had in test conditions can only be speculated. The tank was probably too small and the crew was overburdened. Nonetheless, the design remains a brave and courageous attempt to modernize Spain’s armed forces and avoid dependence on foreign tanks.

Trubia Naval specifications

Dimensions 3.55 x 1.85 x 1.7 m (11.65 x 6.07 x 5.58 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 5.5 tonnes
Crew 2 (Driver/frontal gunner and Gunner/loader)
Propulsion 6 cylinder MAN D-0530 80hp
Max speed 42 km/h (26.1 mph)
Armament 40mm main gun
Armor Outer plate 13mm; space between plates 25mm, inner plate 3mm

Sources

Artemio Mortera Pérez, Los Carros de Combate “Trubia” (Valladolid: Quirón Ediciones, 1993)
Artemio Mortera Pérez, Los Medios Blindados de la Guerra Civil Española. Teatro de Operaciones del Norte 36/37 (Valladolid: AF Editores, 2007)

Categories
WWI French Armored Cars WWI Spanish Armor

Blindado Schneider-Brillié

ww1 French armor ww1 Spanish armor France/Kingdom of Spain (1910-15)
Armored Car – 2 Built

Not long after the invention of the automobile, the concept was adapted and put to use for military objectives, first for the transport of troops and supplies, and later, when equipped with armor and weapons, for fighting purposes. One of the first examples, dating from before the Great War, was the French Schneider-Brillié, developed from a Parisian bus, and used by the Spanish army in Morocco.

A postcard of the Schneider P2-4000 bus on which the armored car was based – Photo: SOURCE

Context – A Vehicle for Morocco

Following defeat by the United States in the Spanish-American War of 1898 and the loss of its Caribbean and Pacific colonies, Spain’s colonial attentions shifted to North Africa. Colonial tensions between Britain, France, and Germany had led to Spain being given part of North Morocco, commonly known as the Rif, which added to the small enclaves it already had in the region as part of the Treaty of Algeciras of 1906. Soon after, rich minerals were discovered in the area, and French and Spanish companies rushed to exploit these riches and began to build railways to connect the mines and quarries to the coastal ports.

This aroused local opposition and, on July 9th 1909, a series of assassinations of Spanish workers and citizens in the area began. In response, Spain declared war, and thus began the Melilla War (July-December 1909). Initially, Spain responded by sending reservists, which created problems at home, such as the social unrest during la Semana Trágica de Barcelona, in which 78 people died and over 500 were injured or wounded. By the end of November 1909, Spain would win the war, but would do so unconvincingly. After a few more concessions and the creation of the Spanish protectorate in Morocco, war would break out again in June 1911.

The first quarter of the Twentieth century saw world-wide attempts to adapt vehicles for military use and Spain was not going to be left behind.
In March 1909, two unarmored Schneider-Brillié trucks were bought by the Spanish Army from the French Schneider company following a Royal Decree in November 1908. This purchase was part of a plan to buy vehicles for the artillery section of the army, in which two S.A.G. trucks and a Berliet car were also bought for the total sum of 160,000 pesetas. The two vehicles were given to the Comisión de Experiencias de Artillería [Artillery Testing Commission] and were given ‘Artillería nº4’ and ‘Artillería nº5’ as their number-plates. The two vehicles may have been transferred to either Ceuta or Melilla during the Melilla War, and there may have been a third unarmored Brillié bought in 1909.

A Suitable Candidate

In 1909, with views to acquire a suitable vehicle for the ongoing war in Melilla, a report was commissioned through the Real Orden Circular (R.O.C.) de 16 de Febrero [Order with Royal grant] by the Comisión de Experiencias de Artillería [Artillery Experiences Commission]. The report studied seven vehicle proposals from different European companies including: Armstrong Whitworth, Hotchkiss, Maudslay Motor Company, Rheinische Metallwaren und Maschinenfabrik (RMM), Schneider-Brillié, Süddeutsche Automobilfabrik Gaggenau (SAG), and Thornycroft. In the end, the Schneider proposal was recommended.
By the end of the year, the purchase was authorized by the king, Alfonso XIII, and a budget was approved on December 11th, 1909 despite the fact that the Melilla War, the conflict for which the vehicle was being purchased, was about to end. An initial example cost 33,000 French Francs (27,000 pesetas) and was delivered by train to the border city of Irún on June 20th, 1909, subsequently being moved to the Escuela Central de Tiro [shooting range school] of Madrid on 30th. The reason for the delay in the delivery of the single example was that it was the first order for this vehicle Schneider had received and so they did not have the experience building it.
The vehicle was given ‘Aut. M. nº15’ as its number-plate and between July and December 1910 it was trialed as part of the Brigada Automovilista [Automobile Brigade]. These trials included several on-road and off-road trips to Segovia, over 70km (~45 miles) away. The results during the trials were so satisfactory that halfway through, in October, the purchase of a second example was authorized. However, for no apparent reason, the contract would not be signed until March 3rd, 1911 and the vehicle, given ‘Aut. M. nº19’ as its number-plate, would not arrive in Madrid until September 23rd, 1911.

‘Nº15’ being transported atop a rail truck. This photo was most likely taken in Morocco – Photo: SOURCE

Design

The two examples had slight differences in the exterior, but the interiors were much the same. Both were built over the chassis of a Schneider P2-4000 bus, which was a common sight on the Parisian streets at the time. Inside, there were three different sections within two compartments. A frontal section divided into two parts. The frontmost was reserved for the driver and the officer in command and the engine, with a fighting and troop transport section directly behind it. At the rear, there was a compartment for ammunition and other loads with a total weight capacity of up to 1,500kg, though some contemporary sources state that as much as 2,500kg-3,000kg. The fighting section had four wide ‘letterbox’ hatches on each side at two different levels from which the soldiers inside could fire with rifles or machine guns. There was an additional hatch on each side of the driver’s section plus two frontal ones. These were mainly for the driver and commander to know in which direction they were going, though, they could have also been used to fire from if necessary. Above all these sections was a hinged-three-panel roof on each side, allowing the vehicle to be opened in the North African heat and providing another firing option. In the middle section there were benches on either side for the troops to sit on whilst on the move, but these could also be folded during combat operations.
Armor-wise, 6mm steel shield plates covered the original chassis and were supposed to offer protection against 8mm Lebel Model 1886 rifle bullets (the basic French infantry weapon at the onset of the Great War) from a distance of 148m or further.
The vehicle had a 4-cylinder 40hp Brillié engine with 800-1,000 rpm with a bore of 125mm and a stroke of 140mm and being able to deliver 40 brake hp. The gearbox had three forward gears and a reverse one. At 1000 rpm top speed in first gear, the Schneider-Brillié could move at a maximum of 5.65km/h, 11.3km/h in second gear, and 20.2km/h in third gear. The fuel tanks held up to 100 liters and were fed with petrol or benzene (a coal-tar product blended with petrol to be used as fuel). Without a payload, the car used 35-40 liters of fuel to travel 100 km, whilst with a payload, 73-77 liters were needed to travel the same distance.
Both vehicles were initially unarmed, but, prior to being sent to Morocco, they were equipped each with two 7mm Vickers machine guns adapted to Spanish cartridges. Photographic evidence would suggest that the machine guns did not sit on any fixed mounting point, but were kept inside and moved around depending on the situation. The four wheels were made out of wood with solid rubber tires.
The vehicle weighed 5.9 tonnes, which, along with a maximum payload of 3.45 tonnes, resulted in a combined weight of 9.35 tonnes. The pressure on the front wheels was 3.15 tonnes whilst the back wheels bore 6.2 tonnes. The wheels have a diameter of 94cm and were equipped with covers, with the two on the front being removable.

Another photo of ‘nº15’. This photo shows the Vickers machine gun being fired from a rear facing ‘letter-box’. This would probably be one of the least effective firing positions given that gun depression would be severely limited given the length of the vehicle – Photo: SOURCE
The principal differences were on the outside. Although both were covered all around by a 5-6mm thick steel plate, enough to provide defense from Riffian rifle fire, the way these plates were laid varied slightly. ‘Nº 15’s’ front consisted of two parts, a straight plate where the radiator grille could be found and a second plate reaching the full height of the vehicle at a ~45º angle, making it slightly taller than ‘nº19’. The second example, ‘nº19’, had a front consisting of three parts: a grille plate very similar to that of ‘nº15’, a second plate at quite a pronounced (~15º) inwards inclination, and finally, a 90º plate all the way to the top with hinged holes for the pilot and commander to view from.
In addition, it seems that from the very beginning, ‘nº19’ had three headlamps at its front, whilst ‘nº15’ had had them removed by the time it arrived in Morocco or had them removed whilst being transported. The two on either side were most likely acetylene type headlamps, whilst the middstop lampas a movable stoplamp which would have been very useful in counter-insurgency operations.
Given the differences, in some sources, ‘nº15’ is described as Schneider-Brillié 1st Type and ‘nº19’as Schneider-Brillié 2nd Type. Furthermore, the vehicles are sometimes named Schneider-Brillié M1912, which would make sense given Spanish armored vehicles nomenclature between 1910 and 1930 (as for example ‘Camiones Protegidos Modelo 1921 or M1921/M-21).

The most famous picture of ‘nº15’. In this picture, it is equipped with the front headlamps and a horn. The ‘letter-boxes’ are open allowing for rifle and machine gun fire. This picture was apparently taken in the Madrid military camp of Campamento in the winter of 1910 or 1911 – Photo: Villatoro

Similarly, the most famous picture of ‘nº19’ with the different style front. Note that this version lacks a horn – Photo: SOURCE

Illustration of the Schneider-Brillié ‘nº15’, Spain’s first armored vehicle. 

Illustration of the Schneider-Brillié ‘nº19’. Both illustrations by Mr. C. Ryan, funded by our Patron Golum through our Patreon Campaign.

Operations in Morocco

In January 1912, with the new war in Morocco having been going on since the previous June, both vehicles were sent to Morocco, arriving in Melilla on the 17th. ‘Nº15’ was assigned to the Primera Brigada Automovilística [First Automobile Brigade] and ‘nº19’ to the Segunda Brigada Automovilística [Second Automobile Brigade].

‘Nº15’ after it arrived in the port of Melilla surrounded by many curious onlookers. Note the headlamps and horn are missing, as they may have been removed for transport – Photo: SOURCE
Both were used for protecting camps, surveillance, convoy escort, transport of wounded troops, and for offensive combat operations, as the circumstances dictated. On January 20th, ‘nº15’ went on an expedition towards Nador, 16km outside Melilla, and three days later, on the 23rd, it would go to Zeluán. Unfortunately, more details about their use are unknown.

Their operational use in Morocco would be of historical significance, as it was one of the first uses of an automobile-like armored car in warfare.
At the end of the Kert Campaign, just before the start of the Great War, both were taken to Ceuta. In 1915, ‘nº15’ was stripped of its armor and used as a normal cargo lorry. The other vehicle, ‘nº19’, was taken to Tetuán, in northernmost Morocco, to be used as a mobile fort, before being taken back to the Escuela Central de Tiro in Madrid where it was presumably scrapped.


Local North African males pose next to ‘nº15’. The photo was probably taken in or around Melilla in winter 1912 – Photo: SOURCE

Conclusion

The Schneider-Brillié proved to be highly effective in the North African conflict and would motivate the adoption of more armored cars in the following decade. Although the armored car was a relatively new invention, it was here to stay, not only with the Spanish armed forces, but around the world. However, it was not without flaws. It was a crude design and not built for a conflict in North Africa. The vehicle’s plans stipulated that 14 crewmember and passengers could be carried, but the desert heat made this impossible. In addition, the vehicle’s height gave it a very high center of gravity, making it very prone to toppling over, though it seems this never happened. Nevertheless, the Schneider-Brillié was crucial to the history of armored fighting vehicles in Spain and warrants recognition as such.

Specifications

Dimensions 6 x 4 x 2.25 m (19.68 x 13.12 x 7.38 ft)
Total weight 9.35 tons
Crew 2 (commander; driver) + up to 12 passengers
Propulsion 40 hp Brillié
Speed on-road 20.2 km/h (12.55 mph)
Range 100 km (62.14 miles)
Armament 2 x 7mm Vickers machine gun adapted to Spanish cartridges
Armor 5-6 mm (0.19 – 0.23 in)
Total Production 2

Sources

Anon., ‘Die firma Schneider & Co.’ Allgemeine Automobil Zeitung No. 15 (13 April 1913), pp. 70-71 [special thanks to Leander Jobse for finding this source]
Artemio Mortera Pérez, Los Medios Blindados de la Guerra Civil Española Teatro de Operaciones de Andalucía y Centro 36/39 (Valladolid: Alcañiz Fresno’s editores, 2017)
B.T. White, Mechanized Warfare in Color. Tanks and other Armored Fighting Vehicles 1900-1918 (London: Bradford Press, 1970)
Javier de Mazarrasa, La Máquina y la Historia Nº13 Los Carros de Combate en la Guerra de España 1936-1939 (Vol. 1º) (Valladolid: Quirón Ediciones, 1998)
Juan Carlos Caballero Fernández de Marcos, “La Automoción en el Ejército Español Hasta la Guerra Civil Española” Revista de Historia Militar No. 120 (2016), pp. 13-50
Manuel P. Villatoro, ‘«Schneider-Brillié», el primer «autobús» blindado del Ejército Español que luchó en Marruecos’, ABC, 12 May 2014, Historia Militar.

Categories
WW2 Spanish Tanks

Trubia-Naval

Second Spanish Republic/Autonamous Basque State (1936-1937)
Tractor/Light Tank – 12 – 45 Light Tanks, 2-3 Tractors

War often creates a desperate situation in which second-rate options are pressed into service. In the world of AFV’s, these may be old designs which resurface when war is on the doorstep. One such example is the Trubia-Naval produced and deployed by the Republican Army of the North during the Spanish Civil War.

Context – A Divided Spain

After the failed General’s coup of July 17th-18th 1936, Spain descended into civil war. The main fighting force of the rebellious Generals (the Nationalist) was in the Spanish colonies of North Africa and was airlifted to peninsular Spain by the German and Italian air forces. Once they gathered with other rebellious forces in Andalucía, they advanced north towards the Republic’s capital, Madrid.
In the central north Spanish plateau, the rebels triumphed with a force made up of Carlist and Falangist militiamen. This meant that the industrial heartlands of the Basque Country and Asturias was cut-off from the main Republican territory.
On October 6th 1936, the Republican Courts (Parliament/Congress) enacted provisions for a statue of autonomy giving the Basque region quasi-de facto independence.
The Partido Nacionalista Vasco (PNV) [Basque Nationalist Party] leader, José Antonio Aguirre, would became ‘Lendakari’ [President] and also took on the Ministry of Defense portfolio.
Given their isolation, the autonomous Basque state created its own army and navy. In the state of war, the Basque military authorities considered building tanks and artillery tractors for their armed forces.

Digging in the Past

The first project to create an indigenous Spanish tank design dated from 1935. Commander Victor Landesa Domenech, an artillery officer attached to the Trubia arms factory in Asturias (Northern Spain), Rogelio Areces, the Trubia arms factory’s Chief Engineer, and Captain Carlos Ruíz de Toledo, a Commander in charge of Batería de Carros de Asalto de Artillería [Artillery Tank Battery] in its first engagements during the Rif War, teamed up to design a tank for the Spanish Army on their own initiative and financed out of their own pockets. The prototype and the serial production version, the Trubia Serie A, would closely resemble the Renault FT, what was considered to be the superior tank in Spain at the time. However, there were some differences. They had improved firepower in an innovative system involving two overlapping turrets with independent movement, each armed with a Hotchkiss M1914 7mm machine gun, a larger size, an additional crew-member (loader) and marginally thicker armor and engine power. It also included an innovative ‘Orion’ suspension system, which was supposed to improve upon traditional systems, in addition to enhancing turning capabilities and minimizing the effects of the tracks on roads. In this integrated track design, the links were suspended from the chassis and held together by a lateral metal wall. This system was designed to prevent the tracks from coming off when maneuvering. Four of these vehicles and a prototype were built with the former seeing service up to the Spanish Civil War.

The first serial Trubia Serie A in the factory it was built. Photo: Artemio Mortera Pérez (2007), p. 8
Landesa Domenech and Areces continued to work together designing a tractor for military use known as the Tractor Landesa [Landesa tractor]. Following a series of trials, 9 would be bought by the Army. They also designed an armored and armed upgrade. Both versions saw service in the Spanish Civil War.
Subsequent to their tractor success, Landesa Domenech and Areces designed a new light tank concept intending it to be used by the Spanish Army. The Carro de Combate Ligero Para Infantería Modelo 1936 as it was known would only be a paper project but it would serve as inspiration for the Trubia-Naval. The main features of this paper tank were: a small size; 2 crewmen; a 80hp engine; and a mix of composite and conventional armor. The sides and front of the vehicle were the composite element of the armor, with the outer layer being 13mm thick and the inner layer a mere 3mm thick. The space between plates was 25mm thick and was most likely filled by wood. The rear, top and bottom of the tank were 3mm thick; a 40mm main gun; and, an improved and smaller version of the suspension used on the Trubia Serie A.

Original blueprints from the Trubia arms factory of the side, top, and front of the Carro de Combate Ligero Para Infantería Modelo 1936 as drawn by Victor Landesa Domenech and Rogelio Areces in which the tank’s key features can be distinguished. Note the striking resemblance to the Trubia-Naval.

A Tank Requirement

The situation in the north of Spain for the Republic in the Summer of 1936 was dire. The Nationalist troops of General Mola (mostly militiamen) were reinforced with troops from General Franco’s Army of Africa and planned to cut the northern regions loyal to the Republic off from the French border, through which tanks and planes were being delivered. At the same time, Republican forces tried repeatedly to take Oviedo (Asturias), which, with its history of revolutionary activities, had surprisingly supported the coup, whilst simultaneously fending off Nationalist troops attacking from the west.
Given this situation, in August 1936, Captain Ignacio Cuartero Larrea was sent to Bilbao (Basque Country) from the Trubia arms factory to discuss the possibility of the production of war materiel for the Asturias Front. Cuartero Larrea was experienced in tank design as he had participated in the construction of the Trubia Serie A.
The Basque authorities convinced Cuartero Larrea to stay in Bilbao (which by October was the seat of government of the Autonomous Basque State) to direct the construction of war materiel, and offered him the installations of Sociedad Española de Construcciones Navales (SECN) [Spanish Society of Naval Constructions] to carry out his task.
Although SECN primarily focused on naval industry, it had, in the years leading up to the Civil War, been building SOMUA lorries and buses under license in its Sestao factory. More importantly, SECN also built the Bilbao Modelo 1932 armored cars, the most advanced pre-Civil War Spanish AFV design. Cuartero Larrea returned to Trubia arms factory with José Rufo Galárraga, the Chief Engineer at SECN, to study the vehicles and documents available there.
After some deliberation, they chose the blueprints of the Carro de Combate Ligero Para Infantería Modelo 1936 to take back to Bilbao.

Photo of the factory assembly line at the SECN in Sestao showing a line of Trubia-Navals being built. The first two, at least, have the driving mechanisms facing the engine, indicating that they are the tractor variant. Photo: SOURCE

Design

The Trubia Naval would be almost a direct copy of the blueprints from Trubia.

External Appearance

The rearmost part of the vehicle had the engine ventilation consisting of a twelve-lat vertical grille, with an additional four lat grille mounted horizontally on each side (unlike the blueprints, which had twelve lats). Those on the side were at a slight inwards angle.
The side hull, which was angled at 65º, had two large hatches on each side for crew access with a small loophole in the upper center. The large size in comparison to the rest of the tank would have most certainly affected armor effectiveness. The side went down and joined the mudguards which covered the entirety of the top tracks.
The turret was placed atop the hull and consisted of a circular structure with a shallow dome covering it welded to it at the top. To the front was the main armament and on each side there appears to be oval-shaped stroboscopes with horizontal turn allowing for continual vision.
The uppermost frontal plate consisted of two hinged plates opening outwards. The right plate had a headlamp, whilst the left one had a vision slit for the driver. From this plate, the armor extended almost horizontally and then almost vertically creating a slightly angled plate which had a machine gun. Below this, the armor took a rounded shape.
The composite armor of the blueprints was replaced by more traditional and simpler riveted chromium-nickel steel plates which were between 8mm and 16mm thick, though exact details are not known.

Armament

The 40mm armament from the blueprints was dropped due to unavailability of guns and was replaced with a machine gun.
The first model of the Trubia-Naval was equipped with two Lewis 7.7mm machine guns which had a cooling jacket, giving the appearence they were a larger caliber gun. There was a large supply of Lewis guns and ammunition as a Soviet ship carrying 200 of these machine guns had docked in Bilbao port on October 1st 1936. The rest of the series would be equipped with two Degtyaryova Tankovy (DT) 7.62mm machine guns. The DT was already carried by the Soviet-supplied BA-6’s and FAI armored cars. This gas-operated machine gun was simple, robust, and ideal for compact spaces, though it had a complex feeding system. The secondary frontal machine gun had limited use due to its position and having to be operated by the driver. The tank carried 9,600 rounds in total.

Series of photos of the first Trubia-Naval built by Sociedad Española de Construcciónes Navales in Sestao. The attention to detail in its construction and features and it being equipped with two Lewis 7.7 machine guns covered with a protector to give the appearance it was armed with a cannon all point to its being the first-built Trubia-Naval. Note the triangle denoting the manufacturer on the side. Photo: Artemio Mortera Pérez (2007), p. 65-66.

Body-on-frame and tracks

Although it had proved to be outdated and ineffective, the ‘Orion’ suspension system was used due to the urgency of the situation.
Each track consisted of a long ellipse-shaped structure formed by two parallel steel sheets and was covered by a mudguard. Between the two sheets, there was a track for the track rollers to travel through. Between the steel sheets, there were drum brakes slightly modified from previous designs.
Unlike in most other vehicles, the track rollers were integrated into the tracks and moved in unison with the track links along the tracks set between the two sheets.
This was an updated copy of the one on the Trubia Serie A and Landesa tractor, albeit, smaller.

Engine and Driving Mechanisms

In the rear of the tank was the engine compartment. Most tanks were equipped with 6 cylinder MAN engines with between 60hp and 100hp, which were plentiful in the Sestao factory where the Trubia-Navals were being produced. These engines had their limitations because of their low elasticity and high revolutions per minute, which meant that with any minor brake, power was lost. It is also stated that two Trubia-Naval were equipped with 6 cylinder Chicago engines and one had a 4 cylinder Chicago engine.
The gearbox, which was situated beneath the driver’s seat at the front, had three forward gears (40km/h, 30km/h, and 10km/h) and one reverse (10km/h).
The vehicle was driven with a steering wheel which activated the brakes and clutch. However, according to Galárraga, some of the tanks were operated by means of two direction levers.

Photo of the unarmored chassis of a Trubia-Naval being driven around the SECN factory in Sestao. Photo: SOURCE

Crew Positions and Responsibilities

The driving and combat compartment at the front of the tank housed the driver, who sat at the front, and the gunner/loader, who was positioned behind him. Given the small size of the tank, the gunner/loader would have had to sit or crouch when inside the tank. The driver also operated the frontal machine gun. Which one of the two was the commander was unspecified.

A Trubia-Naval being tested with the driver’s head emerging out of one of the enormous side doors. Photo: Artemio Mortera Pérez (2007), p. 67.

Photo of three unarmed Trubia-Naval being tested in the area surrounding the SECN factory. Photo: Artemio Mortera Pérez (2007), p. 67.

Name

One of the most controversial issues surrounding the Trubia-Naval is its name. The factory committee which had built them insisted the tank be named Tanque Constructora Naval [Naval Constructora Tank] in homage to the company building it, but Cuartero Larrea gave the name Areces-Trubia instead – Areces in honor of Rogelio Areces, one of the tank’s designers (Landesa Domenech had defected to the Nationalist, so his name was not an option), and Trubia after the arms factory from where the vehicle’s blueprints originated (conveniently, Cuartero Larrea worked at said factory).
The disagreement even reached Lendakari Aguirre, and it was decided that the Chief Engineer at the Trubia factory, Constantino Alzueta Estrada (who had been involved in the Trubia projects since 1925), should check the blueprints and assess the resemblance. Seeing the obvious similarities, a compromise was met, and the official name given was Trubia construido en la Constructora Naval [Trubia built at the Constructora Naval], with ‘Trubia-Naval’ being used for short. However, most tanks only had the Naval crest and shield on them. Again, despite all this, most official documents referred to them simply as Trubia.

The shield on Trubia-Naval no.12 which was captured by Nationalists in April 1936. Despite the fact that an agreement had been reached to acknowledge the involvement of both the Trubia arms factory and SECN in the design and construction of the vehicle, only SECN is represented. Note on the sides of the triangle the initials of Unión General de Trabajadores (U.G.T.), Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (C.N.T.), and Solidaridad de los Trabajadores Vascos (S.T.V.), all of which were trade unions. Photo: Artemio Mortera Pérez (2007), p. 88.
Some sources (such as F.C. Albert, Carros de Combate y Vehículos Blindados de la Guerra 1936-1939 (Barcelona: Borras Ediciones, 1980)) name the vehicle Carro Euskadi [Basque Tank], but this name was never used during the Civil War and is incorrect.
A nickname often associated with the Trubia-Naval is ‘tanque de juguete’ [toy tank] due to its small size.
To add to the confusion, when Trubia-Naval tanks were captured by Nationalist forces, their official documents sometimes referred to them as Carros Rusos [Russian [sic] Tanks].
Another point of interest is that Republican and Basque documents made a distinction between two models of the tank, Modelo 1936 and Modelo 1937. Artemio Mortera Pérez (one of the higher regarded authors on AFV usage in the Spanish Civil War and author of a book dedicated to the Trubia family), theorizes that there is a simple explanation to this.
The Modelo 1936 are the first ones built in Sestao, whilst the Modelo 1937 were a never completed improved version adapted following a series of complaints from Captain Luis Basterretxea de Arendia (Commander of the Trubia-Naval company of the Euskadi Light Tank Battalion in March 1937) and his men.
A last clarification to make is that the Trubia Serie A was not a prototype to this tank.
That is not to say that the two are unrelated. As already explained, the Trubia-Naval was based on and mostly developed from the Carro de Combate Ligero Para Infantería Modelo 1936 designed by Victor Domenech and Areces. This vehicle was influenced by another of the duo’s designs, the Landesa tractor. Landesa Domenech and Areces had also collaborated together to develop the Trubia Serie A. All these vehicles (the Trubia-Naval only partly) were designed with the intention that it be the new light tank for the Spanish Army. A common design feature was the ‘Orion’ suspension system which continued to be used from 1926 to 1937.


A camouflaged Trubia Naval of the Republican forces in the Basque country, 1937.


An unarmed Trubia Naval in hypothetical Nationalist colors. Most captured tanks had the red and yellow Spanish flag painted around the turret. In some cases a St. Andrew cross was painted on the top of the turret for air recognition. The machine guns on this model have been removed and it would have mostly been used for towing, as its combat value was minimal. The one photo that exists of one of these tanks in Nationalist service shows that it indeed had the red and yellow flag painted around the turret, but that it did not have the black St. Andrew cross on top, even though a white background had been painted on. Additionally, an engineer unit emblem is painted on the side in the photo, which is not included in this particular illustration. 

Both of these illustrations were produced by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet.

Numbers Built

Probably the biggest controversy and mystery surrounding these tanks is the total number produced.
The original documents from Departamento de Ferrocarriles de la Naval de Sestao [Naval of Sestao Railway Department], the department within SECN in charge of building the tanks, were lost, a fact that renders an accurate estimation of production almost impossible.
The original idea had been to create an initial series of 20 tanks and 2 tractors [see tractor section below].
Commander Casiano Guerrica-Echeverría, Chief of Industrias Movilizadas de Vizcaya [Mobilized Industries of Vizcaya] (a conglomerate of industrial companies from the Vizcaya province), estimated that only about 12 of the tanks were ever actually built.
When Bilbao was captured by Nationalist forces on July 21st 1937, the documents of the Republican Army of the North were confiscated. Among them was the organization of the Tank Battalion, which was made up of 2 companies of Renault FT’s, 1 company of gun-equipped armored cars, and 3 companies of Trubia-Navals. Each company consisted of three sections with five tanks in each, 15 tanks per company, 45 tanks in total. The document also stated that the battalion had to be ready in Corrales de Buelna (in the middle of Cantabria, northern Spain) before June 25th 1937. This means that the document was referring to available vehicles rather than a template of intended vehicles. However, Mortera Pérez, is skeptical. He does not think that that many tanks were ever built and believes the numbers on the document are a misprint or were compiled with erroneous information. It is also important to note that in a document of listing captured materiel compiled by the Nationalist General Luis Orgaz Yoldi on September 10th 1937, it states that 20 ‘Trubias’ and Renault FT were available. The exact composition of these 20 tanks is hard to tell. The truth will most likely never be known.

Three Trubia-Naval at the grounds of the SECN factory in Sestao with factory workers. Photo: Artemio Mortera Pérez (2007), p. 67.

The Tractor Version

In addition to tanks, the Basque authorities had also shown interest in artillery tractors. The tractor version was an unarmored and unarmed Trubia-Naval but with some modifications. Being a variant of the Trubia-Naval, it also resembled the Landesa tractor.
The driver’s position and that of his assistant were turned around and were now facing the engine, as in the Landesa tractor. Most of the driving mechanisms were relocated. In contrast to the Landesa tractor, seats for passengers were added in the rear.
This tractor is often referred to as Landesa-Naval, but this is a conventional denomination, and as already explained, Landesa Domenech had joined the Nationalist forces. The full name of this tractor was Tractor Landesa fabricado por la Constructora Naval [Landesa Tractor built by Constructora Naval].

Photo of inside the SECN factory showing 4 Renault FT, two improvised armored cars and a Landesa-Naval at the rear right. Photo: Artemio Mortera Pérez (2007), p. 80.

Photo often incorrectly described as a Landesa tractor. The background with the white walls is the Naval installations in Sestao denote that it was built in Bilbao, not Trubia. Furthermore, unlike the Landesa tractor, it has seats for passengers in the rear. Photo: SOURCE

Operational Life

There is not much detail about the operational use of the Trubia-Naval, but there is plenty of information about the campaigns in which it participated.
The first Trubia-Navals were probably ready by January-February 1937, and four were most likely sent to Asturias to take part in the last major offensive there in February. Given that there is no further information about these, it can be assumed that they were destroyed.
On March 23rd 1937, the Euskadi Light Tank Battalion was formed and included a Trubia-Naval company under the command of Captain Luis Basterretxea de Arendia. The Trubia-Naval were numbers 7, 8, 9, 11, and 13 and were given to their crews for training on March 29th. On April 5th, the Battalion Commander, Captain Carlos Tenorio Cabanillas, compiled a report with complaints about the tank, which included: the low engine power, the insufficient track grip to the ground, the fragility of the clutch, the low height of the mudguards over the ground, and the small and uncomfortable space inside. These complaints were noted and the recommendations were adopted for a new improved version of the tank, the Modelo 1937, though exactly how is not known.
On that same day (April 5th), the Trubia-Naval would see combat on the Urquiola road destroying a Nationalist ‘tiznao’ (an improvised armored car) and later taking a hill defended by the Condor Legion and capturing a car. On the 7th, No. 12 was lost to the Nationalists in Barazar. On the 27th, due Nationalist advance, the Trubia-Navals retreated to Durango/Yurreta, 26km from Bilbao, where they were reinforced with BA-6 armored cars. In Yurreta, they covered the infantry retreat and BA-6 assault on the Guernica road, before they themselves retreated.

Nationalist troops belonging to 51 Tabor de Tetuán posing atop the captured Trubia-Naval nº12 in Barazar. Photo: Artemio Mortera Pérez (2007), p. 87.
Throughout May, the Trubia-Naval were divided up and sent to cover different infantry retreats in the fallback to Bilbao.
On June 3rd, several Trubia-Naval with infantry support assaulted Peña Lemona and managed to retake the crag, though this resulted in 5 crewmen being wounded and the unit being taken to Algorta (north of Bilbao) for replenishment. By the 17th, they were back in action again covering a retreat. A day later, the general retreat was ordered and the Trubia-Naval returned to Bilbao to defend the city center whilst the city was being evacuated before the impending Nationalist entry into the city on the 19th. The Trubia-Navals would not be captured though and they retreated towards Santander.

Two photos of the same Trubia-Naval with Basque militiamen in Larrauri, north of Bilbao. In the second photo, the militiamen are posing for the camera. Note the box on the rear of the tank. Photo: Artemio Mortera Pérez (2007), p. 91-94.

The spoils of war following the Vizcaya Campaign. The photo shows two Somua-Naval armored cars, a Soviet BA-6 and the Trubia-Naval captured by the Nationalist at Barazar on October 7th. Photo: Artemio Mortera Pérez (2007), p. 107.
At the beginning of July, all available Trubia-Navals were sent to Laredo, the HQ of the Tank Regiment of the Army of the North. Initially, there were plans to send 11 to Noreña (Asturias) to take part in an offensive, but they were never sent and the offensive did not take place. By August 6th, the Trubia-Naval were incorporated into the Republican Army as the entire Basque region (and consequently the Autonomous Basque State) had fallen. In all, only one Trubia-Naval had been lost since March in the whole of the Vizcaya Campaign.

A Trubia-Naval with Republican troops somewhere in Vizcaya. Note how big the side doors were. Photo: Artemio Mortera Pérez (2007), p. 88.
Back in June, with Bilbao about to fall, it was planned to move tank production to Trubia. On the 15th, the order was given to build a Trubia-Naval Modelo 1937 in the Trubia arms factory, with a second order on July 4th demanding 9 be built. None of these vehicles had been manufactured by September as the factory was busy enough repairing already existing tanks, including 8 Trubia-Naval on September 25th.
On August 10th, the Trubia-Naval were divided into two sections, with one being sent to cover the Reinosa road and the other to Olea, to defend against the southern Nationalist advance on Santander. Not many details are known about the deployment of the Trubia-Naval in the Santander Campaign, but it can be assumed that they were again used to cover the retreat towards Santander. On the 14th, an unspecified number of Trubia-Naval and Renault FT’s were sent to the Escudo mountain pass in support of a section of BA-6’s and FAI’s, allowing for the retreat of the Soviet vehicles. Some would be used two days later in Reinosa. Following the surrender to Italian forces of the C.T.V. (Pacto de Santoña), Santander was taken on the 26th. 4 Trubia-Naval were captured in Santander by the C.T.V. They were divided between the Parque de Artillería de Valladolid [Valladolid Artillery Barracks] and the Fabrica de Artillería de Sevilla [Seville Artillery Factory]. Allegedly, one was kept by the Italians with the intention of sending it to Italy to study it, though it cannot be confirmed if this did indeed happen. However, Spanish figures by the Servicio de Recuperación Nacional [Nationalist Recovery Service] state that only 3 Trubia-Naval were captured, 2 at Muriedas and the other at a warehouse.

The spoils of war following the Nationalist capture of Santander on August 26th. The photo shows a Renault FT, a Soviet BA-6, and two Trubia-Naval (one is almost out of shot at the back). These tanks would be sent to factories to be put back into action. Photo: Artemio Mortera Pérez (2007), p. 144.

A Trubia-Naval pictured next to an Italian C.T.V. trooper. Location unknown, though possibly Santander. Photo: SOURCE
Following the capture of Santander and the collapse of the Republican Army of the North, Nationalist eyes were set on Gijón. The Republican armored forces consisted of a single battalion of Renault FT’s, a Trubia-Naval battalion, and a few armored cars. Due to the terrain and fierce resistance by Republican militiamen, the Nationalist advance was slow. This terrain also meant that tank deployment was limited. On October 20th, a Trubia-Naval was captured alongside a Renault FT in Infiesto, on the Oviedo-Santander railway. Gijón would fall the following day and with it, the War in the North came to an end.

The Trubia-Naval in Nationalist service

What was the exact and common use the Nationalist gave to their captured Trubia-Naval is not fully known, but they generally showed little appreciation of them. By the end of the ‘War in the North’, the Nationalist had plenty of superior tanks and did not need these unreliable and poorly armored machines for tank combat duties. Those which were put back into service were most likely just used to tow artillery pieces or other engineering duties.
The one existing photograph of a Trubia-Naval in Nationalist service supports this argument. The vehicle in question (see photo bellow) has a military engineer’s emblem on its side corresponding to the Arma de Ingenieros (Engineers Branch), and would have probably carried or towed the engineer’s equipment.
This photo also gives us indications as towards any camouflage or marking scheme modifications on the Nationalist vehicles. As with many captured vehicles, the Nationalist painted a red and yellow Spanish flag around the turret. The top of the turret was painted white, but unlike in other vehicles, a black St Andrew cross was not painted on this white background, though that does not mean it was not painted on other vehicles. Another curiosity of this particular picture is that on the front of the hull, just next to the machine gun position, is what appears to be a typical early war Nationalist tank markings which could be a ‘1’, an ‘H’ or an ‘I’, but from this photo it is impossible to tell with complete certainty.
Like many other captured vehicles, the majority were most likely scrapped.

Only known picture of a Trubia-Naval in Nationalist after having been captured. Note the red and yellow Spanish flag painted around the turret, lack of weapons and military engineer’s emblem on the side. Photo: Will Kerrs Private Collection

Trubia Naval specifications

Dimensions 3.55 x 1.70 x 1.80 m (11.65 x 5.58 x 5.9 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 5.5 tons
Crew 3 (commander/gunner, driver, hull gunner)
Propulsion MAN water-cooled, 6 cylinder, 70 hp (52.2 kW)
Max speed 30 km/h (19 mph) on road
Suspension None
Armament 2x 8 mm (0.31 in) Vickers light machine guns
Armor 16 mm (0.63 in)

Sources

Artemio Mortera Pérez, Los Carros de Combate “Trubia” (Valladolid: Quirón Ediciones, 1993)
Artemio Mortera Pérez, Los Medios Blindados de la Guerra Civil Española. Teatro de Operaciones del Norte 36/37 (Valladolid: AF Editores, 2007)
Artemio Mortera Pérez, Los Medios Blindados de la Guerra Civil Española. Teatro de Operaciones de Levante, Aragón y Cataluña 36/39 2.ª Parte (Valladolid: AF Editores, 2011)
Mark Kurlansky, Basque History of the World (London: Vintage Books, 2000)
Special thanks to Mr. Will Kerrs for allowing the author to use his photo.

Categories
WW2 Spanish Tanks

Tractor Landesa

Second Spanish Republic (1932-1937)
Tractor/Light Tank – 13-14 tractors, 2-4 LTs, 2-3 modified into LTs

Originally intended to be a tractor for military or agricultural use, it was given an armored and armed upgrade which converted it into a tank to attract new markets. In its original tractor form, it would prove to be effective and able to carry out its task reliably. The tank upgrade would see service as a product of circumstance during the Spanish Civil War.

Context – The Tank That Became a Tractor

In 1935, Commander Victor Landesa Domenech, an artillery officer attached to the Trubia arms factory in Asturias (Northern Spain) and Rogelio Areces, the Trubia arms factory’s Chief Engineer, teamed up with Captain Carlos Ruíz de Toledo, a Commander in charge of Batería de Carros de Asalto de Artillería [Artillery Tank Battery] during its first engagements during the Rif War (1911-1927), to design a tank on their own initiative. This tank would become Spain’s first indigenous tank and was to overcome the major faults of the Renault FT, Spain’s most available tank at the time. The prototype improved upon the FT with increased power in an innovative system involving two overlapping turrets moving independently and each armed with a Hotchkiss M1914 7mm machine gun and marginally improved armor and engine power.
The design was considered a success and an improved model was built, the Trubia Serie A. The main difference of the serial version compared with the prototype was its larger size, an additional crew-member, and, most importantly, a new suspension system and engine acquired in Germany. This apparatus was supposed to improve upon traditional arrangements in addition to enhancing turning capabilities and minimizing the effects of the tracks on roads. In this integrated track design, the links were suspended from the chassis and held together by a lateral metal wall. This system was designed to prevent the tracks from coming off when maneuvering.

The first serial Trubia Serie A in the factory it was built – Photo: Artemio Mortera Pérez (2007), p. 8
Four of these tanks would be built and tested in 1926. During the tests, deficiencies in the tank (especially in the new suspension system) were noted and modifications were recommended. At least one of the tanks was modified and re-tested far more successfully in May 1928. Although there was some interest in the tank, political instability, and lack of funding condemned the vehicle.
In this context, Landesa Domenech and Areces embarked on a new project, which would again be a private venture, this time with the aim of creating a tractor for military and agricultural use.

Design

The tractor would be built following the same main principles as the Trubia Serie A, but with updates and modifications.

External Appearance

Between the two tracks, there was a semi-open-topped platform above the engine and driver. The engine itself was covered by steel plates riveted together, with grilles on either side and at the front with eleven blades each. Atop this engine compartment was a headlight. Behind the engine was a steering wheel, the driver’s seat, which carried a small electrical lamp, and space for an additional crewman who acted as the driver’s assistant. The two lamps and the electrical equipment were made by Scinilla and were fed by a Tudor 24 volt battery.

Body-on-Frame and Tracks

Each track consisted of a long ellipse-shaped structure formed by two parallel steel sheets covered by a mudguard. Between the two sheets, there was a track path for the track rollers to travel through. The tracks on either side were joined to each other by 4 u-shaped bars traveling underneath the tank. Between the steel sheets were some sort of drum brakes.
Unlike in most other vehicles, the track rollers were integrated into the tracks and moved in unison with the track links along the tracks set between the two sheets. This was an updated copy of the one on the Trubia Serie A, albeit, smaller.

Engine

The first vehicle was given a Mercedes 60 hp engine. The second and third vehicles used a SEFA engine of unknown horsepower. At least the ones equipped with SEFA engines initially used K.L.G. spark plugs. Some Spanish produced spark plugs from the Toledo arms factory were tested, though, once they proved unsatisfactory, they reverted back to the K.L.G. ones.
At some point between October 1932 and 1934, it was decided that the Mercedes engines were superior to the SEFA, so the command was given to home-build the German engines. Some of the engine components were impossible to copy so they were ordered from Germany, which led to the accusation that Trubia, the factory building the engines, was carrying out an unauthorized copy (which indeed it was). Fortunately for Landesa Domenech and Areces, this did not amount to anything more. Their justification was that Trubia was creating an experimental series of engines and did not intend to sell them. These new engines would be called Mercedes-Trubia and were presumably 60 hp. The next nine or ten vehicles would be equipped with this engine.
In late 1935 or early 1936, four BOMAG heavy oil engines would be purchased for four new tractors, but only one would be built before the Spanish Civil War broke out in July 1936.

Factory Life

The first tractor was built by Landesa Domenech and Areces with help of factory workers from the Trubia arms factory in the workshop of the Compañía Anónima Basconia in Bilbao, Northern Spain. There it was tested successfully by its inventors on the nearby Malmasín Hill. Landesa Domenech and Areces then decided to take their new tractor to Trubia with the intention of building it in series, despite not having a contract at the time.
An external company, the naval-focused Juliana Constructora Gijonesa S.A., was contacted for the production of more tractors, but Landesa Domenech and Areces wanted to remain in Trubia due to the expertise of the workers there. Therefore, they reached an agreement to lease the factory of Industrial Química de Nalón in Trubia for the production of more tractors. There, the pieces for the tractors were built before they were presumably moved to the Juliana Constructora Gijonesa S.A. factory in Gijón where the two Landesas with SEFA engines were put together, though there is a strong possibility they never left Trubia.

Operational Life

In October 1932, the two Landesa tractors with SEFA engines were sent to Palencia (central north Spain) to take part in the Maniobras del Pisuegra military maneuvers. These were the first military maneuvers of the new Second Spanish Republic (established in April 1931) and as such, attracted lots of interest and attention from the press and military officials from around the globe.
The two tractors were sent for experimental use, but only one was used at the time owing to the lack of crew.
They were attached to Grupo de Artillería nº1 [Artillery Group No. 1] and were put in charge of towing Skoda 76.5mm cannons. The artillery group had eight of these, so the tractors were kept busy. Inclement weather made matters worse, extremely muddy ground meaning that the already busy tractors had to pull immobilised and bogged down vehicles out of the mud.
The overall performance of the tractors during the trials was deemed satisfactory. However, both tractors had breakdowns caused by the snapping of the structure linking the engine to the body-on-frame.
Following the trials, a new Mercedes-Trubia engine was developed and one was installed in a newly built tractor. This tractor would be sent to the Escuela Central de Tiro (the Army’s testing ground) in Carabanchel (Madrid) to test its towing and overcoming obstacle capabilities. The tests were a major success, with the tractor being able to tow 15cm cannons and 155mm howitzers even through the mud of the Jarama River.
As a result, the Army decided to place the order for nine with Mercedes-Trubia engines (it is unclear if these nine included the one tested in Carabanchel or not) to equip the Grupo de Artillería Antiarea nº1 [Anti-aircraft Artillery Group nº1] barracked in Carabanchel.
Once these were built, as a publicity stunt, the nine tractors were intended to cover the 370km (230 miles) distance to Madrid by themselves driven by Trubia arms factory workers. They managed to cover the first 60km with ease until they reached the Pajares mountain pass (1,378m in height). There, the lead tractor driven by Constantino Alzueta and Zenón Soler (the two men in charge of driving the tractor in all the trials) ventured through the pass and reached the other side. They recommended that due to the other drivers’ inexperience that they take another route. The nine tractors were put on a train to Collado de Villalba, 32km (20 miles) outside Madrid, where they were detrained and finished the trip by road. They arrived in Madrid in the early hours of October 12th 1935 and were given Skoda guns to tow to take part in the military parade to coincide with the Fiesta de La Raza/Día de la Hispanidad (the national day of Spain, which commemorates the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s first arrival in the Americas). The Trubia arms factory workers who had driven the tanks to Madrid were given army uniforms and participated in the parade, which went down the Castellana Avenue to the War Ministry, where they were inspected by the War Minister José María Gil-Robles y Quiñones.
It can be assumed that these nine tractors remained in service up to and including the Civil War and were used throughout it by the Republican forces defending Madrid and its surroundings, though any evidence is yet to be found to support this claim.
At the same time, one tractor (it is unknown if it was a newly built one or one of the already existing ones) was exhibited in front of a commission from the Ministry of Agriculture, but no contract was granted.
In late 1935 or early 1936, four new tractors with BOMAG engines were intended to be built, but only one would be before the Spanish Civil War broke out in July 1936. This tractor would later be taken to the Juliana Constructora Gijonesa S.A. factory in Gijón (Asturias) and may have been converted into a tank. When the Nationalist troops took the factory following the fall of Gijón on October 21st 1937, a Landesa tractor (which may or may not have been one which was transformed) was taken, and, by order of Landesa Domenech, sent to the small town of Porriño (Pontevedra) in north west Spain to be used for agriculture.

The Tank Version

Building on their success, at some point before October 1934, Landesa Domenech and Areces, with the assistance of Juliana Constructora Gijonesa S.A., proposed an armed and armored version of the tractor for the Army. Two (most likely the ones with SEFA engines) were converted at this point at the Juliana Constructora Gijonesa S.A. factory or at the Industrial Química de Nalón facilities in Trubia. However, the Army showed no interest and none were purchased.

The Landesa tank. Note the missing machine gun – Photo: Artemio Mortera Pérez (2007), p. 12.

Design

Quite simply, the tank version was the tractor with added armor and a machine gun. The space around the driver and his assistant was covered with slightly inclined steel riveted sheets. Atop this structure was a cone-shaped cupola for entry and access. The front sheet of the crew compartment had to its left a small rectangular hatch which opened to the left. Attached was an oval stroboscope with horizontal turn which allowed for permanent vision. The right side of the frontal plate had a small circular opening with a mount for a Hotchkiss M1914 7mm machine gun. The whole front of the vehicle remained the same with the exception of the headlamp, which had been removed. The overall armor of the tank was 15mm thick chromium-nickel steel plates riveted to each other.


Illustration of the Landesa Tractor tank by Tank Enyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet.

A Revolution and a Civil War

Popular myth and culture have led to an image of the Second Spanish Republic 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 and the Communist Party was called for October 5th 1934. Following a few days of strike, the revolution was brutally put down, except in Catalonia, where an independent state was declared, only to be toppled by Republican forces a few days later and in Asturias, where the workers, mostly miners, were well armed and mobilized.
By October 6th, the town of Trubia was taken by revolutionary forces consisting of mainly factory workers who commandeered two modified Landesa tractors in the town, though these, apparently, for some reason, lacked their engines. The factory workers fought off the Civil Guard forces, though it is unknown if they used any of the available vehicles (there were also up to three Trubia Serie A in the town).
By the 14th, state forces were putting down the revolution. In a last-ditch attempt to save the revolution, an armored train was sent down the line from Trubia to the neighboring Grado where it defeated the state forces. Another armored train was hastily prepared in Trubia using locomotive number 2544 ‘El Cervera’ of the Northern Railway. The train itself was only minimally armed, but it had two open-topped carriages and upon each a Landesa tank was placed. Until the re-discovery of several photos in the October 1934 edition of Estampa magazine, it was believed that these two tanks on the ‘Cervera’ train were, in fact, Trubia Serie A’s.

Photos showing two converted Landesa tractors onboard flat trucks as part of the ‘Cervera’ armored train during the 1934 October Revolution in Asturias – Photo: Artemio Mortera Pérez (2007), p. 16.
By the 17th, the revolution in Asturias was crushed and what happened to the two Landesa converted tanks is unknown. War has the habit of creating new opportunities for rejected vehicles, and the Spanish Civil War started in July 1936 would be a testament to this.
To most people’s surprise given Oviedo’s history, the coup there was successful and the city would be the only main city in central northern Spain to join the nascent Nationalist forces. Trubia, on the other hand, remained loyal to the Republican government forces, and a Trubia Serie A tank and at least one converted Landesa tractor were pressed into service by the workers and militiamen in the town.
The two Republican tanks were first used in an offensive against Oviedo on September 10th 1936, seeing action in the small town of Las Cruces (north of Trubia and north-west of Oviedo) and Loma del Canto, on the outskirts of Oviedo. In Loma del Canto, both broke-down in no-mans-land apparently because of a burnt-out clutch caused by the inexperience of the crew. Efforts were made to recover the tanks, but this was not possible until October when Loma del Canto was captured.
On October 27th, a converted Landesa tractor was lost to the Nationalists near the Naranco Hill (north of Oviedo), who towed it back with a Trubia Serie A tank. This incident would receive lots of attention from the besieged troops in Oviedo.

Series of photos taken in Escandalera Square (Oviedo) on October 27th, 1936 showing the Nationalist Trubia Serie A nº3 towing a Landesa tank captured at Naranco Hill. The towing through the streets of Oviedo received lots of attention from the besieged Nationalist troops. Note the improvised camouflage on the Trubia Serie A with branches and foliage. Also note that the Landesa seems to be missing the tracks’ side cover – Photo: Artemio Mortera Pérez (2007), p. 41-43.

More photos taken in Escandalera Square (Oviedo) on October 27th 1936, this time with Nationalist troops posing with the captured Landesa tank. Note the cupola and front left hatch openings – Photo: Artemio Mortera Pérez (2007), p. 42-43.
The captured modified Landesa tractor would be repaired and pressed into service with the Nationalist forces. The last knowledge of this vehicle was at some point between the end of 1937 and the beginning of 1938 once the war in the northern part of the country had finished. It was reported to have been seen in the Santo Emiliano Hill, halfway between Mieres and Langero, attached to an artillery unit which was presumably using it for towing.
At the end of 1936 or the very beginning of 1937, the order was made to build four modified tractors in the Juliana Constructora Gijonesa S.A. factory in Gijón for use of the Republican Army of the North. Some days after January 23rd, Santiago Saiz Palacios, the Chief of the Tank Battalion of the Army of the North, visited the factory to assess the progress. It is known from photographic evidence that on January 5th the frame for one had been built and one had an engine but was missing the tracks, armor and machine gun. There is also a possibility that these were just the completion of the four BOMAG engine equipped tractors which had been intended to be built before July 1936, but this time in the tank version.
A document made by the Servicio de Recuperación Nacional [Nationalist Recovery Service] after the fall of Santander in August 26th 1937 noted that the total of Republican vehicles captured in the final push on Santander were “13 Renault … 3 Trubia … and 2 Trubia/Landesa in Guarnizo”. These ‘Trubia/Landesa’ were most likely modified Landesa tractors which could have been part of those built in Gijón in January 1937. Their ultimate fate is almost impossible to determine, but none survived the Civil War.

Series of photos taken on January 5th 1937 by Constantino Suarez at the Juliana Constructora Gijonesa S.A. factory in Gijón showing different developments in the construction of four Landesa tanks for the use of the Republican Army of the North. Clockwise: the frame of a Landesa tank with the tracks yet to be added; an engine being introduced into the minimally armored frame with tracks of a Landesa tank; a worker finishing the details of a sprocket wheel; a gearbox being built by factory workers – Photo: Artemio Mortera Pérez (2007), p. 73.

Names

The names and designations in the literature for the whole series of vehicles designed or inspired by Landesa Domenech and Areces are inconsistent and full of misinformation.
After the first trial of the tractor in Malmasín, its creators christened the tractor ‘tractor Landesa’, in honor of Landesa Domenech. It is unknown if they ever received an official army denomination once they were pressed into service.
The modified tank version is even more problematic. As it never entered service properly it was never given an official name, and it does not seem that Landesa Domenech or Areces gave it a name. As such, throughout the article, the terms ‘Landesa tank’ or ‘modified Landesa tractor’ have been used. However, Artemio Mortera Pérez (one of the better-known authors on AFV usage in the Spanish Civil War), calls them ‘Carro Areces’ [Areces Tank]. This is not an arbitrary decision. Landesa Domenech had joined the Nationalist side, so naming a vehicle after an officer of the opposition was not a good move. Mortera Pérez uses the name of the other inventor (Rogelio Areces) to designate the tank. Nonetheless, no documents from the period use this designation.
To make matters worse, as stated before, the Servicio de Recuperación Nacional document made after the fall of Santander names them ‘Trubia-Landesa’. This was an easy mistake given the striking resemblance with the Trubia-Naval tanks which were inspired by the Landesa tractor.
It is interesting to note that in the first edition of a booklet created by the Republican authorities to teach the soldiers and militiamen on the front how to read and write, a Landesa modified tractor was featured. This is very odd given how rare these tanks were. By the second edition though, it had been replaced by a UNL 35.

A booklet created by the Republican authorities to teach the soldiers and militiamen on the front how to read and write featuring a Landesa tank – Photo: SOURCE

Conclusion

The Landesa tractor was proof of the determination of Landesa Domenech and Areces, who after the failure of the Trubia Serie A, persevered to create a tractor based on the same principles as their tank. Even though it initially seemed that this new project was going to fail, they convinced the Army authorities to buy their tractor after a series of successful trials.
Despite the design flaws and the unreliability of their suspension, the tractors (including the tank version) managed to perform reliably and their field life-span seems to exceed that of any of the Trubia family.
The Landesa tractor would go on to heavily influence the Trubia-Naval, a light tank which entered service in 1936 and fought in most of the War in the North.

Specifications

Dimensions Approximate values 3.6 x 1.8 x 1.7 m (11.81 x 5.9 x 5.58 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 5,500 kg
Crew 2 (Driver and Gunner/Loader)
Propulsion Mercedes 60hp, SEFA, Mercedes-Trubia 60hp, and BOMAG
Max speed 30 km/h (19 mph) on road
Armament 1 x 7mm M1914 Hotchkiss machine guns
Armor 15 mm (0.59 in)
Production 15-18

Sources

Artemio Mortera Pérez, Los Carros de Combate “Trubia” (Valladolid: Quirón Ediciones, 1993)
Artemio Mortera Pérez, Los Medios Blindados de la Guerra Civil Española. Teatro de Operaciones del Norte 36/37 (Valladolid: AF Editores, 2007)
Artemio Mortera Pérez, Los Medios Blindados de la Guerra Civil Española. Teatro de Operaciones de Levante, Aragón y Cataluña 36/39 2.ª Parte (Valladolid: AF Editores, 2011)

Categories
WW2 Spanish Armor WW2 Spanish Tanks

Modelo Trubia Serie A

Kingdom of Spain/Second Spanish Republic/Nationalist Spain (1926-1937)
Light tank – 4 built

Spain has mainly depended on foreign technology for its tank forces but there have always been enthusiastic engineers, military commanders, and policy-makers who have wanted to break the mold and create indigenous designs. The first of these initiatives would take place in 1925 in the northern town of Trubia, Asturias. Following the satisfactory completion of a prototype, plans were put in motion to design an improved serial production tank which was to be known as the Modelo Trubia Serie A4, or ‘Trubia tank’ for short.

Context – Lessons from Morocco

Colonial competition and internal politics meant that Spain took possession of large areas of what today is Morocco. The locals loathed the Spanish colonial administrators, leading to the Melilla War (1909) and the Rif War (1911-1927). In the latter, Spain would use for the first time in its history the modern technology of aircraft, armored cars, and tanks. The Spanish brought 11 Renault FT’s and 6 Schneider CA-1’s from France which would take part in multiple actions throughout the war with mixed results. The main shortcomings found in the Renault FT, regarded by the Spanish as their finest tank, were: poor performance, speed, range of operation due to a poor engine, and its vulnerability when its only machine gun jammed. To overcome these, a team involving Commander Victor Landesa Domenech (an artillery officer attached to the Trubia arms factory), Captain Carlos Ruíz de Toledo (a Commander in charge of Batería de Carros de Asalto de Artillería [Artillery Tank Battery] during its first engagements during the Rif War) and the Trubia arms factory’s Chief Engineer, Rogelio Areces, took it upon themselves to design and build a superior vehicle for the Spanish Army.

The Trubia prototype

Designed and built in 1925 on their own initiative and financed out of their own pockets, the Trubia prototype would be tested in 1926 with a very satisfactory reception. So much so, that, a budget was set for the creation of a tank producing workshop at the Trubia factory and a commission led by Areces and Ruíz de Toledo was established to travel Europe and investigate tank technological innovations they could use for an improved serial version of the prototype.
Appearance-wise, the tank resembled the Renault FT, as it was in the minds of Landesa Domenech and co. the best tank they had knowledge of. However, there were a few differences:
– To surmount firepower concerns, two overlapping turrets with independent movement and each armed with a Hotchkiss 7mm machine gun were adopted.
– At the front of the tank there was a small semi-circular plate attached to an elongated nose of the tank which acted as a ram to break through obstacles such as walls and barbed wire.
– Due to circumstances, armor and engine-power were only marginally improved.

The only known photo of the Trubia prototype, which, in this instance, is mounting a brick wall. Date and location unknown. Note the overlapping turrets, frontal nose ‘ram’ and general resemblance to the Renault FT – source: Artemio Mortera Pérez (2007), p. 6.

The European Expedition, Notions of Tank Design

Areces and Ruíz de Toledo’s European adventure would not be as fruitful as they may have hoped and expected. Tank technology was in its infancy and most tank producing nations were wary of sharing their findings, and the technology they did exhibit and share was mostly outdated. Companies like Vickers did at the time sell custom-made tanks to the buyer’s needs, but it seems that Areces and Ruíz de Toledo did not explore this option as they probably did not want to spend much.
In Germany, they were shown a very peculiar suspension inspired by the one intended to be used on the K-Wagen behemoth. This undercarriage system was named ‘Orion’ and was supposed to improve upon traditional systems in addition to enhancing turning capabilities and minimising the effects on roads. In this integrated track design, the links were suspended from the chassis and held together by a lateral metal wall. This system was designed to prevent the tracks from coming off when maneuvering.
Additionally, a few Daimler engines of different horsepower were shown to the commission.
Satisfied with what they saw, the Commission bought at least four ‘Orion’ systems and Daimler 4 cylinder 75 hp engines for the tank series, and two larger undercarriage systems based on the same principle and two Daimler 8 V-shaped cylinder 200 hp engines with the intention of building a large tank recovery tractor.
The team behind the design had several ideas to improve upon the Renault FT:
– Improving firepower and lessening vulnerability when the only machine gun jammed. For this, the same idea as on the prototype was adapted though the lower turret was intended to use a modified Ramírez Arellano 40mm infantry gun. However, this would not materialize.
– Enhancing the FT’s poor speed, range and performance by equipping the more powerful Daimler 75hp engine.
– Avoiding the vulnerability of the crew having to exit the tank to access the engine for repairs by creating a bigger engine compartment which could be accessed from the inside.
– Improvement of the undercarriage, which had caused many headaches. It is possible that early on a wheel-cum-track system was considered, but given the failures of the Chenilletts Saint Chamond in Spanish service which used this system, the idea was quickly abandoned. The ‘Orion’ system bought in Germany was to be used instead.
The design team was willing to sacrifice small size as they felt their improvements were more important.

Design


Blueprints of the Trubia Serie A. Note, not the original – source: https://www.alabarda.net/blog/historia/el-carro-trubia-a4/

Exterior Appearance

The square-shaped central hull part housed the crew compartment and above it was the turret. The back resembled that of an FT – rear tail included – but was much larger and housed the engine. At the front, to each side was a hinged door to access the engine. Behind it only on the right-hand side was a large exhaust pipe. To the front of the central piece was a sheet going down at a 45º angle. On the center-right were two boxes of different shapes. The most central and smaller one had a vision slit for the driver, whilst the larger one to the right had a forward firing machine gun. This position was a detachable piece which allowed the crew to enter and access the tank. The frontal and side pieces sloped inward meeting at the beak of the tank, upon which was a removable small semi-circular plate which acted as a ram to break through obstacles, such as walls and barbed wire. On the earlier version of the tank, there was a mudguard which covered the whole top of the tracks to prevent enemy infantrymen from planting explosives on them.
The side and frontal armor was 20mm thick and made with chromium-nickel steel plates riveted to an inner frame.

Turret

One of the tank’s most recognizable features, the turret, was made out of two overlapping turrets with independent movement and each armed with a Hotchkiss 7mm machine gun. Each turret consisted of a truncated cone forged in nickel steel 16mm thick. Each one had a ball machine gun mount which allowed for 65º of vertical and 110º of horizontal fire. On the direct opposite side of the ball mount was a small vision slit, and on either side of the turret there were small sliding windows to improve the gunners’ vision. On the top of the upper turret was a circular outwards opening hinged hatch upon which a cylindrical panoramic visor – a stroboscopic cupola – was fixed. The cylinder had vertical openings around it protected by ‘unbreakable’ glass and turned by means of a small electrical engine, providing a continuous panoramic vision of the exterior by means of the ‘persistence of vision’ phenomenon.

Armament

Armament consisted of three 7mm Hotchkiss M1914 machine guns. Each turret had one (operated by two different gunners, one of whom was also the commander. The gunners would have to load their own weapons) and the third was at the front and operated by the driver. In total, for the three guns. the tank carried enough ammunition for 8,000 shots. Initially, the lower turret was supposed to carry a modified Spanish-built Ramírez Arellano 40mm infantry gun, but the project behind this gun would not materialize until a few years later. The machine gun was a stop-gap solution, but with plans to fit the infantry gun in the future, though these never materialized. The sides of the tank also counted with small loopholes through which the crew could fire their personal weapons. Additionally, the first series production vehicle had a ball joint on the right side for a Mauser rifle, the purpose for which is unclear – this was later removed.

Engine

The engine could be started by means of compressed air provided by a compressor, but if this system malfunctioned, it could always be started up manually with a crank and an Bosch electrical system. The engines used were the Daimler MV1574 4 cylinder 75 hp with 900rpm bought by Ruíz de Toledo and Areces in Germany fitted with Beru spark plugs.
However, these were modified to improve performance. To ensure that enough lubrication was provided for when the tank was at a 45º angle, the oil container was changed. A cogwheel and chain transmission was added to put the air compressor into motion.
Cooling for the motor and the interior was provided by two large ventilators. One was placed in front in the middle of the vehicle sucking air from inside the crew compartment inwards and was expelled to the exterior one through the second ventilator at the back.
The engine and two ventilators were built as one piece and were connected on each side to the body-on-frame.
The manual engine start was situated in front of the frontal ventilator and could be accessed from outside from both sides through the hinged doors.
Beneath the front ventilator was the double cone clutch which was activated by a pedal to the right of the driver.
The tank was capable of traveling at 30km/h with a range of 100km, a slight improvement over the Renault FT. The fuel tank held 180 liters.

Driving Mechanisms

The gearbox was beneath the driver and was made from cast steel. It consisted of four speeds with the first speed being used to overcome obstacles and for driving over uneven ground.
Changing direction was possible by means of a mechanism which immobilized or reduced the speed of one of the tracks.

Body-on-Frame and Tracks

Each track consisted of a long ellipse-shaped structure formed by two parallel steel sheets. Between the two sheets there was a track for the track rollers to travel through. The tracks on either side were joined to each other by 4 u-shaped bars traveling underneath the tank. The engine lay over the two furthest to the back. At the front of the tracks, there was an opening to the inside of the tank for the mechanism to connect them to the gearbox. Between the steel sheets were some sort of drum breaks.
Unlike in most other vehicles, the track rollers were integrated into the tracks and moved in unison with the track links along the tracks set between the two sheets. The track links had a cross pressed into them to improve traction.

Name

The tank’s name has caused some controversy over the years. Officially, it was named Carro Ligero de Combate para Infantería Modelo Trubia 75 H.P., Tipo Rápido, Serie A – meaning Infantry Light Tank Trubia Model 75 hp (the engine’s hp), Rapid Type (30km/h was considered quite fast in comparison to the Renault FT and Schneider CA) Series A. Ruíz de Toledo designated the tank Modelo TRUBIA. Serie A. – with this designation being used throughout the article. From the 1930’s onwards, official documents would add ‘A4’ or ‘4A’ at the end, possibly referring to the fact that 4 were built in total. The name Carro Rápido de Infantería [Rapid Infantry Tank] is also used.
It is, however, incorrect to call them Trubia-Naval, as this was a different tank entirely dating from 1936. Furthermore, many sources refer to the tanks as a prototype to the Trubia Naval, including the original Tanks Encyclopedia article on the vehicle. There was a direct connection between the two and they shared multiple features, but that is as far as it went. The tanks were two different projects with two distinct purposes.
The name follows a general Spanish tendency to name tanks and other AFV’s after the place where they were designed or built, or after one of the engineers behind the project.

The first Trubia Serie A still inside the Trubia arms factory. It was not yet completed, as it was missing its machine guns and mudguards (though the supports for these are visible) – Photo: Artemio Mortera Pérez (2007), p. 7.

Photo taken shortly after the one above. The tank now has its three machine guns, mudguards, and Mauser rifle which only this version was equipped with – Photo: Artemio Mortera Pérez (2007), p. 8.

The first Trubia Serie A mounted on an open truck bound for Madrid after its completion with all the men involved in its construction. Furthest to the right is the factory’s chief engineer, Rogelio Areces – Photo: Artemio Mortera Pérez (2007), p. 5.

Testing

After their construction was rushed by demands coming from Madrid, four vehicles were finished at some point in 1926 as part of a pre-production series. This meant that as soon as they were finished (only one was constructed at each time), they were transported by train to Estación del Norte (modern-day Príncipe Pío) in Madrid. One, most likely the last one, was not even finished when it was transported, and a small workshop garage next to the train station in Madrid had to be hired to finish the vehicle off before it joined the other three at the Escuela Central de Tiro, the Army’s testing ground, in Carabanchel, South Madrid. Due to the hurry imposed from Madrid, the vehicles had not been properly factory tested and a group of factory workers were sent along with the tanks to make sure everything ran smoothly.
The testing of the four tanks would garner lots of interest and many officials would visit during the long demanding tests they were submitted to. These tests included cross-country travel, obstacle demolition, overcoming gradients, pulling heavy artillery and spare armor plates of the same thickness as the tank were fired upon with a 40mm gun to test the level of protection it offered. The 40mm gun was the same one as originally planned to be used by the tank. While the tank’s performance was generally considered to be good several important deficiencies were noted.
Pros:
– The engine was considered overall to be an improvement.
– The space and comfort inside.
– The fact that the engine could be accessed from within the tank.
Cons and recommendations:
– The main con was the undercarriage, which broke down several times.
– The ventilator blades and supports snapped because of their excessive weight and were to be replaced with aluminum ones. Changes were made to soften the abrupt halting of the blades when the engine stopped.
– The support for the ventilator at the back was to be changed from cast to forged steel.
– Improvements to the fuel feed.
– The spark plug was unsatisfactory and was first replaced by a Bosch one and later by a K.L.G. one.
– The compressed-air driving system was to be changed by a driving wheel and pedals.
– The vehicle was found to lack rigidity and its main structure had to be reinforced. The top of the vehicle supporting the turrets was of special concern.
– Adding a hinged hatch for the driver’s entry and exit to the left of the detachable boxes on the frontal plate.
– Eliminating the mudguards.
– Recommendations were made for overall improvement to make the undercarriage more durable.
The accompanying factory workers carried out multiple repairs during the tests and made notes of what went wrong. Along with the official recommendations, these would be used on return to Trubia.

One of the Trubia Serie A4 during trials in Escuela Central de Tiro in Carabanchel, Madrid. Note that because the of the hasty construction, this example has the side door to access the engine open, and the machine guns, detachable frontal piece and detachable ‘ram’ piece not yet fitted – Photo: SOURCE

Another of the Trubia Serie A’s being trialed in Carabanchel. It may well be the same one as in the previous image, but in this photo it now has had the ‘ram’ piece attached – Photo: SOURCE


Illustration of the Trubia A by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet, with corrections by Jaycee ‘AmazingAce’ Davis.

Death of the Project

The four tanks were taken back to Trubia by train to be disassembled and at least one was modified. The modified tanks are often called ‘segunda serie‘ [second series] to distinguish them from the original ones. The idea was to create a production series from the lessons learnt.
A modified tank was tested in the factory grounds in front of the military commanders of the Asturias region, led by General Zuvillaga. During these tests, the vehicle lacked the detachable frontal boxes, ‘ram’ piece, and machine guns.

One of the modified Trubia Serie A (segunda serie) undergoing balance and slope trials. The man next to the tank is thought to be Captain Carlos Ruíz de Toledo – Photo: Artemio Mortera Pérez (2007), p. 9.

The same modified Trubia Serie A (segunda serie) as in the above picture during trials at the factory’s grounds. Note the lack of the detachable frontal boxes, ‘ram’ piece, mudguards, and machine guns – Photo: Artemio Mortera Pérez (2007), p. 10.

The same modified Trubia Serie A (segunda serie) as in the above pictures being inspected by General Zuvillaga and other officers of the Asturias region outside the Trubia arms factory – Photo: Artemio Mortera Pérez (2007), p. 10.
This vehicle was later sent to Madrid in May 1928 for a second round of testing which took place on the 19th under the watchful eye of Lieutenant Colonel Antonio García Pérez, Secretary General of the Estado Mayor Central, the person in charge of supervising military centers. The results were judged satisfactory and the tank was given ‘A.T.M. 2204’ as its number-plate and was incorporated into the Army. The commission in charge of supervising the tests concluded in a report that [paraphrasing] “the Trubia light tank, had all the required capabilities for a tank of its nature” and the order was made to build one of the heavy tractors envisioned by Ruíz de Toledo and Areces with the larger suspension system and 200 hp engine. As far back as November 1926, plans were made to equip a section within the Tank Group with an undefined number of Trubia Serie A tanks depending on how many could be made available by the Trubia factory.
Unfortunately, none of these projects would materialize. To understand why, it is important to note the context of what had been happening in Spain. In September 1923, the Captain General of Catalonia Miguel Primo de Rivera led a successful coup with King Alfonso XIII’s blessing. Primo de Rivera’s aim was to put an end to the problems associated with the ongoing war in Morocco and labor and trade union unrest. From his position of power, Primo de Rivera attempted to carry out military reforms. These were very unpopular among Army officers, especially those in the artillery section, leading to the dissolution of the latter. The artillery had been up to then responsible for the production of the Trubia Serie A’s and other military vehicles, and without their budget and blessing, the project was all but dead.
The project was never officially canceled, but without the stimuli and finance, it faded away. However, this would not be the end of the Trubia Serie A nor of Landesa Domenech and Areces’ adventures with tank and military vehicle production.

Active Service

Revolution of 1934

Popular myth and culture has 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 left-wingers within the Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE) [left wing social democrats] and Union General de Trabajadores (UGT) trade union with the support of elements of the Anarchist party and trade unions (FAI and CNT) and the Communist Party, was called for October 5th 1934. Following a few days of strike, the revolution was brutally put down, except in Catalonia, where an independent state was declared, only to be toppled by Republican forces a few days later, and in Asturias, where the workers, mostly miners, were well armed and mobilized.
Asturias was where the Trubia Serie A’s were, too. On October 6th, the revolutionary forces (in Trubia led by the Communists among the factory workers) took control of the Trubia factory (the revolutionary forces felt that for their success they had to capture the factory with its large weapons deposits) and with up to three of the tanks inside, some or all of which were without engines. It is likely that two Landesa tanks were in a nearby factory also in Trubia and in much better running condition. In the town, the factory workers fought off the Civil Guard forces, though it is unknown if they used any of the available vehicles.
By October 14th, state forces were putting down the revolution. In a last ditch attempt to save the revolution, an armored train was sent down the line from Trubia to the neighboring Grado where it defeated the state forces. Another armored train was hastily prepared in Trubia using locomotive number 2544 ‘El Cervera’ of the Northern Railway. The train itself was only minimally armed, but it had two open-topped carriages. Upon each carriage a Landesa tank, without an engine, was placed. Until the re-discovery of several photos in the October 1934 edition of Estampa magazine, it was believed that these two tanks on the ‘Cervera’ train were in fact Trubia Serie A’s. By the 17th, the revolution in Asturias had been crushed.
Following the revolution, the 3 Trubia Serie A’s which had been left unmodified following the Madrid trials of 1926 were put back into service with a series of modifications, including the removal of the mudguards which covered the top half of the tracks and the addition of the hinged hatch for the driver’s entry and exit to the left of the detachable boxes on the frontal plate. Three of them had ‘Carro Ligero nº’ [Light Tank No.] written on the sides followed by a 1, 2 or 3 and were attached to the Infantry Regiment <<Milán>> nº 32 which was barracked in Oviedo, the capital of Asturias. The vehicles were in a poor condition, but there were plans to continue to carry out tests on them. The fourth vehicle, which may have had a number 4 written on its side, remained in the factory.

Spanish Civil War

The failed General’s coup which drew the country into a bloody civil war gave the Trubia Serie A’s their chance to prove themselves in combat for the first time, ten years after they had left the factory.
To most people’s surprise, given Oviedo’s history, the coup there was successful and the city would be the only main city in central northern Spain to join the nascent Nationalist forces. In Oviedo were the three Trubia Serie A’s of the Infantry Regiment <<Milán>> nº 32 which would serve the war in Nationalist service. On the other hand, Trubia remained loyal to the Republican government forces, and the tanks within the factory, along with a Landesa tractor (which was transformed into a tank), were pressed into service by the workers and militiamen in the town.
The two Republican tanks were first used in an offensive against Oviedo on September 10th 1936, seeing action in the small town of Las Cruces (north of Trubia and north-west of Oviedo) and Loma del Canto, in the outskirts of Oviedo. In Loma del Canto, both broke down in no-mans-land, apparently because of a burnt-out clutch caused by the inexperience of the crew. Efforts were made to recover the tanks, but this was not possible until October when Loma del Canto was captured. No more is known of the fate of the Republican Serie A4 and it was possibly scrapped.
Fortunately, the history of the three in Nationalist service is slightly better recorded; most likely they were used to quell the first attacks by militiamen on the city and helped consolidate Nationalist control of the city.
On August 22nd 1936, the three Trubia Serie A’s, accompanied by two rifle companies and one machine gun company from the Infantry Regiment <<Milán>> nº 32, a Civil Guard detachment, and a battery of Schneider 105/11 guns, were used offensively against Loma del Campón, on the road to Trubia. The objectives were reached, but nº2, under the command of Engineer Brigadier Antonio Morales Elvira broke down. The vehicle was towed back during the night, but because of the general poor condition of the tank and the unevenness of the ground, the turret fell off. It is unknown if the turret was put back, but the vehicle remained in service.

Trubia Serie A nº2 after it broke down in Loma del Campón. The man furthest to the right is Engineer Brigadier Antonio Morales Elvira, the tank’s commander. The other men in the photo appear to be infantrymen or militiamen, though some of them could also form part of the tank’s crew – Photo: Artemio Mortera Pérez (2007), p. 36.

Still from a video showing the rear of a Trubia Serie A4 in Oviedo with Moorish troops of Franco’s army marching past – source: https://vehiculosblindadosdelaguerracivil.blogspot.com/search/label/Trubia%20A%204
Following this small offensive, the vehicles were to be deployed defensively in the besieged city of Oviedo. Multiple further breakdowns meant that they were used statically in defensive positions; one defended La Argañosa (the western entrance to the city) and the other two, one of which was now operated by elements of the Civil Guards, were situated between Campo de los Patos street and the arms factory defending the eastern approach along the Santander road.
The one situated in La Argañosa was destroyed at some point before the end of the initial Republican offensive on Asturias in October by Nationalist forces to prevent Republican irregulars from capturing it, as it was broken down and could not be towed to safety due to the crossfire. The remaining two Trubia Serie A’s continued to be used for defensive duties.

The remains of one of the Nationalist’s Trubia Serie A in La Argañosa – source: Artemio Mortera Pérez (2007), p. 38.
On October 27th, nº3 was sent to the Naranco Hill to tow back to Oviedo a Republican Landesa tank which had broken through the lines but had broken down.

Series of photos taken in Escandalera square (Oviedo) on October 27th 1936 showing the Nationalist Trubia Serie A nº3 towing a Landesa tank captured at Naranco Hill. The towing through the streets of Oviedo received lots of attention from the besieged Nationalist troops. Not the improvised camouflage on the Trubia Serie A with branches and foliage – Photo: Artemio Mortera Pérez (2007), p. 41-42.

Two Nationalists posing next to a Trubia Serie A in Oviedo – SOURCE
In January 1937, the Republican Army of the North planned a major offensive on Asturias with all available men and vehicles. The offensive would properly commence on February 21st with Republican Army forces penetrating the defensive perimeter near Campo de Patos, where the two remaining Trubia Serie A and Nationalist infantrymen managed to fend them off. It is unknown if the two tanks survived the whole offensive (at least one did), but they were most likely scrapped once the offensive was over and plenty of German Panzer I’s, Italian CV 33-35’s and captured Soviet vehicles were available. It has been subsequently speculated that one was sent to Seville at the end of the War in the North, and was used in victory parades, but there is no evidence to substantiate this claim and no logical reason why this might have occurred. Unless or until firm evidence of their appearance in Seville is produced this has to be considered unlikely at best.

One of the Nationalist Trubia Serie A in Oviedo defending Campo de los Patos and the eastern entrance to the city – source: Artemio Mortera Pérez (2007), p. 76.

A Nationalist Trubia Serie A still in its static position defending the weapons factory in Oviedo following the end of the war in Asturias in October 1937 – source: Artemio Mortera Pérez (2011), p. 143.

Legacy and Conclusion

Following the unofficial termination of the Trubia Serie A project in 1928-1929, Landesa Domenech, now a Captain, and Areces embarked in a new project, a tractor for military and agricultural use based on the same, but improved and updated, mechanisms as the Trubia Serie A. The tractor, named Tractor Landesa [Landesa Tractor], would also have an armored upgrade which would be used in the Revolution of 1934 and the Spanish Civil War. In the Spanish Civil War, another vehicle, the Trubia-Naval, influenced by the original Trubia Serie A would see service with both Republican and Nationalist forces.
The Trubia Serie A was a brave, but ultimately, unsatisfactory effort to improve upon the existing Renault FT. Had the vehicle worked properly, it would definitely have been a major improvement; it had improved firepower, improved engine performance, which could be accessed from the inside, allowed for higher speed, range and performance, slightly thicker armor, and more comfort for its crew. However, the experimental suspension system used proved to be inefficient and too prone to breakdowns due to its delicate nature. The problem was, that for a variety of reasons, a copy of this suspension system was still being used in new tank designs as late as 1936.
Regardless, the Trubia Serie A was the first example of a Spanish designed tank to overcome the dependency on foreign tanks and valuable lessons were learnt by the designers and engineers.

Sources

Artemio Mortera Pérez, Los Carros de Combate “Trubia” (Valladolid: Quirón Ediciones, 1993)
Artemio Mortera Pérez, Los Medios Blindados de la Guerra Civil Española. Teatro de Operaciones del Norte 36/37 (Valladolid: AF Editores, 2007)
Artemio Mortera Pérez, Los Medios Blindados de la Guerra Civil Española. Teatro de Operaciones de Levante, Aragón y Cataluña 36/39 2.ª Parte (Valladolid: AF Editores, 2011)
Chus Neira, “El primer tanque español salió de la Fábrica de Trubia hace 90 años” La Nueva España [Spain], 30 March 2017 (https://www.lne.es/oviedo/2017/03/30/primer-tanque-espanol-salio-fabrica/2081455.html#)

Specifications

Dimensions Excluding tail 4.36 x 2.8 x 1.8 m (14.3 x 9.19 x 5.9 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 8.1 tonnes
Crew 3 (Driver/frontal gunner; Commander/gunner/loader; and Gunner/loader)
Propulsion Daimler MV1574 4 cylinder 75 hp
Max speed 30 km/h (19 mph) on road
Range 100 km (62.14 miles)
Suspension None
Armament 3 x 7mm Hotchkiss M1914 machine guns
Armor 16-20 mm (0.63 – 0.79 in)
Production 4
Categories
Mexican Armor

TNCA Salinas

United States of Mexico (1917)
Heavy Tank Prototype – At least 1 Built

Mexico is not a country which is often associated with tank production of any kind. What is more, as of 2018, Mexico does not have any tanks at all in their army – their armored forces consist of armored cars, most numerously the Panhard ERC, which is nearing 35 years of service. As such, it may come to a surprise that in 1917, Mexico joined a very select group of tank producing nations, and by doing so, beating their bitter rivals north of the border.

Context – The Mexican Revolution

The Mexican Revolution is one of, if not the most important events in Twentieth-Century Mexican history, completely changing the sociopolitical fabric of society. For over three decades, Mexico had been ruled by what is known as el Porfiriato, in other words, the presidency of General Porfirio Díaz, until he was forced to resign in 1911. Shortly before that, after fixing an election result in 1910, the people were mobilized against Díaz.
During his presidency, Díaz had made many enemies, and his successor was one of them, the liberal Francisco I. Madero who tried to introduce democracy and freedom of press and association. Following such a long lasting period of rule by one person, a political vacuum was created in which different political elites and social groups fought to take power. Madero had enemies on all sides of the political spectrum – some viewed him has too reactionary, and others as too liberal revolutionary – so he was forced to resign alongside his vice president in a coup in February 1913, with both being assassinated soon after. The counter-revolutionary General Victoriano Huerta took over after the coup and ruled in a dictatorial manner until July 1914, when he resigned and went into exile after a series of defeats of his Federal Army.
By this point, Mexico was submerged in a full-scale civil war. A coalition of revolutionary forces would take over the capital and therefore seized power, but not for long as they failed to land an agreement to form a government. The conservative Venustiano Carranza, who had been instrumental in the coup against Huerta in 1913 and had support from the USA, emerged triumphant from the chaos of the civil war, defeating the famous revolutionaries Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata along the way. With the signing of the Constitution of 1917, the situation would stabilize for some time. Following the signing of the Constitution and up to 1920, clean-up operations were carried out and agrarian revolutionary leaders were assassinated or imprisoned. The general atmosphere of turmoil and uncertainty benefited radical ideas and banditry alike. The ten years of continuous warfare would leave between 1 and 2 million dead Mexicans, including military and civilian deaths.

The Steps Towards Tank Production

Mexico had never been a major arms producer and had always had to depend on foreign imports for any major military operation. The constant situation of warfare during the Revolutionary period exacerbated the need for armament. With this in mind, a pro-government group (Constitutionalists), under the orders of General Venustiano Carranza, led a project to build armament factories for home production in 1915. By 1917, the Escuela Militar de Aviación [Military Aviation School] and Talleres Nacionales de Construcción Aeronáutica (TNCA) [National Aircraft Construction Factories] were inaugurated in Mexico City.
TNCA had originated as a small repair workshop and spare part supplier for the equally small Mexican air-force but slowly increased in size with the introduction of heavy machinery imported from Europe. Eventually, it would even produce its own aircraft, including the TNCA A to H Series and a few licensed British and American aircraft.
At some point in between 1916 and 1917, Carranza’s nephew, the aviator Major Alberto Salinas Carranza, is attributed to having designed a tank which would receive the name ‘TNCA Salinas’ – TNCA after the factory where it was built and Salinas in honor of its designer – although the tank is more commonly known as ‘Tanque Salinas’ (Salinas’ tank).
What ideas were behind the need for this tank are unknown. By 1917, the civil war and consolidation of power by Carranza were all but complete. One must also consider that unlike the Great War in (mostly Western) Europe, warfare in Mexico had not been limited to trenches. In the vast plains and deserts in the center and north, horses and mounted mobile warfare was still important, whilst in the jungles of the south, guerrilla warfare was favored. Tank technology at the time was not advanced enough for tanks to cover these large distances and to fight in this typically mobile warfare. The tank would have been more suited to the multiple urban combats that occurred during the Revolution and to put down uprisings within cities or towns.
Tanks were a new phenomenon and states around the world did not want to be left lagging behind in adopting this technology. Mexico would not be left either, and within an atmosphere of war favoring technological innovations, eager and adept engineers like Salinas could have been free to develop their ideas.

The TNCA Salinas next to its presumed designer, Major Alberto Salinas Carranza. The five-barrel revolving cannon can be appreciated in this photo. The vehicle is probably perched on some sort of stand. The rollers for the track are visible as are the spaces for the track tensioners although no track is fitted. Photo: SOURCE

Design

Externally, the tank resembles the early British rhomboid tanks (such as the Mk. I) which had tracks on each side surrounding the hull and covered the entire length of the machine. Its main gun position, however, owes more to the contemporary French design of the St. Chamond.
On each side, there were sponsons to carry the secondary armament consisting of a machine-gun on each side (unlike the British tanks where the main armament would be on the sponsons). The sponsons, unlike the large square British ones, were curved and shaped like a British pillar-box. Also, unlike the British detachable sponsons, these seem fixed to the side. Atop the tank, there was a large box-like cabin – similar to those on the Mk.V (and other later rhomboid tanks) – for the driver and commander.
It seems from photographic evidence that in front of the sponsons there were doors for crew access on each side, which, in combat, would have been quite a design flaw as: a) the machine-guns would not be able to fire forward if the door was in use; and b) crewmen would be vulnerable when exiting the tank in middle of combat if the door was facing forward.
Armor details are not described, but given that the vehicle is estimated to be around 7 meters in length and 20 tons in weight and a similar vehicle, the Mk.I’s 7.9 meters and 27-29 tons with 6-15mm in armor, the armor of the TNCA Salinas can be approximated to 6-12mm. This armor was riveted, and from the photos, it seems it was constructed onto an internal frame.

Armament

The front upper hull had a large square through which the gun was fired. It seems the gun was not fitted into the hull but rather mounted internally and the gun’s original gun shield was used for interior protection. Some sources state a 47mm Hotchkiss revolver cannon consisting of five barrels as the main armament, but this may well be a typo. It is documented that at the time of the Mexican Revolution there were Hotchkiss 37mm Revolving Cannons, also with 5 barrels, but there is not mention of a 47mm variant, and the description provided matches that of the 37mm. A typo between a 3 and a 4 is easy to make and with time, this typo has come to be accepted as a fact.
Martínez Hernández et al., probably the most reputable source on the tank, state that it was, in fact, the 37mm version, which could have been found on board the battleship Ignacio Zaragoza. This gun was accurate and had a quick reload time, but had its drawbacks, including the fact that it did not have a long range and that it was quite heavy as it was mainly intended to be used on ships or coastal defense (though it was used as field artillery during the war), not early tanks. Each round weighed around 1.1kg and that the gun with a muzzle velocity of 455 m/s. Firing a solid AP shot this gun could perforate 45mm of steel at close ranges.
Some sources mention that an unspecified 75mm gun, though it could be the Mexican variant of the 75mm St. Chamond field gun known as the Mondragón-St. Chamond, was also tested, but there is no conclusive evidence of this. The caliber or make of the side machine-guns is not known.

A Hotchkiss 37mm Revolving Cannon at Fort Copacabana, Brazil. Photo: Wikimedia Commons


Illustration of the Salinas Tank modeled by Mr. C. Ryan, funded by our Patreon Campaign.

Inside the Tank

Inside there would be a crew of between 6 and 8. A commander, a driver, two to three crew members to operate the main gun in the front and two machine-gunners (one on each side). The potential eighth crew member is unspecified but could have been an engineer.
Details concerning the engine differ, but what is assumed is that it would have been a diesel engine of around 90-100hp. The 6 cylinder Aztatl 80 hp – the first Mexican indigenous airplane engine – could have, according to all available sources consulted, been used, as it was first produced in 1917. Alternatively, at this time in Mexico, there were Hispano-Suiza 150hp, Wright 60hp, and Renault ~60hp engines for aircraft which could also have been used. However, it could make more sense to think that the tank would have used some sort of truck engine, which would have been much more readily available and in less demand than the latest type of aircraft engine. It is worth mentioning though that TNCA was a company involved in aircraft parts production and as such, could have used an aircraft engine which would have been available at the time.
On the other hand, Martínez Hernández et al. doubt that the tank had an engine at all. In the few available images of the vehicle, there are no obvious signs that it ever moved under its own power, so it could well be that whatever engine was desired was never actually fitted.

Side-view of the TNCA Salinas in which its postbox-like sponsons can be appreciated. The identity of the man posing with the tank is unknown. Photo: SOURCE

Short Operational History and Demise

It is unknown if any additional vehicles to the prototype were produced in series, but it is highly unlikely. There is also very little information regarding what happened to the tank.
Speculation exists within the sources that the tank could have been deployed in combat twice, though this is highly unlikely. The first supposed use would be in some period between 1919 and 1921, during the last stages of the Mexican Revolution, and the second in 1926 in putting down the Catholic clerical rebels during the Cristero War (1926-29). As previously stated, there is no supporting evidence of this, so, for now, these will be left as conjecture.
The company TNCA was eventually bought by Canadian Car and Foundry, but before then the company was on a spiral decline due to lack of government investment and a preference for foreign aircraft. The ‘Tanque Salinas’ would end its operational life sometime during the 1930’s when it was converted into a guardhouse or checkpoint outside the air base at Balbuena, near Mexico City, not too far from where the tank was originally built. The main gun was removed and from photographic evidence.
It is unknown what happened to the tank after this, but it was most likely scrapped at some point. Mexico would not have any other tanks until the nine Marmon-Herrington CTVL tanks acquired from the USA in 1938.

The Tanque Salinas presumably at the Balbuena air base lacking its main armament. In this picture, it can be perfectly appreciated that the gun was not affixed to the frontal plate but rather mounted internally and protected on the inside only with its gun shield. The open space seen through the gun opening would have been the open right-hand-side door. Photo: SOURCE

Conclusion

Although the TNCA Salinas was never going to blaze the trail for a new tank concept, but it was an important milestone in the history of tank design by being the first tank designed and built outside Europe. Unfortunately, not much is known about the tank and there is very little scholarly work on the history or development of the vehicle, which is unfair given its importance, meaning that it deserves a better legacy.
Its design proved that the Mexican engineers and elites were not only aware of events happening in Europe but were able to adopt various different ideas (a rhomboid design and forward facing main gun not mounted on sponsons) into one suited to their own purposes. That said, it is unknown how well, if at all, Tanque Salinas worked, and it was most likely never used in combat or even in training operations.

Specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) Est. 7 x 3 x 2 m (22.96 x 9.84 x 6.56 ft)
Total weight Est. Around 20 tons
Crew 6-8 (Commander, Driver, 2-3 Gunners, Two Machine-Gunners, possibly 1 Engineer)
Propulsion 6-Cylinder Aztatl 80 hp
Armament Naval 37mm Hotchkiss revolver cannon
2 x machine-guns
Armament Female Tank 4x 0.303 inch (7.62mm) Vickers water-cooled machine guns
1x 0.303 inch (7.62mm) Hotchkiss air-cooled machine gun
Armor 6-12mm (0.24 – 0.47 in)
Total Production 1

Links & Resources

Anon., Gral. Div. P.A. Alberto Leopoldo Salinas Carranza (2011). (LINK) [accessed on 30/08/18]
Anon., The Hotchkiss 37mm Revolving Cannon (2010). (LINK)
‘Coldown’, El primer tanque de Latinoamérica (2016). (LINK) [accessed on 29/08/18]
David Cummings, TNCA Salinas (Tanque Salinas), Mexico’s First Indigenous Tank (2013). (LINK) [accessed on 29/08/18]
Samuel Banda, TNCA Salinas: El primer tanque mexicano (2012). (LINK) [accessed on 29/08/18]
‘Tlileztly’, TNCA Salinas “Tanque Mexicano inicios del siglo XX (2017). (LINK) [accessed on 29/08/18]
Mario Alejandro Martínez Hernández (ed), Sentinel Dossier 1 El mundo de las fuerzas armadas mexicanas (Marzo 2016)
Philip Jowett and Alejandro de Quesada, Osprey Elite #137 The Mexican Revolution 1910-20 (Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2008)

Categories
Bolivian Armor

Carden Loyd Mk. VI in Bolivian Service


Bolivia
(1932-1933)
Tankette – 2 bought

Introduced in 1928, the Carden-Loyd Mark VI tankette was one of the most influential designs of its time, serving as an inspiration for the French Renault UE, the Polish TK3, the Japanese Type 94, the Italian CV series, the Soviet T-27 and the Czech Tančík vz.33. More famously, the British Universal Carrier was a direct evolution of this vehicle.
Its ridiculously cheap price and the Vickers company’s global reach meant that the Carden-Loyd became a success story on the international market, serving in many armies worldwide and becoming the most extensively used tank in the world for a few years in the late 20’s and early 30’s. This period, marked by the 1929 Stock Exchange Crash, meant that smaller nations with limited military budgets were able to purchase tanks to equip their armed forces. One of these clients was the landlocked South American country of Bolivia.

One of the Bolivian Carden-Loyds somewhere in the Chaco 1932-33. Photo: SOURCE

Buying the Vickers

Bolivia’s reasons for wanting to purchase war materiel were the growing tensions with its neighbor Paraguay over the disputed Chaco region, territory claimed by both countries. In 1928, there had been border skirmishes, known as the Vanguardia Incident, but, with both sides recognizing neither was ready for a full-scale war, a peace settlement through the League of Nations was reached. Nevertheless, both nations remained bellicose and built up their forces in the region resulting in the outbreak of war in July 1932.
Acting upon the advice of Hans Kundt – a German who was Minister of Defense and Commander in Chief of the Bolivian forces and had who previously been a Lieutenant General in the German Army during WWI – a deal was sought with the British arms company Vickers to buy modern military equipment, aircraft and tanks. Originally, the contract valued at GB£3 million and was to include 12 tanks plus aircraft, though the financial crisis caused by the 1929 Stock Exchange Crash meant that a new, more austere deal had to be struck. In the end, this agreement, concluded in October 1932, was worth somewhere between GB£1.25 million and GB£1.87 million and included 196 artillery pieces, 36,000 rifles, 6,000 carbines, 750 machine-guns, 2.5 million rounds of ammunition, 10,000-20,000 shells, 12 warplanes and 5 tanks – 3 Mk. E’s and the 2 Vickers Carden-Loyd.
However, not all that was agreed to was sent and what was sent was of dubious quality. To make matters worse, Argentina and Chile, who supported Paraguay, blocked the shipments in their ports for some time.
On arrival, all tanks were then grouped together in the ‘Destacamento de Blindados’ under the command of a German mercenary, Major Adrim R. von Kries.

The Controversy Surrounding Dates

Scholarship on tank warfare of the Chaco War is limited and what has been written is prone to errors. Usually, no distinction is made between the tanks used and they are just referred to as ‘tanks’. Further complications arise as dates given are often contradictory.
The most widely accepted date for the Bolivia-Vickers contract is October 1932, however, several authors have claimed that the Carden-Loyds were first used at the Battle of Boquerón, in September 1932.
Unfortunately, no photographic evidence exists to clear up this discrepancy.
An explanation is as follows:
[Disclaimer: This is a speculative theory developed by the author.]:
What is known is that Bolivia and Vickers had been negotiating an arms sale since 1928, so it is possible that the October 1932 deal was only the final one and that in the previous years, other deals had been struck, including the purchase of the two Carden-Loyds. Since then, it may be the case that for the sake of simplicity, authors have amalgamated all the sales from Vickers to Bolivia in that final one. Other explanations are possible, including the alternative that they were indeed never sent until October 1932 and only first deployed at Nanawa in July 1933.
Whatever is the case, this article will continue based on the assumption that Bolivia had two Carden-Loyds ready to deploy in combat in the Chaco in September 1932, thus making them the first armed tracked vehicle to be deployed in the field of battle in South America.

Design

The Bolivian Carden-Loyds were of the Mark VIb variant. The main export version had been the Mark VI with head covers, but the Bolivian VIb differed in that it had a slightly peaked transverse roof hinged fore and aft for overhead protection. It also differed in that it had two upper track rollers and had a Meadows 40HP engine with the conventional four speeds transmission.
Apart from that, it had the same features as most Mk. VI’s, including the dismountable machine-gun, two-man crew and armored front.


The Bolivian Carden-Loyd, Illustrated by Tank Enyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet

Combat History

As stated previously, the Carden-Loyds allegedly made their combat debut for Bolivia at the Battle of Boquerón in September 1932, which was also the first battle of the Chaco War. One was used between the 24th and 25th in support of infantry units in the fight to defend the fort of Boquerón, which had been captured the previous week from Paraguayan forces. One of the tankettes was commanded by the American mercenary John Kenneth Lockhart, who was wounded in the battle. The vehicle’s poor frontal armor was unable to stop Paraguayan rifle and machine-gun fire, a problem aggravated by the fact that the high temperatures meant that some of the fighting was done with the hatches open, making it very dangerous for the two-man crew. The battle resulted in a major triumph for the Paraguayans and the Bolivians were forced to retreat.
The two Loyds would be used again in the next battle of the war, the Battle of Kilometer 7. One, commanded by the Bolivian Lieutenant José Quiroga, was used in early December to support the infantry in a counterattack to maintain the line.
Later in that battle, Bolivian forces had used a truce to retreat to the Kilometer 12 of the Saavedra-Alihuatá road. On the 27th, a major counterattack was planned by General Hans Kundt to exploit a Paraguayan defensive weakness, despite Air Force intelligence reports advising otherwise. One of the tankettes, commanded by the then recovered Lockhart, was used alongside the 3rd Infantry Regiment ‘Pérez’. The frontal assault on Paraguayan forces would be a disaster resulting in hundreds of Bolivian casualties. The Loyd’s role in the assault was minimal and due to the high temperatures inside the tank, it was forced to retreat. Its commander, Lockhart, not wanting to give up the fight, left the tank and continued to fight on foot, but, by the end of the day, he was another name on the Bolivian casualty list.

A side view of a Bolivian Carden-Loyd with its crewmembers. SOURCE:
The tanks would not be used again until the Second Battle of Nanawa in July 1933. Here they were used alongside the Vickers Mk.E’s. The Bolivian offensive was divided into three groups: north, center and south. The North group, under the Austrian Captain Walter Kohn, consisted of two Mk.E’s, whilst group South was led by Major Wilhelm ‘Wim’ Brandt and consisted of the other Type B plus the two Carden-Loyds.
The battle would be another disaster for the Bolivians, who lost 2,000 men. On the tank front, a Mk.E was lost and the two Loyds went out of action early in the battle; one was destroyed and the other got stuck in a trench.
Following the battle, the immobilized Carden-Loyd was recovered and redeployed during the later stages of fighting around Gondra in mid-August.
Following this, there is no recorded use of the vehicle and it was presumably destroyed there, or soon after that at Campo Grande.

Conclusion

The value of the Carden-Loyds during the Chaco War was minimal and should have been a forewarning of the serious failings of this type of tank as exemplified in the Spanish Civil War and early stages of World War II.
Often used as mobile machine-gun platforms, they suffered from poor armor, no proper tank doctrine and being used as individual infantry support vehicles, rather than a larger tank unit. Moreover, the heat in the region, rising to as high as 50ºC, made fighting difficult for several reasons. Tanks had to fight with open hatches creating vulnerable spots; the metallic body of the tank absorbed the heat and made it impossible to touch and machine-guns became jammed as cartridges expanded due to the heat. Neither was the low-lying, densely vegetated geography of the area conducive to tank warfare in general and especially the Loyds, which were unable to play to their strengths using their mobility to roam the battlefield exploiting weak points.

Carden-Loyd Mk.VI specifications

Dimensions 2.46 x 1.75 x 1.22 m (8.07 x 5.74 x 4 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 1.5 tons
Crew 2 (driver, machine-gunner)
Propulsion Ford T 4-cyl petrol, 40 bhp
Speed (road) 25 mph (40 km/h)
Range 89 mi (144 km)
Armament 0.303 in (7.62 mm) Vickers machine-gun
Armor 6 to 9 mm (0.24-0.35 in)
Total Purchased 2

Links, Resources & Further Reading

A de Quesada and P. Jowett, Men-at-Arms #474 The Chaco War 1932-35 South America’s greatest modern conflict (Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2011)
Coronel Gustavo Adolfo Tamaño, Historial Olvidadas: Tanques en la Guerra del Chaco
Matthew Hughes, “Logistics and Chaco War: Bolivia versus Paraguay, 1932-35” The Journal of Military History vol. 69 No. 2 (April 2005), pp. 411-437
Michael Mcnerney, “Military innovations during war: Paradox or paradigm?” Defense & Security Analysis 21:2 (2005), pp. 201-212
Ricardo Sigal Fogliani, Blindados Argentinos, de Uruguay y Paraguay (Buenos Aires: Ayer y Hoy ediciones, 1997)
Robert J. Icks, Number 16. Carden Loyd Mk.VI (Profile Publications, 1967)
miniaturasmilitaresalfonscanovas.blogspot.co.uk
quellasarmasdeguerra.wordpress.com