Monday, 1 August 2016

The Pre-Civil War Spanish Military
The Infantry Brigade

The Spanish Army had re-organised into a more modern structure following the beginning of the Rif War, before which it used an organisational and tactical pattern more suited to the 19th Century than the 20th. Like most European armies of the time the Spanish looked to the French Army for inspiration, which being popularly perceived as the 'winners' of the Great War, were taken as the template for a 'modern army'. The restructuring of the Army in the 1930s changed the face of the Spanish Army, but at its lowest levels the organisation pattern remained largely unchanged. While there were small differences between individual formations, by and large the organisation pattern was more or less universal.

The individual 'organic' divisions were quite identical in terms of the infantry brigades and artillery regiments that they contained, but with only some divisions apparently possessing heavy artillery, machine gun battalions, armoured and air-defence units. This appearance is however deceptive and in practice these were largely administrative groupings rather than operational ones. While some elements like the proposed armoured formations and the heavy artillery were to be retained as corps assets, the cavalry, engineers and machine gun battalions were intended to be split across the divisions if the army was actually motivated. In this eventuality it was the infantry brigade that was to be the grand tactical element.

Spanish Infantry Brigade 1934. The regiments forming the brigade have been reduced to two battalions. A third battalion for each would be added upon mobilisation. One group from each of the two light artillery regiments of the division were to be added to each brigade, as was a cavalry squadron to act as the reconnaissance element. A company of engineers, along with transport and signals elements would also have been added. The battalion guns are shown 'brigaded', but they could have been equally paired to provide direct support to each lead battalion.   
Once the various elements of the army had been apportioned across the brigades, each infantry brigade would have been composed of four battalions, each supported by one group of 75mm guns and one battery of 105mm. The battalion guns could be brigaded as a battery of four, or in two sections to support each lead battalion. The battalion mortars would also be grouped into pairs to provide direct fire support for the lead battalions. The practice of deploying the machine gun companies of the reserve battalions forward with the lead battalions, meant that not only did they add to the weight of fire of the lead battalion's own weapons, but were already in position for when the reserve battalions were committed.

If the Army was mobilised for war, each regiment would have gained a third battalion, allowing for a structure that gave two lead battalions and one in reserve. However the option was there to create a third brigade from these additional battalions, along with the mobilised third groups from each of the artilley regiments and the divisional cavalry's own formations. These additional units would have been composed of reservists and given the various shortages of weapons and equipment, would have to have been mixed with existing formations. The lead battalions would therefore be the best equipped units, with the reserves somewhat less well-blessed.

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