A Well-Traveled African BHP

I spotted this rare gem in RTI’s catalog. As you know, they have been bringing in odd container loads of small arms from the Ethiopian Army, which seems to have begged, bought, and otherwise collected guns from just about every source available to them for the length of the 20th Century. Besides lots of surplus Italian army arms collected first-hand from their former users, Allied arms supplied in and just after WWII, and guns from the Soviets including milsurp German Lugers and P-38s, you just never know what the Ethiopians had in storage and RTI lucked in to.

Take this bad boy, for instance.

The above is a Belgian Force Publique-marked Browning Hi-Power, SN 1450. It is an early gun for sure, including the “thumbprint” on the slide and an internal extractor.

The Force Publique was a colonial gendarmerie established in the Congo by the Belgians in 1885 and remained until June 1960 when the region gained independence, setting off the whole Katanga insurgency thing.

Organized into platoons, companies, and battalions set up as light infantry, the end-strength of the FP prior to independence were 22,403 Congolese regular soldiers and NCOs, 599 European NCOs, and 444 European officers.

As noted by Anthony Vanderlinden in his excellent FN pistols book, the Force Publique on Sept. 3, 1959, ordered 800 pistols marked FP1959 with SN 901-1701, making that batch largely the last one delivered.

As for how the FP Hi-Power made it to Ethiopia? Haile Selassie had sent a detachment of his Imperial Guard to assist the UN in the state from 1960-63.

A mixed patrol of Ethiopian soldiers and local police officer patrol Commune Albert near Elisabethville March 1963 UN Photo # 210715

A mixed patrol of Ethiopian soldiers and local police officer patrol Commune Albert near Elisabethville (now Lubumbashi) March 1963 UN Photo # 210715

A Congolese child is seen in the arms of an Ethiopian soldier, listening over a field telephone, Katanga, 1 March 1963. Note his M1 Garand

UN Photo # 184419

It is more than possible that the Belgian 9mm made it back to Addis Ababa as a trophy and, from there, into the arsenal that RTI just bought.

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