The experience of the first World War convinced the great strategists of Europe that the future of the war lay in the hands of the tanks, but not of the big and slow hulks, but of those light tanks like the Renault FT-17, very agile and armed with a rotating turret, which could attack like a “swarm of bees” and even surprise the enemy from their rear.
The first battle tank acquired by the country of Alfonso XIII was precisely the Renault FT-17, which arrived in Madrid on June 23, 1919. The vehicle was subjected to a series of tests at the Central Shooting School of Carabanchel (Madrid), witnessing some
of them by the King, and the original machine gun was replaced by another 7-millimeter endowment. Half a dozen light tanks, along with as many Schneider CA-1 assault tanks, also French but heavier, laid the foundations at the armored point of the Army.
A model superior to the French
The Renault FT-17 behaved perfectly in the African wars, which required traveling thousands of poorly communicated kilometers, but relying on a single manufacturer did not make the Spanish government a hair of grace. That is why he tried to get similar cars from other brands, including the Italian car Fiat 3000-A, and even make your own. According to Dionisio García in a 2008 article in Serga magazine, the drivers of this first Spanish tank, the Trubia A-4, were Captain Carlos Ruiz de Toledo and the master of the Trubia Artillery Factory, Rogelio Areces, who were convinced that the Renault FT-17 could be easily improved. From the Army there were many officers who demanded more firepower and not depend on a single frontal weapon.
After visiting several European countries, Ruiz de Toledo collected a large number of ideas and in 1925 got down to work with the first prototype, without institutional support but with the complicity of the Asturian factory in Trubia. The prototype made a good impression in Madrid, where it was exhibited at the Trade Fair and then it was dismantled.
In an ABC chronicle of February 13, 1931, signed by Sánchez-Ocaña, the advantages of the Spanish tank with its double rotating turret, panoramic viewer and a Hispano Suiza 40/50 engine four-cylinder, compared to other models:
«It outperforms the French of a similar type in war power and speed. The Frenchman mounts two machine guns; ours, three and a cannon. The Frenchman runs at three miles an hour; ours reaches 23. There are still these advantages: ours has a double dome, and each one rotates independently; the Frenchman, with a single sight opening, goes almost blind; ours, with the panoramic viewing device on the periscope, dominates a huge distance in a semicircle. ‘
The Trubia incorporated a special turret with a machine gun on each flank, which avoided relying on a single offensive weapon. In addition, the hull of the vehicle incorporated portholes, which allowed the crew to fire through them from inside the tank. Between 1926 and 1927 four prototypes of this car were built that solved the problems of derailment of the tracks with frames. The idea was to manufacture twelve units, but the Spanish industry was not in a position to assemble large quantities. In addition, the project ran into the political instability of the country.
Chariots and the Civil War
At the outbreak of the Civil War, the Army had a total of ten FT-17s, which were distributed between nationals and Republicans almost equally; a single Fiat 3000A in service, which was disassembled to use its parts; six Schneider CA1 assault tanks, which the republican army used during the siege of the Alcázar of Toledo and the first defenses of Madrid; and four Trubia A-4 tanks armed only with machine guns. Three of these prototypes were in the hands of the nationals, while a fourth went to the People’s Army of the Republic, according to data from Dionisio García, author of ‘Trubia: The First Spanish Combat Tank’ (Almena).
On the national side, Trubia’s cars were disarmed and ramshackle to serve as reinforcement in barricades. The only one who survived on the Northern Front was sent to Seville without ever being heard from again. The Trubia factoryFor his part, he remained loyal to the republican government and maintained the production of arms and ammunition, not without difficulties due to the isolation of the region. From this factory and that of Sestao, in Bilbao, more than fifty model cars were built (the “Trubia 1936” or the “Trubia-Naval”) based on the original prototype and improvised versions of the Renault FT-17.