Anthony J. Candil, Tank combat in Spain, Armored warfare during the Spanish Civil War 1936 – 1939 (Casemate, 2021)
Anthony Candil was a career tanker in the Spanish army and brings his expertise to this slightly neglected subject. It is taken as gospel that the Spanish Civil War was a testing ground for the major powers, but Candil challenges this and other assumptions about the war. He sets out his case that the war had more effect on tank design than on tactics while accepting that the Spanish terrain is very different from the Steppe or North Africa.
The chapters start with the origins and beginnings of the war, through organisation and structure, foreign intervention, etc in a straightforward narrative. Candil examines the use of armour by both sides and tactical deployment both good and bad. He ends with an appraisal of equipment and armament produced and used on a country by country basis, examining the Soviet Union, Italian and German tanks, setting out the advantages and disadvantages of all.
There are a number of things which were new to me, possibly because unlike most writers in English, Candil has examined sources in Spanish that may have been inaccessible to others. Want to know how to disable a Soviet tank using only two blankets? This book will tell you how, though it only works if the tanks don’t have infantry support. Candil also makes the interesting point that despite the Nationalist tanks being markedly inferior to the Soviet supplied Republican ones, they tended to take fewer casualties due to better tactics and the development of anti-tank tactics and weapons. In Candil’s view, these combined arms groups were more the predecessor of WW2 tactics than the tanks themselves.
My one criticism would be that occasionally Candil’s politics seep out; he was after all an officer who joined the army ten years before Franco’s death. The Republic is described as “Red” and he also claims that “there was no real democracy on the Republican side” even though they were the elected government. Despite being a career Spanish army officer, Candil is now a US citizen and lives in the South. That said, this is a very useful book for anyone with an interest in armour in the war as it comprehensively covers the organisation and use of armour by the Republic, the Nationalists, and intervention forces.
This book runs to 240 pages, including 20 pages of endnotes and an extensive bibliography. There are numerous photos and though they tend to be similar and generic, for example “Pz I in a Spanish town”, they are good for both modellers and wargamers. The Spanish Civil War sometimes seems to be approaching saturation point with books, and many cover the same well-trodden ground, but with this book Candil brings fresh insights and new information to the debate. This book is a worthwhile investment for any wargamer with an interest in the period and might cause some to rethink their assumptions on armour and its use. Reviewed by Jim Graham