Author Topic: The Spanish Civil War, rethought  (Read 707 times)

Offline Story

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The Spanish Civil War, rethought
« on: February 18, 2024, 11:27:48 PM »
Let's template the American/NATO response to Russia in the Ukraine back to 1936.

*What if* the western allies (GB/France and the US as seperate entities) could get past their fears of Communists in order to stop the other Socialists, the Fascists?

By opening the warehouses of their considerable stocks of WWI surplus as an excuse to gently kick start industry coming out of the Great Depression;

1) What do Republican forces gain?

2) What do the Nationalists gain from Germany & Italy?

3) What is the ripple effect with Poland, Norway, Finland, Yugoslavia and Greece?

4) What is the ripple effect outside of Spain? Specifically, AOI (Italian East Africa)?

This has all happened before, and this will all happen again.
[/i]

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Re: The Spanish Civil War, rethought
« Reply #1 on: February 19, 2024, 06:35:10 AM »
Have some thoughts…will add later
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Offline apophenia

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Re: The Spanish Civil War, rethought
« Reply #2 on: February 19, 2024, 07:02:09 AM »
Yeah, there's a lot of similarities here with NATO supplying arms to a Soviet-calibred Ukraine. But at least NATO shares standards. The interwar British, French, and Americans shared little (other than the US having adopted some French artillery calibres during WW1). What the war in Ukraine tells us is that on-going ammunition supply and technical support for all those western weapons supplied to Spain would be the most important factor.

1) What do Republican forces gain?

As with modern-day Ukraine, Republican Spain would receive a confused mishmash of weapon types and calibres. The big difference from OTL would be the greatly increased numbers of weapons supplied. A western weapons supply would be most useful to the Ejército Popular de la República if donated weapons were allocated regionally. For example:

France could supply the Exèrcit Popular de Catalunya across its Pyrenees border as well as the EPR in Aragon and Valencia;

Britain could supply the EPR in Galicia and the Euzko Gudarostea (Basque Army) by sea from the Bay of Biscay;

America could supply Castilla la Nueva and the remains of Andalusia from Mediterranean ports (Almería and Cartagena).

2) What do the Nationalists gain from Germany & Italy?

I'm unclear on this question. Are you asking whether Italy and Germany escalate their support for Franco in response to western shipments? If so, I'm not sure that, materially, either nation had much more to give.

Manpower might be a factor though. In OTL, Italy provided 70,000-to-75,000 fighting men (with the CTV fielding a max of 50k at one time). German numbers were about a fifth of that (albeit, with the majority being skilled technicians - aircrews, panzer crews, etc.). So, one possible Nazi response to greater western aid might be a numerical increase in Wehrmacht 'volunteers' in Spain.

3) What is the ripple effect with Poland, Norway, Finland, Yugoslavia and Greece?

For weapons supply during the Spanish Civil War, little if any. Poland would continue to offload obsolete kit on the Republicans for maximum profit. Greece will continue to act as supply/shipping agents for both sides.

Or do you mean what effect on those countries during WW2? If so, that gets way more complicated. Does the supply of western weapons allow the Republic to prevail? Or does it just prolong the civil war? If the latter, then the ATL has a major point of departure in March of 1939. The results might be as follows:

- Poland: A Wehrmacht tied down in Spain means a less expansionist Reich in the shorter term;
- Norway: As above ... no OTL dating for Weserübung Nord (or the occupation of Denmark);
- Finland: Uncertain ... without the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, the USSR likely won't launch a Winter War;
- Greece: With at least 50k troops tied down in Spain, Mussolini might risk Albania but not Greece;
- Yugoslavia: Without the Greco-Italian cluster-fnck, no need for Hitler to invade Yugoslavia

4) What is the ripple effect outside of Spain? Specifically, AOI (Italian East Africa)?

Probably an improvement from an Italian perspective. In OTL, the Regio Esercito was able to control the territories of the AOI despite 75K of its personnel cycling through the Corpo Truppe Volontarie. Should the Spanish Civil War become extended, it is unlikely that Italy declares war on France or Britain in 1940. As a result, supply of the AOI from Italy remains a peacetime affair.

By opening the warehouses of their considerable stocks of WWI surplus as an excuse to gently kick start industry coming out of the Great Depression;

This brings up arms supply for Ukraine again. As we're seeing, emptying the stockpiles is one thing, building them back up again is quite another. That is going to be a tough sell for a peace-at-any-price British population or an isolationist American people. France - bled white in WW1 - was also very divided but I do see an angle to play there.

Beyond Depression-era economics, there is also a political angle. This would play best in a France then under a left-wing Front populaire (FP) government. Léon Blum was originally in favour of arms shipments to the Spanish government but later deferred to British opposition. But if Baldwin wasn't so strongly opposed, Blum would have felt no threat to the Franco-British alliance.

Anyway, I'll leave that political angle here ... unless anyone wants to get into the potential of 1930s French labour politics  ;)
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Offline Story

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Re: The Spanish Civil War, rethought
« Reply #3 on: February 19, 2024, 09:44:53 PM »
Yeah, there's a lot of similarities here with NATO supplying arms to a Soviet-calibred Ukraine. But at least NATO shares standards. The interwar British, French, and Americans shared little (other than the US having adopted some French artillery calibres during WW1). What the war in Ukraine tells us is that on-going ammunition supply and technical support for all those western weapons supplied to Spain would be the most important factor.


Let's see - logistical headaches (.303, 8mm Lebel and .30-06 added to the 7.92x57 Mauser) vs not having enough rifles / "beggars can't be choosers". As far as polyglot ordnance supply issues, that was already clearly illustrated during China's Warlord Era.

Amercan FT17 light tanks, with Spanish Republican upgunning modifications.

Liberty Bombers turned into Republican close support bombers

&etc, &etc

Offline Story

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Re: The Spanish Civil War, rethought
« Reply #4 on: February 19, 2024, 09:51:09 PM »
2) What do the Nationalists gain from Germany & Italy?

I'm unclear on this question. Are you asking whether Italy and Germany escalate their support for Franco in response to western shipments? If so, I'm not sure that, materially, either nation had much more to give.

Manpower might be a factor though. In OTL, Italy provided 70,000-to-75,000 fighting men (with the CTV fielding a max of 50k at one time). German numbers were about a fifth of that (albeit, with the majority being skilled technicians - aircrews, panzer crews, etc.). So, one possible Nazi response to greater western aid might be a numerical increase in Wehrmacht 'volunteers' in Spain.

I'll make it clearerer.  Do the Facists send their first heavy tanks, after the Mk Is and IIs?  M11/39s? Neubaufahrzeugs and Mk III/IVs?

Fun fact - in the US National Archive microfilm collection of captured Italian documents, there was a roster of Italian 'volunteer' officers to include one Capitan O. Fortuna.  ??? :icon_music:

(Orff's piece came out in 1936. Talk about cool nomme de guerres)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O_Fortuna_(Orff)




--------------
MOD EDIT: Fixed quote. I hope! -CA
« Last Edit: February 21, 2024, 09:11:52 AM by ChernayaAkula »

Offline raafif

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Re: The Spanish Civil War, rethought
« Reply #5 on: February 20, 2024, 06:14:43 AM »
I think additional foreign manpower would be the main benefit for both sides.  But it would be cool to see all those oddities of (prototype) armour & A/cars that each side produced between the wars, plus of course ex-WW1 stuff.  Germany used a "make-up" A7V by the police post WW1 too so could build more on the ammo-wagen chassis.  Don't think anything would change on the aircraft equipment side tho.

Offline apophenia

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Re: The Spanish Civil War, rethought
« Reply #6 on: February 20, 2024, 08:19:15 AM »
Let's see - logistical headaches (.303, 8mm Lebel and .30-06 added to the 7.92x57 Mauser) vs not having enough rifles / "beggars can't be choosers". As far as polyglot ordnance supply issues, that was already clearly illustrated during China's Warlord Era.

Amercan FT17 light tanks, with Spanish Republican upgunning modifications.

Liberty Bombers turned into Republican close support bombers ...

Historically speaking, the Republicans weren't "beggars", Spanish gold reserves paid for what was delivered. And Republican desperation was ruthlessly exploited by the Soviets, Poles, and Greeks. (At times, our species really does demonstrate all the nobility of egg-sucking varmints!)

The Soviets alone sold the Republicans rifles/carbines in 6.5x50mmSR Arisaka; 7.62x54mmR; .303-inch (7.7x56mmR); 7.92x57mm; 8x50mmR Mannlicher; and 8x50mmR Lebel smokeless cartridges along with 8x56mmR Kropatschek; 10.35x47mmR Vetterli; and 11x59mmR Gras black powder rounds. Logistical headaches indeed! And many of these top-price weapons were next to worthless ... still, Stalin got his Spanish gold.

Some online sources on Spanish Civil War-era firearms:
-- https://fireonthewaters.tripod.com/SCWSmallArms.pdf
-- https://surplused.com/index.php/2020/06/15/foreign-rifles-of-the-spanish-republic-1936-1939/
-- https://web.archive.org/web/20221124203526/https://carbinesforcollectors.com/spanishcivilwar1.html
-- https://www.thefreelibrary.com/Spanish+military+rifle+cartridges%3A+from+Andalusia+to+Afghanistan.-a0355468829

Back on topic ... as with Ukraine, much depends whether the 'donors' are looking for a rapid Republican victory or simply to buy time for themselves by spending Spanish (and IB volunteer) lives to tie down the Falangists and their Fascist friends. That turns the Republicans into allies and heros or useful rubes, depending.

Again, like Ukraine, those under dire threat haven't time to be completely rational. Hence my advice to divided the plethora of calibres/kit geographically. There may still be some confusion in kit and training. Eg: the Brits (and Dominions?) may be donating 18-pounders but training on US-supplied M1917s and M1917A1s rechambered for French 75 mm ammunition would be identical. Conversely, both training and ammunition for the French Mle 1897 and US 75 mm Gun M1897 were the same, the latter requires different tools for its USS bolt heads and UTS threads.

By "Liberty Bombers", do you mean DH.4s? If so, I wouldn't bother. Even the warmed-over DH-4M series with steel tube fuselage upgrades were totally obsolete by the mid-'30s.
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Offline apophenia

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Re: The Spanish Civil War, rethought
« Reply #7 on: February 20, 2024, 08:24:03 AM »
I'll make it clearerer.  Do the Facists send their first heavy tanks, after the Mk Is and IIs?  M11/39s? Neubaufahrzeugs and Mk III/IVs? ...

Thanks for the clarification. Tougher Republican resistance (possibly with more direct armour clashes) would quickly demonstrate the limitiations of the Carro Veloce series. It is revealing that Moscow never sent Spain any of its 'tankette' types - T-27, T-37A, T-38. As it was, both CV 35 and PzKpfw I were out-performed by the Soviet T-26 light tank. The PzKpfw II should have been outclassed by the BT-5 (but poor tactics seems to ruin the chances for the 'high-speed tank').

I can't see any future for the Neubaufahrzeug. By the time actual armoured prototypes were built, the Panzer IV Ausf. A was already in limited production. So, maybe in place of the unwieldy Neubaufahrzeug, a quicker production schedule for the early 'begleitwagen Panzer IVs? Ditto for the Panzer IIIs.

And with such vehicles hoving into view, what are the democracies doing in the way of armour? Having cleared out the stored Renault FTs/US M1917s and Vickers Medium Mark IIs, what comes next?

Of the western powers, France seems to have the least to offer in modern tanks (between late development and its own needs). One possibility is dedicated production for Spanish use by the UK and US (kick-starting that Depression-era industrial base again). The Vickers 6-ton is an obvious companion to its Soviet cousin, the T-26. Second cousins were the 1935 US M1 Combat Car and M2 Light Tank. I'm thinking that experiences in Spain would have put paid to all the faffing about with 'Mae West' twin turrets, resulting in an early focus on cannon armaments for all tanks.

I can't see Rock Island Arsenal building M1s for Spain. So, perhaps ACF-built M2s armed with 37 mm M1916 infantry guns for support - or foreign-supplied tank guns. [1] From the Brits, a slightly beefed-up 'Vickers 7-ton' tank armed with an 47 mm Ordnance QF 3-pounder dual-purpose gun in a B-type turret. Of course, both of these light tanks would be completely outclassed by the Panzer IIIs when they arrive. So, as with modern-day Ukraine yet more, speed of delivery would be paramount in gaining the advantage.

____________________________________________

[1] With enough inter-ally co-operation, these might be short-barrelled 37 mm Puteaux SA 18s supplied by the French. Alternatively, higher-velocity naval guns might be employed - eg: USN- or RN-surplus QF 3-pounder Hotchkiss 'anti-torpedo boat' cannons (the direct ancestor to the OQF 3-pdr). AFAIK, the US had no suitable HV tank gun of its own design at the time.

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Offline apophenia

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Re: The Spanish Civil War, rethought
« Reply #8 on: February 20, 2024, 08:27:34 AM »
I think additional foreign manpower would be the main benefit for both sides...

Bingo!  :smiley:

... Don't think anything would change on the aircraft equipment side tho.

I don't know. Perhaps true for scraping out the barrel-bottom of obsolete planes. But, just the fact that western manufacturers could now legally supply aircraft to the Republican government changes things quite a bit.
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Offline Frank3k

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Re: The Spanish Civil War, rethought
« Reply #9 on: February 20, 2024, 09:55:08 AM »
Sending the B-10 to Spain as a bomber would have been interesting.

Offline Old Wombat

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Re: The Spanish Civil War, rethought
« Reply #10 on: February 20, 2024, 09:58:48 PM »
WW1 equipment, except in the field of small-arms, would have been more of a hindrance than a help. Using the opportunity to test new equipment & techniques would have been a better option (as the Germans, Italians & Russians did).

If the planes were supplied with pilots, crews & ground support they may have led to useful combat experience for (future) Allied pilots & the development of new tactics prior to WW2 ... Depending on how willing their respective heirachies were to listen to combat tested aircrew espousing combat tested practices, plus feedback on the performance of aircraft types.

On the ground Matilda IIs, which are contemporary with Pz.Kpfw IVs & only a little later than Pz.Kpfw IIIs, would have suited the Spanish terrain & have been a significant challenge for the Axis tanks operating in Spain, being almost invulnerable to their guns & having a gun capable of destroying them. "Allied" involvement would, also, have given them experience against some early iterations of what became "Blitzkrieg".
« Last Edit: February 20, 2024, 10:01:43 PM by Old Wombat »
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Offline apophenia

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Re: The Spanish Civil War, rethought
« Reply #11 on: February 21, 2024, 08:43:04 AM »
WW1 equipment, except in the field of small-arms, would have been more of a hindrance than a help. Using the opportunity to test new equipment & techniques would have been a better option (as the Germans, Italians & Russians did)...

It depend upon your objective. If you're using the Spain's internal conflict as a Petri dish, go to. But if, as Story posited, your goal was to stop the further rise of fascism, you need to prevail in the field as quickly as possible.

There's a policy win-win there for the western democracies. The democratically-elected government of Spain is upheld in the face of armed insurrection - a counter-argument to right-wing assertions that democracies are naturally effete. And the growth of fascism is arrested (in other words, 'Kill it Before it Lays Eggs').

If the planes were supplied with pilots, crews & ground support they may have led to useful combat experience for (future) Allied pilots & the development of new tactics prior to WW2 ... Depending on how willing their respective heirachies were to listen to combat tested aircrew espousing combat tested practices, plus feedback on the performance of aircraft types.

Again, depends upon your objectives. Experience in combat would be invaluable for western militaries. But the RW Soviet experiences in Spain demonstrate two things - you can peak too early and, as you suggest, the lessons learned in combat often signify not-at-all to an entrenched military bureaucracy back home. Just as militaries tend to train to fight the last war, for the western armies, experience in Spain would literally be of 'the last war'. The Luftwaffe, for example, got locked into SCW lessons. Initially, those were beneficial. But they increasingly became liabilities.

As raafif said, "additional foreign manpower" is key. Not just in higher-tech areas but also in bolstering outnumbered Republican infantry and artillery forces. RW, the only effect of legal dissuasions to joining the Republican cause was western militaries' post-1939 refusal to acknowledge combat exposure in Spain as useful military experience.

An RW example was Canada's 1937 Foreign Enlistment Act which was mostly responding to a fear of the Communist Party of Canada gaining influence (not to mention combat-experienced members and supporters). But, in this ATL, it would be the GoC - not the CPC - doing the bulk of volunteer recruiting for Spain. The same would be true in the US, France, the UK, and other Dominions. As for valuable military experience, I'd go further and link willingness to serve in Spain with career advancement for all serving members of western militaries. But, maybe that is getting too far away from the arm-Ukraine model that Story began with ...

On the ground Matilda IIs, which are contemporary with Pz.Kpfw IVs & only a little later than Pz.Kpfw IIIs, would have suited the Spanish terrain & have been a significant challenge for the Axis tanks operating in Spain, being almost invulnerable to their guns & having a gun capable of destroying them. "Allied" involvement would, also, have given them experience against some early iterations of what became "Blitzkrieg".

Agreed that the Matilda II would be an asset during the Spanish Civil War. So, as with the Panzer III/IV scenario above, to be truly useful the British would have to quicken their production schedule. The A12 was designed in 1937 so, ordered off the drawing board, perhaps early Matilda IIs could be fielded in Spain by the Summer of 1938?

Claymore has been working on an alternative take on British Cruiser tanks fitted with US Vertical Volute Spring System suspensions. In this Alt-SCW context, I was intrigued by the RW connection between the Vickers 6-ton tank and the origins of the VVSS.

-- https://beyondthesprues.com/Forum/index.php?topic=6695.msg215897#msg215897

In seems that Rock Island Arsenal's precursors to the M2 light tank - the experimental model T2s - were directly inspired by the 6-ton and had essentially similar suspensions. Only when designing a cavalry variant - the T5 (which evolved into the M1 Combat Car) - did Rock Island develop their own VVSS suspension design. That VVSS was the, of course, applied to both production M1s and M2 light tanks. So, what if, in this more co-operative ATL environment, that VVSS design was also shared with the British who fit this suspension system to an improved Vickers 6-ton for Spanish use?

I'm not suggesting that a VVSS-equipped 'Vickers 7-ton' would be a substitute for the Matilda II. Rather, the fill-in 'Vickers 7-ton' would just be quicker to field ... and, maybe, successful use in the field of the Vickers' dual-use 3-pounder might influence the final Matilda II armament choice?
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Offline apophenia

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Re: The Spanish Civil War, rethought
« Reply #12 on: February 21, 2024, 11:26:16 AM »
Sending the B-10 to Spain as a bomber would have been interesting.

More on that coming  ;)

[Edit] See: https://beyondthesprues.com/Forum/index.php?topic=351.msg215980#msg215980
« Last Edit: February 22, 2024, 08:39:26 AM by apophenia »
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Offline Sport25ing

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Re: The Spanish Civil War, rethought
« Reply #13 on: February 23, 2024, 09:10:05 AM »
Other nation participation:

Maximiliano Hernández Martínez, the leader of El Salvador after a La Matanza in January 1932, began to approach the fascist side of government, to the point that it exported more to Germany that it did to the US, while also buying equipment for Germany and Italy as the US-made one was too expensive. Many forces were trained in Italy, and with the start of the civil war in Spain, and Martínez recognition of the Nationalist Spain, some of it soldiers present in Italy volunteer to fight for the fascism cause. Due to the low numbers, one company, one artillery battery and a squadron of Fiat CR.32 fighters was formed.



Offline apophenia

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Re: The Spanish Civil War, rethought
« Reply #14 on: Yesterday at 05:18:57 AM »
Other nation participation...

 :smiley:

Péire Briogáid XV - a Story of Two XV Brigades

At the Battle of Jarama, elements of Franco's XV Bandera (Brigada Irlandesa or Briogáid na hÉireann) encountered Irish soldiers of the 'Connolly Column' - members of the XV Brigada Internacional. Neither group had much frontline experience and the badly-led XV Bandera accomplished little. With Franco's approval, General Varela replaced XV Bandera military leadership with veteran officers from el Tercio. Then, the Irish fascists - who had been dug in at Ciempozuelos - were ordered to march 20 km ENE to the Nationalist 'fortress' at Pingarrón.

It was at Pingarrón that the opposing Irish factions clashed. Fascist leader Eoin O'Duffy was killed early in the fighting. A few days later, the poet Charles Donnelly died fighting for the Republicans. They weren't alone. Republican General 'Gal' ordered the XV BI to assault the Nationalist stronghold without air or artillery support. And the predictable carnage ensued. Mainly due to Carlist Requetés fierce resistance and the timely arrival of German tanks, the line held. But the Nationalists sustained a 50% casualty rate - with combat and disease reducing the once 1,300-strong Briogáid na hÉireann to less than 500 fit fighting men.

In March 1937, XV Bandera was stood down and its survivors returned to Galway. By then, Éamon de Valera had signed on with the multi-national Non-Intervention Committee. Through the Irish Christian Front, Cardinal Joseph MacRory attempted to rally support against de Valera's involuntary neutrality. But, within Fine Gael, 'Blueshirt' supporters had long been split over involvement in Spain. With the death of O'Duffy, Ned Cronin prevailed - no further Irish military support would be sent to aid Franco. Although there was considerable support for Franco's nacionalcatolicismo in the Irish Free State, there was no further appetite for armed involvement in the Spanish Civil War.
Froglord: "... amphibious doom descends ... approach the alter and swear your allegiance to the swamp."