A British AK 47 – a STEN gun’s (very incomplete) story

RICHARD MADDOX

LOOK AT ANY NEWS PICTURE OF ARMED ‘INSURGENTS’ – or ‘terrorists’ or ‘freedom fighters, depending who is telling the story and you will see it.

Watch most ‘action’ films (movies) or play many video games and it will probably be there.

THE ICONIC KALASHNIKOV AUTOMATIC RIFLE (1947) automatic rifle 1947. This example was captured from insurgents during the 1964-1967 Aden Emergency. IWM catalogue reference FIR 6129. Original source https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/30029320.

THE ICONIC KALASHNIKOV AUTOMATIC RIFLE (1947) automatic rifle 1947. This example was captured from insurgents during the 1964-1967 Aden Emergency. IWM catalogue reference FIR 6129. Original source https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/30029320.

Its characteristic banana-shaped magazine gives it away.

The Kalishnikov automatic rifle 1947 (Автомат Калашниова 1947) was designed by Russian soldier Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov while recovering in hospital in 1941. (1)

The weapon he produced – simply designed, rugged and easy to use – essential qualities in the huge Soviet army became its standard infantry rifle in 1949. Since then it has been copied – both legally and illegally – to the extent that there are estimates of up to 100,000,000 individual weapons produced in the last 70 years. (2)

But before the AK 47 was the British STEN gun.

Designed in the aftermath of the British evacuation of Dunkirk – when tons of equipment from aircraft to small arms and around 40,000 British troops as well as their French and Belgian comrades-in-arms – it was named after its two designers and the place it was first manufactured (Major Reginald Shepherd, Mr Harold Turpin and the Royal Ordnance Factory, Enfield, Essex, England). (3)

The weapon was envisaged as cheap and easy to manufacture, rugged and simple to use.

Its size made it easy to drop by RAF supply aircraft and once received relatively easy to hide.

It could also fire German ammunition – useful if any was stolen from German sources.

In fact the Germans produced a version of the STEN.

The MP 3008 was seen as an inexpensive and easy to operate weapon for the Volkssturm – the German home defence force – in the final months of the Second World War.(4)

More than 4 million STENs were produced. (5)

Like the AK 47 the design was copied and modified.

THIS UNOFFICALLTHIS UNOFFICALLY MODIFIED example of the British STEN gun was seized from members of EOKA (Ethnikí Orgánosis Kipriakoú Agónos - The National Organisation of Cypriot Struggle) during the Cyprus Emergency of 1955-1959. IWM catalogue reference FIR 6163. Original source https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/30029340.Y MODIFIED example of the British STEN gun was seized from members of EOKA (Ethnikí Orgánosis Kipriakoú Agónos - The National Organisation of Cypriot Struggle) during the Cyprus Emergency of 1955-1959. It was found to have been used in an attack on the Kyrenia police station on 8 September 1956. IWM catalogue reference FIR 6163. Original source https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/30029340.

THIS UNOFFICIALLY MODIFIED example of the British STEN gun was seized from members of EOKA (Ethnikí Orgánosis Kipriakoú Agónos – The National Organisation of Cypriot Struggle) during the Cyprus Emergency of 1955-1959. IWM catalogue reference FIR 6163. Original source https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/30029340.

EOKA was formed to end the British presence in Cyprus and sought Enosis, that is to ally the island – which has a mixed Turkish and Greek Cypriot population – with mainland Greece.

A particular source of friction was the presence of a variety of British military facilities on the island.

In 1960 Cyprus ceased to be a British Crown Colony and became a republic and the Republic of Cyprus,  Britain, Greece and Turkey agreed that it should be administered jointly as Protectorate. At this time British Sovereign Base Areas (SBAs) were formed.

This would in turn – like so many civil wars – spark division and armed conflict between the two different heritages on the island.

Following a coup by the Cypriot National Guard with the co-operation of a military government on mainland Greece overthrew the Cypriot government, aiming to bring about Enosis.

This prompted the Turkish military invasion of the island in 1974, and Turkey claimed jurisdiction over an area in the north of the island, now known as Northern Turkey.

Today the island is still divided by the ‘Green Line’ – first established in 1963 – in an attempt to ease tension between the two communities. (6)

Since the 1974 Turkish action it has become a demilitarised separation zone which is patrolled by a UNFICYP, a United Nations Peacekeeping force. (7) (8) (9) (10) (11)

The STEN gun shown above was used by members of EOKA in an attack on the police station at Kyrenia in the north of the island on 8 September 1956.

It has been modified with a replacement cocking handle and the magazine housing fixed so it could not be rotated.

For EOKA police stations represented not only British authority but also a place where locally engaged policemen – ‘enemy’ Turkish Cypriot and ‘treacherous’ Greek Cypriots – operated from.

With weapons scarce EOKA carried out raids on British military and police facilities with the aim of acquiring them.

Sadly IWM’s collection has a number of weapons that were stolen from either British or other sources and used in attacks on the security forces in Cyprus, as well as a number of home-made guns and other improvised arms.

Sources

(1)https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/russia/kalashnikov.htm – retrieved 6 March 2019.

(2) https://www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/ak-47.pdf – retrieved 6 March 2019.

(3) https://medium.com/war-is-boring/the-world-war-ii-sten-gun-was-cheap-and-dirty-42767cfe2513 – retrieved 6 March 2019.

(4) https://www.militaryfactory.com/smallarms/detail.asp?smallarms_id=668 – retrieved 6 March 2019.

(5) http://norfolktankmuseum.co.uk/sten-machine-carbine/ – retrieved 6 March 2019.

(6) https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/europe/cy-green-line.htm – retrieved 6 March 2019.

(7) https://www.lonelyplanet.com/cyprus/travel-tips-and-articles/tracing-history-across-nicosias-green-line/40625c8c-8a11-5710-a052-1479d27689e5 – retrieved 6 March 2019.

(8) https://peacekeeping.un.org/en/mission/unficyp – retrieved 6 March 2019.

(9) http://blogs.reuters.com/photographers-blog/2014/04/10/los-in-time-the-cyprus-buffer-zone/ – retrieved 6 March 2019.

(10) https://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2014/04/frozen-in-time-the-cyprus-buffer-zone/100714/ – retrieved 6 March 2019.

(11) https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/what-caused-the-division-of-the-island-of-cyprus – retrieved 6 March 2019.

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