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 import 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 50000 rifles. The contrast was singed in March 1938. Mauser Company agreed to supply and delivery 50000 K98k rifles. China paid 5.25 pounds for each rifle including insurance and freight fees, contract total valued in 262500 pounds. Mauser Company records 309.15 RM weapon sales to China in 1938, which counts 30% of foreign weapon sales of the year.
To the end of April, 30000 rifles had been shipped to Hongkong. In early May, German Government put an embargo on China weapon exports. IMEX, German company who took charge of shipment, told Tan Boyu that they had to transfer Chinese shipments to a Finnish company, Messrs. DAHLBERG and HILBERT, because of the embargo. On July 2 1938, 5000 K98k rifles along with other weapons were shipped from Hamburg to Hongkong under the cover of Finland government order. The rest 15000 rifles were shipped on August 1.
In April, Tan Boyu intended to procure another batch 50000 K98k from Mauser Company. Unexpectedly, Mauser Company informed Tan Boyu that the company unable to deliver the scheduled July shipment of 5000 K98k rifles and the second batch contract cannot be performed under German Government restriction. On July 11, China officially canceled intention of procurement of the second batch K98k rifles.
From Mauser records, the company made first delivery of 5000 in March, 15000 in April, 12000 in May, 5000 in June and 15000 in July.
First batch rifles from Mauser Company listed on Chinese documents are simply referred as “Rifles” (来复枪). In contrast, FN and CZ’s are listed specific FN 24/30 or Model 24. Probably because Mauser just call it IMEX-Gewehr?
Though German Government tightening weapon exports restriction in May, China turned to buy more Mauser Model 24 rifles from CZ and FN. In actual, the restriction of embargo was not strictly implemented, China still could buy their second batch K98k from Wehrmacht through distributor.
In November 1938, China central Bank on behalf of Nationalist Government to procure 100000 rifles. Central bank delegation in Hongkong inquired French distributor Boixo Frères, FN, CZ and German distributor Siemssen & Co.
- Boixo Frères offers off the shelf Model 24 for CIF 4 pounds 18 schillings each, accept barter trade.
- FN offers Model 24 for CIF 4 pounds 16 schillings each, China could pay with tin ore. First delivery happens in January 1939, then delivery of 8000 rifles every month.
- CZ offers Model 24 for FOB 4 pounds 19 schillings, the company has 70000 rifles in stock can be delivered immediately, the rest 30000 delivered in December.
- Siemssen & Co. offers German military force Model 1937 rifle, payment through HAPRO in the method of bater trade.
The offered price of Siamese & Co. is CIF 5 pounds (delivery in Yangon, Burma). Tan Boyu telegraphed Chinese Minister of Finance that unit price of Mauser Company rifle is 7 pounds 4 schillings with 1000 cartridges. January 11 1939, Chinese representative in Hongkong received instruction from Minister of Finance that CZ and Siamese & Co offers were excluded because their price was not competitive to others.
Siamese & Co lowered its price to 4 pounds 4 schillings each buying 50000 rifles following FN lowered its price. Siamese & Co also promise they can deliver first 10000 rifles of this month then to deliver 10000 every month. The transaction with Siamese & Co was permitted by Minister of Finance on January 19. China paid 300000 US dollars deposit and the rest payment would be handled by HAPRO Company in the form of barter trade.
Though the distributor informed Tan Boyu that German Government prohibited Chinese inspectors representing at the scene, Tan still was able to inspect rifles covertly. Tan and the counterparty agreed to make deliveries in March and April. 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 May to July, 49960 rifles arrived in Yangon.
Chinese order K98k has 1 sun burst on barrel, 2 on receiver ring (one on each side), 2 or 3 on stock ( usually 1 under stock waist and 1 or 2 on buttstock, these stock sun bursts are Chinese acceptance mark)
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. Rifle delivery schedule as contract agreed are as: June 1938 for 10000, December 1938 for 20000, March 1939 for 20000.
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. Because of Japan-Germany relationship, CZ received various pretexts from Germany administration to prevent last 20,000 Chinese shipment. Czech Ambassador in London informed Chinese that Germany government would permit shipment only if Chinese made the last payment of H.H Soong contract in Berlin, which as stipulated in the contract is in London. And secondly, as same as Chinese Mauser K98k contract, all Chinese shipments were transferred from IMEX to Finnish carrier Messier. Czechs solved the problem and shipped the last 20000 rifles.
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.