Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Spanish Troops in WWII

Hello, me again. Back in the 20th century surpisingly.

Inspired by one of Bob Cordery's recent posts in Wargaming Miscellany about a trip he made to the Museum of Toy Soliders* in Valencia, I did a quick internet search on Spanish troops fighting in the Free French Forces during WWII. In his blog, Bob displays some photos from the museum of SCW figures and some pictures depicting a Spanish company of the French 2nd Armoured Division in 1944. I'd heard of the Division Azul (Spanish Fascist volunteers) fighting on the Eastern Front with the Nazis, but I had never heard much, about Spanish fighting against the Axis in WWII. One notable exception is an episode of Dad's Army where the Walmington-on-Sea Home Guard were instructed in guerrilla warfare techniques by a Spanish anti-Fascist**. I'm a little ashamed of this as the Spanish Civil War was one of the topics I found the most interesting back in my days as a history undergrad. I didn't spend much time wondering what happened to all those POUMistas, Catalan and Basque separatists, CNT-FAI militias, Communists and old school liberals who made it out of Spain after Franco's victory***.

During and after the Spanish Civil War, the majority of Republican fighters and their families who fled the country, made the relatively short (but perilous) trip across the Pyrenees into France. Initially given the cold shoulder by the French government (fear of 'Red' infiltration), the Spanish were welcomed as fellow fighters of Fascism when war was declared on Germany. After the debacle in 1940 about 2000 made it to Britain via Dunkirk but more ended up in units under the control of Vichy France, either in France itself or in the empire in North Africa and the Levant. Some made it via the Foreign Legion in Syria into the British army and even into the SAS and fought in the Italian campaigns. Sadly 10,500 Spanish people in occupied France were transported to concentration camps where 80% of them died. https://www.warhistoryonline.com/instant-articles/churchills-spaniards.html

The company in the French 2nd Armoured Div (Le Clerc's unit who famously were the first Allied unit into Paris in August 1944) the 9th company of the Régiment de marche du Tchad became known as La Nueve - the Nine - because the majority of its members were Spanish. La Nueve were the first sub-unit of the Régiment de marche du Tchad into Paris, so the first 'French' soldiers in were in fact Spanish.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Nueve
https://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/forgotten-spanish-soldiers-behind-france-s-liberation-nazi-germany-n1045731

I found this an interesting, if relatively unknown, aspect of WWII. I suppose it was only natural that some of the first people to take up armed resistance against Fascism should seek to continue the struggle to eventual victory. You have to salute the resilience and bravery of these people who helped liberate Europe, but had to wait another 30 years for their own homeland to be liberated.

¡No pasarán!







* I'm loosely translating.
** That was a little insight into the serious side of the Home Guard, who had a cadre trained in brutal underground warfare in the event of a Nazi occupation of Britain.
*** Apart from those Anglophone veterans who published their memoirs, and references to Spanish Communists who made it into the Red Army.

2 comments:

  1. Nundanket,

    A very interesting blog entry, which explains the history of the Spanish Republican fighters who managed to get out of Spain to continue the fight against fascism.

    Quite a few of the British and American members of the International Brigades played very active roles in the Second World War (often in SOE, OSS, and Special Forces), and some Spanish Republicans even fought as members of the Red Army.

    It's one of those interesting and rarely explored byways in the history of the Second World War.

    All the best,

    Bob

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for bringing the subject to my (our?) attention in the first place Bob.

      We're so used to hearing about the SCW being a testing ground for the fascist forces of Italy and Germany in the lead up to WWII*, the other side gets overlooked. Maybe Cold War politics made it an inconvenient subject for 45 years.

      * or more correctly, the wider roll-out of WWII

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