Chain of Command Espana: The Nationalist Army
The main difficulty faced by the Nationalist Army was providing sufficient support weapons to its infantry formations. Although it had been able to equip the Falangists, Requetés and other volunteers with rifles, many of its regular units, outside the Army of Africa at least, were themselves short of mortars and automatic weapons. Initially the various militias and volunteers had simply been incorporated into existing regular formations to bring them up to their full wartime complement, although they largely retained their own organisational structures at first.
However there were soon so many volunteers, that they were able to form additional battalions of their own and these formations lacked automatic weapons, mortars and other support weapons. The short term solution was to detach some of these elements from existing regular formations, to supply these units with at least some support. The risk with this strategy was that it could make any contribution these weapons could offer somewhat worthless across the board, rather than just a portion of the army. There were already formations with the equivalent of ten battalions that were supported by as few as twelve field guns and any major readjustment might make the situation worse.
The solution was to essentially divide the army into divisions which were formally designated as either ‘offensive’ or ‘defensive’ divisions. The offensive divisions were to contain largely regular formations, while the defensive divisions were to have more militia units than regular; some were even wholly composed of militia. At the same time, the militias were to be militarized, so as to adopt a common organisational structure, which conformed with that of the regulars. With increasing supplies of German and Italian weapons arriving on almost a monthly basis, the regulars began to pass down increasing numbers of their older weaponry to equip the militias.
The process was begun in December 1936, although some units had already begun the process. While the organisational structure was changed, the militia formations retained their rank and unit designations. A Falange unit was still divided into Banderas, Centurias and Falanges, and were still commanded by ‘Jefes’, but these were now the size of Battalions, Companies and Sections. More suitable officers were provided by the regulars, by virtue of what amounted to ‘field commissions’ amongst senior non-commissioned officers, combined with various promotions of officers across the whole of the army. This resulted in former sergeants becoming platoon leaders overnight, former company commanders now leading battalions and so on up the hierarchy.
The typical battalion (or Bandera, Tercio, Tabor etc.) structure was now four rifle companies and a machine gun company, or at least a machine gun platoon at worst. Each rifle company was ideally to be supported by a mortar section of two 50mm mortars and the battalion retained a two 81mm mortar section, and in the regular formations at least, a 70mm infantry gun. The somewhat confused first few months had separated battalions from their parent regiments, so battalions were now formed in groups (agrupaciones), groups into brigades and brigades into divisions.
A division was ideally supposed to consist of twelve battalions, but some had as few as six or eight. One infantry battalion might be replaced by a machine gun battalion (four machine gun companies and one rifle company) in some divisions. There were supposed to be two artillery groups (ideally one of 75mm and one of 105mm), each of three batteries, with four guns per battery, as well as the usual engineer, supply and other ‘tail’ services. Divisional reconnaissance was provided by the addition of; a cavalry squadron (often with one of its regiment’s machine gun platoons if it was a regular unit), or a mounted militia unit, or a ‘motorised cavalry’ company (essentially an infantry company organized like the cavalry, but equipped with vehicles).
Armoured and anti-tank units were in short supply, but either the Nationalists own, or Italian or German units could be temporarily attached, usually as complete companies, to support an attack. The presence of these units was dictated by wherever the main Nationalist war effort was being directed at any particular time. In late 1936 and early 1937, this was around Madrid (except for the brief campaign to take Malaga by the first elements of the CTV), but this shifted to the North after mid-1937 and towards the Aragon Front in 1938.
This list enables a somewhat generic Nationalist Rifle or Machine Gun Platoon to be fielded, suitable to represent any of the various types within the army. The Legion and Moroccans had taken heavy casualties in the first few months of the War and the replacements received were not always volunteers nor had they received the same standard of training. The replacements did however get placed within existing units led by experienced soldiers and the ‘esprit de corps’ is likely to have been preserved. How much this sets them apart from the Requetés of the Navarre Brigades, who were also considered to be elites, is up to the player to decide.
The Moroccans could certainly still retain their aggressiveness and the influence of the Caíd, even if they are downgraded from their previous elite status. In the same manner a ‘regular’ Legion platoon could still benefit from its own special characteristics, but their effectiveness is somewhat blunted as a result. The Requetés still appear to have retained their aggressiveness, but experience was tempered by losses, resulting in no real change otherwise.
The Falange and Regular Army units would be hard to tell apart by this time, except for uniform details. Their losses were both replaced from the same pool of conscripts and their leaders either gained experience and promotion, or died and were replaced by those below them. That being said, anyone who had risen to command a platoon had gained valuable experience before being elevated to that position, exactly how much depending on how able his predecessor had been and the amount of action the unit had experienced. Even officers transferred in from the newly established academies had mostly gained a place there as junior or non-commissioned officers in the earlier battles.
Here is the list for the Nationalist Army: CoC – Nationalist