Categories
WW2 Italian armor WW2 Spanish Prototypes

Fiat CV.33/35 Breda

spanish nationalist flag Nationalist Spain/Italy (1937-38) Light Tank/Tank Destroyer – 1 Built

When the Spanish Civil War broke out in July 1936, neither side was equipped to fight a modern war, so they sought allies to deliver up-to-date materiel, including tanks and planes. The situation of the Nationalists was especially desperate. At this point, they were a group of generals who had organized a coup and who had lost any central command. Their main army, led by General Franco, was stranded in North Africa with little hope of being able to reach the mainland.
Thanks to personal connections, Mussolini and Hitler came to Franco’s aid and airlifted the Spanish regulars across the Strait of Gibraltar.
Mussolini’s motivations to intervene and help Franco were probably not out of kindness or to support a fellow fascist, but a show of strength and power and to give the impression that any crisis within the Mediterranean region was to be solved by Italy.
All in all, Italian aid in Spain included 50,000 ‘volunteer’ troops, 758 planes, 155 tanks of the Carro Veloce L3/33 (CV-33) and L3/35 (CV-35) variants (including flame-thrower versions) and 8 Lancia IZ armored cars as part of the Corpo Truppe Volontarie (CTV). Their most notable action in the war was their defeat at the Battle of Guadalajara to a force largely made up of Italian members of the International Brigades. However, they were instrumental in the capture of Málaga and Santander.

The Need for a Bigger Gun

It was clear from the very first tank engagement around Seseña in 1936 that the Nationalists had no tank capable of facing the armament supplied by the USSR for the Republic. At Seseña, a company of T-26’s caused havoc among the poorly armed and armored Italian CV-33’s. Even tactics involving overwhelming them with numbers did not succeed, and the 45mm gun on the T-26 and the BA-6 made it impossible to engage at a close enough range for the 8mm machine-guns of the CV.33/35’s (Spanish designation for both the L3/33 and L3/35) or the 7.92 mm MG13 machine-guns of the Panzer I to do any harm.
To this end, an effort was made to improve the firepower of the existing machines by equipping the CV.33/35 with a 20mm gun which would have enough penetration at a reasonable distance to confront anything in the Republican inventory. It is not clear whether the idea originated with the Italians or with the Spanish or both. It is also not clear where the conversion took place. A blueprint of the conversion is written in Spanish and Spanish accounts put the work as having been carried out under the direction of Lieutenant Colonel Ayuela. Italian records state that the conversion was carried out by technicians from the Italian CVT, sometime “between the end of 1937 and beginning of 1938”. In addition, the Italian Captain Oreste Fortuna, the commander of the 1st Tank Company ‘Navalcarnero’, noted in his journal that the main armament of the CV-35 should be replaced with the 20mm Breda gun or with a Brixia Model 35 45mm mortar
Two guns were considered – the German Flak 30 (which would later be the basis for the main armament of some Panzer II variants) which had a significant recoil, and the gas-operated Italian Breda M-35. Both guns had ammunition that weighed 147 grams and could penetrate 40mm of armor at 250m and a 90º angle. The latter gun was selected mainly because of its gas-operated reload and its fewer moving parts which would ease the modification and would allow the larger gun to fit inside the already cramped interior of the CV.33/35.
The vehicle chosen for the conversion was one of the CVT and that, after the conversion and the tests, the vehicle was returned to the Italians who put it through more trials. This explains the two photos showing the vehicle with Italian markings and with Italian soldiers in the background. While it is not implausible to think that the two sides cooperated on the matter, neither side acknowledges any help from the other in designing the vehicle.

The Transformation

Work on equipping the CV.33/35 with the Breda gun commenced at the beginning of the summer of 37. By mid-August, the blueprints had been completed and a tank and gun were requested from the CTV which were supplied almost immediately. The tank is referred to in Spanish-language literature as a ‘C.V. 35 IIº tipo’, which can be assumed to be an L3/35 (CV-35). The vehicle’s identification number was 2694. The modification would mean that the two parallel Fiat 35 machine-guns on the left frontal firing position were to be substituted by the individual 20mm Breda. Apart from that, no other substantial modification was to take place or was recorded.
null
1:5 original blueprints of the modifications to fit the 20mm Breda gun – Molina Franco & Manrique García, p. 30.
Whilst there is a lack of any empirical evidence, it can be assumed that the transformations of said vehicle would have been done in the Fábrica de Armas of Seville, which had been under Nationalist control from the very start of the war due to the actions of General Queipo de Llano. This assumption is based on the fact that captured T-26’s were sent to this city in Andalucía for repairs and the Panzer I ‘Breda’ modifications carried out during approximately the same time period were also done there. Prior to the capture of Bilbao in June 1937, Seville had been the main industrial hub for Franco’s side. The work was carried out by Spanish technicians, and according to Italian sources, supported by Italian artillery and technical service officers.
Even before the modification was completed on August 10th, a request to the Italian delegation for a further 40 tanks and guns for transformation were made by order of the HQ of Generalissimo Franco. However, this order would not fully materialize; though it seems that some of the requested Breda guns were sent at that or a later time. Even so, Spanish tank historians Lucas Molina Franco and Jose Mª Manrique García, agree that this request for more tanks with the prototype yet to be finished was a bit hasty.


Illustration of the Fiat CV.33/35 ‘Breda’, produced by Alexe Pavel, funded by our Patreon Campaign.

The Lesser of Two Evils

The reason why the order did not materialize and that this modification was never mass produced or used on the field of battle was that an alternative was found. Halfway through the transformation, General Joaquín García Pallasar, an artillery officer and close friend of Franco, sent a report to Franco’s HQ recommending that the same modifications should be carried out on the German-supplied Panzer I. The request to the Italian delegations was consequently put on hold until the modification on the Panzer I had been done so it could be evaluated and compared to the Italian tank.
On the 2nd of September, General Pallasar notified Lieutenant Colonel Barroso of the Estado Mayor del Generalissimo that the modifications on the CV-35 had been carried out and that it was ready to be shown to Franco if he had any interest. Franco was indeed interested and the vehicle was transported to his seat of government in Burgos.
null
One of two known pictures of the CV-35 just after its transformation was complete alongside what are presumably factory workers – Molina Franco & Manrique García, p. 46.
Later that month, the vehicle was taken to Bilbao, where it was enlisted and trialed against the Breda gun modification carried out on the Panzer I, during which the German vehicle proved to be slightly superior. One of the main advantages was that the Panzer I had a turret, whereas the Italian tank did not. It is perhaps important to remember that the Italian tanks did not have much of a reputation in Spain and were given the nicknames ‘lata de sardinas’ (sardine tin) because of their small cramped space and poor armor or ‘topolino’, the Italian name for Mickey Mouse.

Further Testing

Even before the trials took place and probably in the knowledge that the Panzer I conversion would prove more satisfactory, the Italians requested the prototype to be given back on the September 1st with a second order for the return of spare Breda 20mm guns on the December 9th. Once it was given back, presumably in late September or October, the tank was assigned to the Reggruppmaneto Carristi where it was subject to more trials. The conclusions were not positive and three main flaws were found: 1. the increase in the gun’s size within the hull made it uncomfortable for the commander/gunner; 2. the left side visibility of the driver was limited by the increased length of the gun; and 3. There was an imbalance in the vehicle with the left side now weighing 200kg more than the right.
With this in mind, the Italians did not adopt this conversion and the final fate of this prototype is unknown.
After being trialed, it followed operations first at Rudilla (Teruel) on the 9th of March 1938, and later at Tortosa (Tarragona) on the 19th of April in the aftermath of the bloody battle of Teruel and the build-up to the Aragón Offensive.
null
The other known photo of this modification, presumably taken at the same time as the other. This photo shows Italian troops in the background, denoting that Italy had some role in the modification. Photo: SOURCE.

Legacy

Despite the failure of this tank, it is a fair assessment to say it influenced the development of other tanks. The aforementioned Panzer I ‘Breda’ was a direct successor of this tank and 4 were converted and saw action, though this project faced problems of its own.
Furthermore, Italian Army records of the period talk about another modification with the 20mm Breda, this time mounted on top of a CV.33/35 in an improvised ‘rotary top similar to the Panzer I’. This may well be referring to the CCI tipo 1937, which was heavily based upon the CV.33/35 and was equipped with that same gun.
Direct correlation with the WWII-era CV-35 20mm gun conversion undertaken by the Italians in North Africa is harder to prove and seem highly unlikely. This field conversion consisted of equipping the Solothurn 20 mm Anti-Tank rifle to enable it to counter the lightest Allied vehicles. Initially, the gun was mounted at the top but it was moved into the hull. Unlike the Breda gun, the Solothurn rifle was heavy and had a considerable recoil.

Interesting note on markings

The photos of the CV-35 ‘Breda’ show some interesting markings on the side of the hull. These are two white empty parallelograms which do not match up to any of the common markings of these tanks in the Spanish Civil War. However, this is because they are Italian tactical markings that correspond to the 2nd vehicle of the 2nd platoon, 2nd Squadron.

Links, Resources & Further Reading

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)
Lucas Molina Franco and José M Manrique García, Blindados Italianos en el Ejército de Franco (1936-1939)(Valladolid: Galland Books, 2009)
Italian Army records of July/August 1938
forum.warthunder.com
blitzkrieg1939-45.foroactivo.com

Fiat CV.33/35 ‘Breda’ specifications

Dimensions 3.17 x 1.4 x 1.3 m (10.4×4.59×4.27 ft)
Crew 2 (driver, gunner)
Propulsion Fiat SPA CV1 6 cyl, 38 hp
Top speed 40 km/h (25 mph)
Range (road) 125 km (78 miles)
Armament 20 mm Breda M-35 gun
Armor From 5 to 10 mm (0.2 to 0.39 in)
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
WW2 Spanish Prototypes

Cañón Autopropulsado de 75/40mm Verdeja

spanish nationalist flagSpain (1945)
Self-Propelled Gun – 1 Prototype built/converted

‘We need a bigger gun’

It is often said that three years of destructive Civil War (1936-1939) left Spain with little option other than to remain, for the most part, neutral during WWII. Spain had long been considered backwards and undeveloped by European standards and seen by many as past its former glory. General Franco, who had won the civil war with the help of Hitler and Mussolini and the passivity of Britain and France, managed to keep Spain out of WWII, or so the story goes. Quite simply, Franco’s demands to join the Axis powers were too ambitious (these included taking under Spanish control Gibraltar and large parts of France’s African colonies). Franco and Hitler could not reach an agreement during their meeting at Hendaye (on the French-Spanish border in the Basque Country) in October 1940. Hitler is famously quoted as saying he would prefer to have three or four teeth pulled than to negotiate with Franco again. Whether this strategy was due to Franco’s reluctance to put his country through another war or whether he was simply hedging his bets is open to debate.  Nevertheless, 45-50,000 ‘volunteers’ fought under German colors as part of the ‘División Azul‘ while several Republicans who had escaped to France joined the French resistance.
Despite not taking an active part, Spanish military leaders and personnel paid close attention to what was occurring in Europe. The use of Self Propelled Guns (SPG´s) was one development which caused a great impression. All of Spain’s artillery at the time was towed and so, in 1944-45, the Dirección General de Industria y Matería (DGIM), a branch within the Ministry of the Army, proposed the creation of 75mm, 88mm, 105mm, and 122mm SPG´s to overcome and compensate for the lack of capable vehicles with these functions.
Apparently, the DGIM carried out experiments on a CCI tipo 37, fitting it with a 45mm gun. However, the caliber was too small and hence there was need for a bigger gun for the SPG. The project, which was to mount a 75mm gun on the CCI chassis or an alternative one was given to Captain Félix Verdeja, who had designed the Verdeja No. 1 and Verdeja No. 2 in the early 1940´s, and was approved by the Acta Nº189 on March 13th, 1945. This new task gave Verdeja the opportunity to revisit one of his previous projects, the Verdeja No. 1.

The Verdeja No. 1 was modified and converted to create the SPG version. Source: El Carro de Combate ‘Verdeja’

A new Verdeja

Verdeja set to work on the new project and envisaged removing the turret and opening up the rear of the vehicle to make space for the new, bigger gun. To protect the open area, housing the gun and the crew, a protective armored shield would be erected. Blueprints were soon completed after the project was authorized. However, to speed construction, a simpler model to the one of the blueprints was built, being finished a few weeks later. To speed up construction, it was converted from an existing vehicle rather than being built from scratch and it was finished a few weeks later. The project proved to be viable, but production of a series of vehicles would take more time.
Soon after, the vehicle was ready for testing. Its relative success during the trials could be down to the fact that Spain lacked any SPG. What is more, the chances of acquiring a better model were non-existent as a result of a ban imposed by the victors of WWII on the import of these and other vehicles. 6,000 meters was the maximum fire range achieved, which by 1946 standards was inadequate, and little more is known of the results of those trials.

Design

Being directly converted from another vehicle, the SPG version retained several features of the Verdeja No. 1 including the suspension, undercarriage, and most of the frontal section. The turret, the roof in the rear section and the rear wall which went down to the mudguards were completely removed.

Blueprints for the Verdeja SPG. These differ from the end product as the existing version was only intended as a prototype and was rapidly converted from the Verdeja No. 1. The blueprints were intended for the production line that never happened. Source: El Carro de Combate ‘Verdeja’
The hull of the tank had a trapezoidal shape made out of steel sheets both welded and riveted, obviously not together on the same sheet, with an inclination and curvature at the front and rear and vertical at the sides. The glacis was 10mm thick, angled at 12°, the front armor 25mm at 45°, the sides 15mm, the roof was 10mm, and the belly 7mm. The front section was divided down the middle creating a further two sections. The right side housed the driver’s seat, the steering mechanism, and engine control. The driving mechanism consisted of the three classic pedals of any commercial automobile, two brake levers for the tracks, a gear lever and the various speed, oil, water, etc. gauges. The driver accessed his seat through a hatch on the top of the vehicle, next to the periscope. The other side contained the engine and its power supply and cooling system, as well as gearbox and access doors to the exterior and the right side. The fuel tanks in the Verdeja No. 1 were in the rear half section of the vehicle, so these had to be relocated because of the new functions given to that rear area. A new bigger single fuel tank was put behind the driver all the way down to the separating wall in the middle.
Its suspension consisted of eight elliptical springs connected to the main body through two rigid axes. The undercarriage was composed of an eighteen-toothed-sprocket-wheel at the front, an idler wheel at the back, eight small bogey wheels divided into two quadruple transverse even levers, and four return rollers at the top on each side. The tracks were made out of 97x 290mm wide individual steel magnesium alloy fused links. This undercarriage allowed the vehicle to cross difficult terrain with ease.
As mentioned previously, a protective steel shield was built to protect the gun and crew. It consisted of a 10mm thick plate that was mostly straight at a slight angle going up from the vehicle’s chassis until it curved at the top. The top and back were left unprotected. Of the shield’s two holes, the first right in the middle was for the gun, allowing it to be elevated and giving a small amount of traverse. The second, on the upper left hand side, was for the aiming sights. The selected gun was the RR 75mm gun produced by Sociedad Española de Construcción Naval of Reinosa in 1939. It weighed 536 kg and was 2.94 meters long, having a gun elevation of 25º, a gun depression of 0.25º with 4.5º movement to both the left and right. Judging by the writing on the gun barrel, it can be assumed that it was the third of these guns produced, as it reads: “MARCA RR SECN REINOSA 1939 III AÑO TRIUNFAL 536 Kgs. Nº 3”. When the vehicle was on the move, the gun would be horizontal laying in place in its the gun travel lock situated on the frontal plate.
A mechanical brake was built into the idler wheel which guaranteed stability when firing and avoided damage to the transmission.

Photo of the Verdeja SPG with the gun lying horizontally in the gun travel lock. Date and location unknown. Source: SOURCE
In the interior of the fighting compartment, behind the gun there were two collapsible seats for the commander/gunner and for the loader. On each of the two walls there were four projectiles for quick use in combat. The other 24 projectiles were carried in a trailer towed by the SPG, which had a towing hook at the rear.


Reconstruction of the Verdeja SPG by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet.
The rear of the Verdeja SPG where the interior and gun can be seen with more detail. Also note the towing hook that would have been used to tow the projectile carrying trailer. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verdeja

End of the line

Despite impressing Spanish officials during trials, like the rest of the Verdeja family, it did not evolve from the prototype stage. This may be because of a lack of financial capital to seriously consider the project, as Spain had been devastated and needed rebuilding. Even so, there was less enthusiasm surrounding this project than its predecessors, probably demonstrating that although the idea of an SPG, at least on paper, seemed worthwhile, the Spanish authorities who ordered the project were not too serious about it, and the lack of mobile artillery pieces could be ignored for the time being.
Following the abandonment of the project, the sole existing prototype was left to rust alongside the Verdeja No. 2 at the firing range of the Escuela de Aplicación y Tiro de Infantería in Madrid.
In the late 1940’s, there were plans to mount an 88mm gun on a Verdeja chassis to use as an assault gun which would have had very low profile, although this project did not even reach prototype stage.
The lack of SPG capacities in the Spanish armed forces would end with the arrival of 28 M37 GMCs (Gun Motor Carriage) from the USA between 1953 and 1958. These were part of the deal reached in the 1953 Madrid Pact, an agreement to give economic and military aid to Spain in exchange for allowing the United States to use four air and naval bases on Spanish territory, in Rota, Torrejon, Zaragoza, and Morón.

Fate

Renewed interest in the Verdeja No. 2 following its appearance in a military magazine Ejército in the early 1970’s and its subsequent removal from the firing range led to the Verdeja SPG also finding a new home. This was atop a pedestal at the barracks of the Regimiento de Infantería Mecanizada (Motorized Infantry Regiment) “Wad Ras” nº 55, at Campamento (Madrid) on the Extremadura Road. When being moved with the aid of a crane, the welding between the top plate and the frontal plate where the driver’s viewing port was and the rear right mudguard was damaged.

This photo shows the damage done to the welding between the top and frontal plate when moved by a crane. Source: SOURCE
In 1985, the regiment was disbanded and the SPG was transferred to the Grupo de Artillería ATP. XII of the Brigada «Guadarrama» XII based in El Goloso, north of Madrid. The vehicle was left on the barracks’ parade ground until the armored vehicle museum was opened there in 1992 with the Grupo de Artillería ATP. XII donating their prized vehicle to the Regimiento de Infantería Acorazada “Alcázar de Toledo nº 61”, who are in charge of the museum. In June 1992, it was towed by a TOA M-806 (local designation for the XM806 variant of the M113) to the south ‘garden’ of the exhibition. After many years in the same place, the vehicle became somewhat fixed to the floor, but by attaching chains from the TOA to the tow hook on the rear of the vehicle, it was moved. In May 1995, when the museum was re-planned, the Verdeja SPG was moved one more time when it became the last exhibit in the pre-1940 vehicles section, as although the design was of 1945, the chassis was built before 1940. Today, the vehicle remains at the MUMA (Museo de Medios Acorazados) in a covered section along with Civil War and WWII era vehicles proudly resting between a German Opel Blitz truck and an American M8 Greyhound armored car.

The Verdeja SPG in its current position inside the MUMA in El Goloso, Madrid. Source: Photo by author

Cañón Autopropulsado de 75/40mm Verdeja

Dimensions (L-W-H) 4.498 x 2.152 x 1.572 m (14.76 x 7.06 x 5.16 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 7.1 tons
Crew 3 (commander/gunner, loader, driver)
Propulsion Ford V8 Model 48
Speed 44 km/h (27.34mph) maximum 25 km/h (15.5) cruise speed
Range 220 km (136.7 miles)
Armament 75mm Sociedad Española de Construcción Naval of Reinosa
Armor 7-25 mm (0.27 – 0.98 in)
Total production 1 converted

Links, Resources & Further Reading

Francisco Marín and Josep M Mata, Atlas Ilustrado de Vehículos Blindados en España (Madrid: Susaeta)
Javier de Mazarrasa, El Carro de Combate ‘Verdeja’ (Barcelona: L Carbonell, 1988)
www.ejercito.mde.es
www.ejercito.mde.es

Categories
WW2 Spanish Prototypes

Verdeja No. 2

spanish nationalist flagNationalist Spain/Spain (1941-1950)
Light Tank – 1 Prototype built

Rising from the Ashes of the Verdeja No. 1

By mid-1941, the Verdeja No. 1 project had hit the rocks. Bureaucratic, economic and financial issues had combined with a lack of enthusiasm to bring the project to a standstill. With tank development progressing rapidly in the ongoing European war, the vehicle was rendered obsolete. However, Captain Félix Verdeja, the Spanish artillery officer with a keen interest in armored fighting vehicles and creator of the Verdeja prototype and No. 1 models, was not going to give up so easily. He conceived a new model based on his initial design for the Verdeja while also drawing on what was happening elsewhere in Europe.

The Verdeja No. 1, which was also designed by Captain Félix Verdeja. Source.
The new model was to differ from the Verdeja No. 1 in several ways. To start with, the interior and turret position was to be totally redesigned. Previously, the interior had been divided into two sections, front and back, with the front section further divided down the middle creating two sections, with the right side housing the driver’s seat, the steering mechanism and engine control and the left side containing the engine and its power supply and cooling system, the gearbox and access doors to the exterior and the right side. The back section was the fighting compartment for the rear mounted turret.
By contrast, the Verdeja No. 2 was to be divided horizontally into two equally-sized sections, with the front for the driver and a new frontal mounted machine gun and its gunner. The rear would house the engine and transmission system. To create this new space, the front was to be brought further forward. The rear mounted turret was to be moved to the more conventional center. The armor was to be increased by 5-10mm all round with increased projectile penetration and gun caliber in more modern tanks and AT weaponry in mind. On the Verdeja No. 1, the suspension had consisted of eight elliptical springs connected to the main body through two rigid axes. The undercarriage had an eighteen-toothed sprocket-wheel at the front, an idler wheel at the back, eight small bogey wheels divided into two quadruple transverse even levers and four return rollers at the top on each side. The tracks were made out of 97 individual steel magnesium fused links which were 290mm wide. All of these features were to remain unchanged. Verdeja finalized the plans for his new tank on 31 December 1941 and submitted them to the relevant bodies for authorization.

Delay Nightmares and Testing

The Verdeja No. 2 project was not authorized until the 20th of July 1942. The incessant delays which had dogged the previous project (Verdeja No. 1) involving the creation of a corporation to produce the tank and building the necessary infrastructure (factories, etc.) and in purchasing an engine for either of the vehicles continued. As the planned Lincoln ‘Zephyr’ engine could not be acquired, the Maybach HL 62 TRM and HL 190 TRM (as used in several Pz.IV models and variants) were looked into and plans were made for their purchase.
The appalling economic conditions Spain was undergoing meant there was little funding available and the project took a long time to complete. The first Verdeja No. 2, the prototype version, was finally finished in August 1944, almost two years after it had been approved.

A photo of the Verdeja No. 2 before being converted into a monument. There are not many photos from this period. Source: El Carro de Combate ‘Verdeja’
The field tests lasted for a few weeks and took place at the Polígono de Experiencias de Carabanchel and the Escuela de Aplicación y Tiro de Infantería. The new tank did not cause as much excitement during these trials as had the Verdeja prototype and Verdeja No. 1 during their test periods (Generalisimo Franco himself had attended the second set of trials of the Verdeja prototype) and consequently, there is only a fraction of the written or visual evidence when compared to that of the other two.
The lack of enthusiasm and interest was partly down to the aforementioned problems with setting up a corporation to build the tank there being no point in promoting the project’s production without having the means to do so. Nevertheless, during the trials the vehicle showed it was capable of crossing 2.2m trenches, going over slopes of 45°, smashing through 0.35m thick walls and fording depths of 0.8m.
In the meantime, Captain Verdeja toured German tank factories and tapped into the knowledge of Spanish soldiers of the División Azul who had fought for Germany on the Eastern Front during WWII. This gave him the idea of creating a medium tank of modern capabilities to be known as the Verdeja No. 3. This new project failed to materialize and all that is known of it is that Verdeja made a few sketches of what it would look like.

Design of the Verdeja No. 2

The hull was divided transversely across the middle creating two symmetrical sections or compartments. The forward one housed the crew and their fighting stations whilst the engine and other mechanisms were in the rear one. Specifically, inside the forward compartment, the driver sat on the left and to his right the machine gunner/radio operator with both having semicircular outside-opening hatches above them. Between their seats there were fourteen machine gun magazines with two others on each of the vertical walls to their left and right respectively. Behind them could be found the fighting stations and ammunition deposit. The rear section had the 12 cylinder 120hp Lincoln ‘Zephyr’ engine which had finally been procured and the transmission. Weighing 9-10 tons, the Verdeja No. 2 had a power to weight ratio of 10.09hp/t and a fuel consumption of 0.91 liters per kilometer. To each side of the engine there were 100 liter armored fuel tanks and to the rear the 6 watt, 100 amp Bosch battery.
Externally, the armor consisted of 32mm frontal curved armor, 12mm upper glacis armor at 12°, the low 20mm silhouetted sides, the 24mm rear and the 12mm top. The thickest armor on the tank, 40mm, was reserved for the frontal plate with the viewing ports of the driver and machine gunner. The suspension, undercarriage, and tracks were more or less the same as before but with minor modifications. The vehicle’s increased length meant raising the sprocket wheel to a height of 797.5mm above ground and the idler to 641.5mm with 13 links added to the tracks.

Schematics of the Verdeja No. 2. Source: El Carro de Combate ‘Verdeja’
The turret’s design consisted of two overlaying structures. The outer frustoconical (a cone with the top removed) structure had the armament and aiming devices whilst the interior cylindrical structure housed the seats for the commander/gunner and the loader and space for the ammunition. The turret was 475mm tall and had a diameter of 1470mm at the bottom narrowing to1035mm at the top. Its armor consisted of 28mm at the front with a further 16-24mm on the gun mantlet, 20mm on the sides and 12mm on the top. To each side of the mantlet, there were viewing ports protected by 55mm of glass and a metallic cover. Both sides of the turret had a glass-protected window towards the back for peripheral vision. The top had one semicircular hatch for the commander/gunner and loader and to allow the ammunition to be replenished. Inside, the turret was split down the middle with a small passageway for the gun, its recoil, and the used shells. Each side had a rectangular seat. In the center, there was the Spanish built 45/44mm Mark I gun made by S.A. Plasencia de las Armas based on the Soviet gun used on the T-26 and two parallel German MG-13’s, one on either side.

Schematics of the Verdeja No. 2’s turret. Source: Atlas Ilustrado de Vehículos Blindados en España
The ammunition consisted of 46 projectiles on the left side of the turret, 40 on the right side of the turret and another 50 below the turret in the rear of the frontal compartment of the hull giving the Verdeja No. 2 136 AP and HE projectiles. The machine gun ammunition was divided into 14 magazines between the driver’s and machine gunner/radio operator’s seats with 2 others on each of the vertical walls to their left and right respectively, 70 magazines in the exterior boxes, 32 beneath the turret seats, 28 in the frontal side tray and a further 28 in the frontal-central tray giving the vehicle a total of 176 magazines.


Illustration of the Verdeja No. 2 by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet

Bad Luck and the Final Nail in the Coffin

Lukewarm support and lack of funding would not be the only difficulties Verdeja would face. In 1943, twenty Pz.Kpfw IV Ausf.Hs arrived in Spain. It has been falsely claimed that these arrived when a German ship carrying them was forced into a Spanish port by a British ship and that the tanks were interned as was convention given Spain’s supposed neutrality. However, it is more probable that these twenty tanks were part of the Bär Program through which Germany exchanged the Pz.IVs for tungsten and other minerals. These Pz.Kpfw IVs arrived in two batches by train to Irún, the first 18 on the 6th of December 1943 and the last two on the 15th of December. An additional consignment of 10 StuG IIIs was sent separately. With the arrival of these superior tanks, there was no need for the Verdeja No. 2 nor the No. 3 that Felix Verdeja was working on. The sole existing Verdeja tank was stored at the Escuela de Aplicación y Tiro de Infantería until 1946 when its engine was repaired and tested with a view to resurrecting the project but, unfortunately, this did not come to fruition.
By the early 1950’s, the Spanish armored forces were in a dreadful state, the main material being pre-war Soviet vehicles such as the T-26, BA-3 and BA-6 and a limited number of German Panzer I’s that had been active in the Spanish Civil War. These were not only horribly antiquated, but spare parts for them were impossible to come by, from the USSR for political reasons and from Nazi Germany because it had ceased to exist. Moreover, Spain had been isolated by the victors of WWII and could not import any modern tanks. In an effort to overcome this difficult situation, the Verdeja project was revisited. The Verdeja No. 1 was converted into a self propelled gun and the Verdeja No. 2 was given a new first series Pegaso Z-202 125hp engine made by the Spanish company ENASA. However, it was soon realized that by this point, the Verdeja No. 2 was seriously outdated and that it would require rethinking and redesigning.
Even so, the project was not completely forgotten until 1953 which was when the whole Verdeja project would receive the final nail in its coffin. The coming of the Cold War and the clash between the USA and the USSR prompted the former to look for new allies. Franco’s fervent anti-Communism and Spain’s ideal geographical position boasting both Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts and controlling the Strait of Gibraltar, led the USA to see the peninsular state as a potentially useful ally. Franco fit the Americans profile of ‘friendly tyrant’ perfectly. His was a non-democratic regime for sure, but, more importantly, it was anti-communist and in their view, the lesser of two evils. In 1953, Franco and American President, Dwight Eisenhower, signed the Madrid Pact. This was an agreement to give economic and military aid to Spain in exchange for allowing the United States to use four air and naval bases on Spanish territory, in Rota, Torrejon, Zaragoza and Morón. Thanks to this, Spain lost is status of international pariah. Part of the military aid consisted of 31 M24 Chaffee’s, 28 M37’s, 38 M41 Walker Bulldog’s and several other troop transporters and engineer vehicles between 1953 and 1958. With these modern vehicles, the Verdeja No. 2 was no longer necessary and it was forgotten.

Fate and Conclusion

The only Verdeja No. 2 was left at the firing range of the Escuela de Aplicación y Tiro de Infantería where it was used as a target until 1973. Luckily, no substantial or major damage was done. In 1973, an article on the Verdeja project was written by Gerardo Acereda Valdes (an author more accustomed to writing books on photographic cameras) for the Ejéricito magazine which revived interest in the tank and its history. As a consequence, the vehicle was transported to the Academia de Infantería de Toledo and put on a pedestal outside one of the administration buildings where it can be still found to this day.

The Verdeja No. 2 as it stands today at the Academia de Infantería de Toledo. Source.
The Verdeja No. 2, like the rest of the Verdeja tank family, was more a victim of unfortunate circumstances rather than faults of its own. Financial difficulties made the project unviable and the arrival of, firstly, more modern German tanks and, later, American armor spelled doom for the project. Though, it has to be said, by this point, the design was outdated and the Verdeja No. 2 would have been of little or no use. If the vehicle had entered service in 1942-43 as intended and envisaged, it would have been a decent all-round light tank of similar capabilities to those being produced by the USA, Germany, USSR or Great Britain. What’s more, it could have given Spain some of the political, militaristic and industrial muscle it lacked.

Photo of the side of the Verdeja No. 2 with the Alcázar of Toledo in the background. The Alcázar saw some very fierce fighting in the early stages of the Spanish Civil War. Source.

Verdeja No. 2 specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 5.116 x 2.264 x 1.735 m (16.78 x 7.43 x 5.69 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 10.9 tons
Crew 3 (commander/gunner, loader, driver)
Propulsion Lincoln Zephyr 86H
Speed 46 km/h (28.58 mph)
Range 220 km (136.7 miles)
Armament 45/44 Mark I S.A. Plasencia de las Armas
Dreyse MG-13 7.92mm
Armor 12-40 mm (0.47 – 1.57 in)
Total production 1 Prototype

Links, Resources & Further Reading

Lucas Molina Franco and José M Manrique García, Blindados Españoles en el Ejército de Franco (1936-1939) (Valladolid: Galland Books, 2009)
Francisco Marín and Josep M Mata, Atlas Ilustrado de Vehículos Blindados en España (Madrid: Susaeta)
Javier de Mazarresa, El Carro de Combate ‘Verdeja’ (Barcelona: L Carbonell, 1988)
Los Carros de Combate Verdeja on worldofarmorv2.blogspot.com.es
Carro de Combate Verdeja – Prototipo on worldofarmorv2.blogspot.com.es 
1939: Carro de combate ligero Verdeja nº 1 on historiaparanodormiranhell.blogspot.com.es
Verdeja on vehiculosblindadosdelaguerracivil.blogspot.com.es
El Carro de Combate Verdeja on diepanzer.blogspot.com.es

Categories
WW2 Spanish Prototypes

Verdeja No. 1

spanish nationalist flagNationalist Spain/Spain (1938-1945)
Light Tank – 2 Prototypes built

The pet project of an enthusiastic artillery officer

In September 1937, while the Spanish Civil War was raging, an artillery captain by the name of Félix Verdeja Bardules was put in charge of the maintenance company of the 1st Tank Battalion of Franco’s Nationalist army. This was to prove a fortuitous appointment as Verdeja’s team of mechanics, fitters and dogsbodies managed to shorten the time the battalion’s various Panzer I’s, T-26’s, and Renault FT’s were laid up being repaired and also to reduce the number of breakdowns suffered by these tanks once they had been fixed.
Through this, he gained first-hand experience of and insights into each tank’s strengths and weaknesses, their components, their potential and what caused them to break down. With this in mind, Verdeja, despite having no previous experience in the matter, set out to design a tank that would have all the advantages of existing Spanish tanks while eliminating all their faults. His idea would include a low silhouetted vehicle with 15mm armor on the sides and 30mm of curved armor at the front. Its armament would be a new Spanish-made 45mm gun, though provision would be made to increase its caliber, with parallel machine guns on either side, all of which should be able to fire 360° horizontally thanks to a rotating turret and 72° vertically so the armament could be used for AA purposes.
It was intended to mount a 120hp engine, giving the vehicle an estimated power to weight ratio of 18hp/t and a speed of between 65 and 70 km/h with a range of 200km maximizing the tank’s mobility. Experience had shown Verdeja that the principal causes of T-26 breakdowns were problems with the suspension and tracks so he envisaged an improved suspension inspired on that of the T-26. Further improvements would prevent internal temperatures being too high and enable certain repairs and maintenance to be carried out from the inside. It was Verdeja’s firm belief that his project was valuable “because of the unquestionable strategic and tactical advantages that it would provide to the national defense, as well as those for industry, economics and for employment” [original sentence in Spanish: “…por las indudables ventajas de orden estratégico y táctico que ello reportaría a la defensa nacional, así como las industriales, económicas y laborales”].
In October 1938, the project was presented along with a study demonstrating its viability to Lieutenant Colonel Gonzalo Díaz de la Lastra, head of the Agrupación de Carros de Combate de la Legión, the unit in which Verdeja served as chief of repairs. Lastra approved the project and authorized the construction of a prototype in the Agrupación’s workshop in Cariñena, south of Zaragoza on condition that the smooth running of the main task of repairing damaged tanks would not be affected. Nevertheless, he withheld official recognition and denied Verdeja any financial assistance or additional manpower.
In contrast, Colonel Wilhelm von Thoma, in charge of the Condor Legion German tank units in Spain, was opposed to the program, and he started to lay down a long line of obstacles that Verdeja’s projects encountered. In a document sent to General Luis Orgaz Yoldi, he claimed that it was not viable and had no chance of success due to Verdeja’s lack of mechanical and technical know-how and the fragile state of Spain’s industrial capabilities. Whilst this was true, it may seem that the German Colonel was trying to push an agenda, as Spain was seen as backward and underdeveloped by many Europeans (A popular French joke throughout the Twentieth century was that “Africa began at the Pyrenees”). Furthermore, von Thoma went on to criticize Verdeja’s role in the Agrupación’s repairs section. General Yoldi responded by defending Verdeja’s work and assured von Thoma that a commission would be created to assess the viability of the project. The commission, composed of two artillery colonels, provided positive feedback and Verdeja was granted an industrial unit in Zaragoza in which to build a prototype.

Félix Verdeja and his tank during the trials at San Gregorio on the 20th of January 1939. Source.

The Verdeja prototype

Work on the prototype, which became known as ‘the Verdeja prototype’, proceeded at an astonishing pace and the first was completed within two months, on the 10th of January 1939, using only scrap and components from other tanks. That same day, the vehicle was tested on the military training grounds of San Gregorio in Zaragoza in front of a commission led by Yoldi and high ranking infantry and artillery officers. The commission’s view of the prototype was very favorable, being especially impressed by the new tank’s mobility, armor, and the recently-developed suspension. Whilst these may not sound impressive when compared to developments elsewhere, it was by far the most modern tank produced in Spain. They also saw the possibility of creating versions of the vehicle which would only carry the two machine-guns and command versions. Moreover, they took the prototype to the next step, a second test, this time in front of Generalissimo Franco himself.

The Verdeja on its first set of tests at San Gregorio. This image shows the vehicle’s distinctive suspension and undercarriage. Source: Atlas Ilustrado de Vehículos Blindados en España
This second test, longer and more demanding than the previous one, took place ten days later, on the 20th of January 1939. The armor showed its strength by resisting penetration from multiple 7.92mm projectiles at distances of 100mm. So excited and impressed was Franco by what he saw that he gave his approval to the project there and then on the testing field.

Captain Félix Verdeja, General Luis Orgaz Yoldi and Generalisimo Franco discuss the intricacies of the former’s tank design. Source: Blindados Españoles en el Ejército de Franco (1936-1939)

The Prototype’s Design

The hull of the tank had a rectangular shape with a vertical rear and sides and an inclined front. All the armor of the vehicle was composed of 16mm sheets of steel. At the front of the tank, on the left, was the driver’s hatch and to its right an air-vent for the engine. The interior was divided down the middle into two sections with the left compartment for the driver and the right for the eight-cylinder Ford V-8 Model 48 engine with a feeble 85hp taken from a private car. The gearbox was an Aphon ‘FG-31’ 5AV.1R taken from a Panzer IA and was in the same compartment as the engine. The cylindrical turret, clearly inspired by the T-26, had doors on each side and a hatch on the roof. Inside, it had seats for the commander/gunner and the loader and ammunition for the machine-guns and the main gun, consisting of 64 magazines and 14 projectiles respectively. The other clips and 46 projectiles were found beneath the turret seats. Behind the turret, there were two 60 liter capacity fuel tanks. The Spanish-made 45mm gun was not ready in time for the first prototype, so a 45/46mm model 1932 with sights from a T-26B was used instead and the two parallel machine guns were German Dreyse MG-13’s from Panzer I’s. The armament could reach an impressive 72º of elevation, allowing its use against aircraft, though this was never tested and without adequate sights, it is improbable this would have been very effective.
As mentioned earlier, the Verdeja’s most innovative feature was its suspension consisting of eight elliptical springs connected to the main body through two rigid axes. The undercarriage composed of an eighteen-toothed-sprocket-wheel at the front, an idler wheel at the back, eight small bogey wheels divided into two quadruple transverse even levers and four return rollers at the top on each side. The tracks were made out of 97 290mm wide individual steel magnesium fused links. This undercarriage allowed the vehicle to cross difficult terrain with ease.

The Verdeja demonstrating its impressive gun elevation during trials in San Gregorio in January 1939. Source.

A new and improved Verdeja

Following the success of the January 1939 trials, Verdeja set out to make some modifications to his tank based on recommendations from the commission and his own ideas to give the vehicle more power and to create something more similar to his original concept.
To do so, the vehicle was to be lengthened and widened, and the vertical rear was to be inclined. The position of a new 12 cylinder Lincoln ‘Zephyr’ 120hp engine was to be switched with what was formerly the driver’s place. The intention was for an increase in overall armor, larger fuel and projectile capacity, and a new lower door-less frustoconical turret more similar to that of a Panzer I. Two prototypes of what would be the Verdeja No. 1 were planned, one made out of iron sheets for a speedy production and to be ready for testing as soon as possible and a second one with steel sheets as originally designed.
The production of these two prototypes was given a budget of 50,000 pesetas (7,659,961 pesetas in 2000 or €46,000/$55,200 in modern terms) in February 1939 and was moved to the newly-created Oficina Técnica y Taller Experimental de Carros de Combate (Technical Office and Tank Experimental Workshop) of the Talleres Mecánicos y Garaje RAG S.A. on Avenida Recalde, Bilbao, northern Spain, the region being chosen as it had experience in building the Trubia tanks for the Republican side and in the conversion of the Panzer I Breda’s for the Nationalists . The different tank parts were to be built by different companies of the Biscay region of which Bilbao was part, such as Altos Hornos de Vizcaya, Sociedad Española de Construcción Naval (SECN) and S.A. Echeverría among others.
However, problems arose as there was not enough money to build the second prototype nor to finish the first one. The project was, therefore, suspended and the unfinished prototype was sent to the Maestranza de Artillería fields in Madrid, which by this point, in mid-1939, with the Civil War finished, was in the hands of Franco.

Verdeja No. 1 vs T-26B

In May 1940, the project was resumed with 100,000 pesetas injected by the Estado Mayor Central with the aim of finishing the construction of the Verdeja No. 1 with the provision that it would be finished and ready for testing within three months. Unfortunately for Verdeja, his vehicle was missing some of the desired components, such as the Lincoln ‘Zephyr’ engine, so the underpowered Ford V-8 engine of the prototype was retained. By August, it was ready for trials and was painted with a three-tone green, earth and sand camouflage pattern. On the 20th of May 1940 it was taken to the Campo de Maniobras y Tiro del Polígono de Experiencias (training grounds and firing range) in Carabanchel, in the south of Madrid, to be tested in front of a commission made up of five representatives from the infantry, artillery and tank corps. The week-long tests, in which the vehicle travelled 500kms, took place in the Polígono de Experiencias and the nearby Alberche River. For comparison, the best tank available to the Spanish forces at the time, the T-26B (This designation was used for M1933, M1935 and M1936, but in this case, it was a T-26 M1935), was tested alongside it.

The Verdeja No. 1 and a T-26B parked together in May 1940. This photo shows the superior gun elevation on the Spanish-made vehicle. Source.
Both vehicles were subject to different tests and the results were divided into seventeen sections, each one given an importance coefficient between 1-3 and graded 0-10 with both values being multiplied to calculate the total points in each section and each section added up to calculate the tank’s final score [see table below]. Note – The T-26B got given a score of 5 in every section suggesting this was a base value to which to compare the Verdeja.

The Verdeja No. 1 scored 243 out of 410 points, 38 more than the T-26B and the commission found it generally satisfactory. It had managed to travel 500km without a break-down of any type but the water consumption by its cooling system was very high. This was an issue due to Spain’s dry climate, which can even be arid at times, and that water shortages would have been encountered on any medium to large scale military campaign. Its mobility was also impressive, crossing 1.9m wide trenches, depths of 0.65m in the River Alberche, slopes of up to 47° and going through brick walls 0.35m thick.
In a document drawn up by the commission, it was noted that several of the deficiencies of the vehicle were down to the Ford V-8 engine and that the Lincoln ‘Zephyr’ would have scored much higher. Other deficiencies were blamed on the poor materials used for its construction which, if the vehicle was to be mass-produced, would be avoided. The members of the commission were impressed by the tank’s tracks, the low vulnerability afforded by its squat silhouette, the improved armor and its trench crossing capabilities. Other factors which contributed to the commission’s positive response were the ability to fix breakdowns from the inside, the crew’s relative comfort, the comparatively low temperatures inside the vehicle, and the high elevation of the main armament. In addition, they made a series of recommendations which included: a higher elevation of the sprocket wheel for better obstacle clearance, the creation of sufficient space in the interior for a radio, making the hull wider by 6-8cm, elevating the front plate where the driver’s viewing port was by 5cm and increasing the lower belly armor from 7 to 10mm. The commission’s document concluded by giving the project their approval and authorizing all the assistance Verdeja needed to improve his vehicle with the recommendation for further tests to be carried out.
The modifications were completed in two months and the second round of testing took place in November in front of the same commission (bar one member) finishing on the 18th of November 1940. Several of the noted deficiencies had been corrected, including the high water consumption, mobility, and range, giving an 18.98 point increase when compared to the August tests [see table above].
On the 2nd of December 1940, Lieutenant General Carlos Martínez de Campos y Serrano, the Chief of Staff of the Army ordered the definitive model of the Verdeja No. 1 to be established and a program and a budget set for the production of 1000 vehicles in batches of 100. After consultation with Verdeja, a document outlining the procedures for the production of the tank was sent to the Minister of the Army at the beginning of January 1941. These included the purchase of one hundred Lincoln ‘Zephyr’ engines from Ford through its subsidiary Ford Motor Ibérica S.A. in Barcelona to be used in the Verdeja No. 1. The definitive blueprints were to be developed by March (though these would be delayed until July) and the work was to go to public tender and with contracts being awarded to the companies that would build the different components of the vehicle. The manufacture of the steel armor sheets was to take place in the Fabrica Nacional de Trubia and the infrastructure of the Trubia factory was to be improved.


First version of the prototype, showing the early turret type
Illustration of final Verdeja N°1 Prototype
Illustration of final Verdeja No. 1 Prototype by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet

Final Design

The hull of the tank had a trapezoidal shape made out of welded and riveted steel sheets with an inclination and curvature at the front and rear and vertical at the sides. The frontal glacis was 10mm thick at 12°, the front armor 25mm at 45°, the sides 15mm, the rear 15mm at 45°, the roof was 10mm and the belly 7mm.

The low silhouette of the Verdeja No. 1 can be clearly appreciated in this photo. Source.
The interior was divided into two sections, front and back. As in the original prototype, the front section was divided down the middle creating a further two sections. The right side housed the driver’s seat, the steering mechanism, and engine control. The driving mechanism consisted of the three classic pedals of any private car, two brake levers for the tracks, a gear lever and the various speed, oil, water, etc. gauges. The driver accessed his seat through a hatch on the top of the front, next to the periscope. The other side contained the engine and its power supply and cooling system, gearbox and access doors to the exterior and the right side. The rear section was below the turret where there was a 195-liter fuel tank and part of the vehicle’s ammunition.
The turret, which was 535mm high (0.535m), had 15mm armor at the front, and 15mm on the sides at 45°. The 10mm thick roof had a semi-circular hatch for the commander/gunner and loader. Inside, the main armament was the newly built Spanish 45/44mm Mark I gun made by S.A. Plasencia de las Armas which was based on the Soviet gun used on the T-26 and the Verdeja prototype. In trials it reached a maximum shooting range of 7,900 m, but was only considered effective at 1,500m. The gun’s intended sights were not ready in time, so some modified and made compatible from a Pak 35/36 were used, despite not being the same caliber. The two parallel MG-13 machine guns remained the same. Inside the turret and behind the gun, there were two suspended seats, the left one for the commander/gunner and the right-hand side one for the loader. Behind and below them, there was a mixture of 74 AP and HE projectiles, and directly below the seats, 2,500 machine-gun rounds.

The Verdeja No. 1 going over a ridge during trials. Note its curved frontal armor. Source: El Carro de Combate ‘Verdeja’
The planned Lincoln ‘Zephyr’ engine did not arrive in time either, so Ford V-8 engines were used instead, giving the vehicle maximum speeds of 45km/h, a fuel consumption of 0.89l/km and 13hp/t (the vehicle weighed 6.5t when fully loaded). This was slower than the speeds of 65-70km/h and 18.46hp/t it was thought that the ‘Zephyr’ would have provided. Even so, the vehicle was still quite fast, nimble and maneuverable. The suspension, undercarriage, and tracks were the same as those of the Verdeja prototype.

End of the Verdeja No. 1 project

The project faced many difficulties before being cut. Firstly, the continuing problems in securing the Lincoln ‘Zephyr’ engine. The team in charge of the Verdeja sought to secure an alternative engine and considered using the German Maybach HL 42 TRKM, HL 62 TRM or HL 120 TRM or the Italian SPA 15-TM-41 or Abm-1, but only officially enquired about the German ones.
By this point, in early 1941, the project could still count on enthusiastic and powerful backing, with laws being passed to aid the mass production of the tank. Between June and July, the Boletín Oficial del Estado No.193, which announced 10 million pesetas of investment in the construction of tractors and tanks, was passed. Some of this money was earmarked for tank production, involving the construction of a factory in two years and the creation of a corporation made out of one parent company and several subsidiaries which would build the different components for the Verdeja No. 1.

The Verdeja No. 1 going through walls during tests in Carabanchel in May 1940. Source.
Whilst the factory was supposedly under construction, the order for two pre-production Verdeja No. 1’s was submitted on the 7th of July 1941 and approved four days later. These two vehicles were to be made by ADASA Pinto as main contractor together with SECN, S.A. de Talleres de Deusto, Sociedad Espñola de Maquinaria Marelli, SAPA, Hutchinson SA and Sociedad Robert Bosh. Maybach HL 42 TRKM engines purchased from Germany for 5,644 Reichmarks (20,600 pesetas) to be delivered in two/three months to Irun, on the Spanish-French border were the intended propulsion. However, it is probable that the engines never arrived. Some sources claim otherwise and that they were used on the Verdeja No. 2, but that they were replaced by the Lincoln ‘Zephyr’ engine.
The creation of the corporation foreseen by Boletín Oficial del Estado No.193 did not take off. Most companies were reluctant to invest money in tank production as, given the precarious atmosphere of the Spanish economy and the country as a whole, it was not a feasible money-making venture.

The Verdeja No. 1 during test demonstrating its trench crossing capacities provided by its suspension and undercarriage. Source: Blindados Españoles en el Ejército de Franco (1936-1939)
ADASA suggested an alternative. They would lend their land, HQ, factory and machinery in Pinto, south of Madrid and would produce more than the two expected pre-production series tanks for further testing and evaluation over a period of eight to ten months, after which they undertook to produce 300 final series tanks. Unfortunately for Captain Verdeja, this did not come to fruition.

Legacy and Conclusion

By mid-1941, the Verdeja No. 1 had been made obsolete by developments outside of Spain’s borders in the ongoing European conflict. Captain Verdeja set out to update the model into what became the Verdeja No. 2 but, due to bureaucratic problems, economic and financial issues and a general loss of interest in building an indigenous tank, this project was also destined to fail.
The sole existing Verdeja No. 1 would be revisited in 1945, when it was converted into the Verdeja self-propelled gun prototype carrying a 75mm gun. This SPG can be considered as the only variant of the Verdeja No. 1 and can be found today in the Museo de Medios Acorazados (MUMA) in the military base of El Goloso, north of Madrid.

The Verdeja SPG as it currently stands in the MUMA. Source: Photo taken by the author.
The Verdeja No. 1 was more a victim of circumstances and bureaucratic problems than any flaws it might have had itself. Spain’s dire economic situation after a brutal Civil War that had divided the country down its spine, which was a culmination of decades of instability and radical changes, meant the country was devastated and there was no capital available for such an ambitious project. What is more, those initially interested saw the production of the Verdeja No. 1 as non-profitable and chose not to invest. From the very start, it had been opposed by those who claimed Verdeja and Spanish industrial capabilities would be unable to produce a tank of any kind. Verdeja, inexperienced as he was, had at least proved them wrong by building a tank that was better than any in the Spanish arsenal in almost every respect, having the same armament as the Soviet T-26 and German Panzer I combined, slightly superior armor and lighter, faster, more maneuverable and more efficient overall, even if not equipped with all his desired features, such as the Lincoln ‘Zephyr’ engine.
The Verdeja No. 1 always impressed Spanish commissioners during trials and, according to Spanish tank enthusiast and author of the most detailed book on the Verdeja project, Javier de Mazarrasa, this could have been the starting point for a family of indigenous tank designs that could have included SPG’s, engineer vehicles, troop transports and medium tanks. Not only that, the project could have given Spain military and industrial muscle. However, due to the priorities of Spanish officials being focused on re-building the war-torn country after the Civil War, and the great difficulties that that entailed, tank production paled into insignificance. The fact that the Civil War had finished and the remote likelihood that Spain would become directly involved in World War II may also have given rise to a view that the project was not as urgent as it might have been had the country been involved in conflict.
Furthermore, the Verdeja No. 1 did not attract any foreign interest, though this was never intended.
If the vehicle had entered service when intended, it would have been superior to anything in the Spanish arsenal. However, it must be noted that by mid-1940 and definitely 1941, the Verdeja No. 1 would have been outdated when compared to modern tank designs and had no place in WWII battlefields.

A series of blueprints of the Verdeja No. 1 noting its dimensions. These are not the original ones. Source.

Verdeja No. 1 specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 4.498 x 2.152 x 1.572 m (14.76 x 7.06 x 5.16 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 6.8 tons
Crew 3 (commander/gunner, loader, driver)
Propulsion Ford V8 Model 48
Speed 44 km/h (27.34mph) maximum 25 km/h (15.5) cruise speed
Range 220 km (136.7 miles)
Armament 45/44 Mark I S.A. Plasencia de las Armas
Dreyse MG-13 7.92mm
Armor 7-25 mm (0.27 – 0.98 in)
Total production 2 Prototypes

Links, Resources & Further Reading

Lucas Molina Franco and José M Manrique García, Blindados Españoles en el Ejército de Franco (1936-1939) (Valladolid: Galland Books, 2009)
Lucas Molina Franco and José M Manrique García, Blindados Alemanes en el Ejército de Franco (1936-1939) (Valladolid: Galland Books, 2008)
Francisco Marín and Josep M Mata, Atlas Ilustrado de Vehículos Blindados en España (Madrid: Susaeta)
Javier de Mazarrasa, El Carro de Combate ‘Verdeja’ (Barcelona: L Carbonell, 1988)
Los Carros de Combate Verdeja on worldofarmorv2.blogspot.com.es
Carro de Combate Verdeja – Prototipo on worldofarmorv2.blogspot.com.es 
1939: Carro de combate ligero Verdeja nº 1 on historiaparanodormiranhell.blogspot.com.es
Verdeja on vehiculosblindadosdelaguerracivil.blogspot.com.es
El Carro de Combate Verdeja on diepanzer.blogspot.com.es

Categories
WW2 Spanish Prototypes

Tanque Barbastro

republican flag Second Spanish Republic (1936?)
Light Tank – 1 built with 3 partially complete

The Republican Behemoth

The “Tanque Barbastro” is an unofficial name for a handcrafted light tank built by local (not government) initiative early in Spanish Civil War. The first and only completed tank was an improvised design, but production of several more was sanctioned when the project was raised with government officials. Large in size, but poorly armed, poorly armored, and suffering from a bureaucratic mess, their combat value, if any even saw combat, was probably limited. There are only two known photos of the mysterious prototype tank, and all four vehicles have an unknown fate; but they were all likely scrapped before the war’s end.

Design

The Barbastro’s design was rather pachydermic and rhombus-shaped, with the driver’s compartment apparently raised quite far off the ground. The vehicle featured a round but squat (and fully traversable) turret armed with a light machine gun – reportedly a non-Spanish variant of the Hotchkiss machine gun. There were two distinct side hatches on either side of the tank’s fighting compartment for entry of the reported four crew members. Photos show that the first version had “Grupo Construccion Tanques Barbastro” written on the side of the hull, between each of the tracks.

First Version

The Barbastro Tank was designed by the Grupo de Construccion Tanques de Barbastro (Tank Construction Group of Barbastro) in the town of Barbastro (northeastern Spain), presumably in late 1936 or early 1937. This was not a government project, and appears to have been built locally in much the same way as the scores of improvised armored cars were built in the early Spanish Civil War. These vehicles were collectively known ‘los Tiznaos’ in Spanish (referring to their grimy appearance – Tiznar meaning ‘to smudge’), and were varied in design. Some were merely trucks with improvised uparmoring of sheets of metal over the original bodywork, others, such as the Constructora Field, had completely new bodywork and turrets.
Design and construction work of the Barbastro Tank was done at the workshop of Constancio Rámiz, which is thought to have been one of the best-equipped workshops in the Huesca province, as crucially, it had turning lathes to make turret parts.
This first version of the Barbastro Tank was built using recycled/salvaged materials; examples include the tracks being taken from an agricultural tractor, the engine coming from an old Ford commercial truck, and the body of the vehicle being made from scrap metal. The vehicle was given a coat of grey paint to make the scrap metal look homogeneous. The turret was fully traversable and armed with a light machine gun, believed to be a foreign-built (IE not Spanish) Hotchkiss machine gun.
There were reportedly four crew members – a driver, commander, and two others (who were presumably machine gunners).
Upon its completion, the vehicle drove to the railway station of the town of Barbastro from the workshop and was sent to Sariñena. Upon arrival, it drove to the headquarters of the Eastern Army. The tank is believed to have been used in the defense of Sariñena, where it was apparently captured in 1938, and later probably scrapped by Nationalist forces shortly after. No information is available on the vehicle’s combat performance.

Official Production

After the first vehicle’s completion, production of the Barbastro tank was presented to the Ministry of War, who authorized more standardized production of three more Barbastro tanks. However, there were some changes to be made. The new model was to be lighter, to have thicker armor, to feature two machine guns instead of one (one hull-mounted, and one turret-mounted), and to feature a more powerful Ford V-8 engine. It is unclear if the overall shape of the tank would have been much different to the first version.
Instead of improvised armor, real armor plates were used which are reported to be 6.35mm thick (each plate being 12 x 1.5 meters in size). These were made in Valencia, and had originally been intended for gunshields of field guns. These were brought in to the workshop in Barbastro via trucks, and were fixed in place with electric welding points, and rivets.

Production Problems

Production began by assembling the basic lower hull. The engine compartment and the fighting compartment were then given four lateral holes cut in the hull in order to fit the track return rollers and running wheels.
Initially, the three vehicles were built simultaneously, however production quickly became complicated by bureaucracy, leading to two major issues.
The first issue was that the tracks were due to be made in a foundry in Barcelona, and the designers had wanted to use rubber, but due to the circumstances of the war, this was impossible, likely due to a rubber shortage. Therefore, the tracks had to be of a different material – probably some type of metal. However, the foundry workers would not start work without a striking a deal with the Barbastro’s designers. The workers wanted steel in order to reinforce the windows of their headquarters in exchange for building and fitting the tracks. This complicated the construction of the tank significantly, but one tank was eventually sent for final assembly in Barcelona. Whether or not a deal was reached with the workers in Barcelona remains unclear.
The second issue was obtaining engines for the tanks. After long negotiations with a local Ford branch, the vehicles were due to have modern and powerful Ford V-8 engines, but these apparently never arrived. The circumstances around this remain unclear, however, it is reported that the Ford branch in Barcelona (presumably the branch in question) did not start producing V-8 engines until 1939, which is a likely explanation for the issue.
As a result of these two issues, it seems as though the project was abandoned. One tank was sent to Barcelona for final assembly, with an unknown fate. The other two hulls were ready for final assembly (IE, they were missing tracks and engines), but these presumably never left the town of Barbastro.

Conclusion

The Barbastro tank is a mystery of the Spanish Civil War. Sources suggest that all that is known about the vehicles comes from photos, and some recollections from one of the designers of the project that are too scarce to provide a clearer history of the tank. The combat effectiveness of the first version of the Barbastro tank, with its improvised armor, modest armament, and huge size, was probably negligible, and it likely only served as a mobile bunker at the defense of Sariñena.

Barbastro
First version Barbastro tank by David Bocquelet.

First version Barbastro Tank, date and location unknown, likely Sariñena.

First version Barbastro Tank, date and location unknown, likely Sariñena, after it was taken by Nationalist forces.
Sources:
Private correspondence with Guillem Martí Pujol and Francisco Javier Cabeza Martinez regarding the Barbastro Tank.
vehiculosblindadosdelaguerracivil.blogspot
On Aviarmor