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Chain of Command Espana: The Moroccans

Moors
The various Moroccan formations, or Tropas Indígenas (Indigenous Troops), as they were collectively referred to by the Spanish, formed the bulk of the manpower of the Army of Africa. Although Spain had fought a long and bloody series of wars with the tribes of the Rif, units drawn from the Moroccan Tribes had fought for Spain throughout these and in 1936, some of the units contained some of the tribes who had fought against the Spanish in these wars.

As was the case with the colonial forces of other nations, the Indigenous units tended to have older equipment than what the European units had and firm control was kept by Europeans on weapons that might prove especially damaging if there was a revolt. Within the Moroccan units (except the Sultan’s own Meha’la units) Europeans held all of the command positions, from Platoon Leader upwards. Within the rifle companies roughly a third of the senior non-commissioned officers were European and within the platoons, the Corporals in charge of the machine gun and mortar squads were also European. In the machine gun companies, the whole of the machine gun squads were European, while the rifle squads within them were Moroccan.

Within each company or cavalry squadron however, there was a single indigenous officer, the Caíd. The post of Caíd was essentially an honorary position, occupied by a member of what amounted to the Moroccan Tribal aristocracy. The presence of the usually younger members of these families, in units drawn from the tribes they ruled, legitimized the authority of the Spanish Army within them. As the approval or disapproval of the Caíd could not only have repercussions for an individual soldier, but could also make things very difficult, or indeed very good, for his family, the indigenous troops went to great lengths to get noticed in a positive sense by them.

Moroccan troops had never served outside of the colonies prior to the Civil War, but thanks to rebel propaganda, which fostered the belief that the Government intended to suppress Islam and burn down their mosques, the rebels overcame the reluctance of their own indigenous troops to do so, but also gained units from the Sultan of Morocco’s own Gendarmerie, the Mehal’la. While this propaganda was blatantly untrue at the time, it has to be considered that both the Communists and Anarchists saw religious suppression as essential to the Revolution, so the belief that they would attempt to do what was claimed was not without a basis in fact. It was also to contribute to the continued numbers of Moroccans who offered themselves to serve in the new units raised during the Civil War too.

Once the Moroccans were transported to Spain, their skills were in high demand. They were feared for their field craft, which allowed them to reputedly cross even open terrain almost unseen. The discovery of Republican sentries with their throats slit and often other mutilations, all added to their reputation. The rebel commanders also appear to have turned a blind eye to incidences of rape and looting by the Moroccans. It must be said that how much of this was true and how much was Republican propaganda, is open to question however. Nevertheless given incidents elsewhere, the fate of a Miliciana captured by the Moroccans was unlikely to have been pleasant to say the least.

Despite their savagery, exaggerated or otherwise, the Moroccans were hard fighters and seemingly without fear. When the Nationalists began offering a 500 Peseta bounty for captured Republican tanks, it was the Moroccans who first began stalking them with crowbars and Molotov cocktails. While 500 Pesetas was not to be refused by Spaniards, for the Moroccans it was a small fortune that could be sent home to their families. The Moroccan troops fought with equal measure of bravery and savagery throughout the Civil War, largely in conjunction with the Foreign Legion units they were traditionally brigaded with in Morocco. While the Legion gained the best of what was available regarding equipment, the Moroccans continued to receive the same standard of equipment they always had.

This list can be used to create either a wholly Moroccan force of Regulares, Tiradors or Mehal’la, or one which is benefiting from the support of the Legion units it is brigaded with. In certain theatres the Moroccans fought alongside ordinary Peninsular formations, as well as Requetés and Falangists. With that in mind the option exists to field Moroccan units in those lists. The Moroccan forces remained unchanged throughout the Civil War, so this list is suitable from July 1936 to the end of the Civil War in 1939.

You can download the list here: CoC – Regulares

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