Parlez-vous Sten?

Beginning as early as May 11, 1940, resistance groups of Frenchmen and women trapped behind German lines took it upon themselves to continue the fight to throw the “Boche” out.

Terming themselves the “Maquisards” (People that live in the “maquis” in the woods and mountains) these guerrillas fought with whatever they had at hand and went underground whenever things got too hot, often abandoning their weapons if they could not cache them for future use. This meant that very soon, the small supply of French military and sporting weapons that had been in the hands of the resistance were running short. This left them either having to capture guns from the occupiers (which happened), or get them from outside friends.

That’s where airdrops of STEN guns and other arms from the Allies came in handy. Taking only about a half dozen man-hours to build, the STEN cost about $10 to make (about $130 a pop in today’s money– cheaper than a Hi Point pistol!), it was cheap enough to literally give away.

Most wartime STEN guns were built by female British factory workers

Most wartime STEN guns were built by female British factory workers

sten-disassemble1

This meant they could be made in great volume and some 5 million Stens were cranked out officially during World War Two (as well as an estimated million more in underground shops).

British Special Operations Executive (SOE) units and Jedburgh teams with the U.S. OSS Special Operations (SO) branch fanned out across Europe, making contact with those who could use a delivery or ten of high explosives and STEN guns with the idea of setting Hitler’s Europe on fire.

The French received more deliveries than any other group, making the cheap submachine gun an iconic weapon of the beret-clad insurgent.

Resistance Learning about the Sten

Resistance Learning about the Sten

Resistant of the Finistère region armed with a British Sten, 1944

Resistant of the Finistère region armed with a British Sten, 1944 Click to big up

Parisian partisan with his STEN helping liberate the City of Light in 1944

Parisian partisan with his STEN helping liberate the City of Light in 1944.

homemade stenguns

homemade stenguns

A French resistance maquis armed with a STEN gun shelters behind a truck while taking on German snipers in the town of Dreux

A French resistance maquis armed with a STEN gun shelters behind a truck while taking on German snipers in the town of Dreux

It wasnt just the French resistance that was armed with the STEN. Here, Dule Bey Allemani, an Albanian resistance chief, poses with his STEN gun provided by Allied SOE agents in July 1944

It wasn’t just the French resistance that was armed with the STEN. Here, Dule Bey Allemani, an Albanian resistance chief, poses with his STEN gun provided by Allied SOE agents in July 1944

Danish resistance fighters note the mix of arms to include a BREN, a number of  Danish Army Nagant revolvers, and a couple of very Darth Vaderish  Royal Danish army helmets

Danish resistance fighters in 1945 –Note the mix of arms to include a BREN, a STEN, a number of Danish Army M1880/85 revolvers, and a couple of very Darth Vaderish Royal Danish army helmets

Termed the FFI (Forces Françaises de l’Intérieur) later in the war, by 1944 they counted some 400,000 under arms, with nearly a quarter of the members of some units equipped solely with ‘the plumber’s nightmare.’

This of course, helped them acquire some much larger and better made gear as well.

French fighter of the resistance holding his STG 44. I wouldn't trade a STEN for anything but...

French resistance fighter holding his captured German STG 44. I wouldn’t trade a STEN for anything but…

 

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