Part 6: Eder Dam
Episode 6: Eder Dam Youtube Polsy
Weapons of the British Army, Part 2
The Sten sub-machine gun was developed as a desperation measure by Reg Shephard and Harold Turpin for Royal Ordnance Enfield during the dark days of July 1940 where it appeared that the Wehrmacht was about to descend on the UK and Britain needed everything it could physically lay it's hands on that would kill Germans, and serious plans were made to produce pikes in the absence of enough firearms to equip the Home Guard. Despite buying every Thompson available, more SMGs were needed and the Sten was designed with the intention of being able to be mass-produced by existing metal shops and light industry without having to extensively retool their assembly lines, which would have taken time that Britain may not have had.
While the Germans never invaded, the simplicity of the design and ease of construction meant that the Sten was produced in immense numbers for British troops, as well as being exported to resistance groups in occupied Europe, many of whom then began domestic production themselves including famous examples such as the 'Polski Sten' manufactured in Warsaw using repurposed hospital equipment. Being made in 9mm calibre also allowed the weapon to use existing pistol ammunition rather than the .45 ACP ammo needed by the Thompson that had to be imported from overseas.
Once the immediate danger of invasion had passed, the design was improved and smoothed into the ubiquitous Mark.II, of which approximately 4 million were produced across the globe from 1941-1945. Of course, the relative simplicity of the design came with it's drawbacks. The early variants were renowned for going off if dropped, picked up or looked at funny, with some having the charming fault of involuntarily emptying the magazine on full auto regardless of whether auto was selected. Beyond the Mark.II, the Sten was continually improved with models like the silenced Mark.3 and IIS versions for special operations, and the Mark.5 variant which was the model most used by the British airborne troops due to its refined manufacture, wooden handle and pistol grip, and improved sights.
After the war, the Sten was replaced in British service by the Sterling SMG of Star Wars blaster fame which was used in much the same role, but was made of far better materials, and continued in service until the 1991 post-Cold War drawdown, where it was a victim of the move to 5.56 along with the L4 LMG. It continued in use in many armies and insurgency movements throughout the twentieth century
In the 1944 War Establishments (the documents stating the makeup of men and materiél of every unit in the Commonwealth forces, of each 10 man infantry section (the basic building block of Infantry formations), 8 men would be armed with Lee-Enfield rifles, 1 man would carry a Bren and the section commander would carry a Sten SMG. In practice however, infantry armaments differed dramatically from these guidelines. Commonly, the section 2iC, who generally would command the Bren gunner and his assistant/loader would also carry a Sten, and by the end of the Europe campaign, sections would be carrying multiple Brens, similar to the inflation of BARs in the American infantry.
True to form, the Airborne units tended to completely ignore the war establishments and issued Stens to whoever wanted them resulting in a near 50/50 mix in practice during Normandy, which was actually then codified into the 1945 War Establishments where each Parachute Battalion was given a pool of 300 SMGs to dole out when needed, which essentially meant that half the Battalion had them available.
Coolguy's notes: In game, the Sten is the worst SMG available. It has a long reload time, and it doesn't do a ton of damage. This is made worse by the fact that the missions it's mostly used in (Peg Bridge and Eder) not having a lot of ways to easily rearm it. There's literally no time that I would use a Sten optimally in game - even the one time you are given one with a substantial amount of ammo, it's much better to replace it with an MP40 as quickly as possible.