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Legionaries: from Trentino to Spain

The Trentinos of the Volunteer Troop Corps in the Spanish War, 1936-1939

Trentino legionaries of the Bandera Tempesta, Cesare Battisti Company, advance along the road to France during the battle of Guadalajara, March 1937.

The Trentino volunteers who participated in the Spanish Civil War in the C.T.V. were about 600: ranging in age from 18 to over 50 years, with higher education levels than the average, coming from almost all towns, social classes, and professions. The decisive factors in their decision to enlist were friendships and the activity of Fascist Party representatives. Initially, the volunteers were organized territorially, as in the Cesare Battisti company. The war was long and tough, with a high percentage of wounded at 43% and casualties at 7%. A quarter of the soldiers were decorated. In their writings, the motivations exhibited were ideological: defending the Fascist cause against anti-Fascism and Catholic religion. References to financial compensation were indirect, but salaries were significant. A unique aspect in the writings of the Trentino volunteers was an ideal continuity with the irredentism of World War I, as if they wanted to inscribe themselves in history. There were few members of the National Fascist Party (P.N.F.) before the war. It was not an official campaign of the Royal Army, and the C.T.V. was characterized as a "Fascist" expeditionary force, with fallen soldiers depicted as "martyrs." After victory and parades in Spain, Naples, and Rome, the legionaries returned to their towns where they were welcomed as heroes by political, military, and ecclesiastical authorities. Streets, squares, monuments, palaces, and mountain refuges were dedicated to the fallen. A few months later, World War II broke out. More than a third of the Trentino legionaries were recalled and found themselves fighting on all fronts until the armistice. One-tenth of them experienced prison. The number of former Trentino legionaries who joined the Italian Social Republic is comparable to those who joined partisan formations. The fall of Fascism led to the censorship of a war memory that could not be told: removal of honors, plaques, busts, and names of public places dedicated to the fallen. This damnatio memoriae did not affect everyone. There are still street names, commemorative plaques. Recently, some relics have begun to flow into the Italian Historical War Museum.


Davide Zendri

Publication date: June 12, 2024
Salvatore Ciccarello
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