by Michael Kreca and Dan Reynolds
"land of the southern Slavs". Before World War II it was spelled Jugoslavia
in English publications. The "J" in Serbo-Croat is pronounced as "Y" in
English. Yugoslavia from its founding in 1918 until 1929 was officially
called "Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats & Slovenes".
The Serbs, Croats
and Slovenes, along with the Macedonians, Montenegrins and the Bosnian
Moslems, are the main peoples of Yugoslavia with the Serbs being the largest
in number. The Montenegrins are in fact ethnic Serbs, often called "mountain
Serbs". The Bosnian Moslems are Serbs or Croats who were forcibly converted
to Islam by the Ottoman Turks centuries ago. Ethnic Hungarians, Germans,
many from the German region of Swabia, Albanians, Vlachs, (ethnic Rumanians)
as well as Gypsies and Jews formed significant minority ethnic groups within
The native Yugoslav
languages are all Slavic in their derivation, the chief dialect being Serbo-Croat.
The only significant difference between Serb and Croat is that the Serbs
traditionally use the Russian style Cyrillic alphabet, while the Croats
and others employ the standard Latin script. The other two main Yugoslav
dialects are Slovene and Macedon, both differing significantly from Serbo-Croat.
As recent historical events show, there are many long running, deep seated
conflicts among the peoples of the former Yugoslavia. Ones that were in
many cases, deliberately fueled by foreigners and that go back many centuries.
A brief overview of the history of this area of the Balkans will place
in context the subject of this article.
of the Balkans can be traced back nearly 10,000 years. The Danube River
Valley and those of its many tributaries provided the basis for a rudimentary
regional agricultural civilization leading to the formation of a number
of small cities. The archaeological remains of one of these ancient communities,
Lepenski Vir, were discovered on the southern bank of the Danube southeast
of Belgrade in 1965.
Over time, larger
scale agriculture, animal husbandry, regional trade, rudimentary industry,
iron and copper mining and, smelting developed causing various tribal groups
from the north and east to migrate into the area. One of these tribes was
the Illyrian, who settled mainly in the northwestern part of the Balkan
Peninsula. The Illyrian farmed as well as mined and smelted metals and
traded with distant areas such as Greece in the period about 3000 BC.
The Romans began
expanding into the area toward the latter part of the 3rd Century BC, but
more than 200 years of bitter struggle were required to completely subjugate
the restive native peoples. In 9 AD, the area formally became the Roman
province of Illyricum, although because of the intense civil war and constant
tribal infighting, it was never completely garrisoned by Roman troops as
was customary with other conquered lands. In 395 AD, Constantine, the first
Christian Roman Emperor, and who made Christianity the new official religion
of the realm, divided the large increasingly troubled and difficult to
rule Empire into Eastern and Western portions.
The Western Empire
(Rome) and the Eastern Empire (Byzantium) each had its own ruler, located
in Rome and Constantinople (called Istanbul since 1930) respectively. Constantine's
splitting of the Christian Roman Empire into East and West set in motion
a long series of important events which have had a profound influence on
By the late 5th
Century AD, the Western Empire had collapsed and Byzantium had been weakened
to the point that effective control of the Balkans was abdicated. Warlike
tribes of Slavs moving from the northeast into the region drove out many
of the remaining descendants of the Illyrian. The Slavic newcomers were,
in turn, briefly ruled by a tribe of nomadic raiders, the Avars, believed
by some to be descendants of the Scythians, a barbaric tribe from the far
eastern Russian steppes, who participated in numerous attacks on Constantinople.
In 625 AD, a resurgent Byzantium allied itself with two of the largest
Slavic tribes already in the Balkans, the Serbs and Croats, and gradually
pushed the Avars eastward and completely out of the old Roman Illyria.
Around 850 AD, the
first Serbian nation under Tsar Vlastimir was formed as a Byzantine province
ruled by Emperor Michael III. Two brothers, Sts. Cyril and Methodius, were
sent by the Emperor in Constantinople to Christianize the Serbs and other
Slavs. To preach and to teach in the native Slavonic tongue, Cyril developed
a script, derived from the ancient Greek, which eventually became what
is now known as Cyrillic. He based his modified Greek script on the phonics
of an ancient dialect spoken by the Slavic tribes in Macedonia, a dialect
known today by Slavic Orthodox Christians as "Old Church Slavonic."
Present day Slovenia
and Croatia in the western Balkans eventually gravitated to Rome, adopted
the Latin alphabet and became Western Christians. The Serbs and Macedons
in the eastern Balkans, as well as the more distant Bulgarians and Russians,
used the Cyrillic script and became Eastern Christians, along with the
Ukrainians, Romanians and Greeks, under the tutelage of Constantinople.
This action has had a permanent effect on the culture and history of the
peoples in these areas.
this division, in 1054, ongoing doctrinal differences caused a wide and
still unrepaired schism between the eastern and Western Christian churches.
As a result of this schism, the Western church is the Roman Catholic (meaning
"universal") Church and the Eastern Church is the Eastern Orthodox (meaning
Serbia was a strong independent state by the 11th century, as was its Slav
neighbor, Croatia. In 1102, Hungary absorbed Catholic Croatia, which it
would rule for more than 800 years in conjunction with Austria. Serbia,
often called "Servia" in many older publications, was unified and ruled
by the Serb Nemanjich dynasty of emperors begun by Tsar Stefan Nemanja
in 1159 and reached its peak size, cultural influence and power during
the 24 year reign of Tsar Stefan Dushan (1331-55), when it ruled an area
from northern Greece northward to the Danube and into modern day Hungary.
During this time a highly developed Serbian literary, political, musical
and artistic culture, which helped preserve and enrich traditional Greek
learning, was defined and unified by the Serb Orthodox Church. The church
was founded by Stefan Nemanja's younger brother, St. Sava the patron saint
of Serbia) in 1219. After Tsar Dushan's death in 1355, the Serbian empire
gradually declined with land and power being divided, King Lear-like, between
two inept successors, Urosh and Vukasin. The Serb Empire, led by the one
of the last rulers of the Nemanja dynasty, Tsar Lazar and Crown Prince
Milos Obilich, was badly defeated by the much larger and more mobile forces
of the Ottoman Sultan Murad I at the bloody and hard fought Battle of Kosovo.
Translated roughly as "Plain of Blackbirds" in Vidovdan (St. Vitus' Day)
June 28, 1389. This battle, which claimed the lives of Lazar, Milos Obilich
and Murad, was the Waterloo of the old Serb empire. Since that time, the
Kosovo region known as "Old Serbia", that fateful battle and the many events
surrounding it have a deep cultural and spiritual meaning to all Serbs,
the Ottomans captured Constantinople and destroyed the remnants of Byzantium.
Six years later, they swallowed the remnants of Serbia and the rest of
the Balkans, occupying the region for the next 400 years. As part of the
Ottoman occupation, the Serbs, who the Turks called "giaours" (subhuman
dogs), were disarmed and the Serb Orthodox Church outlawed. They bitterly
refused to submit to Turkish rule and convert to Islam. Conversion
was required for employment and school attendance. They resisted the heavy
property and poll taxes imposed upon them and most importantly, fought
bitterly against the notorious annual Ottoman "blood tax" ("devshirme"
in Turkish) in which young Serb children each spring were forcibly taken
from their parents. The children were converted to Islam and sent to Turkey,
never to be seen again. Little more than slaves, Serb boys were sent into
lifelong service in the Ottoman military (Janissaries) while the girls
were forced into various sultans' harems. In response to these and other
cruelties and abominations, tens of thousands of Serbs fled Serbia proper
over the next 300 years. Large numbers of them soon settled in the Lika,
Slavonija and Krajina areas of Austrian and Hungarian ruled South-central
Croatia, where most of the men over the years served in the Austro-Hungarian
armyas border guards on the Austrian/Ottoman frontier. They were rewarded
with plots of farmland in the region upon their discharges. The Ottoman
Turks had reached the outskirts of Vienna and their historical high water
mark in 1683 before being defeated by Austrian troops (many of whom
were ethnic Serb conscripts) led by a Polish field marshal, Jan Sobieski.
After a long siege and and they were gradually driven back into the Balkans.
Karadjordje ( Black
George), a Serb who had served with the Austrian army battling the Turks
in 1788 and who had been deeply inspired by the success of the French aided
American Revolution against the British, led a large and violent Russian
supported 1804 insurrection against the Sultan in the area around Belgrade.
However, Black George's Serb insurgents were forced to flee to the northern
(Hungarian) side of the Danube in 1813 when Russian support was withdrawn.
Turkish troops then carried out bloody reprisals.
This led to renewed
bitter revolt over the next two years. Ottoman Turkey, under increasing
economic and military pressure from an industrializing Western Europe,
was soon forced to restore important rights to the Serbs beginning in 1815.
The Serbs' rights to keep and bear arms, freedom of assembly, and local
home rule, abolished in the mid-1400s, were gradually reinstated. By 1830,
the Ottomans granted full political autonomy to Serbia within the Empire
and the ban on the Serbian Orthodox Church was lifted. In 1850, neighboring
Montenegro, a small mountainous nation largely populated by Orthodox ethnic
Serbs, became independent of the Ottoman Empire and came under the rule
of a series of Orthodox Christian bishoprics. Milosh Obrenovich, a wealthy,
self-made Serb merchant who had managed to retain his Orthodox Christian
faith while gaining a great deal of influence with Ottoman authorities,
had been given the title of prince and granted limited powers by the Turks
in 1817 to rule and defend the newly autonomous Serb nation. The country
relied on an armed peasant militia that was transformed into a standing
army, the Polje Vojska (Field Army), in the 1830s and led by Russian trained
In 1839, the increasingly
anti-Russian Prince Milosh was dethroned and his son, Michael II, acceded
to power. At that time a larger Field Army of 4000 men and 63 officers,
outfitted by the Serb government, was authorized. It was tasked with guarding
the borders and maintaining internal order. The only uniform was a government
issued flintlock or caplock muzzle loading rifle. The Serb National
Assembly voted Michael II out of power in 1843 and crowned Alexander I
Karadjordjevich (son of Black George) prince.
In 1853, the Vojna
Tehnicka Zavod (Military Technical Institute) was established at Kragujevac
in central Serbia. Initially established to cast and test cannons, it would
soon become Serbia's version of the USA's Springfield Armory. In 1858,
Prince Alexander was removed from the throne by a vote of the Serb National
Assembly which also returned Milosh I to power, but two years later Milosh
died and was succeeded by his son, Michael III.
goal was to unite all the Balkan South Slavic peoples in an effort to drive
the Ottomans back to Constantinople, independent of any assistance of the
Great Powers of Europe. Each of these powers had their own political agendas
that were not necessarily favorable to the peoples of the region. As part
of his strategy, Prince Michael established the Narodna Vojska (People's
Army) in 1861 and the War Ministry a year later. The People's Army, a sort
of active reserve that supported the Field Army, established in the mid-1830s
was composed of 17 regiments (pukove) each commanded by a colonel (pukovnik.).
A regiment was stationed in each of then-17 Serb "okruge" (provinces).
Provinces were subdivided into "srez" (counties) that provided a battalion
to each regiment. The smallest administrative area was called an "opstina"
(township). Each township, depending on population size, was required to
muster one or more companies (rote). Each fighting man was responsible
for providing his own food, shoes and clothing as well as a rifle, 60 rounds
of ammo and a bayonet.
Many Serb soldiers
used sporting pattern rifles with no available bayonet, so a short sword
with curving blade could be substituted. All able-bodied males from 20
to 50 years of age were liable for service in the People's Army. The People's
Army was divided into two groups, the First Levy (Prvi Ban) consisting
of 50,000 troops at the time and included those men ages 20-35. The Second
Levy (Dvaje Ban) of men 36-50 were the reserves used to staff forts and
garrisons, guard roads and bridges, act as transport personnel and support
the First Levy. Only the regulars were paid. Prince Michael had realized
as early as 1863 that Serbia's motley collection of small arms types, numbers,
quality, serviceability and ammunition compatibility were chaotic and woefully
inadequate. He knew that the average peasant could not afford to buy an
adequate rifle despite the legal requirement that he do so.
In 1863 the War
Ministry had in stock only 7,000 percussion muzzle loading rifles. The
Russians promised delivery of 70,000 obsolete percussion muskets but only
31,000 were delivered after 1865. At that time, the Military Technical
Institute began converting these rifles to breech loaders. These "new"
rifles, based on the Green-Lorenz design, were called the Model 1867
and nicknamed "Grnovace". This was a design which fired a non-metallic
combustible paper cartridge with lead 13.9mm bullet using a percussion
cap. Maximum monthly production of the M1867 was 5000 weapons. It was soon
realized that this design was gravely inadequate. Production was shifted
to another conversion design, the 14.9mm Peabody Model 1870 which used
a metallic cartridge and was superior to the M1867. This large caliber
conversion was made in limited numbers. It was only a stop-gap measure.
Prince Milan IV,
who had succeeded to the Serb throne after his father Michael III's death
in 1868, began to secure foreign political and economic support of some
of the European Powers to help gain Balkan independence from the Turks.
Up to this point in its 19th century history, the newly autonomous, but
not yet independent Serbia had used mainly rifles of the type issued in
the Ottoman armed forces and second hand purchases smuggled in from ports
on the Adriatic Sea with the newest types being the M1867 and M1870.
Models, calibers and serviceability varied widely. Many Serbs could not
afford to buy rifles of any kind while others still had venerable flintlock
muskets (duplonke) and pistols (kubare).
In 1871 some 55,000
Peabody dropping or pivoting block breech loading rifles were imported
from a European source, possibly France, and production machinery was acquired.
Foreign engineers and technicians, totaling 1500, arrived at the Military
Technical Institute to oversee production of this design. A monthly production
rate of 500 rifles was achieved and the final production run is unknown.
These new Peabody rifles were used to arm the People's Army First Levy
and were similar to the model built by the Providence Tool Company, Providence
R.I. USA, for Rumania a few years earlier. It was known as the M1870 "Srpski
Pushke" (Serb Rifle) caliber 11.43 mm.
By 1875, the People's
Army First Levy numbered between 75,000 and 90,000 men, the Second Levy
about 50,000 men. In July 1876, Serbia and Montenegro declared war on Turkey
in reaction to the widespread mistreatment of the Orthodox Christian Serbs
in neighboring Bosnia-Herzegovina by the local Turkish nobility. Only 60,000
troops organized into six divisions were able to take to the field. Most
were armed with the M1870 Peabody, but many had been issued the unpopular
M1867, whose unreliability was now legendary and was believed by many to
be a major factor in Serb battlefield defeats. Worse, an Ottoman vassal,
the Khedive of Egypt, had provided troops and 40,000 British made .450
(11.43mm) Martini-Henry Mark 1 breech loading rifles to the Sultan for
the war in the Balkans.
The new Peabody
11 .43 mm rifles proved far superior to the existing Serb M1867 conversion
rifles, although most of the Sultan's troops were outfitted with the .577
caliber (14.66mm) Snider-Enfield breechloader conversion rifle, also of
British origin. The Turks were so impressed with the Martini-Henry Mark
1 breech loading rifle that they sought to purchase a large quantity from
the British, whom, were however unable to supply them in the quantity and
time frame required. The Sultan then turned to Providence Tool Co. in the
USA and ordered 600,000 of these rifles. Financial problems plagued the
Ottomans and delayed delivery of the rifles, the shipment not completed
until 1882. The Turks received sufficient numbers for their 1877 war with
Aided by the Bulgarians
and Serbs the Russians, despite losing the Battle of Plevna to a large
Turkish force armed with US Martini-Henry breech loading single shot and
Winchester Model 1866 and 1873 .44-40 repeating rifles, finally defeated
the Turks and forced them to accept the Treaty of San Stefano. The despondent
Sultan did not live to see this as he had killed himself with a pair of
The major powers
of Europe decided that the San Stefano settlement was unacceptable for
geopolitical reasons, and a revised agreement, the Treaty of Berlin, was
devised a year later. As a result of this revised agreement, Serbia assumed
complete independence as a kingdom, Turkey lost a large portion of its
Balkan territory and an autonomous Bulgaria was formed within the Ottoman
Empire. Austria got control of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Serbia and Montenegro
received additional territory. The Sanjak, a mostly Moslem area between
Montenegro and Serbia was put under Austrian protection. This event caused
a great Serb resentment of Austria, one that would help cause World War
It was now time
for the newly independent Kingdom of Serbia to standardize on a modern
military rifle. Wilhelm Mauser from Oberndorf, Germany, arrived in Belgrade,
capital of Serbia, in July 1879. He brought samples of his Model 1871 11mm
single-shot bolt-action breech loading black powder rifle adopted by many
of the states of the newly unified German Empire. He was a good salesman
with a first rate, reasonably priced product. To close the deal he accepted
a string of design changes proposed by a Serb army ordnance officer, Major
Koka Milovanovic (pronounced mee-lo-VAHN-ovitch.)
A torch light parade
was held in Belgrade celebrating closure of the deal. Mauser received an
order on 14 February 1881 for 120,000 Model 1878/80 Mauser Milovanovich
rifles. The delay between Mauser's initial sales pitch and the Serb government
order was due to testing of sample rifles, developing and testing modifications,
and designing and testing the new cartridge. This latest "Serb Rifle" was
also known as the "Mauser Koka" or "Mauser Milovanovic," the "M1878/80C"
and the "M80C". The "C" is Cyrillic for "S" which stands for Serbian. This
use of the Cyrillic "S" in model designations, along with its use on all
markings Serb Mauser models manufactured in Germany and Austria, would
become standard for most Serb Masers.
Among the modifications
the Serbs made to the basic Model 1871 was the slightly smaller caliber,
10.15mm as opposed to the German 11mm, a tapered barrel breech to muzzle,
grooves in rifling, a better manual safety, improved extractor and ejector.
The most noticeable feature is the raised receiver tang, to guide the cocking
piecestud as the bolt is drawn rearward, to prevent the bolt head from
The next major purchase
was for 4,000 10.15mm Mauser Milovanovic Model 1884 repeating carbine,
known popularly as the "M84C". This M84C used the existing 78/80 type turn
bolt action and was a short barreled carbine, stocked to the muzzle Mannlicher
style, with shorter distance rear sight, a pointed pistol grip tip, a tubular
magazine and turned down bolt handle. The 4,000 cavalry carbines were followed
by a purchase of 4,000 artillery carbines which were not stocked to the
muzzle and accepted a sword bayonet.
Despite these notable
technical advances, Serbia remained chronically short of weapons and funds
and was always surrounded by potential enemies. It looked to the fellow
Orthodox Christian and Slavic Russians for assistance, but was wary of
becoming dependent on them. Between 1878-1914, the Serb government tried
to foster good diplomatic and trade relations with Tsarist Russia as well
as with Imperial Germany and the detested Austria- Hungary, but this policy
was difficult to maintain and was unpopular with many Serbs.
With the advent
of Frenchman Paul Vielle's revolutionary smokeless powder in 1886 and his
country's adoption of the Lebel M1886 8mm bolt-action magazine rifle shortly
afterward, Serbia was even further degraded in relative military potential.
In response, the Serbs field tested the German Model 1888 "Commission"
Rifle in 7.92x57mm and the Model 1890 Steyr Mannlicher in 8x50R with its
straight pull bolt action, but could not get adequate financing to purchase
these new rifles.
The Serbs were forced
to settle for surplus or outdated weapons wherever they could find them.
In 1895 Russia supplied an estimated 60,000 obsolete 10.67mm Berdan Model
1870 and Berdan II single shot bolt action black powder rifles to both
Serbia and Montenegro. The independent Kingdom of Montenegro, which had
adopted a similar rifle, the 10.66mm Austrian Steyr Werndl Model 1873,
received half of the Berdans, but included were some of the revised M70/78g
rifles with longer range sights. It appears further deliveries of these
surplus Berdans were made after the initial 1895 shipment. Smokeless powder
and small bore repeating rifles were the cutting edge in small arms technology
at the time, and by the late 1890s, given Serbia's size, geographic position
and political stance, a pressing necessity. Several manufacturers and designs
were considered. When financing became available, the German Mauser Model
1895, already in production for Chile, was selected along with the 7x57mm
rimless cartridge. The Serbs adopted this type, labeling it the Model 1899
The M99C was made
in Berlin by Deutsche Waffen und Munitions Fabriken. DWM was formed by
the banking firm of Ludwig Loewe which owned Waffenfabrik Mauser, an ammunition
company and the Ludwig Loewe rifle and machine tool works. This reorganization
allowed Waffenfabrik Mauser to continue operating as an autonomous corporate
subsidiary, but merged the other assets into a single firm. After late
1896 all rifles made at the Loewe plant in Berlin were marked on the left
receiver wall with Deutsche Waffen und Munitions Fabriken, and the Loewe
name was no longer used. Only long rifles were purchased, but deliveries
were insufficient to satisfy Serb ordnance department requirements as insufficient
funds kept Serbia from buying modern rifles fast enough, so M99C series
production and deliveries were phased in over a period of years, ending
In the wake of the
Spanish-American War of 1898, Francis Bannerman a prominent New York City
war surplus dealer, had purchased all the 7x57mm Spanish Model 1893 Mauser
rifles and Model 1895 carbines captured by U.S. forces from Spanish troops
in Cuba and the Philippines. During the summer of 1902, as work was progressing
to produce the new .30 caliber U.S. Rifle Model 1903, commonly called the
"Springfield" after its place of development, Springfield Armory in Springfield,
Mass. Bannerman contracted with that armory to recondition the captured
Spanish weapons he had purchased at an auction.
In the late spring
of 1903, Bannerman took a sample rifle and carbine with him to Europe.
He planned to go to Belgrade to sell the whole lot of them to Serbia. These
Spanish rifles were quite similar to the M99C, the chief difference being
the bolt face design which would not allow the bolts to interchange with
existing Serb Mauser bolts. Despite this shortcoming, it would have still
seemed to be an excellent deal for both parties, but, as Balkan history
has repeatedly demonstrated, other events intervened.
On the evening of
May 29, 1903, the king of Serbia, Alexander Obrenovich, whose family had
ruled Serbia for nearly 70 years and was considered by many Serbs at the
time to be a pretender to the Serb throne as well as being too pro-German,
was brutally killed in Belgrade by a cadre of 28 junior army officers along
with his wife, Queen Draga, a widow and a commoner. These officers were
incensed with the king's erratic foreign policy that had diplomatically
isolated Serbia, and were angry about his recent suspension of Parliament
and the reformist 1901 Constitution. The officers had bombed the palace
with dynamite, trapped the royal couple behind some drapes, shot them 48
times, hacked the corpses to pieces with their swords and flung the bloody
remains from a balcony and into the street.
King Peter I of
the Karadjordjevich line, the grandson of Black George, was restored to
power. When Bannerman arrived in the Serb capital by train from Germany,
the political situation was so unstable that no deal could be made and
he left for home to sell off the rifles elsewhere. The next group of Serb
Mauser rifles, the Model 99/07C, also known as "M99/07C" and "M07C", was
purchased from the Steyr firm in Austria. These were based upon the small
ring M99C, but the chambered cartridge's base was fully supported by a
ring of steel formed by a section of shallow flange machined on the barrel
breech face mating with a complimentary flange on the recessed bolt face
as the bolt was turned down and locked. This feature was retro fitted to
the original contract M99C rifles earlier on.
A new carbine,
the 7x57mm M08C, was also purchased from Steyr. It had a pointed Mannlicher-style
pistol grip stock, a 17.7" (45cm) barrel and a Mauser 1895-type adjustable
rear tangent sight calibrated from 300 to 1500 meters. It was originally
intended for cavalry but later found wider usage. Markings on all these
Mausers are in Serb Cyrillic and they bear the Serbian royal crest and
the words "Model 1908" in Cyrillic on the receiver ring.
A later short barreled
carbine of different pattern using the intermediate length type 1898 receiver
was purchased from FN in the 1920's and issued to the police in the central
Serb city of Nis (pronounced Neesh). It was of the FN M1922 pattern but
it's exact Yugoslav designation is not known to us. It was made in 7.92mm.
During this period, a cost reduction measure was adopted to convert old
M1878/80C black powder rifles to five shot single column box magazine feed
using the standard smokeless powder 7x57mm cartridge, a scheme which turned
out to be impractical and dangerous. The first model, the M80/06C, was
proven unsuitable and a strengthened model was developed and called the
M80/7C or M80/07C. The M80/7C featured an adapter fitted to the receiver
to provide a bearing point for an additional locking lug on the bolt guide
rib and charger clip guides for the standard Mauser M99C stripper clip
are fitted to the receiver bridge. To begin production of this conversion,
50,000 new 7x57mm barrels were ordered from Steyr in 1907. The work was
done by MTI (Miltary Technical Institute) in Kragujevac. This rifle was
not very popular but remained in inventory into the 1930's.
in 1908, Serbia learned the British and Russian governments were conspiring
to establish an independent Macedonia. Macedona is a mountainous area of
the Balkans south of Serbia and bordering on Greece, which was still under
Ottoman control. Ethnic Serbs, Bulgarians, Turks, Albanians, Greeks, Jews,
Vlachs and other minorities also called Macedonia their home. The Serb,
Bulgarian and Greek governments all had laid claim to some or all of the
weakening Turkey became popularly known as the "Sick Man of Europe." The
once powerful Ottoman Empire was dying fast and many expected a fight over
the corpse. When it became known in Constantinople that Macedonia was about
to be lost, a group of dissident junior army officers deposed the Sultan,
Abdul Hamid II, and adopted a new constitution. Calling themselves the
"Young Turks," these young officers implemented reforms in an attempt to
modernized and strengthen the empire and army. German advisers were brought
in to reorganize and upgrade the Turkish military along Prussian lines.
In the wake of events in Turkey, Austria Hungary, with the tacit consent
of Russia, quickly annexed Bosnia-Herzegovina, formally incorporating what
they had received via the Treaty of Berlin 30 years before. Belgrade threatened
to declare war on Vienna, but relented when it learned the Russians had
already agreed not to contest Austria's action.
Serb fears of an
invasion were escalated in September when Bulgaria declared its formal
independence from the Ottoman Empire. Belgrade believed this act might
inspire Sofia to invade and occupy Macedonia, an action that would fully
surround Serbia with potentially hostile enemies. In response to Belgrade's
bitter opposition to Vienna's Bosnian annexation, Austria suspended delivery
to Serbia of the final batch of 15,000 of the original 50,000 7x57mm Steyr
rifle barrels ordered the year before.
In reaction to this
series of distressing events, on October 8, 1908, a group of Serb generals,
diplomats, businessmen and legislators met in Belgrade and formed a clandestine
nationalist group called "People's Defense," its goal being to bring as
many Balkan regions populated by ethnic Serbs into a "Greater Serbia."
The Serbs determined to take over what they considered "Serb Macedonia."
By 1909, in part due to the success of People's Defense propaganda and
espionage efforts, the Turks were gradually losing what little remained
of their once huge Balkan Empire.
The former subject
peoples of the mostly Orthodox Christian areas of Greece, Serbia, Montenegro
and Bulgaria had by then formed independent or autonomous nations. Each
nation contained minorities of neighboring peoples, and all claimed other
lands housing people of their own ethnicity and these claims often conflicted.
One thing they all agreed upon was that the rotting Ottoman Empire had
to be pushed out of Europe once and for all so that each Balkan nation's
territorial claims could be settled and their respective security increased.
War was coming fast.
In the wake of these increasing political tensions, Serbia realized it
needed even more modern rifles and Steyr completed deliveries for the 7x57mm
Mauser M99/08C in 1910. A year before, 10,000 M80/7C conversions had been
completed with the Steyr 7x57mm caliber barrels first ordered in 1907.
Once financing could be arranged, the Serb government ordered an improved
Model 98 with the Mauser Co. factory in Oberndorf, Germany, the Model 1910
(M10C) in 7x57mm. Deliveries of this new "Serb Rifle" began in 1911. The
M10C looked at first glance like the M99C long rifle, but with a tangent
rear sight and large ring Mauser 98 action. It featured "the ring of steel"
full cartridge base support of the M99/08C, a standard Mauser 98 five round
staggered magazine assembly, and no recoil cross bolt in the stock. Guatemala,
Costa Rica, Colombia and other Latin American nations purchased this same
model. Serb Cyrillic markings and the Serb royal crest identify the new
In 1912, Serbia,
Bulgaria, Montenegro signed a series of clandestine agreements forming
what was called "The Balkan League." The League's aim was to drive the
weakened Ottoman Turks out of Europe once and for all. Montenegro declared
war on Turkey on October 8, 1912, followed by Serbia and Bulgaria, and
the First Balkan War was underway. A tottering Turkey was soon decisively
beaten by the combined powers of the League. After much wrangling, in May
1913 the Treaty of London was signed and the Ottomans lost their few remaining
European lands except for a small region on the western shore of the Dardanelles
bordering on Bulgaria and Greece, which it retains to this day.
The land taken from
the Ottomans was divided up among the victors. Bulgaria thought itself
cheated with its small portion of Macedonia and subsequently, with Austrian
logistical and financial support, attacked Serbia and Greece in June 1913.
This set off the brief but bloody Second Balkan War. Bulgaria lost, and
the resulting Treaty of Bucharest in August 1913 gave Montenegro the Sanjak.
Serbia got the lion's share of Macedonia, Greece got the coast of Salonika
and Kavala and southern Macedonia. Smarting from its loss of the Sanjak,
Austria-Hungary insisted on the establishment of an Austrian ruled Albanian
state on the territory Serbia and Montenegro had seized during that war.
As a result of the
last action, tensions between Serbia and Austria-Hungary reached new heights.
By midsummer 1913, the Serbian High Command had to face harsh political
and logistical realities. There was grave internal dissension within the
military and between the two major Serbian political parties, the ruling
hard-line Radicals and the more conciliatory Progressives. Basic foodstuffs,
especially grain, were in short supply because the mobilization of tens
of thousands of young men for both Balkan Wars had left an acute farm labor
shortage. Many rifles had been lost or rendered unusable. Artillery and
small arms ammunition stocks were gravely low. Ammunition for captured
non-standard Bulgarian and Turkish rifles was even scarcer.
Once again Serbia
needed modern infantry rifles, and fast. The country had to face the unpleasant
fact that obtaining the desired new Mauser pattern rifles in the required
quantity was no longer a viable option. The Mauser Company, via its holding
company, DWM, which controlled production licensing and sale of Mauser
rifles worldwide, was German owned and Germany was a formal ally of Austria-Hungary.
In the event of war with Vienna, the supply of rifles and spare parts from
Steyr would be cut off. Moreover, there was insufficient hard currency
to pay for these new rifles, and, to make matters worse, the Serb government
under Radical Party Prime Minister Nikola Pasich had terminated the Serbs'
trade agreement with Austria-Hungary that would have made a cost-effective
deal possible. Given these numerous unfavorable conditions, the Serb
High Command decided that, as a stop-gap measure, it would temporarily
rearm with the "Ruski Pushka" (Russian Rifle) the Model 1891 Mosin Nagant
bolt action rifle. It would become Serbia's new "substitute standard" as
soon as adequate quantities could be obtained. It is not known how these
rifles were paid for, but Russia began supplying or had promised to supply
them. However, once again, political events suddenly intervened to disrupt
In Sarajevo, on
Vidovdan, June 28, 1914, a Serb, Gavrilo Princip, shot and killed Crown
Prince Ferdinand, heir to the Habsburg (Austro-Hungarian) throne, along
with his wife Sophie. He used the popular Belgian made Browning Model 1910
pistol in 9mm Browning Short (.380 ACP.) Several of these handguns had
been supplied by Serbian military intelligence, on orders of its commander,
one Col. Dragutin "Apis" Dimitrijevich, to a three year old Serb nationalist
movement named "Unity or Death," commonly called "The Black Hand." The
Black Hand was a clandestine group of ethnic Serb nationalist conspirators
scattered throughout Austria-Hungary's Balkan provinces of which Princip,
who died of tuberculosis in an Austrian prison a few months before W.W.
I ended, was a member. Four of the pistols recovered by Sarajevo police
were serial numbered 19074, 19075, 19120, and 19126. The pistols were "liberated"
from an Austrian museum in 1945 and are presently believed to be somewhere
in the U.S.A.
In reaction to the
assassination, Vienna issued an ultimatum to Belgrade. Serbia approached
Russia for material support while rejecting Vienna's demands. Serbia was
still in poor shape economically and the military forces were gravely short
of vital supplies of all types. The Tsar's government promised 120,000
M1891 Mosin Nagant rifles to be delivered in August, despite the fact that
Russia itself was also chronically short of adequate numbers of small arms.
It is likely most of these came from Russian Army arsenals and were not
new production. It is unknown whether any rifles were delivered before
August 1914 when the promised 120,000 rifles showed up in Serbia. Further
deliveries followed, but no information is available on quantities. A British
Army document from early 1915 had reported that 150,000 Russian Mosin Nagants
were in Serb service at that time.
When war with the
Central Powers, Germany, Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria to be followed by
Turkey, began on 28 July 1914, Serbia was able to field an estimated 425,000
trained and equipped troops. The military intelligence department of the
Imperial Army of Austro-Hungary estimated that a minimum shortfall of 150,000
serviceable military rifles, needed to arm called up reservists, existed
in Serbia at the start of the war. The actual number in fact was well over
200,000. Roughly 25% of all Serb troops lacked rifles of any kind and other
soldiers were armed with obsolete black powder rifles for which little
ammo or spare parts were available.
The regular Serbian
Army and the First Levy, male draftees between 21-30 years of age serving
18 months of active duty, were supplied the following rifles, Serb Mausers
M10C, M99C, M99/07C, M99/08C, Carbine M08C and some Russian M1891 Mosin-Nagant
rifles in 7.62x54R. They were also outfitted with Belgian Nagant 7.5mm
revolvers, Browning M1910 .380 ACP, Mauser M1896 7.63mm "Broom handle"
autoloading pistols and 7x57mm Model 1909 Maxim water-cooled, belt fed
medium machine guns as available.
The Second Levy,
reservists between 31-40 years of age who had already completed their 18
months of active duty, was issued the following weapons, M80/7C rifle,
M95 carbine, M90T, M99T, M03T, M10T rifles, the M05T carbine and Austrian
Steyr Mannlicher M1895 rifles and carbines in 8x50R. The "T series" of
Mauser rifles and carbines had been captured from the Turks during the
First Balkan War and fired 7.65x53. mm ammunition. The Steyr Mannlichers
had been captured from the Bulgarians in the Second Balkan War. Older black
powder cartridge revolvers were issued. The Regular Army along with the
First and Second Levies constituted the Field Army. Only regulars and First
Levy would have uniforms, ammo pouches and belts.
The Third Levy (Trije
Ban), composed of reservists aged 41-50, was issued anything remaining
in the way of arms and equipment including arms of the type used by the
Second Levy weapons plus surplus 10.67mm Russian Berdan M1870 rifles. An
estimated 75,000 of these Berdans were accounted for in 1909, but after
the two Balkan Wars, some 50,000 serviceable examples of these rifles would
be a generous estimate. In addition, Mauser Milovanovic M1878/80C, Winchester
1866 & 1873 in .44-40, Sniders, Gras, Peabodys, Martini Henrys, M87T's,
anything that could shoot, was put into service. The Chetniks, irregular
local village forces, usually not uniformed and sometimes barefoot, were
armed chiefly with captured Austrian-made Bulgarian Steyr Mannlicher M95
rifles and carbines at the outbreak of war. Ammunition availability was
a key factor in issuing rifles. Sometimes only one packet, 20 cartridges
in four five-round clips, or one round per rifle, was issued.
The Military Technical
Institute could turn out 120,000 rounds of the standard 7x57mm per day,
but periodically had to switch production over to make various calibers
of artillery shells, obsolete 10.15mm black powder rounds, 8x50R cartridges
for captured Bulgarian Steyr-Mannlicher rifles as well as prepare to manufacture
the 7.62x54R cartridges for the proposed new substitute standard Russian
Mosin-Nagant rifle. Ammunition availability also dictated which type rifle
would be issued to each unit. Should a squad or platoon be transferred
to another company or battalion for example, its members had to trade their
rifles for the type in issue in the new parent unit to avoid logistical
problems. The Military Technical Institute was, by that time not only Serbia's
chief arsenal, but was also the largest manufacturer in the country. It
turned out machine tools and gauges, repaired artillery guns and small
arms, produced horse drawn carts, wagons and saddlery, crafted small arms
and artillery ammunition and also acted as the Serb military ordnance
school. It employed 300 full-time production workers in addition to the
technical staff and army personnel assigned there.
Serb battlefield successes against invading Austrians, whose commander,
Gen. Oskar Potiorek, bragged at war's outbreak he would have little trouble
conquering "that kingdom of pig breeders", had secured them large quantities
of Steyr-Mannlicher M1888/90 and M1895 8x50R rifles and carbines, Steyr
Model 1907 and 1912 autoloading pistols, Schwarzlose M1905 and M1912 belt
fed water-cooled medium machine guns in the same caliber as well as vast
stocks of ammunition for all of them.
However, as time
passed, the Serbs, facing the ravages of typhus and cholera combined with
persisting severe food, clothing and ammunition shortages, lost their capital
city, Belgrade, to attacking Austrian troops on December 2, 1914. Ironically
this was the birthday of Austrian emperor Franz Josef. Despite their desperate
straits, the battered and outnumbered but valiant Serbs the next day launched
one last desperate offensive against the now, overconfident Austrian forces.
Incredibly enough after 10 days of ferocious fighting, they drove a stunned
Gen. Potiorek and all of his remaining troops back across the Danube. Belgrade
was recaptured on December 15. Austria-Hungary had sustained more than
100,000 casualties and lost even more weapons valuable to the Serbs, but
the badly weakened Serbs could not take full advantage of their surprising
victory, a situation that caused a nearly year-long stalemate in the region.
By February 1915, about 50,000 serviceable Austrian M88/90 and M95 rifles
and carbines with adequate stores of captured 8x50R ammunition were in
formal Serb issue.
Despite these slight
improvements in the Serbs' logistical situation, in October 1915, their
still rebuilding army was eventually smashed after being surprise attacked
by an overwhelming combined force of invading German, Austrian and Bulgarian
troops. Some 150,000 Serb fighting men successfully embarked on a long
and difficult retreat southward across the mountains of south Serbia and
Macedonia into Greece where the Allies re-equipped them with significant
amounts of French gear such as the Rifle M1907/15 in 8mm Lebel and some
Chauchat and Hotchkiss machine guns in the same caliber. The French also
supplied a large number of Winchester Model 1907 .351 caliber semiautomatic
carbines that France had initially purchased from the USA as aircraft armament
before its airplanes were fully fitted with machine guns. These Winchester
carbines were used by Serb special operations troops.
In September 1916,
the refreshed, reorganized and refitted Serb armies resumed combat operations
against the German, Austrian and Bulgarian occupiers, driving slowly northward
into Macedonia and back through Serbia proper until the Central Powers
surrendered 26 months later. The Allies supported formation of a unified
multi-ethnic South Slav state as was stated in Point 11 of Woodrow Wilson's
"Fourteen Points," but Italy had been promised lands inhabited by many
of these peoples as part of the deal for entering the war on the Allied
side in 1915. Many Croats and Slovenes actively supported unification while
other members of those two groups opposed it on grounds the new union would
be dominated by Serbs.
The fiercely independent
King of Montenegro, Nicholas I, fearful of Croat and Slovene influence
in the new unified nation, abdicated his throne and left the country shortly
after W.W. I ended. The Serb Army formed the nucleus upon which the new
army of the unified kingdom would be built. The elderly King of Serbia,
Peter IKaradjordjevich, who had been in power since 1903, assumed the throne
of the new Kingdom, although his son, Alexander II, had ruled as regent
since 1914. Alexander II formally assumed the throne upon Peter I's death
in 1921. Serviceable military small arms remained in short supply in the
newly formed nation. All the previously discussed rifles were held in greatly
diminished numbers and these were far the worse for wear. Large numbers
of French 8mm Lebel caliber rifles and carbines which were acquired from
France during the war and in 1919 were in good order. Additionally, war
booty from the Central Powers included many of the following types of rifles,
the Mannlicher M1886 11mm, M1888, M88/90, M95, all in 8x50R, the Mauser
M1912 7x57mm, German Commission Modell 1888 ,Gewehr 1898 and the Kar. 98az
in 7.92x57mm as well as various Turkish Mauser rifles in 7.65mm.
Rifles of Allied
Powers which were lost to the Central Powers and reacquired by the Serbs
consisted of Mosin Nagant M1891s 7.62x54R, 11mm M1874 Gras, 6.5x52mm VV70/87/15
, 11mm Kropatscheks , M1891 Mosin Nagants converted to 8x50R by Austria,
various Italian M1891 series Mannlicher Carcano rifles and carbines in
6.5x52mm, as well as Romanian Model 1893 Mannlichers in 6.5x53R. Rifles
of acceded states included the Montenegrin Steyr Werndl M1873 10.66mm rifles,
10.67mm Berdan II and 7.62x54mmR Mosin Nagant M1891 rifles. Around 1922
a large number of former German 7.92mm Gewehr 1898 rifles were purchased
from Czechoslovakia. These remained in inventory in unaltered form up to
1939 when a program was begun to convert them to short rifle pattern designated
Model 1924b, the same designation which had been applied to altered Austrian
Mauser M1914 rifles in the later 1920's.
around 1920 was a proposal to purchase half a million .303 Enfield rifles
from England, but this was rejected. It was decided in 1923 to adopt
the German 7.92x57mm cartridge and acquire new Mauser rifles in this caliber
as well as to undertake converting rifles on hand to use this cartridge.
A deal in 1923 to buy Czech made Model (Vz) 98/22 long rifles failed to
close. A "Universal" pattern of rifled arm for issue to both infantry and
cavalry and other branches of service was decided upon. It would replace
both short carbine and long rifle pattern. Older rifles and carbines on
hand would be altered to the new "Universal" pattern as closely as practical.
In the wake of the
hard logistical lessons learned in 1914-18 and in the presence of scores
of types of captured small arms, Yugoslavia (and Czechoslovakia and Poland)
decided to standardize on the Mauser 98 type rifle in the German rimless
7.92x57mm caliber. Existing Serb and Turkish Mausers in 7x57mm and 7.65mm
respectively with badly worn or pitted bores could be rechambered and rebored
to 7.92mm and restored to service using existing barrels, a major savings
in money, effort and time. Mannlichers and even Carcanos would be altered
to fire 7.92mm cartridge.
In 1923 a tentative
order for 50,000 FN (Fabrique National D'Armes de Guerre in Herstal, Belgium)
Mauser large ring 1898 pattern intermediate length action rifles was negotiated
but not executed until 1925 when another 50,000 rifles were added to total
100,000 M1924 short rifles. These rifles lacked the special Serbian fully
supported cartridge head used in the M10C and M99/07C Mausers. However,
during 1926 ZB, the Czech arms plant in the city of Brno in Moravia delivered
42,000 new Vz24 7.92mm Mauser rifles and 10,000 used German Gewehr 1898
7.92mm Mauser long rifles to Serbia. The Vz24 were known as the Carbine
7.92mm Model 1924a in Serbia. In 1929 another 50,000 Vz24 7.92mm rifles
were purchased from ZB.
The 100,000 intermediate
length large ring action type 7.92mm Model 1924 short rifles which were
purchased from Fabrique National DeGuerre (FN) in Herstal, Belgium began
arriving in 1926 and ended delivery was completed in 1928. In the same
time frame machine tooling and a technical support package to manufacture
these rifles at MTI Kragujevac was arranged. FN engineers and technicians
set up the Military Technical Institute production line for an upgraded
pattern of this weapon, the well-known Serb M1924 model short rifle, with
the FN design modified by Yugoslav ordnance engineers to incorporate the
full cartridge base support feature on the M10C bolt head and also to allow
the safety switch to be applied with the bolt uncocked. The process of
setting up production was slow and did not get underway until 1928. The
new rifle would be made in three variations. The short rifle with sling
swivels on the bottom and straight bolt handle, the Cavalry carbine with
swivels on bottom and left side and turned down bolt handle, otherwise
the same as the short rifle, and a short rifle/carbine with straight bolt
handle and sling swivels the same as the carbine arrangement.
A program to convert
all existing serviceable rifles to a pattern as close as possible to the
Model 1924 was undertaken as early as 1924. Existing Serb M10C and M99C
Mauser rifles were shortened to the M24 short rifle dimensional specifications
and rebored to 7.92x57mm. Remaining Turkish Mausers from the Model 90T
onward as well as existing supplies of Austrian Steyr Mannlicher rifles
from the Model 1888/90 onward were also reworked into short rifles generally
resembling the M1924 specifications and converted to 7.92x57mm. The Steyr-Mannlicher
Model 1895 rifle was shortened and renamed the M95M, the second "M" denoting
Mauser, as it was converted to use standard Mauser stripper clips, given
a tangent Mauser rear sight while its outward appearance was made to resemble
that of the standard M24 Mauser short rifle.
Also around this
time, Austria delivered a large number of surplus 7x57mm M1912 Steyr Mausers
it had used to arm reserve troops in W.W.I. These were Mausers originally
destined for Mexico and some 5,000 for Colombia with a few for Venezuela,
Chile and Venezuela but W.W. I broke out in 1914 and halted deliveries
to these nations. A total of about 65,000 rifles were taken over as the
M1914 by Austro-Hungary. These were converted to M1924 short pattern in
7.92mm as the Model 1924b, first at MTI and later around 1939, remaining
unaltered rifles underwent conversion by a private contractor. Austro-Hungary
had considered a transition to the 7x57mm cartridge shortly before 1914
and had even produced a prototype Mannlicher-Schoenauer short rifle for
production but war's onset canceled the plan. A few hundred of these Mannlicher-Schonauers
were allegedly made but only two specimens are known to exist today. Yugoslavia
shortened and converted these Steyr Mauser M1912s to the accepted general
7.92x57mm M1924 pattern, wiping the Austrian markings and replacing them
with the Yugoslav royal crest. These were marked "Model 24b", the Cyrillic
"B" corresponding to the Latin "V", on the receiver ring below the crest.
The actual definition of the "V" designation is unknown; some claim it
stands for Vojna (army) while others claim it stands for Vien, the Serbo-Croat
pronunciation of Vienna, from where these particular Steyr Mausers were
In 1929, Yugoslavia
purchased an additional 40,000 standard Model 1924a (Vz24) short rifles
in 7.92mm from ZB in Brno, Czechoslovakia. Eight years later, FN supplied
Yugoslavia a large number of Model 1930 short rifles and carbines using
standard length Mauser actions in 7.92x57mm. At about the same time, Poland
transferred to Yugoslavia an unknown number of Model 1929 (Wz29) Mauser
short rifles, these closely following the Vz24 pattern (handguard and front
sight design varied ) as well as a number of M1891 Russian Mosin Nagants
shortened and converted to 7.92x57mm, which the Poles called the Model
91/98/25. In 1967, a Yugoslav freighter was carrying 25,000 of these same
converted Mosin Nagants, allegedly destined for "FLOSSY" rebels in the
British Protectorate of Aden, now Somalia. British sailors boarded the
ship in the Gulf of Aden and in turn quickly tossed the entire shipment
overboard. It is unknown if Yugoslavia had converted any of its M1891 Mosins
to the Polish 7.92mm pattern 91/98/25 prior to 1940.
In 1938, Yugoslavia
purchased another consignment, unknown quantity, of Vz24 Mausers. Also
at that time, Yugoslavia reached an agreement with the CZ/Skoda Group to
provide modern artillery and set up a new standard "short action" M1924
Mauser production plant at the Military Technical Institute. ZB engineers
had designed new highly efficient production machinery to replace the obsolete
production line at Brno acquired from Mauser Oberndorf a/n under the auspices
of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles. ZB's new machine tools improved, quality
control processes, and gauges were of the latest design and top quality.
CZ sold similar rifle production packages to Rumania for its Copsa Mica
arsenal at Cugir and to the Iranian government arsenal at Tehran in the
same general time period. ZB engineers were to set up each plant
in the client country and oversee initial production. The German occupation
of Brno prevented execution of the contract. It remains unknown if this
new ZB designed plant was slated to replace the existing FN designed production
facilities used to make the M1924 or to supplement existing output by adding
a second production line.
Throughout the '30s
older rifles continued to be reworked and new ones produced or purchased.
Efforts to arm all troops on mobilization with a new, standard late production
rifle kept falling short, but by 1939 all Yugoslav troops would have some
kind of bolt-action magazine short rifle firing 7.92x57mm ammunition. Yugoslav
ammunition was loaded to a lower pressure level than the German standard
because of the questionable strength of some of the older models of rifles.
Poland and China were chose to follow the same path as Yugoslavia for the
When World War II
broke out in September 1939, Yugoslavia had in inventory a million "Category
One" rifles in 7.92x57mm in several variations of the Mauser 98 type earmarked
for front line troops and an equal number of "Category Two" rifle designs
in the same caliber earmarked for reserve and support troops. Yugoslavia
had also purchased quantities of French Darne and Hotchkiss Berthier 7.92mm
light machine guns in the 1920s before adopting CZ ZB30J automatic rifle.
It also had numerous ZB26 automatic rifles, Serb Model 1909 Maxim machine
guns converted to 7.92mm, surplus Austrian and Bulgarian Schwarzlose M12
machine guns converted to 7.92mm, French CSRG "Chuachat LMG's converted
to 7.92mm", FN Browning .380 ACP caliber Model 1910 and 1922 pistols, Steyr
Hahn M12 9mm Steyr pistols, a handful of German 9mm Parabellum P08 Luger
and Mauser M1896 7.63mm "Broom handle" handguns as well as some German
Vollmer Erma 9mm Parabellum submachine guns.
to avoid the diplomatic and political mistakes of 1914 and tried to maintain
well-armed neutrality when World War II broke out. Prince Paul ruled the
country for his underage cousin, King Peter II, since Peter's father, Alexander
II, had been assassinated by a Croat backed Macedonian in October 1934
in Marseilles, France. On March 25, 1941, to further strengthen the policy
of neutrality, the Yugoslav government led by Prince Paul concluded a non-aggression
pact with Berlin. This pact would have allowed German troops to pass unharmed
through Yugoslavia on their way to Greece to bail out their floundering
Just over a day
later, early on March 27th, amid mass public demonstrations in Belgrade
opposing the pact, a cadre of dissenting Yugoslav military officers led
by an air force general, Dushan Simovich, launched a coup d'etat overthrowing
Paul, abrogating the pact and formally crowning Peter II king. Some historians
believe they were covertly supported and encouraged by MI5 British military
intelligence. Hitler and Mussolini, both incensed by this "betrayal," invaded
Yugoslavia on April 6, 1941. The invasion, code named "Operation Punishment,"
caused the rapid disintegration of the fragile country as numerous Croat,
Moslem, ethnic German and Slovene troops immediately began to surrender.
Whole units composed of these four ethnic groups actually went over to
the German and Italian forces as soon as initial contact was made.
Shortly after the
German/Italian conquest, which took only 17 days, King Peter II and the
rest of the monarchy escaped to Cairo and then to London where they established
a Yugoslav royal government in exile. The king and the British government
soon recognized a Yugoslav army colonel, a Serb named Draza Mihajlovich,
as the sole leader of the "antifascist" resistance in all of Yugoslavia.
The Yugoslav Communist
Party, in existence since 1919 and led by one Milan Gorkich during the
interwar years, was small in size but was an already well organized and
tightly disciplined underground group. Its members had been secretly stockpiling
weapons and munitions since the Party was outlawed in 1921. Many Party
members had received military training in the Soviet Union during the 1920s
and '30s and had also gained significant combat experience serving with
the Republican forces in the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War. These men, nicknamed
"Spanjarksi," (Spaniards) were to become the nucleus of what became the
Partisans, immediately seized the initiative, taking any and all abandoned
or hidden government arms, ammunition other vital stores not yet captured
by or handed over to the invading Germans and Italians, stealing whatever
weapons they could from the invaders.
As soon as the Soviet
Union entered the war against Germany in June 1941, the Partisans began
guerrilla operations. Their leader was an obscure Croat sheet metal worker
and veteran party operative named Josip Broz, who had spent 1935-36 in
the USSR and had assumed party leadership when Milan Gorkich was executed
by the Soviets in 1937. He was commonly known by his party alias "Tito"
which is roughly translated as "You do that." In late September 1941 the
Partisans took control of the factory which was converting Gewehr 1898
Mausers to Model 1924b pattern under contract to the Yugoslav Government
prior to the occupation. They managed to assemble 18,000 - 20,000 hybrid
rifles using short rifle stocks and original Gewehr 1898 barrels and sights
from parts on hand at the factory before being driven out by the Germans.
These were the first Communist marked Yugoslav Mausers.
The Serb Chetniks,
consisting of irregular militia and dispersed Royal Army troops, led by
now General Mihajlovich and regular army officers and their troops who
refused to surrender to the Germans and Italians, were not nearly as well
organized, led or focused and failed to act decisively in the critical
two month, April-June, period to gather up small arms in the large quantities
that Tito's Partisans were able to amass. The Allied Powers initially wanted
all of the various anti Axis forces in Yugoslavia to form a united front
led by the Chetniks. Stalin at the time also agreed to this decision, but
surreptitiously sent a contingent of NKVD agents and radio operators as
spies to the Partisans' GHQ, which was located in the mountains of central
The Partisans initially
operated mainly in Croatia, Slovenia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina, recruiting
Croats, Serbs, Slovenes and Jews living in those regions. The Chetniks
operated chiefly in Montenegro and in southern Serbia and Macedonia, but
were soon clashing with the Partisans. Croatia had declared itself a German
allied independent state shortly after the Axis invasion, but was nominally
ruled by the Italian Duke of Spoleto, who claimed large areas of Slovenia
and coastal Dalmatia for Italy. The duke had ordered Italian occupation
troops into these areas as well as into Montenegro and the old pre W.W.I
However, an influential
Zagreb lawyer, Dr. Ante Pavelich, known as the "Poglavnik" (Leader) held
the real power in "independent" Croatia, supported by his sizable German
backed and supplied paramilitary forces called the Ustasha, loosely translated
as "Arise." Other collaborationist Croat troops, called Domobrans, fought
alongside German soldiers on the Eastern Front, where the Red Army easily
The Ustasha, who
soon became notorious for scores of stunningly barbaric atrocities directed
against Serb, Jewish and Gypsy civilians, even appalling the Germans, operated
against the Partisans and the Chetniks, while the latter often battled
both the German allied Bosnian Moslem SS troops (Handzhars - Scimitars)
as well as the Albanian SS Skanderbeg Division in some of the Italian occupied
areas. The Germans, who were concentrated in major cities and surrounding
areas, allowed a small and soon unpopular Belgrade based Serb puppet regime
led by General Milan Nedich to rule some German occupied areas of Serbia.
The Italians were
unable to quell resistance in their respective regions of Yugoslavia and
soon, armed native auxiliaries in their areas were instead tasked to provide
protection against the Chetniks and Partisans. Unlike the Partisans, the
Chetniks did not have good quality or secure communications or an effective
unified command structure coordinating various groups and bands. The Nedich
regime troops, called the Serbian State Guard, which never numbered more
than 3,000, often surreptitiously supplied individual Chetnik units with
German and Italian made arms and ammo whenever possible.
The Partisans and
Chetniks used existing Serb and Yugoslav rifles as well as captured German
and Italian weapons. The Partisans were much better organized, led and
disciplined while pervasive corruption, political opportunism, factional
infighting and poor organization, communications and leadership continually
hamstrung the Chetniks. The Partisans established numerous small mobile
armories where damaged rifles were repaired using cannibalized parts and
stocks repaired with splices and patches. The Chetniks appeared to do this
on a more informal basis.
token support to the Chetniks because he detested Tito and his Partisans
and hoped to further fuel a civil war in the country in order to aid in
a planned Soviet takeover of Yugoslavia. As the war dragged on, the British
Foreign Office, which employed known British Communist Party members like
the influential James Klugmann as well as notorious Soviet spies like Kim
Philby, Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean along with U.S. President Franklin
Roosevelt, who was also surrounded by influential Soviet sympathizers like
Alger Hiss, Harry Hopkins, Harry Dexter White and Lauchlin Currie, eventually
persuaded Winston Churchill and King Peter to abandon the Chetniks and
support the Partisans.
Meanwhile, in the
spring of 1943, Fascist Italy had surrendered and Italian troops in Yugoslavia
turned all their weapons and ammo over to the Partisans. The Wehrmacht's
Army Group Center, originally responsible for Albania and Greece, formally
occupied all of Yugoslavia in reaction to Italy's capitulation. The war
in Yugoslavia was now a multifactional civil war and Communist "war of
national liberation" within a world war.
From 1943 onward,
the Allies supplied the Partisans with large quantities of boots and uniforms,
British made Sten and US made Thompson submachine guns, US .30 caliber
M1 Carbines and Browning 1919A4 machine guns and more captured Italian
weapons, Mannlicher-Carcano rifles, Breda light and medium machine guns
and Beretta handguns and Model 38 series submachine guns, from bases in
Italy. Later, the Partisans received a
number of US M3A1
light tanks with 37mm guns by sea, along with a handful of White Truck
Co. manufactured armored cars. By late 1944, the Partisans were extensively
repairing and reworking Mauser rifles and other small arms on a large scale.
When it entered
Yugoslavia in the fall of 1944, the Red Army gave the Partisans an estimated
75,000 to 100,000 Mosin Nagant Model 1891/30 rifles and Model 1944 carbines
in the standard Russian 7.62x54R caliber as well as large numbers of 7.62x25mm
PPSh41 submachine guns. When Nazi Germany surrendered in May 1945, the
Partisans had 50 total active divisions, infantry, artillery and armored,
in the field plus additional reserve and support forces. The war was over
and the Communists under Tito controlled Yugoslavia. They now began consolidating
power and building socialism.
Six months later,
the Partisans were renamed the Jugoslovenska Narodna Armija (Yugoslav People's
Army) or JNA, becoming the official army of the new Federated People's
Republic of Yugoslavia which was proclaimed on 29 November. In 1963 it
was to be renamed the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. It was
ruled by Tito who, with a flashy, autocratic bombast that would soon become
his trademark, gave himself the
title of President
and Marshal of Yugoslavia.
Marshal Tito had
ordered a brutal, two year-long purge of surviving Axis collaborators,
Chetniks and other anti-communist elements. Many Chetniks, Ustasha, and
Nedich forces as well as German Units which had fought their way north
into Austria before the capitulation and surrendered to the Western Allies
were forcible repatriated to Tito's forces and quickly executed.
This was part of "Operation Keelhaul", under which hundreds of thousands
of displaced persons and Axis prisoners of war were handed over to the
Communists by the British and American Armies, then sent to the Gulag or
executed. The bloody purges of anti-communist prisoners and other
potential opponents continued for two years. The UBD-a, the Yugoslav version
of the Soviet NKVD (or MGB as it was known for a while in the late 40's),
was highly efficient in its work. The foundations for a Leninist state
were being quickly put in place. In 1946 a new constitution based on the
Soviet Union's 1936 model was adopted. Commerce and industrial production
were placed under state control.
who hadn't escaped Yugoslavia, managed to remain free with a small band
until lured into a UBD-a ambush. He faced a show trial and was then executed.
Croat Ustasha leader Ante Pavelichto escaped to Argentina where he served
as dictator Juan Peron's secret police chief until 1957, when he retired
to Spain and died two years later.
of agriculture lagged behind and was accelerated only after mid 1948 when
Yugoslavia had been expelled from the Cominform and Tito was trying to
show his loyalty to Marxist dogma. Soviet advisers were critical of the
slow pace of collectivization. Other areas of conflict began to emerge
in 1946 and 1947 over which direction the new JNA should follow in its
reorganization. The Russians wanted an army based on Soviet lines informed
by the Soviet experience in WW2. Tito and senior Yugoslav military officers
wanted to incorporate the Partisan War lessons they had gained fighting
the Germans into the new tactical and operational art doctrines which were
to form the basis for the army organization.
police and economic advisers began arriving in Yugoslavia in 1945 and Yugoslav
officers of the new JNA (Yugoslav National Army) were sent to the Soviet
Union for training. Conflicts with the western Allies erupted over Trieste,
an area claimed by both Italy and Slovenia, a republic of the FNRJ (Federated
Peoples Republics of Yugoslavia) and the Yugoslav's were responsible for
the deaths of several American service men.
During the war,
the Partisans had received arms from Britain, America and the Soviet Union
and had captured vast quantities of German issue rifles as well as large
numbers of Italian small arms of all types. In 1944 Stalin and Churchill
had reached an agreement on spheres of interest in the Balkans. The Soviet
Union got Yugoslavia and the British got Greece. During the German occupation
of Greece, two resistance groups were formed. The Communist lead "ELAS"
was the most active and powerful. In 1945 British and Greek Royalist clashed
with ELAS as the Germans withdrew north out of Greece.
A cease fire was
concluded and an agreement was reached that a plebiscite would be held
in September 1946 to determine the form of government Greece would have.
The Greek Communist Party or KKE became a legal entity under the interim
government, but clashes between right wing and left wing factions began
to accelerate during 1945 and early 1946. Over 35,000 Greek ELAS partisans,
including ethnic Macedonians from northern Greece withdrew into Yugoslav
territory. They were housed in camps, given support, training and arms.
The KKE boycotted pre plebiscite elections and violence escalated. Red
partisans were attacking government installations and police posts and
soon controlled large areas of northern Greece and were active in other
areas. The British found it difficult to keep supporting the Royalist government
and the USA under the Truman Doctrine replaced the British. A full blown
civil war was under way with Albania, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia supporting
the Partisans and the USA supporting the Government. The Royal Government
had British supplied rifles, in addition to pre war M1903 and M1903/14
6.5x54mm Mannlicher Schoenauer rifles and carbines and 7.92mm Mausers.
No.1Mk111*, No. 4 Enfields in .303 , FN Model 30 and 98K Mausers were commonly
The Partisans had
these types also, and in addition many older pre war rifles such as the
M88/90, M1894, and M1895 Mannlichers in 8x50mmR, 8x56mmR M95 type derivative
Mannlichers, Italian Carcanos in 6.5x52mm, 7.92x57mm 98K Mausers as well
as several other rifles in this caliber formerly used in Yugoslavia such
as the M95M Mannlicher. Older weapons such as Gras, Berdan, and Martin
rifles were used if ammunition was available.
the most aid in the form of rifles and other arms, ammunition, medical
supplies, food, bases, training and a site for the Greek Communist radio
In 1948 the KKE
formally took control of the Red Partisans, the "DZE" (Democratic Army
of Greece) and reorganized the small partisan detachments into brigades
and divisions. In the spring of 1948 Stalin told the Yugoslavs it was time
to wind down the war in Greece. This was due to Soviet strategic geo-political
considerations. The Yugoslavs under Tito continued to pump in support.
Tito also had plans
for a Balkan Federation, with a leading role for himself, as well as aspirations
for a leading role in Albania , including the merger of the Albanian and
Yugoslav armies. These ideas were not approved in consultations with Stalin
and increased Stalin's enmity toward Tito which was already aroused from
Tito's failure to heed "suggestions" the Soviet leader had given him during
WW2. In fact ,Tito seemed to believe that if he followed and supported
the Soviet line in most matters and espoused the Marxist Leninist doctrine
as proclaimed from Moscow, he should be allowed to pursue an national initiative
in regional matters, and adapt the Marxist line to local conditions. In
1947 Stalin created the "Cominform" to replace the old "Comintern" or Communist
International. The Comintern was abolished by Stalin in 1943 during WW2
as a token of goodwill towards Roosevelt and Churchill. The function of
these organizations was to provide the Soviet Union with an mechanism of
command and control over Communist Parties, propaganda, agitation and espionage
in support of world revolution (the Soviet Union) throughout the world.
The new world HQ was to be located in Belgrade, on the Danube in Serbia.
This was Tito's capitol and it was chosen so that large numbers of Soviet
personnel (many were MGB operatives) could be stationed there.
Stalin was increasing
fed up with the failure of Tito and the Yugoslavs to follow the leadership
of Moscow and support the Soviet line 100%. By 1948 Stalin was about to
launch the consolidation phase of the acquisition of Eastern Europe as
his war spoils. He was preparing to purge the party leadership of the satellite
nations and introduce strict reorganization of societies along Soviet lines.
Tito was slated as the first to go among the
post war Communist
Tito was an old
line Communist and former Comintern operative in Moscow during the purges
of the late 1930's. He could read the "writing on the wall". A new series
of purges were being planned by Stalin to consolidate his absolute control
in Eastern Europe in the coming years, and they would end only when he
was about to launch the "anti-cosmopolitan" purge in 1953 and died or was
terminated by fearful comrades in the Kremlin. Early in 1948, Tito provoked
an open break with Stalin. He knew that Yugoslav Soviet agents in his army
and police were conspiring against him. Stalin urged Yugoslav communists
to overthrow Tito.
Tito had carefully
considered his position prior to this break. To survive, he needed external
support. It would not come from the "Socialist" bloc. He would seek western
support and prepare to meet any Soviet invasion with the same sort of partisan
war he had waged against the Axis. At the same time he would try to prove
that he was still a loyal Communist and some how withstand Stalin's wrath.
Soviet troops provoked
border clashes as summer of '48 neared. On June 28, 1948 Yugoslavia was
expelled from the Cominform. This led to a crisis at home for Tito. The
party, the government, the armed forces, particularly the air force..,
all had Stalinist adherents and agents within their structure. Their goal
and orders from Moscow were that Tito must be overthrown. These opposition
forces were labeled "Cominformists". The UBD-a was tasked with eliminating
them. In addition to police agents, the UBD-a had division size military
units and one such division was committed to Montenegro in the fall of
1948 to deal with a partisan uprising against the FSRJ in support of the
Abroad, Tito faced
military invasion from the Soviet Union and its satellites. Such a planned
invasion was actually organized. Hungary and Romania were assigned the
leading role, with Albania and Bulgaria providing what amounted to a diversionary
action. The Soviet Union was to supply the second phase main attack, advancing
through Hungary by road and rail from Trans-Carpathia to suppress any remaining
resistance and set up a "healthy and authentic" Peoples Government. In
late summer 1948 the Soviet controllers in the Hungarian Party, Police,
Government and Army issued orders and implemented major changes in all
structures, in preparation for the new imperatives.
The post war Hungarian
Army was an ineffectual force of about three under strength divisions armed
with the pre-war and wartime 8x56mmR 35M Mannlicher and 7.92x57mm 43M Mannlicher
rifles and wearing German style helmets and uniforms from the WW2 period.
It had little military potential. It was once again purged as in 1945 when
only "progressive and honest" officers were allowed to remain. The Supreme
Command was reorganized, Communist Cells were formed in all areas of the
army, political commissars were appointed to all units, Soviet Army regulations
and organization were adopted. The "Honved" or National Army became the
Peoples Army. Commands were given to Party members whom had no military
background, but that was not a concern, as Soviet officer "Advisers" were
attached to all units and they would write the orders in Russian for translation
into Hungarian for the Hungarian officers to execute. New, politically
reliable, officer candidates were sent to the Soviet Union for training.
Soviet style uniforms
and helmets were supplied to the vastly enlarged Peoples Army and Soviet
arms and equipment were adopted. I once had the opportunity to watch Hungarian
newsreels from the summer to winter 1948 and political parades and demonstrations
were always featured, mostly in Budapest. Around early October the weekly
newsreel showed ceremonial troops marching in the old uniforms with German
style helmets and 35M rifles. The next week they had Soviet uniforms and
helmets and M91/30's. The Hungarians were sold all these things and charged
full price, even for well worn equipment suitable only for training.
A license to manufacture the Mosin Nagant M48 rifle ( licensed copy of
Soviet Model 1944) and the tooling to do so were sold to Hungary along
with the services of Soviet technicians to set up production. Enough Soviet
Mosins were provided to arm the enlarged force for imminent operations
slated for some time in 1950. It is speculated that only developments in
the Korean War caused Stalin to cancel the operation. Perhaps MacArthur's
Inchon counter attack convinced Stalin that the U.S. might react militarily
to the invasion of Yugoslavia.
The rapidly emerging
Cold War combined with quickly deteriorating diplomatic and trade relations
between Stalin and Marshal Tito required Yugoslavia to take immediate action
to gather up, conserve and restore as necessary, the colossal amount of
captured German, Italian, and British, Soviet and US supplied arms. Amid
persistent fears of a Soviet invasion. Large, deep interconnected tunnels
and hidden bunkers were dug throughout the country. In these tunnels and
bunkers were stored large quantities of small arms and ammunition that
had been gathered up, sorted and preserved for future issue. The old Military
Technical Institute in Kragujevac, which after W.W. II had been identified
as Preduzece (Enterprise) 44 as it was directly run by the Yugoslav Defense
Ministry, was in 1953 transformed into a semi-private, "worker managed"
firm renamed Zavodi Crvena Zastava (Red Banner Works) and significantly
expanded. After 1945, Preduzece 44/ZCZ reworked damaged but salvageable
W.W. II small arms using as many existing parts as possible. Only 7.92mm
weapons were to be reworked. Surviving Yugoslav Model 99/24c, FN Model
1924 and 1930 Mausers, Czech Vz24,G.29t and Kar.98k, German Kar. 98k, Polish
Wz29 and other Mauser short rifles with minor variations were rebuilt,
refinished and stored. Most of these reworked rifles had the old German,
Czechoslovak or Yugoslav royalist markings wiped. The new Yugoslav Communist
crest was stamped in their place, "Preduzece 44", in either Cyrillic or
Latin script, marked on the left side of the receiver ring and the Cyrillic
script acronym FNRJ, Federated People's Republic of Yugoslavia, was stamped
on the right side of the receiver ring. Other workshops elsewhere were
also engaged in reworking rifles.
M-24/47 Mauser Short
In 1947, the first
postwar Yugoslav Mauser rifle, the short action 7.92x57mm M24/47 appeared
but the "new" M24/47 rifles were rebuilds using recycled Belgian, Yugoslav,
German, Belgian and Czechoslovak parts. Model 1924 walnut stocks were used
and the carbine version stocks had their rear side swivels removed and
the hole plugged. New stocks were made as required. The first of these
postwar versions, the Model 24/47, is almost identical to the Model 24
except for the presence of the Yugoslav communist crest (a star atop two
symmetrical curved sheaves of grain surrounding a row of six torches each
representing the six Yugoslav "republics": Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina,
Montenegro, Serbia and Macedonia, located above a scroll with the date
23.VI.1943 - June 23, 1943, when the structure of the postwar Tito government
was first officially established in Jajce, Bosnia-Herzegovina. The left
side of the receiver ring was marked M24/47 and the left receiver wall
was marked in Serbian Cyrillic "Preduzece (Enterprise or Establishment)
44" (the old Military Technical Institute at Kragujevac).
M24/52c Mauser Short
The lesser known
Model 24/52c, is composed of Mausers made in Czechoslovakia as Vz24, G.29T
(transition Mausers made under German control during WW2 as
the pattern of Mauser was transitioned to Kar.98k Kriegsmodell pattern)
and Kar.98ka Mausers marked dou or dot. As reworked, the receivers were
wiped and given the new Yugoslav crest and the marking M24/52c on the left
side of the receiver ring. Existing stocks were used with rear swivel on
left side removed and hole in wood plugged. Some were restocked with M1924/47
pattern stock and handguards with stock adapted for longer standard Vz
action. Reconditioned VZ24 Mausers may be found with two remarked pattern
types stamped: the long action Vz24 stamped M24/47 stocked in the same
manner as the short action M24/47, and the same pattern marked M24/52c.
It may be that the ones marked M24/47 were done in a workshop a few years
earlier than the those done under the M24/52c program.
M1948 series Mauser
The next Yugoslav
postwar production rifle was the 7.92x57mm Model 1948. These are similar
to the mid-war 1942-43 German Mauser Kar. 98k pattern, except for a slightly
shorter action and a full length handguard. These include the stamped cup
butt plate and a standard German style 98k bayonet. The M48 has the Yugoslav
Communist crest and "M48" on the top of the receiver ring, is marked Preduzece
44 on the left receiver wall and the Serb Cyrillic or Latin acronym FNRJ
on the right side of the receiver ring. The M48 also features a milled
trigger guard/magazine assembly and a milled H-shaped upper band. The M48
was produced until the end of 1952 with a total production of just over
238,000 rifles. Setting up production was not easy as the technical package,
including the heat treatment procedures and specifications had been lost
and Communist technical personnel lacked knowledge of the pre-war technology.
It took until 1950 to get production going and there were problems with
receivers and bolts. Reports of fractures happening when bolts were dropped
on concrete or receivers shattering under proof were reported.
Model 1948 (M48)
rifles bearing 'M48' markings on the receiver ring were made in Yugoslavia
at the Preduzece (Enterprise or Establishment) 44 (later known as Zavodi
Crvena Zastava - Red Flag Works). The M48s were made of all milled steel
A new production
line began in 1953 with the M1948A. This model introduced the stamped floor
plate to the M48 design and was the start of a trend to cut cost and time
of production. The same year the "Preduzece 44" marking was dispensed with.
The only differences were that "M48A" was marked under the Communist crest
on the receiver ring.
Yugoslav Model M48B
At the end of 1956,
M48A production was supplemented by the M48B. This is the second and last
variant of the M48 series, also produced by Zastava and it made extensive
use of stamped metal parts. All other specifications are identical to the
others in the M48 series or differ in such minute ways as to be deemed
insignificant. The receiver ring markings are the Yugoslav Communist crest
above the letters M48A as the receiver marking was not changed with the
introduction of the B variant. It may be that new pre existing marked receivers
were used. Most of the M48Bs were shipped to Iraq and an estimated 50,000
of them went to the FALN rebels in Algeria. The French captured large numbers
of M48Bs during the 1958-62 war in that country.
Only a few thousand
of these were produced. 'BO' stands for 'bez oznake&rsquo, which, translated
from Serbo-Croat, means "without markings." These rifles have no markings
(no crest, no model number) except for a serial number. They are not even
marked 'M48'. As far as I know, the 'BO' series were mainly intended for
sale to Egypt (with some to Iraq,) but only a few thousand were ready for
initial delivery to the Egyptians when the 1956 Suez Crisis intervened.
No more BO-series were produced after 1956, as most of the world's armies
(including Egypt and Yugoslavia) were phasing out bolt action rifles, replacing
them with semi-auto rifles or selective fire assault rifles.
the "n" standing for "Njemac," the Serbo-Croat word for "German." These
were rebuilt German Kar.98k Mausers. Stocks used may original German pre-1943
milled butt plate type and later type with cupped stamped butt plate, as
well as new walnut Yugoslav produced replacement stocks. These rifles have
been wiped of markings and remarked with Yugoslav crest and markings.