Spanish Blue Division Military and Feldpost History

    Division Española de Voluntarios

    Spanish Card

    Introduction: When the news of the German invasion of Russia reached Spain on 22 June 1941, the Spanish Foreign Minister Ramon Serrano Suñer offered the German Ambassador Eberhard von Stohrer military assistance from the "Falange" (Spanish Fascist Party) and the Army.

    This offer was provided in return for Germany's military contribution and of Russia's involvement in the Spanish civil war.

    Initially Hitler tried to convince Franco in directing a formal declaration of war against Russia. However, at that time Spain needed recuperation from the civil war conflict that had devastated the country. In addition a formal alliance with Germany would result in a grain and oil embargo from Great Britain. Franco compromised with Hitler, by opening recruiting offices all over Spain for volunteers who wanted to fight against communism. When the recruiting stations were closed on 2 July 1941, the number of volunteers exceeded more than the 18,000 men required. The excess personnel were enlisted as replacement troops during the summers of 1942 and 1943.

    Spanish Card

    Spanish Blue Division

    The General Staff issued a directive on 28 June 1941 to the commanders of the various military regions in Spain and Spanish Morocco, which laid down the terms for recruitment. The volunteers were used to form the "Division Española de Voluntarios" (Spanish Division of Volunteers).
    The volunteers were to be enlisted for the duration of the campaign. All officers above the rank of second lieutenant were to be army regulars.

    The division was structured according to the traditional Spanish model with four infantry regiments, each bearing the name of their commanding officer. However since the German Infantry Division had only three regiments, the Spaniards had to reorganize and place the excess personnel in reserve. Each regiment was composed of units from different military regions.
    Falange In early July, a Spanish Military Commission was sent to the Reserve Headquarters in Berlin to discuss the structure and organization of the German Division. The Spaniards advised the Germans that they were recruiting a division of 640 officers, 2272 NCOs and 15,780 troops. The Spaniards discovered that the Germans required at least 580 NCOs more and about 100 fewer officers. In addition the Germans demanded their own transportation of 300 trucks and 400 motorcycles.

    On July 7, after much delegating between the Spanish Commission and both the German and Spanish Embassies, the commander-in-chief of the reserve army, General Fritz Fromm informed the Spaniards that the Reich would bear all costs of the Spanish Division. The troops would be combat paid, dependents allowance, hospitalization and free franking privileges. The logistic support required to support the Blue Division was provided by the German Wehrmacht. By August 21, 18,000 troops 5610 horses and 765 vehicles were assembled and loaded into freight cars to a camp at Grafenwohr in Bavaria under the leadership of General Agustin Mu�Grandes.

    These troops were immediately outfitted in German uniforms (with the Spanish national arm shield inscribed "ESPAÑA" placed on their right shoulder). It was officially named the 250th Infantry Division but commonly known as the Spanish Blue Division.

    The division was broken up into three regiments, the remainder were distributed among the regiments This division was composed of Army and Falangist personnel who were accustomed to wearing blue shirts. Barely a month in Grafenwohr, the Blue Division traveled by train to an assembly area between Treeburg and Grodno in Belorussia.
    Falange By early September the Blue Division was assigned to Army Group Center and was ordered to take part in "Operation Typhoon" the assault on Moscow. After taking some action in Vilna, the division was reassigned to Army Group North, 16th Army. The 16th Army held the right flank of Army Group North from Lake Seliger in the south to Lake Ladoga in the north.
    By October 1941, the division was assigned to I Corps, which was deployed along the front line between Novgorod and Lake Ilmen. The divisional staff had its headquarters at Grigorovo, thereafter it was based in the outskirts of Leningrad. The division fought well as part of a special task force under Army Group North's rear area commander, General Franz von Roques, which struck eastward between Novgorod and Chudovo. The Blue Division fought a stubborn defense of Novgorod, an action that earned Gen. Muñoz Grandes an Iron Cross 1st Class. He later was awarded the Knight's Cross and Oak Leaves.

    In January 1942, Franco ordered the Spanish Ambassador Maryalde to pressure the Germans to pull the Blue Division out of the line. The fierce Russian winter and a continuous series of Soviet counterattacks had caused heavy casualties to the division. Most of the original members of the division were withdrawn from the front lines after a year service. The replacements were usually professional-legionnaires or soldiers.

    During September 1942, the Blue Division was deployed to the Krasny Bor region. It was placed under the command of 18th Army. On December 12, command of the division was hand over to General Esteban Infantes.

    Spanish Card During February 1943, the Leningrad and Volkhod Fronts linked to form a corridor south of Lake Ladoga. On the eastern side, the Soviets launched an attack on the area from Kolpino to Krasny Bor, which was held by the 4th SS Police Division and the Blue Division. The town of Krasny Bor was defended by 5600 Spanish soldiers, which comprised of elements from the 262nd, 263rd and 269th regiments. Besides a few special units, which included a Dutch artillery unit, the artillery amounted to twenty four guns and no tanks.

    The Spanish Blue Division held off various attacks from three Soviet Rifle Divisions and two tank battalions, altogether 33,000 men, supported by sixty T-34s, several formations of anti-tank guns and 187 batteries of artillery. In the process, the Soviets succeeded in gaining two miles of ground and taking Krasni Bor. The Spaniards suffered 3645 total casualties, however the small territorial defensive cost the Soviets 11,000 casualties and were forced back by a German counter-attack in March.
    By spring 1943, 2000 Spanish replacements were being requested. The German 254th Division relieved the Blue division from defending Krasni Bor. The Blue Division withdrew to a quieter sector near Nikolajeska. Meanwhile, increasing pressure from the U.S. and Great Britain was being put on the Spanish Government. With the German defeat at Kursk and the fall of Mussolini, on July 25, Franco began looking for means to withdraw the Blue Division without risking retaliation from the Germans.

    By August 1943, the Blue Division withdrew from the front line prior to repatriation of the bulk of the troops. On October 17, the Blue Division withdrew from the Leningrad front to a reserve position behind Oranienbaum. General Esteban Infantes was awarded the Knight's Cross. The return of veterans to Spain was done with a minimum of ceremony and by November 163,347 men were quietly repatriated. General Esteban Infantes returned to Spain on 17 December 1943.

Spanish Card Spanish Card

Spanish Blue Division Eastern Front Propaganda Cards with sleeves.

Above are two sets of twelve cards each with sleeves that were printed and issued by the German Propaganda Ministry.
It should be noted that the French and Walloon Legion also had their own Eastern Front propaganda cards with sleeves made.

Postal History

Spanish volunteers who served with the German forces in Russia used the same Feldpost services as their fellow compatriots. On 19 August 1941 the Feldpost office of the Spanish Blue Division went into operation for both German and Spanish personnel.

During the early months of 1942 an agreement between both countries was set up to permit mail from both sides up to 100gms free of postal fees. Domestic rates were applied to mail above 100gms.
Use of Luftfeldpost stamps. On April 24, 1942, each soldier required one Luftfeldpost stamp for letters weighing up to 10gms.
From June 1943, two Luftfeldpost stamps were required for airmail. However airmail covers sent from Spain to Germany required a 2Pta.postal fee.

All Feldpost was censored, most common marking was a circular "Ab." Spain also applied their owned censorship markings. The Spanish government did not issue any special stamps or philatelic covers to commemorate the division, although it did issue postcards of the division. There were five sets of postcards, not different in composition but different in color: sepia, black on orange, greenish-blue and shades of these. Spanish representatives of the War Ministry in Madrid, authorized a special Spanish cachet to be used before 19 August 1941 for outgoing mail to the Eastern.

The Spanish Air Force, "Escuadrilla Azul" (Blue Squadron), also had the same postal privileges as their compatriots. There exist some scarce postal covers used by the Blue Squadron that were stamped with the Spanish Air Ministry cachet.

Spanish Card

Spanish Blue Division Feldpost with boxed "Sp"

From early 1942 to 1943, mail from the division received a routing marking in red consisting of boxed "Sp" letter, which signifies "Spanien" (Spanish). There are three sizes of boxed "Sp" markings: 13 x 19mm, 15 x 19mm and 33 x 36mm. Also this "Sp" is found handwritten in red pencil. These markings originated in the Feldpost Routing Office 734 in Riga, Latvia. In addition, a large and small size boxed letter "F" meaning Franchise, which was used on Blue Division military mail and Spaniards working in Germany or France. In the main Spanish post offices special boxes were set up inscribed "Correspondence for Spanish volunteers in Germany." Mail bearing these markings had Spanish stamps posted to them.

The following Feldpost numbers were assigned to the Spanish Blue Division

Spanish Blue Division
Divisional HQ 00198
1st. German Liaison Staff& Feldpost Main Depot 43700
German Liaison (59053 after Jan 1944)
Military Police 43089
Field Reserve Battalion 31194
Divisional Newspaper "Hoja de Campaña" 23980
Infantry Regiment 262 (Regimiento Pimental)   Infantry Regiment 263 (Regimiento Vierna)
Staff 05896 to Dec 1943 Staff 12747
Staff 04368 from Dec 1943 Administrated Company 13704
1st. Battalion 07800 1st. Battalion 14929
2nd. Battalion 09452 2nd. Battalion 15303
3rd. Battalion 11371 3rd. Battalion 15997
13th. Company 06939 Anti-Tank Company 14117
Anti-Tank Company 07648
Infantry Regiment 269 (Regimiento Ezparza)
Staff 16937 to Dec 1943
Staff 04016 from Dec 1943
1st. Battalion 18125
2nd. Battalion 18880
3rd. Battalion 19101
14th. Company 17451
Administrated Company 16943

Spanish Card

Spanish Blue Division fieldcard mailed in December 1941 by Lieutenant Ismael Garcia Romeo (also known by his servicemen as "Tirolaipi").
Lt. Garcia Romeo also volunteered for service in the Spanish Legion, where he remained till March 1944. He was awarded with both Iron Crosses 1st and 2nd class, the bronze Close Combat Clasp, the silver Infantry Assault Badge and the silver Wound Badge, indicating that he was wounded three or four times.


Artillery Regiment 250   Reconnaissance Group
Staff 23863 Staff 23863
1st. Battalion 24101 1st. Battalion 19798
2nd. Battalion 24945 2nd. Battalion 20045
3rd. Battalion 25592 3rd. Battalion 20796
4th. Battalion 26341
Anti-tank Group   Sapper Battalion
Staff 21913 Staff 26994
1st. Detachment 22379 1st. Detachment 27303
2nd. Detachment 22800 2nd. Detachment 27938
3rd. Detachment 23558 3rd. Detachment 28557
  Sapper Column 28557
Intelligence Group
Staff 29341
1st. Unit 29908
2nd. Unit 30397
Intelligence Column 30901
Medical Services
1st. Medical Company 38936
2nd. Medical Company 39149
Field Hospital 39576
1st. Ambulance Column 39887
2nd. Ambulance Column 40159
Spanish War Hospital, Riga 14105
Spanish War Hospital, Vilna 46630
Convalescent Home 38396
Veterinary Company 40883
Divisional Supply Office   Additional Feldpost Numbers
Staff 31949 Supply Company 38457
1st. Lorry Column 32645 Bakers Company 41953
2nd. Lorry Column 32966 Butchers Company 41317
3rd. Lorry Column 33547 Supply Bereau 42413
4th. Motorized Column 34339  
5th. Motorized Column 34927 Staff Offices in rear 03901
6th. Motorized Column 35295 Replacement Office 39604
7th. Motorized Column 35871 Disciplinary Office 40545
8th. Motorized Column 36501 General Services Office 45903
9th. Motorized Column 36917
10th. Motorized Column 37176
Lorry Repair Column 37837

Note: The division was assigned FpA 250, FPN 43700 and Kenn 719, from September 1941 to October 1943.
Above is a nice example of a Register Feldpost mailed from FPN 28458B/I Battery via the Spanish Blue Division field post routing office 250. Cover clearly shows the tactical Kenn no. 719 applied on the register label and feldpost cancel.

It should be noted that while the division was assembling and training in Bavaria, some mail received a special training camp handstamp "Ausbildungstabes Foerlich."

 

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