Sunday, February 17, 2008

Danish and Norwegian Arms Dealers in Warlord China

Norway and Denmark did not adhere to the Arms Embargo Agreement of 1919. Because of this, they viewed the China arms market from the same perspective as Czechoslovakia. Like the Czechs, they recognized that profits could be made from the Chinese warlords. But unlike the Czechs, who dealt mainly in arms and ammunition, the Norwegians and Danes sold lathes, hydraulic presses, machinery for chemical warfare, steel for rifle barrels, uniforms, bayonets, helmets, and shoulder straps as well as rifles, pistols, and machine guns. Advisers from
Norway, Denmark, and Sweden were also found in many warlord camps, factories,
and arsenals. Of the Scandinavian traders, Norway was the largest exporter of war materials
to warlord China with Zhang Zuolin the principal buyer. The main munition factories in Norway were located at Raufoss and Kongsberg and were owned and operated by the Norwegian government. At the end of World War I, the viability of these factories was a cause of much concern to government officials in Oslo. Since both factories were operating at a great loss, the government made a concerted effort to obtain contracts from countries in need of war material.

Warlord China was considered a lucrative market because of its unstable military conditions.
While such private firms as Norsk Spraengstof Industrials began exporting explosives to China as early as 1925,70m uch of Norway's involvement in the armaments trade in warlord China occurred from 1927 to 1928 during the height of the Northern Expedition. In 1927, the Shenyang branch of the Norwegian firm of A. L. Gran (14 Majia miao hutong, Beijing) obtained a contract from Zhang Zuolin to equip his chemical factory with machinery and other "chemical" equipment. Built by a German contractor named Witte, the factory was designed to manufacture T.N.T. Fully equipped by September 1927, the chief superviser of the installation of the machines was A. L. G m himself. He was assisted by a Swedish technical engineer named Carl Brakenhielm - a member of the foreign staff of advisers in Zhang
Zuolin's Shenyang arsenal. In the financial arrangements to process the contracts, Jardine and Matheson acted as the agent for the Chartered Bank in Shenyang.' Two years before, Gran had also been involved in a consignment of armaments and other tools of war from the SS Vav owned by the firm of Haldfan Ditlev-Simonsen and Company. The cargo, which consisted of 129,000 kilos of rifles, 16,000 kilos of Browning pistols, 39,000 kilos of field guns, 2,990 kilos of Nitedal black powder, and 207,000 kilos of T.N.T. was destined for Zhang Zuolin.

One of the largest Norwegian contracts in terms of volume sold to the Fengtian army was the 14,189 cases of war material shipped from Eugene near Drobsh on the SS Sakudal. Arriving in Yingkou on 19 November 1927, the 1,176 tons of materials consisted of 12,987 cases of rifle cartridges, 8 of detonators, 545 cases of T.N.T., 309 cases of smokeless powder, 17 cases of black powder, 282 cases of ballistite, 17 cases of empty shot-gun shells, and 24 cases of "game boosters." Custom's release for these goods was authorized by Zhang Xueliang.~In' the
previous month, the Fengtian army also received 400 tons of high explosives through Qinhuangdao from the Norwegian steamer, SS R o l l. Norwegian shipments were closely monitored by British intelligence from the port of departure in Europe to their receipt by Zhang Zuolin and his allies in warlord China. British efficiency was clearly revealed in their knowledge of the cargo of war materials consisting of 3,608 cases on the SS Bestik, but the
consignment also showed the multilateral dimension of the Western armaments trade. The consignment was first assembled in Oslo with materials from Germany, Czechoslovakia, and the Netherlands arriving from Hamburg on the SS Bonn and from Antwerp on the SS N i ~ r dW. ~ith~ additional munitions of war from the government factory at Raufoss, SS Bestik left Oslo in May 1928 with all goods insured by Lloyds Underwriters of London.76 The agent in China for the 14 cases of airplane parts and accessories, 60 cases of ammunition, and 8 cases of "sportpistols" destined for Zhang Zuolin was G. G. Amundsen of Oslo, whose representative
in Yingkou supervised delivery. The remaining 3,626 cases shipped by Amundsen and George Frank of Hamburg for the American-China Export and Import Company were delivered to Zhang Zongchang in Qingdao." Another "split" cargo intended for the Anguojun forces arrived in Qingdao on 18 March 1928. Recipients of these war materials unloaded off the Norwegian
vessel SS Aker were Sun Chuanfang, Zhang Zongchang, and the Third and Fourth armies of the Fengtian forces led by Zhang Xueliang and Yang Yuting. Of the 2,482 cases, Zhang Xueliang and Yang Yuting received 81 cases consisting of 992 cavalry rifles, 400 pistols, and 1.5 million rounds of rifle ammunition. The total value of the entire shipment amounted to $1 milli~n.'I~n July 1927, the SS Aker also docked at Qingdao with 2,107 cases of war materials specifically for Zhang Zongchang .

The extent of official Norwegian involvement in the Western armaments trade to warlord China not only reached the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, but also touched the prime minister's office in Oslo. The ministry was in direct and constant contact with Gorrissen, the owner of SS Aker, throughout the various transactions with the Anguojun forces. Since it believed that the trade could only benefit Norwegian exporters and the mercantile marine, the ministry stated that it was not in a position to interfere.19 Furthermore, Prime Minister Mowinckel admitted to F. 0 . Lindley, the British minister in Oslo, that the government arms factories did indeed deliver war munitions to the Anguojun forces. He agreed that with Zhang Zuolin's death in June 1928, the Norwegian government would have to review the question of further arms exports to northern China. However, Mowinckel stated that while outstanding contracts would still be filled, new contracts affecting the factories at Raufoss and Kongsberg would be prevented.' Like the Norwegians, the Danes' attitudes to the China arms market only
concerned the monetary gains that could be made from the military instability of warlord China. The most significant transaction involved the Danish firms of Nielsen and Winther of Copenhagen and Zhang Zuolin in 1921. Designed to equip Zhang's arsenal in Shenyang, the Nielsen and Winther contract called for the export of lathes, hydraulic presses, and other machinery that were specifically intended to assist in the manufacture of field guns and ammunition as well as small airplane bombs. The projected production figures were twenty guns and ten thousand rounds of ammunition per day.8'

The Nielsen and Winther cargo, valued at about $3 million for 300 sets of machinery, arrived in Yingkou on the Danish vessel SS Malaya in November 1922. While most of the machinery was purchased from German factories by Nielsen and Winther, the contract was strictly Danish in negotiation and implementation." According to the Danish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, British and American firms were competing with Nielsen and Winther for the Fengtian
contract. Because of their inability to convince Zhang Zuolin that their bids were less expensive, both governments protested the Danish tran~action.' Th e Danish ministry, however, stated that their protest was unjustified since British and American companies had already been supplying machinery of an identical nature to the arsenals in Shenyang, Taiyuan, and Guangzhou from 1920 to 1921 without interference from their respective government^.^ The official Danish reply to the British govemment included the fact that there was: no prohibition in Denmark against exportation of these articles and such materials may be shipped freely without the knowledge of the Danish government. 85

In a statement to the Americans, the Danish Ministry for Foreign Affairs pointed out that these: machines were . . . not made for the sole purpose of manufacturing or repairing war materials. These machines are, therefore, not embraced by the prohibition against exportation. . . . For this reason, the Danish govemment is of the opinion that there is no ground for its intervening in this particular case. 86 In addition to the arsenal machinery, Nielsen and Winther also supplied the advisers. Except for Carl Brakenhielm, who was a Swede specializing in small gun manufacturing, S. Schroeder in charge of rifle production, Christiansen, an expert in manufacturing large ammunition, and Larson, a specialist in the manufacturing of cartridge casings were all Danish."

Arsenal equipment was not the only item that Zhang Zuolin purchased from Denmark. In June 1923, the Shenyang Consul reported that a $250,000 order of uniforms and other war materials was concluded between the Fengtian faction and a Danish firm." In November 1926, Nielsen and Winther supplied about thirty tons of bullet strips to the Fengtian forces with additional contracts calling for the exportation of explosive.

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