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.
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.
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.