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Regulares: Wikis


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Coat of Arms
Active 1911 - present
Country  Spain
Allegiance King, Fatherland
Branch Escudo del Ejército de Tierra.PNG Army
Type Infantry
Role Vanguard troops
Garrison/HQ Ceuta, Melilla, Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera, Alhucemas and Islas Chafarinas.
Motto A España servir hasta morir (To serve Spain until we die)
Anniversaries 12 October
Dámaso Berenguer

Regulares (Spanish for "Regulars", officially called the Fuerzas Regulares Indígenas) was the name commonly used to designate the volunteer infantry and cavalry units of the Spanish Army recruited in Spanish Morocco. They consisted of Moroccans officered by Spaniards. These Moroccan troops played a major role in the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). They were known for their ability to traverse "dead ground" without being detected.



The Regulares were first raised in 1911 as a "batallón indígena" of infantry. Their formation came at a time when Spain was expanding into the Moroccan hinterland from the long held coastal enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla. Previously use had been made of Moroccan auxiliaries as scouts and the designation of "regulars" appears to have been intended to distinguish the newly raised force as a permanent unit of the Spanish Army. Officers and some NCOs were seconded from Peninsular regiments.


From 1914 to 1922 the Regulares were expanded in numbers to five "Grupos" based respectively on Melilla, Tetuan, Ceuta, Alhucemas and Larache. While they remained predominantly infantry, recognition of Moroccan skills as horsemen led to the establishment of cavalry "tabores" (squadrons). This mounted element of the Regulares was to remain a conspicuous feature throughout the period of Spanish rule.

The Moroccan troops generally remained loyal during the Rif War of the early 1920s, although there were reports of mutiny at Yat el Bax following the major Spanish defeat of the Battle of Annual in 1921. During this period the Regulares and the Spanish Legion ("Tercio") emerged as the elite corps of the Spanish Army - long serving professionals on more or less continual active service, attracting the best officers. These included the future dictator Francisco Franco who served initially with the Regulares (from 1913) before transferring to the newly raised Tercio (whose personnel were mostly Spanish) as second in command in 1920.

In 1923 a detachment of the Fuerzas Regulares de Ceuta mounted guard at the Royal Palace in Madrid, indicating the high profile achieved by the Moroccan troops. In 1934 cavalry and infantry of the Regulares were brought to Spain by the Republican Government to assist in the suppression of the rising by Asturian miners that year. The use of Moroccan troops (associated with the Moors of the Medieval wars) caused much critical comment both in Spain and internationally.

Under Franco

In 1936 the Army of Africa, totaling 30,000 in the Legion and Moroccan regiments, joined the rebellion led by General Franco against the Republican Government in Madrid. After some initial difficulty, the Nationalist rebels were, with German and Italian assistance able to get significant numbers of the African troops across the Straits of Gibraltar. The professionalism (and undoubted brutality) of the Army of Africa played a major part in early Nationalist successes. With the raising of substantial Nationalist forces in mainland Spain the role of the Regulares diminished but they retained a key role as shock troops until the end of the Civil War and were conspicuous in Franco's victory parade in Madrid in 1939. The numbers of the Army of African doubled in the course of the war to about 60,000. Following the Nationalist victory the Regulares were reduced to the five Grupos of their peace-time establishment. Franco authorised the establishment of a ceremonial mounted honour guard ("Guardia de S.E. el Generalismo") from the Regulares cavalry which, with colourful Moorish uniforms and white Arab horses, served in close attendance on him.

With the independence of Morocco in 1956 the majority of the Moroccan personnel of the Regulares, numbering about 10,000, were transferred to the newly raised Royal Moroccan Armed Forces. The cavalry units (including Franco's ceremonial guard in Madrid) were disbanded.

Present Day

Spain however retained the historic enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta and the reduced Grupos of Tetuan, Melilla, Ceuta and Alhucemas remained in existence as part of the two garrisons. The modern Spanish Army retains two regiments of Regulares which still parade in the fezs, sashes and white cloaks of the traditional Moorish style uniforms, although now recruited solely from Spanish citizens, many of them natives of Ceuta and Melilla.

As part of a wider reorganisation of the Spanish Army in 1996, the existing Grupos of Regulares were amalgamated into: (i) Regimiento de Infantería Ligera Regulares de Melilla n.º 52 and (ii) Regimiento de Infantería Ligera Regulares de Ceuta n.º 54. In recent years detachments of Regulares have served in both Bosnia and Afghanistan

Regulares in fiction

The main character in the novel Kábila by Fernando González Martín (Madrid, Debate, 1980) is a Morrocan who as a teenager hates Spanish colonial troops, becomes later a soldier of the Regulares, has a major role in the Asturias repression, and ends as a high-rank commanding officer in Franco's army.

See also


Bueno, Jose. Los Regulares ISBN 84-86629-23-3



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