The use of panzers in Spain by the nationalist forces became a key factor for victory on the ground during the civil war. These panzers were all based on the PzKpfw I and the variants that participated were the PzKpfw I (Panzer 1) Sd. Kfz. 101 Ausf. A & B and the converted command/radio car the Sd. Kfz. 265 Panzerbefehlswagen 1 (Radio/command version).
All of these tanks were lightly armoured and only had two MG34 machine guns in a fully traversable turret (the command version had a single MG34 in a fixed superstructure). This meant that they were ineffective against enemy tanks and were mainly used against infantry.
The PzKpfw I’s were used by the Condor Legion in Spain and began arriving in October 1936, this initial shipment consisted of 32 PzKpfw I’s and a single Sd. Kfz. 265 Panzerbefehlswagen 1. Shipments would continue throughout the war and a total of 106 panzers (102 PzKpfw I A & B’s and 4 Sd. Kfz. 265 Panzerbefehlswagen 1’s) would be used during the conflict.
Sd. Kfz. 265 Panzerbefehlswagen 1 Ausf. B, Pictures: leadwarrior.com
Panzer 1 Ausf. B, Picture: militaryimages.net
PzKpfw I Ausf. A, as these pictures show its very hard to see the camouflage due to the quality of cameras.
They saw service with Pz.Abt.88 (Tank Battalion 88) & Franco’s Nationalist tank forces. Pz.Abt.88 was based at Cubas near Toledo where the German troops trained the Spanish crews, the battalion also took part in the assault on Madrid. Two Nationalist tank battalions were equipped with Panzer 1’s and these battalions were used as a test bed for tactics by the German commanders, these new tactics would later form the basis of the devastating Blitzkrieg.
Unfortunately the PzKpfw I in all its variants was woefully inadequate by 1936, they were no match for the Republican (Soviet supplied) T-26 & BT-5 and were only useful in an infantry support role. A number of PzKpfw I’s were captured by the Republicans and these were rearmed with Hotchkiss 25mm antitank guns. Some modifications were carried out by the Nationalist forces with the Italian Breda 1935 anti-aircraft gun being installed in a modified turret.
PzKpfw I Ausf. A mit 20mm Flak L/65 Breda Model 1935
The Panzers used in Spain were all camouflaged, although most pictures don’t show this clearly. The German Reichs-Ausshuss für Lieferbedingungen (RAL) (Reich Committee for Terms of Delivery) standardised paint for military vehicles from the 1920’s. The colours determined for the pre war period were RAL Nr. 17 Erdgelb-matt (matte earth yellow), RAL Nr. 18 Braun-matt (matte brown), and RAL Nr. 28 Grün-matt (matte green) and were painted in the Buntfarbenanstrich (colourful paint pattern).
These colours were sprayed on to vehicles in a wavy pattern and sometimes had a black border to each colour. This continued up to the Summer of 1937 when it was superseded by the more recognisable early war pattern with a base of Dunkelgrau Nr. 46 (dark grey) and Dunkelbraun Nr. 45 (dark brown). This scheme was only used on new vehicles but in the Winter of 1938 it was ordered that all vehicles would be painted in the new scheme.
PzKpfw I Ausf. A, artistic impression of the camouflage markings, Picture courtesy of elgrancapitan.org
Star Decals also have good references for the Spanish Panzers
It is very unlikely that any of the Spanish Panzers wore anything other than the three tone early war camouflage, possibly some late replacements in 1938/39 would have been in the grey/brown scheme. The three tone camouflage would have been applied with the green as the base, the brown and yellow would then be applied on top.