Some Spaniards were in British service during WW2.
I am not aware of any British units comprised completely of Spaniards. But many Spanish individuals fought as part of British formations. All these British units had Spaniards in the ranks:
- 50 Middle East Commando; 1941
- D battalion of Layforce; Crete 1942
- 1 Special Service Regiment
- 2nd Special Air Service (SAS)
- Long Range Desert Group
Antonio Fajardo sent in a table from Arasa’s book Los Espanoles de Churchill.
|Unit(s)||Date Formation/Joining||Where Formed/Joined|
|185th Spanish Labour Company (Royal Engineers)||December 1939||France|
|87th to 120th Spanish Labour Companies||1940||France|
|No 1 Spanish Company (Pioneer Corps)||1940||France/UK|
|50th Middle East Commandos (Queens Royal Regiment)||August 1940||Egypt|
|1st Special Regiment||1941||Egypt|
|Queens Royal Regiment (Surrey)||1942||North Africa|
| Pioneer Corps
||All formed between April and August 1943||North Africa|
2nd Special Air Service (SAS)
Philip Williams emailed to say …
Just to let you know that a small contingent of Spaniards served in the 2nd Special Air Service during World War II. One even won the military medal for gallantry. My grand father was one of them. the names I know of are as follows:
Francisco Geronimo (pte Frank Williams)
Rafael Ramos MM (pte no name change)
Justo Balerdi ( pte Robert Bruce KIA Operation Tombola 1945)
Just thought you might be interested
Please get in contact if you have more information. I’m sure I haven’t found all the units and I always appreciate more details about the ones already on the list.
Philip Williams and Antonio Fajardo sent information about Spaniards fighting with the British.
And I am indeed. Philip (citing Messenger, Young & Rose, 1988) explained that most of these men started in 50 Middle East Commando in 1940. 62 members of this unit were amalgamated into D battalion of Layforce on Crete. Most of D battalion were captured when the Germans landed but some escaped or went on the run. Of those who escaped some went to 1 Special Service Regiment and from there onto 2nd SAS. Philip’s grandfather was one who got off Crete in 1942, went to 1 Special Service Regiment, and then to the SAS.
Philip recommends two books:
- Messenger, C., Young, G., and Rose, S. (1988). The Middle East Commandos. Towbridge, Wiltshire: William Kimber
- Landsborough, G. (1956). Tobruk Commando. Cassell. ISBN: 1853670251.
Long Range Desert Group
Individual Spaniards may have served in the Long Range Desert Group but I need a reference for this. If they did I suspect they were ex-Republicans from the Spanish Civil War, drafted by the French, but who escaped the 1940 debacle.
50th Middle East Commando
Antonio Fajardo commented on this:
Just came across your page whilst looking for some updates on the 50th Middle East Commandos. My late father was one of the 62-65 Spaniards mentioned by Phillip Williams. They had all fought in the Republican Army during the Spanish Civil War and had been recruited by the French Army in refugee camps located in the South of France during 1939. They were either ex-Legion or, like my father, ex-11eme Bataillon de Marche stationed in French mandated Syria and Lebanon.
There is a very good Spanish book called “Los Espanoles de Churchill” by Daniel Arasa, which covers most units in the British Army where Spaniards served. If you are interested I can detail these for you. [I’ve included the table above ST.]
There were also a large contingent of Basque sailors in the British Merchant Navy and a few Spaniards in the RAF. The Royal Navy had strict rules regarding foreign personnel.
Books to look up
Arasa, D. (??). Los Espanoles de Churchill.
Messenger, C., Young, G., and Rose, S. (1988). The Middle East Commandos. Towbridge, Wiltshire: William Kimber
Landsborough, G. (1956). Tobruk Commando. Cassell. ISBN: 1853670251.