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The Vault

Vintage Saturday: More BAR!

Chinese soldier with a Belgian Mle 30 Browning Automatic Rifle

I’ve got a fever…and the only prescription is more BAR! (photo from reader Ruy)

The BAR sure got around, didn’t it? This is a Polish wz.28 Belgian Modele 30 model in China (thanks to Leszek for the correction).

11 comments to Vintage Saturday: More BAR!

  • Leszek Erenfeicht

    Browning – yes, China – yes, BAR derivative with pistol grip and relocated return spring – yes, but there’s where caption’s contact with reality sadly terminates. This is a Belgian Mle30 development of the Polish wz.28 – note Pinocchio-nosed gas regulator and flat bipod members.
    Being a Pole I’d love this to be Polish, but it isn’t.

  • R. Aballe

    Indeed! I didn’t notice the different shape of the gas regulator, but should have noticed the – quite evident – flat bipod legs. So, the mistake is mine rathan than Ian’s. Thanks for pointing out the differences between the Polish and Belgian BARs.
    I will try to compensate with a photo of a genuine wz.28 taken in Spain during the Civil War!

    • Leszek Erenfeicht

      Yes, by any means – and do you have any other photos of Polish weapons in Spanish Civil War? We were one of the top 5 weapon suppliers then, and discounting neglibible quantities of hardware supplied to penniles nationalist insurgents, we rose to No.2, right after USSR as weapons purveyor to the Republican side. The Spanish money paid for our arms making capability doubling right before the war broke out. Not that it helped much, though, with neighbours like Soviets, ready to stab you in the back, while you defend your home from their No.1 enemy…

      • R. Aballe

        Yes, of course, though I also saw pictures of Belgian BARs being used in Spain, so they might have got some FN guns somewhere. The most commonly seen Polish-made gun in period photos, however, are kbk wz.98 and kbk wz.29 Mauser rifles, while Czechoslovak vz.24 were also pretty common.
        As for the Nationalist rebels, they weren’t so peniless as you might think, especially when some foreign friendly governments (especially the Portuguese diplomacy) managed to get some generous credit lines open for them in international markets. Of course, the German (more than the Italian) help was paid off handsomely after the Civil War, mostly under the form of generous mining rights and large amounts of raw materials.

        Still regarding the role of SEPEWE and the Polish weapons manufacturers, I suppose you must be familiar with the book by Wojciech Mazur and Marek Deszczynski, Na krawedzi ryzyka: eksport polskiego sprzetu wojskowego w okresie miedzywojennym (Warsaw: Neriton, 2004). It provides an excellent overview on the importance of Poland as a major weapon manufacturing and exporting nation in the interwar era. This work surely deserves to be translated into English. The authors estimate of the number of newly made Mauser type rifles sold to the Spanish Republicans is staggering: 100.000! I don’t have my Czech references at hand, but I suppose the total of vz.24s sold must have been at least equivalent.

        As for the Germans, they sold the Nationalists an amazing 178.811 Gew.98 rifles (both new and refurbished, plus some Standard Modell too) to the Nationalists, together with 2.438 MG 13, supplied new from the factory, through HISMA (Compañía Hispano-Marroquí de Transportes, Sociedad Limitada, a front organisation created in Tetuán, in July 1936, to coordinate the covert supply of material help to the rebels) and from Legion Condor unused stocks, and also comparatively small batches of pistols and submachine guns; this data was published by Lucas Molina Franco in his excellent, well documented work El legado de Sigfrido: la ayuda militar alemana al ejército y a la marina nacional en la Guerra Civil Española (1936-1939) – Valladolid: AF Editores, 2005.

  • John D. Dingell III

    My favorite photo of the wz.28 appears in the book “Zolnierze Wykleci. Antykomunistyczne Podziemie Zbrojne po 1944 Roku” ["Doomed Soldiers. Polish Anti-Communist Armed Underground Soldiers after 1944"], edited by G. Wasowski and L. Zebrowski, Volumen, Warsaw, 1999. Lots of good photos of the weapons circulating in Poland after WW II. Well worth having, even if you cannot read the Polish text.

    • R. Aballe

      John, thanks for reminding us of that interesting book. Do you know if it is still available?

      • John D. Dingell III

        My sister sent me a copy from Poland. No copies on Amazon or Abe’s right now, but there is a copy for sale on GunBroker:

        http://www.gunbroker.com/Auction/ViewItem.aspx?Item=312491442

        The phot I am referring to is on the bottom of page 94, the person holding the wz.28 in a ready position is identified as Leon Suszynski “P-8″ “Litwin”. Couldn’t scan the photo, so I will try to copy it with a camera. It appears to have been taken in early 1946.

      • John D. Dingell III

        Forgot to mention that some of the book’s text has been translated into decent English and posted on a dedicated web site (along with a few photos) here:

        http://www.doomedsoldiers.com/

        Unfortunately, they don’t seem to have posted the photo I am referring to, but you will get some idea of the diversity of weapons used by the Polish Underground.

  • Jasta

    Chinese soldier in German helmet aiming the Belgian machine gun of American origin. Globalization before it was cool.

    • In the interwar years, German trainers really got around. Once the Freikorps movement petered out, the small Reichswehr couldn’t absorb all the German military talent, so they took their experience on the road. I recall pulling up at a Bolivian military academy to see the guards in green German-looking tunics, with Stahlhelms and gleaming Mausers with bayonets.

      It was like the ghosts we all imagined — and some guys swore they saw — at Bad Tölz. Although the storm trooper effect was a bit spoiled by the guys being about 5′ 4″ tall and quite Inca-looking. I think they were enlisted gate guards, because the officers I encountered were predominantly white or mostly-white mestizos. They did explain that German officers were vital to both sides in the Chaco war, and that German military equipment from bayonets to aircraft was well-prized across South America.

      The other mark the Germans left behind was a series of excellent breweries! To this day, they send their apprentice brewmasters to Germany to get smart about the art. They might be the poorest country in South America, but they drink well enough not to be troubled by it.

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