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Mauser Rifles sale to China 1937-1939 (FN contract updated)

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The Second Sino-Japanese war broke out on July 7 1937, Chinese domestic rifle production incapable of fulfilling enormous demands of rifles as the number of the Army growing fast. Meanwhile, many arsenals and weapon deposits were lost to the Japanese. Nationalist Government had to purchase more than 300,000 Mauser rifles from Mauser Company, FN, A Gavage and CZ between 1937 and 1940.

Part 1: Chinese Banner Mauser K98k

China bought around 100,000 K98k from Germany at the beginning years of War. China Nationalist Government and Germany military corporation started in 1934. In 1934 two governments singed HAPRO agreement. In October 1934, HAPRO company established to handle weapon exports to China and imports of raw materials from China.

In the early 1938, China Business Representative officer in Berlin, Tan Boyu, on behest of Nationalist Government, approached Mauser Company to buy 50,000 rifles. The contract was singed in March 1938, Mauser Company agreed to supply 50000 K98k rifles. China paid 5.25 pounds for each rifle including insurance and freight fees, Chinese contract total valued in 262,500 pounds. Mauser Company records 3.09 million RM weapon sales to China in 1938/39, which counts 30% of foreign weapon sales of the year. The delivery schedule as followed:

March April May June July
5000 13000 12000 5000 15000

To the end of April, 30,000 rifles had been shipped to Hongkong. In early May, German Government implemented embargo on China weapon exports. IMEX told Tan Boyu that they had to transfer Chinese shipments to a Finnish company called Messrs. whose representative in Berlin is IMEX. Because of the embargo. on July 2 1938, 5000 June batch K98k rifles along with other weapons were shipped from Hamburg to Hongkong under the cover of Finland government orders. The rest 15000 rifles were shipped on August 1.

In April, Tan Boyu intended to procure additional 50000 K98k from Mauser Company. Unexpectedly, Mauser Company informed Tan Boyu in May that the company unable to deliver the scheduled June batch K98k rifles on time and the second potential K98k contract cannot be performed under German Government restriction. Thus, on July 11, China officially canceled intention of procurement of the second batch K98k rifles. Chinese weapons shipments were handle by German company Handelsgesellschaft fuer Import und Export, Berman. (IMEX), after the embargo Finnish company Messrs. DAHLBERG and HILBERT, Q.Y Helsinki took charge of shipment.

First batch K98k rifles from Mauser Company listed on Chinese documents are simply referred as “Rifles” (来复枪) or “Mauser Rifles”. In contrast, rifles from FN and CZ are specified with FN 24/30 or Model 24. Probably because Mauser Company just refer it as IMEX-Gewehr.

German Government tightening weapon exports restriction in May, China turned to buy more Mauser Model 24 rifles from CZ and FN. In actual, the embargo was not strictly implemented, China still could buy their second batch K98k from Wehrmacht through distributor under some cover.

In November 1938, China Central Bank on behalf of Nationalist Government planned to procure 100,000 rifles. Central Bank delegation in Hongkong inquired several distributors , including Boixo Frères, FN, CZ and Siemssen & Co. Chinese received following anserws:

  • Boixo Frères offers off the shelf Model 24 for CIF 4 pounds 18 schillings each, barter trade is acceptable.
  • FN offers Model 24 for CIF 4 pounds 16 schillings each. Chinese could the bill with tin ore. The first delivery happens in January 1939, then the factory will deliver 8000 rifles every month.
  • CZ offers Model 24 for FOB 4 pounds 19 schillings, the factory has 70,000 rifles in stock that can be delivered immediately, the rest 30,000 delivered by December.
  • Siemssen & Co. offers German military force Model 1937 rifle, HAPRO will handle the payment through bater trade. The offered price of Siamese & Co. is CIF 5 pounds (shipped to Yangon, Burma).

Tan Boyu telegraphed Chinese Minister of Finance that unit price of Mauser Company rifle costs only 7 pounds 4 schillings including 1000 cartridges. January 11 1939, Chinese Central Bank representative in Hongkong received further instruction from Minister of Finance that CZ and Siamese & Co offers were excluded because their price was not competitive to others.

Days later, FN firstly lowered its price followed by Siamese & Co lowered its price to 4 pounds 4 schillings each if China would buy 50000 rifles. They also promised they can make the first delivery of 10000 rifles in this month and deliver 10,000 rifles one month. The contract was given to Siamese & Co which Minister of Finance permitted on January 19. As agreed, China paid 300,000 US dollars deposit and the rest payment would be handled by HAPRO Company.

Because of embargo, Siamese & Co informed Tan Boyu that German Government prohibited Chinese inspectors representing at the scene. After negotiation, Tan managed to be allowed to inspect rifles covertly and the deliveries were arranged in March and April which accords Mauser document recording in which Germans started delivering in March for 20160 and in April for 29960. On March 23, Chinese embassy in Berlin issued a passport to the contract of 50000 “Original Mauser Infantry Rifle Model 1937 Cal.7.9.”. From custom records, between May and July, 49960 rifles arrived in Yangon.

Chinese banner K98k usually has 6 Nationalist sun burst marks:
1 on barrel,
2 on receiver ring (one on each side),
2 or 3 on stock (1 under stock waist with 1 or 2 on side of buttstock, these stock sun bursts are Chinese acceptance mark)

Part 2:CZ Model 24 contract 

CZ was another important source of Mauser rifles to China at the beginning years of the war. CZ supplied 100,000 Model 24 rifles to China between 1937 and 1939.

The first Nationalist Government contract of 50,000 Model 24 was signed in July 31, 1937 in London by Chinese Minister of Finance, H.H. Kung, on behalf of Military Affairs Commission. Chinese contract including ZB26 LMG, ZB53 HMG and Model 24 rifle.

Another contract was singed by T.L Soong, who was appointed as Special Envoy to Europe in October 1937. His real purpose of European travel was to buy more armaments to sustain the war against Japanese. In Europe, He purchased additional rifles and machine guns from CZ who agreed to supply China 50,000 more Model 24 rifles in late 1938. These rifles delivery was scheduled as: on February 1938 for 10,000, April 1938 for 5000, May 1938 for 10000, June for 15000 and July for 10000.

From                      Feb-38   April     May      June      July    September    Mar-39
H.H Kong                                                          10000                  20000          20000
T.L Song               10000     5000   10000    15000   10000

Each Czech Model 24 costs 5 pounds including insurance and transportation fees. Czech sources said the 1st 50,000 was shipped before June 1938. As we can see from the above chart, there’s an overlap of delivery date of two contracts. Because of these rifles are all for Nationalist Government, Czechs treat it as a single contract rather than 2 separate ones. As of June, 10000 of H.H. Kung’s and 40000 of T.L. Soong’s were shipped.

Delivery went well until March 1939 when Nazi took over. Under Germany control, any exports had to acquire German Government permission before shipment.  All Chinese shipments were transferred from IMEX to Finnish carrier.

H.H Soong’s contract was spread over 10 months (06/1938 – 03/1939), the spread is probably due to priority on Romanian and Japanese contacts.

FN Contracts

China was an important buyer for FN small arms at 1920s-30s. When the war outbroke, both Nationalist Government and local governments purchased huge amount of weapons from FN. And the FN Mauser rifle was the largest component of these orders. I will discuss central government contracts firstly.

The very first Chinese order since July 7 was ordered by Tan Boyu on behalf of Nationalist Government in July 1937 for 10000 FN 24/30 rifles (Chinese refers to FN 30 short rifles as FN24/30 in their official documents). One month later, on 11 August Chinese Minister of Finance, H.H. Kung in London signed the second contract for another 50000 FN24/30 rifles.

In the next year, China order more rifles through distributor Groupe-China. The salesman ( an agent?) named Schroeder who was in charge of almost all Chinese orders traveled between Hongkong and Chongqing to negotiate with Chinese government in 1938 and 1939.

In February 1938, CTOC’s representative office in Hongkong placed a small order for 1000 FN Mauser rifles. In June another 20000 FN24/30 rifles in two separate batches each consists of 10000.

In 1939 total 61000 rifles were ordered by Chinese central government. The initial intention of buying small arms was singed in December 1938, H.H. Kung ordered 15000 rifle, 1000 machineguns and 15 millions ammo. The Head of Ordnance Department told him that the army was desperate of rifles, thus 20000 more rifles were added to the contract in January 1939 at cost of reducing the quantity of machineguns from 1000 to 500. The quantities of ammunition also reduced half to 7.5 million so that Chinese could save money for additional 6000 rifles. The final contract was singed in late January, the unit price of rifles is 4 pounds 6 Schillings for 41000 rifles. On April 3 1938, H.H. Kung ordered 20000 rifles through Group-Chine.

To Be Continued……

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