New Blog Post Series

I thought as good a place to start with this series of short articles would be the actual rifle makers. As many are already aware, I have done a series of articles on the state arsenals, the key firm Ludw. Loewe AG, and several smaller articles on DWM variations. However, here I will do short articles on each firm, smaller in scale and scope, which can serve the beginner as a quick reference (for the original article on the subject, refer to MRJ #196 May 2009).

 

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General Freiherr von Lyncker, Paul Mauser and the Gewehr98

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Recently Jon Speed decided to share one of his most prized documents from his collection, this one a personal letter from Paul Mauser to General Freiherr von Lyncker, Chief of the Military Cabinet, a personal aide to Kaiser Wilhelm II since 1908. By all accounts a man of impeccable character, from a family with a long and distinguished military tradition. The story of the General is a story unto itself; he was intimately involved with the path to war in 1914, entirely loyal to the German Army and Kaiser. Although like most German Generals of this period, he shied away from politics, he was one of the leading proponents of war, especially with France and Russia, the thinking being that it was an eventuality and best to get it done and over with, – that and it would relieve some of the domestic pressures (strength among the “liberal” political elements in Germany – typical of leaders then and today, they often look to war as a distraction for the public). He was a realist though, his loyalty was to the Kaiser and the Army above all and he had no political ambitions. Once the war began, his “hawkish” nature was extinguished with the death of his two sons, one in September 1914 and the second in February 1917 (a collision with a French aircraft in battle, killing both pilots), the consequence being that he began to side with the civilians in government (Bethmann and Lyncker’s Naval counterpart Georg von Müller) against OHL (Army Supreme Command, – Hindenburg and Ludendorff), seeking a more moderate course with peace in mind. He was never active in this pursuit though, the deaths of his two sons broke his spirit and he largely left official matters to others.

A prewar picture of the Kaiser’s entourage, Lyncker is number 6; Georg von Müller is number 13. Georg von Müller was an important figure during the war, possibly one of the most rational men around the Kaiser at the time, though apparently not well liked.

The letter itself is quite interesting, very courteous as you would expect from a man of Paul Mauser’s character and upbringing, but we lack the earlier correspondence from Lyncker that precipitated this letter. It discusses the delivery of the G98a, that the delivery date could be met after all, due to the material supply improving over previous months. I am uncertain what Paul Mauser means by the G98a, but he refers to parts for the rifles, which is probably the clue to meaning.

The research I have conducted dealing with pre-war rifle (Gewehr98) production suggests that Mauser was making very few rifles for the German Army by 1908. By 1911 the numbers seem to be trivial, and the only meaningful production being done by the Prussian Arsenal at Spandau, all the other Arsenals were engaged with Kar.98a production, and DWM was entirely off line making rifles for the German military. As far as can be determined, only Spandau and Mauser were making Gewehr98’s in 1911, and Mauser’s production was meager. So my interpretation of the letter is referring to component production, probably delivered to Spandau, or possibly the ordnance system.

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The only question that remains is why would this situation demand the attention of such important men? It seems like a rather insignificant problem for such a high ranking General to be involved in, and one can only imagine Paul Mauser’s reply was only due to such an important inquirer.

Note the quality of the paper, Paul’s name embossed at the top, the signature using a quill pen, which Jon said was typical of Paul Mauser’s correspondence, but I am sure the importance of the recipient is also a factor.

Mauser Oberndorf Sg98/05 Bayonet Production During World War I

The Mauser Oberndorf Sg98/05 Bayonet

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Mauser Oberndorf is a well-known manufacturer of the German “butcher” bayonet, which resembles a butchers knife, but few realize that Mauser Oberndorf was not the actual manufacturer of the bayonets. Some years ago Jon Speed revealed the facts behind the production of the bayonets, in his Collector Grade book titled “Mauser: Original Oberndorf Sporting Rifles” page 50; however he left out much of the details of the relationship.

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Today, Jon Speed tells us the rest of the story!

Jon Speed recently provided the documents from his archives that show the relationship in detail. During April 1915 Mauser Oberndorf contracted with “Unionwerk Mea G.m.b.H. Elektrotechnishe Fabrik Eisenwerk” at Feuerbach (northwestern suburb of Stuttgart) for the manufacture of 1,500,000 to 2,000,000 bayonets between July 1915 and July 1920, these bayonets were to be made at Mauser’s expense, who would cover operating costs and 1 Mark per bayonet. The contract also allows for a cancellation if the government doesn’t authorize the expenditure.

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Although Mauser contracted for such a large number of bayonets, a million and half or more, the bayonets are not especially common, – though not scarce either. Many have been recorded and several studies list it in the “common” category of the manufacturers, however my own research suggests they are one of the “less common” amongst the commonly encountered makers. Known bayonets cover the range 1915-1918, the 1915 dated probably the most difficult to find, probably because production did not begin before July 1915, and 1917-1918 dated the most common date encountered.. Sawback blades are only known dated 1916 and 1917, my research showing 1917 more common than 1916 dated.

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The bayonets can also be found with Mauser Oberndorf made scabbards, which are a little less common and in my experience command a small premium over unmarked scabbards. How many bayonets were actually delivered is unknown, or Jon Speed did not say (**), but I suspect many were sent to Turkey, and that probably explains why the Mauser made bayonets are less common than you would expect. I have seen many cut down bayonets that have signs of Turkish service, and it is likely many ended up there. P1020158

Here are some pictures of the actual contract between the two firms, with the signatures of Mauser directors Schmid and Doll.

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** Update, Jon Speed was able to determine approximately how many bayonets were made:

Paul , checked in my Mauser records and can say that app. 1,105,900 Bayonets were made by /for Mauser during WWI. I am sure the figure could be a bit higher as the Bayonet data for 1914-15 is not clear. I have a 1916 Bayonet with metal sheath with WFM name on it in small letters. Regards, Jon

Vatikan Paepstliche Schweizergarde Gewehr98’s

As the Gewehr98.com’s first blog post, I thought we would start with a very interesting, and little known piece of Mauser history shared with me by Jon Speed, who found the story within the Hans Lockhoven files.

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Sometime between 1908 and 1911 the Vatican contracted with Mauser Oberndorf, through an intermediate in Düsseldorf, for the purchase of 200 Gewehr98 rifles. These were commercial production rifles, but have the appearance of your typical Gewehr98. In 1989 the commander of the Paepstliche Schweizergarde (Swiss Guard) wrote a letter to Hans Lockhoven and included pictures of one of these 200 rifles, in this case a Mauser Oberndorf / 1908 serial number 77357. Note the condition and the commercial trade marks of Mauser envon the stock, the wrist marking (WM) and trademark on the buttstock are commonly found on commercial rifles of this period. The rifles do not seem to be specially marked, or even used to any appreciable extent.

 

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Jon Speed also discovered the recording of this sale in his bound books, dated July 1911, so the delivery was probably sometime after that but certainly during 1911. One can only wonder what purpose these rifles were intended to serve, but the Gewehr98 was the standard service rifle of the period, the Gewehr98 in its prime, so it makes sense the Vatican might want to have the most modern arms possible for their small armed guard.

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