International Brigades order of battle

International Brigades order of battle

The International Brigades (IB) were volunteer military units who fought on the side of the Second Spanish Republic during the Spanish Civil War. The volunteers were motivated to fight on political or social grounds and made their way to Spain independently. The brigades were not initially formally conceived and methodically recruited. Instead, they evolved as a means of organising the streams of volunteers arriving from every quarter of the world. It has been estimated that up to 25% of IB volunteers were Jewish. ["Sugarman" pp 1-2] This article describes the order of battle of each of the International Brigades, describing the order and manner in which each brigade was mustered and formed, and following the progress of individual battalions throughout the conflict.


Early International units

The first volunteers arrived in Spain in Mid-August 1936. These were mostly Franco-Belgian, German, British and Italian. At first, they grouped themselves into sections, called "Columns" or "Centuria" (nominally of a hundred men). These were mostly formed in August/September 1936.
* The Tom Mann Centuria, named after English trade unionist leader Tom Mann, became part of the Thaelmann Battalion
* The Thaelmann Centuria (the nucleus of the Thaelmann Battalion), named for Ernst Thälmann.
* Centuria Gastone Sozzi, named for Gastone Sozzi
* Rosselli's Italian Column
* Colonna Giustizia e Liberté

Brigade structure

Each brigade consisted of four battalions, sometimes with an ancillary specialist support company. They had a brigade commander and a political commissar, and a small brigade staff. Initially, the battalions were formed entirely of foreign volunteers but, increasingly, it became practice to have at least one Spanish battalion in each brigade (and, from Spring 1937, one Spanish company in each battalion). As time went on, and the difficulties of recruiting new international volunteers increased, the percentage of Spaniards went up. At first, these were volunteers but conscription was later introduced. The brigades were formally incorporated into the Spanish Army in September 1937, as Spanish Foreign Legion units ["Thomas (2001)", p759 ] .

Battalion structure

The battalions were originally organised by language, with volunteers sharing the same (or similar languages) and given names that reflected the groups. To develop an esprit de corps, these names were replaced by names of inspirational figures or events, for example, "Garibaldi", or "Commune de Paris".

"Theoretically, the Battalion organisation consisted of the Battalion Commander, his Second in Command, the Political Commissar, the Adjutant and orderly room staff, three Companies of infantry, one machine-gun Company, Battalion scouts, and the Quartermaster and cookhouse staff. There were three platoons in each company, each divided into [four] sections of ten men, so that the Battalion at full strength would number more than 500 men...." ["Gurney (1974)" p. 64]

Political commissars

International brigade depots

*Albacete - Headquarters
*Madrigueras - Training camp
*Tiflis - Officer training school ["Beevor (2006)", p. 163]
*Camp Lukácz - Penal battalion

XI International Brigade

* The Hans Beimler Brigade (after Hans Beimler)
* The Thälmann Brigade (after Ernst Thälmann) Songs:
*de icon [ "Hans Beimler Lied"]
*de icon [ "Lied von XI Brigade"] ("Song of the XIth Brigade")
*de icon [ "Lied der XI Brigade"] Or "Ballade" or "Marsch der XI Brigade")

Detailed Order of Battle
*es icon [ EPR Order of Battle Website]
*es icon [ Associació Catalana Website]


*Formed at Albacete: 14-17 October 1936 as IX "Brigada Movil" ("Mobile Brigade").
** 1st Bn Franco-Belgian (14 Oct 1936)
** 2nd Bn Austro-German (14 Oct 1936)
** 3rd Bn Italo-Spanish (14 Oct 1936)
** 4th Bn Polish-Balkan (17 Oct 1936)

*Re-Organised: 14-22 October 1936 as XI "Hans Beimler" International Brigade". The battalions were renamed as follows:
** Commune de Paris Battalion (after the Paris Commune. (Formerly 1st Franco-Belge)
** Edgar André Battalion (after Edgar André). (Formerly 2nd Austro-German)
** Garibaldi Battalion (after Giuseppe Garibaldi). (Formerly 3rd Italo-Español)
** Dabrowski Battalion (pronounced Dombrowski), (after Jarosław Dąbrowski). (Formerly 4th Polish-Balkan)

*Minor Re-Organisation: 3 November 1936
** Garibaldi Battalion, as it had no rifles, was transferred to 12th Brigade
** Thaelmann Battalion joined XI Brigade from XII Brigade
** Asturias-Heredia Battalion (Spanish) joined XI Brigade.

Brigade staff

:Main Sources: (i) es icon [ EPR Order of Battle Website] , (ii) es icon [ Associació Catalana Website]

*Sub-battalion units attached to Brigade
**Brigade Anti-Tank Company
**John Brown
**XVth Brigade Photographic Unit (Aug 1937-Sep 1938) [ Archive]

*Re-organised May/June 1937, into two regiments:
**First regiment, commanded by George Nathan ["Thomas (1961)", p460]
*** Lincoln Bn, commanded by Robert Hale Merriman
*** Washington Bn
*** British Bn, commanded by Fred Copeman
**Second regiment, commanded by Major "Chapaiev" ["Thomas (1961)", p461]
*** Dimitrov Battalion
*** Sixth February Battalion
*** Voluntario 24 Battalion (Spanish) (Capitano Aquilla) [] Combat use of BT-5 in Spain (Боевое применение танков БТ-5 в Испании)]

*Post-Brunete, reinforced by:
** Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion

** Barcelona, 23 September 1938

Other International Brigades

86th Brigade

Raised 13 Feb 1938
*Units that formed part of the Brigade at different times:
**Veinte Battalion (Twentieth Brigade)

CXXIX / 129th Brigade

Name/s: Central European BrigadeRaised 13 Feb 1938
*Units that formed part of the Brigade at different times:
**Dimitrov Battalion
**Djure Djakovic Battalion
**Thomas Mazaryk Battalion (after Tomáš Masaryk)
**Tschapaiew Battalion

CL / 150th Brigade

Name/s: Dabowski BrigadeRaised 27 May 1937
*Units that formed part of the Brigade at different times:
**André Marty Battalion (after André Marty)
**Mathis Rakosi Battalion (after Mátyás Rákosi)

Ad-hoc units

*Agrupació Torunczyk (21 Jan 1939-9 Feb 1939)
**Elements from XI, XIII and XV Brigades
Catalonia Offensive

*Agrupació Szuster (1 Feb 1939-9 Feb 1939)
**Elements from XII and CXXIX Brigades
Catalonia Offensive

Notes and references

*Jason Gurney, "Crusade in Spain", 1974.
*Antony Beevor, "The Battle for Spain", 2006
*Hugh Thomas, "The Spanish Civil War", 1961 (1st Ed.)
*Hugh Thomas, "The Spain Civil War", 2001 (4th Ed.)
*Martin Sugarman, "Jews Who Served in The Spanish Civil War" [ PDF file]
*Frank Ryan(ed.)"The Book of the XV Brigade", 1938. Reprinted by Warren and Pell, 2003. ( [] )
*William Rust, "Britons in Spain", 1939. Reprinted by Warren and Pell, 2003.
*O'Riordan, Michael."The Connolly Column", 1979. Reprinted by Warren and Pell, 2005.

ee also

Foreign Legion

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