A Unique Partnership: Czech Mausers for Ethiopia after WWII

Hi guys, thanks for tuning in to another
video on ForgottenWeapons.com. I’m Ian McCollum, and I’m here down in Florida at Inter Ordnance today taking a look at this, which is a post-World War Two Czech Mauser manufactured specifically for … sale to Ethiopia. Inter Ordnance has brought in a whole slew of very interesting firearms from Africa, and this is one that we’re taking a look at today. So let’s start by talking about the Czechs. What were they doing still making Mausers after the war? Well, of course the Brno factory had been … set up to manufacture Kar98ks, as well as some other firearms, under German occupation during World War Two. And when that occupation ended, well, when the war ended, the Brno factory just kept on making these guns for commercial export. This was a good way to … quickly get hard cash into the country, you know, help a struggling post-war economy. Now Ethiopia. Like, Czechoslovakia, Ethiopia,
seems like a weird connection to make. And … I think there’s a really
interesting backstory to it. So before World War Two, Ethiopia had been more
connected to France and Belgium for its arms supply. In fact way, way back they’re actually connected
to Russia because they were an Orthodox Christian country much like Russia,
and that formed a bond between the two. At any rate, they had always traditionally had fairly
poor relations with the British and the Italians, both of whom were very interested in
having Ethiopia as a colonial possession. The … Italians occupied Ethiopia in the late 1930s, The British kicked them out during World War Two and then
interestingly, this is a little sneaky and maybe a little underhanded, after liberating Ethiopia the British rounded
up as much war materiel as they could find. Every bit of Italian military
equipment, and took it with them under the ostensible reason that
they needed it for their own war effort. In reality, they didn’t want Ethiopia
to maintain a strong military, they didn’t want to Ethiopia to get all this
free stuff left by the Italian occupying army. The British didn’t actually use most of the stuff, most of
it they destroyed, threw in the ocean, that sort of thing. This, not surprisingly, left a bit of a
sour taste in the Ethiopian Emperor, Emperor Haile Selassie, in his mouth after the war. So post-World War Two he’s reinstated into power,
he comes back out of exile, and he wants to set up a position in the international community that
reduces British influence over Ethiopian affairs. He doesn’t like the British. He thinks they have
designs on his country, and frankly he’s probably right. What he really wanted was to work with the United
States. See, back in the ’30s when Italy invaded Ethiopia, … like Ethiopia was part of the League of Nations,
and they went to the League of Nations and they said, “Hey, this is exactly why you formed. We
have been blatantly invaded by a neighbour, you know, by another country in the
League of Nations. You should do something.” The problem is the League of Nations wasn’t willing
to do anything. They all had their own conflicting single national … interests that influenced
what they thought ought to happen. The British didn’t want to antagonise
the Italians by siding with Ethiopia. The whole premise of the League of Nations was thrown out
the window in favour of everyone’s individual political desires. And this really is one of the the main factors that
led to the League of Nations being abandoned. Italy walked out and just left after this. However, there were a few countries that actually did
something, and the United States was one of them. When Italy invaded Ethiopia, the US put … trade
sanctions on Italy because of their actions. And Haile Selassie remembered that, he also … had the experience that the US
didn’t have these colonial interests in Africa. And what he wanted was a reliable defence
partner that he could trust not to try and, basically, steal his country
from him at the first opportunity. And he thought the US was perfect,
especially in the aftermath of World War Two. European powers are on the decline, the two major superpowers
that have appeared are the United States and Russia. And between the two he wants
to side with the United States. So he actually does get a little bit of
Lend-Lease aid during World War Two. The British hold it up, the British again really want to
keep Ethiopia unarmed and basically ripe for possession. So he gets a little bit, the British delay it, it takes
like two years to get a couple thousand rifles and like 50 machine guns
over to Ethiopia as Lend-Lease. In 1950, … Selassie offers to send Ethiopian troops to
help fight in the Korean War to curry favour with the US. But the US’s position is twofold. First off, it really doesn’t
care. And secondly, it doesn’t want to piss off the British. So the US didn’t really want Ethiopia, it didn’t
really care what happened to Ethiopia, so really for the US it was a balancing act of, “We get nothing, but we piss off the British
if we start supplying Ethiopia with arms.” So this left Haile Selassie looking for some
other partner, and he found Czechoslovakia. The Czechs were eager to have
a partner to buy stuff from them, and the relationship that they developed with
Ethiopia actually went far beyond military assistance or military arms. It expanded into pharmaceuticals
and agricultural equipment and industry. And there was actually a remarkable
partnership between the two countries. Ethiopia was basically the only country that
Czechoslovakia had this sort of trading relationship with outside of the Communist
Soviet Bloc in the years after 1948. So that is a tremendous amount of long-winded
introduction. Let’s take a look at what this rifle actually is. When we look at this rifle it is effectively a
K98k, the Czechs didn’t change the tooling, they didn’t change the parts, they in
many cases didn’t change the markings, they just kept on making these rifles
that they were already set up to do. And so the quality is every bit as good as it was when
the Germans were in charge, same program. The one distinctive feature that
you might notice is the trigger guard. It’s actually not just the trigger guard, it’s
the trigger guard and the magazine floorplate. So the problem is when … Brno was making these
for the Germans they actually didn’t make these parts. They received these from, I believe, Mauser and
Gustloff to incorporate into their finished guns. And so when the war ended they didn’t have a whole
lot of these, and they didn’t have the capacity to make more, well, not this exact
style, but the original German pattern. So what they did instead was tool up to make
their own floorplate and trigger guard assemblies. And they actually took the US 1903A3 as inspiration
for the style of the magazine floorplate there. And then they gave it this distinctively bulged trigger guard
to allow the use of gloves in cold weather when firing the rifle. So you’ll find this, this is very distinctive, and this
is always post-war. These were never used on German military World War Two production guns. … For
the basic reason they didn’t exist during World War Two. It was only when German parts ran
out that these were put into production. The receiver markings here are very much German. So they still have Model 98 and they
continued to use German ordnance codes. … Like, that’s what they had as receiver
markings and they just kept on using them. We have a serial number here on the side of the receiver,
just like you would expect from German production. However, we have two little teeny, there’s one
and there’s one, Czech rampant lion proof marks. So you’ll notice there are no Waffenamts on this
rifle at all, that’s because it was post-war production and not made during German occupation. The rest of the parts are typical
of late war German design. So we’ve got Kriegsmodell parts, like the cupped butt
plate with the hole here in lieu of a disassembly disk. We’ll come back to this guy in a moment. We have a stamped front barrel band. We have a stamped and rather
crudely welded together nose cap. Under the bayonet lug we do have the capacity for
a cleaning rod which the Kriegsmodell had left out. And these are grooved for front sight hoods,
although this particular example doesn’t have one. During late war German production these would have
been held in place by a pair of screws, hence the holes. The Czechs did go back to using spring bands to hold
them in place, which really is a much better system. One thing that’s really cool on these is we
have a very distinctive Ethiopian feature, and that is this disk inlaid into the stock showing a
representation of Saint George slaying the dragon, the biblical Saint George. Saint
George is the patron saint of Ethiopia, there’s like some stories Saint George
himself was actually Ethiopian. And so in lieu of a special receiver marking, they inlaid
these disks into all of the rifles for this contract batch. Probably the most recognisable iteration of these post-
war Czech guns are the ones that were made for Israel. Israel, of course, was gaining its own independence
from … Great Britain in the late 1940s, and they needed small arms, and
Czechoslovakia was quite happy to provide them. However, there was an international embargo in
effect. And so Czechoslovakia had to kind of hide the trail of the guns to get them to Israel. And what’s
interesting is Ethiopia was the way that they did that. So Ethiopia acted as the way station for guns that
were ultimately destined for Israel, which is pretty cool. It’s interesting to look back historically on how
Ethiopia really kind of did its best to play all options. They continued to work closely with the
Czechs after the Czech communist takeover. And they would slowly actually gain
the ability to get some US … support as the US started to see Ethiopia more as a potential ally
against expanding communist influence in central Africa. So that would all develop, but to my mind one
of the really interesting early points of this are these early, well, early post-war
Czech Mausers sold to Ethiopia. So we’re used to seeing these for Israel and with
Czech crests on them, but the Ethiopian connection, and especially some of these specific
Ethiopian markings, I think are really interesting. So this, of course, is as I said one of the guns
that was imported by Inter Ordnance out of Africa. They brought in a whole slew of stuff, ranging from
the very standard to the very unusual and interesting. And they’re going to be selling the most
interesting and the cream of the crop, so to speak, directly through their
own website at Inter Ordnance. I can’t post a link, but if you do a little bit
of Google searching they’re not hard to find, and there’s all sorts of cool
stuff there to take a look at. Thanks for watching.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *