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"SCW Tank Actions... many? what did they teach?" Topic

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Stalkey and Co27 Apr 2023 5:39 p.m. PST

Wondering how the trials with tanks went during the SCW.

Wiki says that about 500 tanks were employed in the war, and I'm wondering if there were any significant actions with them, including tank on tank, tank forces breaching infantry lines, etc.

Where they concentrated for attacks, or spread out to bolster weak infantry formations?

Wiki didn't have much on it.

Part of me thinks that poor training and command structures probably resulted in no decisive moments, but I'm still curious.

Appreciate your info and insights!

Legionarius27 Apr 2023 6:06 p.m. PST

Many of the tanks were really tin cans with machine guns. The German gunners of the Kondor Legion discovered that the anti-aircraft 88mm gun was great as a tank killer.

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP27 Apr 2023 6:19 p.m. PST

Read this:


Basically, penny packets of armor, Russian tanks were extremely unreliable but had the best gun, so Franco used all of the ones he could capture. No one drew any worthwhile conclusions, and the Italians still thought their tankettes were fine when the war was over. The German advisors started to experiment with combining armor platoons together to make relatively significant armor concentrations, but a lot of the armor was crap. I believe the German high command said that there was not enough armored combat to draw any significant conclusions.

Makhno191827 Apr 2023 6:25 p.m. PST

Both sides had a few tanks to start the war (French light tanks left over from the Rif War). The first major actions with tank groups occurred in the run up to the battle of Madrid in the fall of 1936, when Soviet tanks and crews punched through nationalist lines and ended up facing off with Italian tanks and crews. Here's a scenario, from Balagan's campaign, on the engagement:


Stalkey and Co27 Apr 2023 7:07 p.m. PST

a bullet-proof tin can with machine guns is pretty good when the other side has nothing but close assault and hurled insults.

Note that we use armored Humvees in Afghanistan based upon the same principle. Toss in Strykers for that matter.

That being said, training and coordination with foot infantry is important.

Martin Rapier28 Apr 2023 1:12 a.m. PST

Pavlovs Tank Brigade, mainly equipped with T26s, did tend to get used as a single unit, but in the main the various tanks and other AFVs were parcelled out in company and platoon sized units for infantry support.

The Nationalists had the bulk of MG armed tanks, but they were increasingly ungraded with 20mm autocannon and supplemented with captured T26. The gun armed T26 and heavier Russian armoured cars were Kings of the battlefield, for a while, as AT guns were vanishingly rare.

I'd really read a book or two rather than Wikipedia for the SCW.

Stalkey and Co28 Apr 2023 6:56 a.m. PST

Yeah Martin, I got one very specific recommendation on the SCW tanks from above.

The real issue is AT weapons – not even the questionable ATRs are available…

d88mm194028 Apr 2023 11:04 a.m. PST

I do remember reading two interesting tales of tanks in the SCW:
Laying dinner plates in the road, leaving 1 or 2 partially uncovered, resembled a hasty minefield.
On another occasion, the retreating forces needed to buy some time, so they draped an opaque sheet across the street in a town, between 2 buildings.
The tankers stopped. They couldn't see past it so doubt clouded their minds! What to do?
So, they started firing at the sheet and eventually it fell down. The tanks then cautiously moved forward and continued their advance.
I don't remember the source as it was maybe 20-30 years ago.

Martin Rapier28 Apr 2023 1:32 p.m. PST

"The real issue is AT weapons"

Well yes, there aren't any. A few anti tank guns. Most of the tanks were only bullet proof so a direct hit from a field gun would demolish one. AP bullets worked OK as well at close range.

The sheet story is also one I've seen.

Major B28 Apr 2023 3:06 p.m. PST

The International Tank Regt. led an assault at Fuentes de Ebro with men of the 59th BN (Spanish) riding the tanks. Due to a failure to recon the battlefield many of the tanks became stuck or were unable to cross broken ground. A small number of men and tanks made it into the town but they were quickly hunted down. The infantry the tanks were supposed to lead were left behind and the infantry soon had to go to ground. That is the largest tank battle I am aware of. The battle occurred on 15 October 1937.

Martin Rapier30 Apr 2023 6:06 a.m. PST

Lots of info on SCW tank operations here: link

MacColla30 Apr 2023 6:43 a.m. PST

Another recommendation for the Candil book in the link above – excellent account.

PeterEm30 Apr 2023 7:08 a.m. PST

"The real issue is AT weapons"
Well yes, there aren't any." Not all contemporaries believed that. Tom Wintringham, first Commander of the British Battalion of the International Brigade, left Spain thinking anti-tank weaponry in the SCW had demonstrated total superiority over the tank. In 1939 he wrote:"any soldier who has seen anti-tank guns in action against tanks is likely to agree that tanks cannot again break up the deadlock of position warfare."

Martin Rapier30 Apr 2023 11:20 p.m. PST

OK, yes there were, but in small numbers. The cutting edge AT guns of the time (Soviet and German) cut swathes through the bullet proof tanks of the time. Iirc the Germans sent around 100 Pak36, which doesn't go very far across dozens of divisions.

The losses of T26s to AT guns ws one thing which prompted Soviet designers to develop a "shell proof tank', which later bevithe T34.

There weren't any anti tank rifles or infantry HEAT weapons, just AP bullets.

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