Skoda SMG in use by the French Army 1940?

Discussions on the small arms used by the Axis forces.
keith A
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Skoda SMG in use by the French Army 1940?

Post by keith A » 21 May 2020 19:34

Reading Saul David's history of the Scots Division at St Valery he quotes an officer stating that his battalion received eight Skoda sub-machine guns for patrol work from a sympathetic French officer. In the same work he highlights that before this the battalion only had four Thompsons for this work. I know there was a Czech Vz.38 but apparently very few were made before the Czechs were invaded and production was halted. Information is that none made it into service with the Czech army and they were not used by the Wehrmacht.

Can anyone add to this?

Keith

keith A
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Re: Skoda SMG in use by the French Army 1940?

Post by keith A » 21 May 2020 19:46

Note the full name of the gun was Kulometná pistole vzor 38 (machine gun pistol model 38),

FiveStars
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Re: Skoda SMG in use by the French Army 1940?

Post by FiveStars » 22 May 2020 08:54

I believe he is referring to the ZK-383, which was the only Czech submachinegun that was produced in any quantity to be issued to units. Noting the terminology, I can only guess that "skoda" is a general reference used by the Germans to describe weapons of Czech origin (Like Schmeisser was the general reference for submachineguns of German origin used by the allies). On that note, the gun was used by SS and police formations along with other Czech weapons (The Vz. 24 was the second most numerous rifle in German service!), and after that, presumably passed on to German allies and client states such as Romania, and the aforementioned France.

I hope I cleared up some confusion.

Kind Regards
-Max

nuyt
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Re: Skoda SMG in use by the French Army 1940?

Post by nuyt » 22 May 2020 11:47

It could have been a weapon from the stocks of the interned Spanish Republicans in 1939. These included 1000s of Erma's and possibly others?

Hisname
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Re: Skoda SMG in use by the French Army 1940?

Post by Hisname » 22 May 2020 13:45

FiveStars wrote:
22 May 2020 08:54
I believe he is referring to the ZK-383, which was the only Czech submachinegun that was produced in any quantity to be issued to units. Noting the terminology, I can only guess that "skoda" is a general reference used by the Germans to describe weapons of Czech origin (Like Schmeisser was the general reference for submachineguns of German origin used by the allies). On that note, the gun was used by SS and police formations along with other Czech weapons (The Vz. 24 was the second most numerous rifle in German service!), and after that, presumably passed on to German allies and client states such as Romania, and the aforementioned France.

I hope I cleared up some confusion.

Kind Regards
-Max
I completely agree with you)
Production of the “Kulometná pistole vzor 38” was started at the end of 1939 and a little more than 100 pieces were produced by the time the Germans arrived.
This is undoubtedly Zk-383.
This submachine gun was produced from 1938 to 1948, including German occupation. It was in service with countries such as: Germany, Bulgaria, Venezuela, Bolivia. In Bulgaria, it was used until 1966.

keith A
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Re: Skoda SMG in use by the French Army 1940?

Post by keith A » 22 May 2020 14:16

Skoda does seem to mean "Czech" I agree. The ZK-383 is possible but I haven't heard of it in use apart from by German second-line units and the Bulgarian and Romanian Army although I believe the Slovak republic also had them, (and some south american countries).The case for them turning up in France in early 1940 is less easy to see. Very few would have been available, most of the guns would have been manufactured after the Anschluss. Would the Germans have armed the French in this period of deteriorating relations? Perhaps they were acquired for testing pre-Anschluss? I am not sure that France can be described as a "client" state in this instance. Even after the 1940 capitulation the Germans did not I believe allow even the Vichy Milice to be equipped with weapons until late in the war. The French army in the period 1939-40 therefore seems an unlikely customer, unless the Germans were hoping for a big arms sale, not impossible but I haven't seen evidence yet.

Is the MP28 a possibility I wonder? Although it would be a French-license- manufactured weapon maybe it looked "foreign". A bit of a stretch, given that the officer does identify the SMG as a "skoda" factory weapon. An MP28 manufactured under license in Czechoslovakia?

As for the Republican Spanish I doubt the Germans would have allowed them to receive them. The Erma-Vollmer was as you know a German design sold prior to 1938. The French did indeed acquire a number of these (most from Republican refugees) and they were used by the army and Gendarmerie.

nuyt
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Re: Skoda SMG in use by the French Army 1940?

Post by nuyt » 22 May 2020 16:53

I think you guys are missing the point (no offense). We are talking here about summer 1940 and not 1944, right? So in 1940 no chance there were any Czech(oslovak) smgs in the French army that were directly acquired from the German Empire, let alone handed down by the German occupation forces. Only possibility of a French unit in 1940 possessing smgs was locally made MAS (extremely rare in 1940 and certainly not generously present - as the books say only distributed to some staff officers) or from a more unconventional source (like Spanish refugee stocks). But Spanish Republicans never had "Skoda" or Czecholsovak smgs. There were lots of homebuilt models and copies and some from unusual sources (Suomi, Tallinn, etc). Maybe the Scotsman confused some names. If there were smgs in the Friendly French unit in 1940, they would have been a) a MAS, b) an Erma, or c) a Spanish built model (Star for instance). Gander and Chamberlain in their German weapons Encycl, confirm the presence of a French version of the Erma, no doubt adapted from Spanish Reps stocks. My money is on Erma.

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Re: Skoda SMG in use by the French Army 1940?

Post by nuyt » 22 May 2020 17:20

Erma with French troops in 1940
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keith A
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Re: Skoda SMG in use by the French Army 1940?

Post by keith A » 22 May 2020 18:45

The MAS was issued in small numbers to Franc-Tireur patrols in the French army and was indeed rare. I had not heard of them being issued to staff officers, or indeed any officers. The Erma and Thompson were present in the French army in small numbers. As a Scotsman myself I am not sure the Seaforths officer "confused some names" and decided the smgs were Czech, the French must have known they weren't. The ERMA is the most obvious candidate but without a photo I am still not able to confirm it one way or another.

FiveStars
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Re: Skoda SMG in use by the French Army 1940?

Post by FiveStars » 22 May 2020 19:00

Gentlemen, remember to look at the quantity of them issued - 8 in total. While the only plausible Czech weapon would be the ZK, I don't see it's presence as unrealistic, as there could be a plausible explanation to it. Perhaps captured weapons, weapons confiscated from an interned transport, weapons purchased to evaluate foreign submachinegun designs, anything is really possible. However, I'm not so sure either.

Would anyone have information on Czech submachine production (not only indigenous designs)?

Kind Regards,
-Max

nuyt
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Re: Skoda SMG in use by the French Army 1940?

Post by nuyt » 22 May 2020 20:46

Hi Max, I agree the 8 pieces could have been captured recently from the German invaders. But not very likely they were ZK 383s. Production in Brno (ZB- not Skoda in Pilsen) of these had been taken over by the SS and the ZK was only used by them and then only on the Eastern Front accorindg to the literature. That said, of course you can't rule out a few of them in use in the West in May/June 1940, but still what are the odds? Were SS troops captured or routed by the French in Northern France? Did they carry ZKs? And why were these weapons called Skoda during a discussion between French and Scottish officers (while they clearly werent Skoda but ZB)?

I agree we need to find out if Skodawerke Pilsen produced smgs in the early part of the war under German management. They had not done so under Czechoslovak management. By the way Skoda was by that time part of the Reichswerke Hermann Goering. Let me check some books.

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Re: Skoda SMG in use by the French Army 1940?

Post by Knouterer » 23 May 2020 10:27

Regarding SMGs in British service, the War Office and the army showed little interest in “gangster guns” or more officially “machine carbines” in the 1930s, although some models were acquired for testing, such as the Solothurn S1-100.
However, in the winter of 1939-40 French and British patrols in the wide stretch of no man’s land along the Franco-German border found that they were at a disadvantage during sudden encounters at short range with SMG-armed German patrols. Half a dozen Thompsons left over from tests in the 1920s were hurriedly issued to the troops; there is even a photo of King George VI holding one during a visit to the front in December 1939. So there you have the four Thompsons mentioned in the initial post (page from Tom Davis, Jr., Great Britain - The Tommy Gun Story).
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FiveStars
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Re: Skoda SMG in use by the French Army 1940?

Post by FiveStars » 23 May 2020 11:53

nuyt wrote:
22 May 2020 20:46
but still what are the odds?
The odds are still far greater than any other SMG of Czech origin :D

That being said, has anyone also considered the possibility that the original excerpt could have been a misidentification of some sort? Knowledge of submachineguns was rudimentary back then, and I think it would be safe to say that this applied to their types aswell. Maybe the British officer had confused them with EMP/MP28 he could have possibly read in some sort of army manual or magazine and assumed it was a ZK pattern gun. At this point though, without concrete evidence, its more of a guessing game than anything.

Kind Regards
-Max

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Re: Skoda SMG in use by the French Army 1940?

Post by Knouterer » 23 May 2020 12:31

Regarding the mysterious "Skoda" submachine guns, while it is not impossible that the French had acquired a few ZK 383 guns (which had been sold to Bulgaria and a few South American countries from 1933), there does not seem to be any trace of it in the available literature.

The French, contrary to the British, decided early on (infantry armament program of 1921) that they wanted submachine guns, but had difficulty settling on a specific model. By the end of June 1940 only 1,958 MAS Model 1935 and Model 1938 had been delivered, plus a few dozen of the Petter Model 1939, all in 7.65 mm.
In addition 3,000 Thompsons were ordered and delivered towards the end of 1939 but apparently not issued before May-June, to motorised troops.

Finally, the weapons taken from the defeated Republican troops as they crossed the border in early 1939 included 3,250 Erma-Vollmer and 300 Suomi M/31 SMGs. Curiously, there were only 1,540 magazines for the former, so only 750 or so guns were issued to troops at the front with two mags each, and 150 Suomis. There are also vague references to a French order for MP 28/II submachine guns, possibly from the firm of Pieper in Liège which produced them under licence.

So my provisional conclusion would be that the "Skoda" submachine guns were most likely the Erma-Vollmer, as pictured above. Such imprecise designations were certainly not unusual, British soldiers in WWII tended to call all German machine guns "Spandaus", even though the Gewehrfabrik Spandau had closed in 1919, and MP 40 SMGs "Schmeissers", even though Hugo Schmeisser had nothing to do with the design.
"The true spirit of conversation consists in building on another man's observation, not overturning it." Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

FiveStars
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Re: Skoda SMG in use by the French Army 1940?

Post by FiveStars » 24 May 2020 09:19

Thank you for providing insight to this confusing topic!
Knouterer wrote:
23 May 2020 12:31
and 150 Suomis.
Would you happen to have any documents regarding these suomis or perhaps a photograph or two? The subject of French submachineguns in 1940 interests me greatly.

Kind Regards
-Max

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