Wednesday, 11 May 2016

"Self-Sufficiency in Arms": the Spanish Civil war experience in producing weapons

"Self-Sufficiency in Arms": 
the Spanish Civil war experience in producing weapons

Attack on Rebel Position, Somosierra, Madrid - Google Art Project.jpg
Attack on Nationalist position near Madrid, Somosierra, 1936

At first, it seemed to be interesting again about seeing guns made by the Republicans and the Francoists during the Spanish Civil War.

Mostly copies of those brought abroad, those weapons used by warring sides seemed to invoke how these Spaniards stubbornly fighting for Spain during those times, what more of seeing working-class "industrial strength" with all the foundries making effort in producing weapons meant to defend the people against exploiters and occupiers.

And although most history books dealt much with battles, of Guernica and Madrid, yours truly, also a military enthusiast, is humbly introduced how these Spaniards from both Republican and Francoist side made arms during that time of conflict, especially those of their weapons produced.

Spanish Republican officials
studying Labora and Naranjero guns
Prior to the production of domestic-made weaponry before and during the war, Spain used to buy foreign made guns. In case of Francoists were from Germany and Italy, while the Republicans procure guns from the Soviet Union, if not from the West. Others were smuggled in case of guns from Finland or from Estonia.

However, in the production of these weapons, Spaniards tried its best to create "improved" copies of foreign-made guns such as those from Germany or from France, given that there are foundries that produced as ordered by the government, both National and Local alike in case of the Catalans with its Labora.

Here are the sample of the domestic-made weapons used and became well known during the Spanish Civil War:

NARANJERO: The Valencian Schmeisser

Naranjero Sub Machine Gun
At first, the origins of "Naranjero" are still virtually unknown despite being associated its creation from the Valencian workshops located in Alberique, the Sub-Machine Gun received the nickname "Naranjero" in honor of the fruit grown in Valencia, Spain.

MP-28 Schmeisser Sub Machine Gun
(The basis for the Naranjero)
However, the design of Sub-Machine Gun is somewhat identical, or perhaps inspired from the MP-28 II created by German Hugo Schmeisser. The main difference between these two weapons lies in the caliber used, that since the German submachine used the 9mm classic Parabellum (9mm x 19), the "Naranjero" was calibrated to fire cartridges 9mm Largo (9mm x 23).
The Naranjero also had a weight and a size slightly higher than the MP-28, as well as a disposable charger with capacity for up to 36 bullets.

But despite its differences, it was very difficult, even for Republicans officers themselves, to distinguish at a glance a real MP-28 II and a Spanish copy "Naranjero".

LABORA: The Catalan Sub Machine Gun

Labora Sub Machine Gun
As for the Labora, the origin seemed to be coming from the Workshops of the Anarchist-led Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (Workshop no.1 to be specified) as well as Factory no. 15 in Olot in 1938.

And although at first it was simply called as "rifle" or "carbine Fontbernat" in memory of a Catalan militant fallen on 19 July 1936, it was received the name "Labora Fontbernat" and was encouraged by the "War Industries Commission" of the Generalitat de Catalunya.

The Sub Machine Gun has its unique design compared to others during the civil war. However, it had less prominence compared to the Naranjero due to costly production. In any case, it was also very similar to the SI-35 Star, with its wooden stock and barrel with machined rings to dissipate heat.

CORUNA: The Francoist Naranjero

Coruna Sub Machine Gun
Although it was also called as "Naranjero", the Coruna was a Spanish version of the MP-35 Sub Machine Gun being produced in the arms factory in La Coruna.


Goliat Sub Machine Gun

Known by its nickname "Goliat", the "Star" Foundry produced two models: the SI-35 and RU-35, bearing the first and second initials of its designers.

Both of 9MM long, these guns were used by the Republicans, being mass produced at Eibar such as those of a sewing machine factory being pressed to create Machine Guns.

However, some informants stated that Commissariat of War Industries of the Basque government resumed making RU-35 while Eibar focused on sewing machines.

Soon, the design of the gun was also redesigned at Catalonia, one of which eventually became known as "Labora" and "Carabine Fontbernat".

MANRESA: The Catalan Mauser

Manresa Rifle
Twenty units of this particular weapon was manufactured in workshops Manresa, then under the control of the Government,  Before 1937 when the Spanish Republic began nationalizing all war industries.
It was a weapon of circumstances and in the fruit of the lack of clear guidelines in the early stages of the war. It had a magazine with capacity for 20 rounds despite being shot repetition by manual action.


FAO Light Machine Gun
Based from the Czechoslovak light machine gun ZB-26/30,  the Oviedo arms factory developed a similar known as the FAO. 
It was used by  the Francoists, and well into the postwar period. It seemed that Franco bought 100 units of ZB-30 and the FAO developed from this model.


Submachine gun Oviedo-Coruna Model 1925-1938. 7 mm.
Total length 1.14 m. Weight 8,750 Kg. Charger 15 cartridges. In 1938 he reformed the feeding device. The FA OC was an improvement in the FA Hotchkiss II.

Workers manufacturing Ferrobellum
Workers manufacturing bombs for the Ferrobellum
Besides Sub Machine Guns and Rifles, there were other weapons the Spanish produced during the war. Mortars for example.

They produced numerous mortars such as the Ferrobellum, which was also known as the "Spanish Stokes" although it was far from a British-made weapon that became known for the modern-day military Mortar but of a German-made Granatenwerfer.
What was most striking was the simplicity of its design and the materials with which it is done. This design may seem quite primitive, but fits quite well to the needs required at the time it was manufactured. In addition, because of this simplicity, it does not require a great waste of sophisticated technology to create a "grenade launcher" that can be carried as a backpack.

There were also copying foreign-made mortars such as the 60 mm Stokes Mortar that was observed by General Miaja (as seen in the picture).

Apparently the CNT dealed with the Italian engineer Gino Bibbi for the design and manufacture of a rocket, possibly remote control, or perhaps uses AA gunners. The project was not the prototype. 

On the other hand, it was known that the Catalan Government's Commission of War Industries attended the project of making an "aerial torpedo" presented by the Cape driver Security Service of the Generalitat, Don Josep Belmonte invented Anti-Aircraft Rockets that could reach up to 4000 meters.

Bundesarchiv Bild 183-H25224, Guernica, Ruinen.jpg
Remains of Guernica


It seemed interesting to see about the home front of both Republicans and Francoists during the Spanish Civil War.

Mostly translated from Spanish in a website remembering the conflict, this person would say that the weapons showed how Spaniards does not rely on outside aid, what more of showing its muscle, its industrial strength, all in defending their freedoms on the day occupiers trying to "restore order" that in fact, a reaction to their disdain for democracy and justice.

Again, it may find it strange, but the experience somehow showed an example of how a country has to stand up and flex its own muscle rather than relying on outside aid. True that Republican Spain was supported by Soviet Union and Mexico whilst its Francoist counterpart was backed by Hitlerite Germany and Mussolinist Italy, but then based from how they create Naranjeros, Manresas, and Laboras from their foundries makes it interesting to see how these Spaniards also made their own.

And by the way, here's an earlier article about Spain's own Blindados, also during the Civil War.