Out of the entirety of the Spanish Army, the Tercio de Marruecos (Regiment of Morocco), more famously to become La Legión (The Legion), was the best trained, best-equipped and most-motivated of all at the beginning of the Civil War. The force was composed wholly of volunteers prior to the Civil War, although as casualties mounted, it was necessary to replace losses with the same conscripts who filled out the rest of the Nationalist forces. While this led to a degree of decline in the quality of Legion units, in comparison with that at the beginning of the conflict, it was to remain the effective elite ‘spear head’ force of the Nationalist Army throughout the conflict.
In comparison to the rest of the Army, the Legion was the only formation which had its full complement of personnel and its full allocation of weapons. When these needed to be replaced, substitutions had been made from Peninsular stocks, which further reduced the weapons held by those units. As German and Italian weapons began to arrive in Spain, the Legion got its pick of them and its older equipment was passed down to other units. By the end of the Civil War, the Legion was almost entirely equipped with German and Italian machine guns, anti-tank guns and other weapons.
While the Legion’s Reputation has experienced some exaggeration, much like that of the Moroccan units they usually fought alongside, there is an element of truth to support that reputation. The root of that reputation lies within the culture perpetuated within the Legion, which began the second its recruits passed through the gates of its barracks. The formation’s commander, José Millán-Astray y Terreros, had developed what was virtually a religious cult within his command, which he had also imbued into his former subordinate Francisco Franco. Building on both Spanish Catholic and Spanish Imperial traditions, Millan-Astray developed the idea within the Legion that they were the Bridegrooms of Death (Novios de la muerte) and that self-sacrifice for the glory of Spain, was the ideal that his men should be striving for.
Millan-Astray, himself having lost an eye and an arm in service was vehemently anti-socialist, by the terms of the day an ardent fascist and possibly insane. How much of his philosophy was taken onboard by his men is open to question, but given the casualties taken during the early months of the civil war in particular, as well as their constant use as shock troops throughout the War, it can be imagined that it was certainly very influential. Although derived from a different perspective, the nearest comparable analogy is that of the early Waffen SS and its unswerving belief in its own and its cause’s superiority.
That belief was of course dangerous. Despite there being a Spanish tactical doctrine that included the same concepts as any military manual elsewhere in the world at that time, the Legion favoured frontal assaults. The attack on the town of Badajoz is perhaps the epitome of the futility of the Legion’s doctrine (albeit that it is hard not to frontally assault a walled town).
Over several hours, successive waves of Legionarios attempted to storm the gate of La Puerta de la Trinidad, which was held by Loyalist Carabineros, reinforced with machine guns. Losses amongst the IV Bandera were colossal; the 16th Company alone was reduced to just one Captain, one Corporal and twelve men, from the ninety or so that had begun the assault. While the assault was ultimately successful, other troops had already entered the city at different points and with somewhat more subtlety. There was of course a price for the defenders to pay for such losses and the Legion spared no one as it advanced into the centre of the town.
This list can be used to create a platoon of the Legion, complete with the supporting elements it established, largely thanks to German and Italian support and training. The Legion was seen as the premier formation by the Nationalists and is perhaps the ideal that other units sought to emulate. With the exception of some elements of the Moroccan units it so closely worked with, the force is almost entirely composed of Legion units. While Legion units can be found in other lists as support, the Legion list itself gives a quite strong platoon in relation to others of the period, being very much a case of quality and not quantity.
You can download the list here: CoC – Legion
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