Dutch offshoots of Rheinmetall,
By A.F. Nuyt
By the end of WW1 German heavy industries started to
bring their stocks and machinery into safety. It was clear
that, once the treaty of Versailles would come into being,
German arms production and army equipment would be
severely limited. Several companies, most notably Krupp
and Rheinmetall, would soon after the war set up several
interesting arrangements with foreign companies, usually
in small non-aligned countries.
These companies were not alone. Well known is the
migration of the Fokker Flugzeugwerke from Schwerin in
Germany to Holland. Anthony Fokker's homecoming
went along with 6 long trains of equipment, including
hundreds of airplanes. All this happened under the eyes
of international inspectors. Fokker's adventurous journey
went down well in Holland as he was a Dutchman.
Besides, he successfully founded the Fokker aviation
industry, one of Holland major manufacturing
companies in the 1930s. However, the migration of some
parts of the German armament industry has been
surrounded by mystery and accusations.
After WW1 Krupp managed to move some tools for
building guns to Hoogezand, in the north of The
Netherlands. The Ehrhardt and Rheinmetall factories
shipped a significant amount of their products (mainly
unassembled guns) as well to Holland in 1919. These
were stored in a depot at the former Otto Shipyard in
Krimpen aan de IJssel, near Rotterdam. There was
nothing secret. The locals knew the depot as the "gun
In 1922 Rheinmetall teamed up with a Dutch company
that was willing to take over their stocks and machinery
as well as several engineers and designers. The name of
the company was rather vague: Hollandsche Industrie-
en Handelmaatschappij or Holland Industry and
Trading Company, H.I.H. (pronounce Hah-eeh-hah or
Haiha). This company had been founded already in 1916
by the Godron brothers in The Hague. Nothing is
known about the earlier activities of H.I.H.
By 1923 all stocks and machinery had been transferred to
H.I.H. The company HQ and sales department moved
to nice premises in The Hague on prestigious Javastraat.
The company workshops were set up in the bustling port
of Rotterdam, already the gateway to the German
industrial heartland. The factory was finally established
on the site of Machinefabriek en Scheepswerf Piet Smit
Jr. (a shipyard), where it rented purpose-built halls.
Relations with Piet Smit were intense, and though
H.I.H. and Piet Smit were distinct companies, the
factory was colloquially known as "Piet Smit's gun
factory". Both companies not only operationally shared
some services, but Piet Smit Jr. itself invested a large sum
of money in the acquisition of new specialist tools (some
of the Krupp tools from Hoogezand were also used).
Throughout the years H.I.H. has remained a rather
mysterious company. Little remains today that remind us
of their activities in the 1920s. In the 1920s both
Rheinmetall and Krupp used a plethora of companies in
Holland, Sweden and Switzerland to continue their
activities and secure their financial assets. While Krupp
mainly worked with Bofors on the development of
artillery, Rheinmetall did so with Solothurn and to a
lesser extent with H.I.H. Though legally H.I.H. was a
Dutch company, by judging its products it was a
Rheinmetall offshoot. The company tried to dispose of
Rheinmetall stocks of artillery, but also developed and
tested some new types of guns.
Commercially H.I.H. may not have been a success.
Exports were meagre. Dealings with the Dutch
government did not yield the results one might have
expected. H.I.H. presented itself as a genuine Dutch
arms manufacturer, appealing to nationalist sentiments
in Dutch military and political circles. Attempts to gain a
foothold as a supplier to the Dutch forces were hard
fought, in spite of excellent contacts in the Dutch
political, military and entrepreneurial elites at the time.
Some H.I.H. designs were tested by Dutch officials and
duly rejected. Guns that were thought useful, would be
produced by the Artillerie Inrichtingen, the Dutch State
Arsenal, instead. H.I.H.'s main local achievements were
their modification of hundreds of Dutch Army Krupp
75mm guns and the production of small samples of
anti-tank, bunker, AA and Navy guns.
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H.I.H.'s first modest workshop in Rotterdam
H.I.H.'s second, larger premises at Piet Smit
H.I.H.'s large hall with several guns on the
H.I.H. 75mm infantry howitzers in action in
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