By Félix A. Alejos Cutuli
Spain’s La Coruña Military Museum started life in the mid 19th century. It covers the historical period from 18th to the mid 20th century with some exceptions. The building housing it is situated in the historical center of the city near several other museums and historically relevant places. It preserves 1,500 historically relevant objects distributed on a surface of 1,235 square meters.
The Museum gate is guarded by three artillery pieces: a Hotchkiss 57mm naval gun, an always spectacular 88/56 Flak 18 anti-arcraft gun and a 149mm Schneider howitzer made by Fábrica Nacional de Trubia. Across the building are the remains of a coastal defense battery including a 152mm Vickers 1923 cannon, made in Plasencia de las Armas in 1930.
Inside the museum, the lobby houses several objects taken from the Monte San Pedro Coastal Battery (which is preserved and can be visited at its original location), armed with Vickers 381/45mm Model of 1926 guns: a fire direction center composed of a mechanical computer used to perform ballistic calculations and a plotter table, used to match projectile and moving target trajectories, a breech block dated 1929 plus a shell and an armor piercing projectile for the same gun. Other objects of interest are a 7.5cm Krupp Mountain Gun Model of 1896 as used in the Spanish-American war of 1898, an 81mm Valero Mortar of 1933, plus several artillery rockets of Spanish design and manufacture. Behind the lobby is a section dedicated to the historical re-enactment associations that are very lively in this town. There are several original weapons and replicas of Napoleonic artillery, as well as scale models and a twin 20mm antiarcraft gun.
The actual museum access is through a pink and white marble staircase. Surrounding it are the ticket booth and small shop, a display of military tin toys, memorabilia and scale models. The upper staircase is presided over by a painting of King Juan Carlos I and the Spanish Artillery Corps coat of arms, placed over several wall displays of firearms, swords and cavalry lances, paintings, military furniture and memorabilia.
Next is the Sala de Armas, or Weapons Hall, which is mainly dedicated to small arms. To the left of its door sits a display of Philipine swords and knifes. In front of it is a display of memorabilia from José Martinez Souto Culleredo, one of the defenders of Baler (Philipines 1898). Above it is a panoply containing a rare Soper 45/70 rifle – an unsuccessful candidate replacement for the Springfield 1862 in the U.S.Army.
The rifle displays have an entire wallboard dedicated to Winchester and Remington Rolling Block rifles, as several of those models have been used by different Spanish military and law enforcement entities. There are also samples of Mauser rifles with a bias towards those that have served the Spanish Armed Forces and samples of breech loaders from several other countries. There’s also a mahogany rack displaying an extensive collection of cap and ball military rifles dating from 1840 to 1880.
The handgun displays have specimens from many countries, again with a bias to Spanish service/manufacture. There’s an entire wallboard dedicated to different early Smith & Wesson revolvers and its copies, many of which were issued by the Spanish Armies. Next to it is a wide display of other makers as Colt, Smith & Wesson, Jeremías Kerr, Mannlicher, Dreyse, F.N., Orbea, Eibar and Lefaucheux. Extensive attention is also given to early issue semiautomatic pistols and its ammunition, starting with the first officially adopted model, the Bergmann-Bayard in 9x23 (9 Largo) and its successor the Campo Giro, the first in the series of Spanish pistols with cyl¡ndrical slides. In the extensive display are also models of Luger, Astra, Charola, Campogiro, Mauser, Orbea, Crucelegui, Star, Webley, Beretta, Mannlicher, Dreyse and F.N.; some of them quite unusual.
The submachine gun is well represented with specimens from the main historical manufacturers. Among the Spanish made pieces are copies of the MP 28 and ERMA, a Star RU la , a Labora-Fontbenat 1938, Star Z-45 and a very rare Parinco 1959. From foreign makers are samples of Suomi, Tallin, Favor (Switzerland), MP40, PPSH-41 and Thompson, to name a few.
The collection of machine guns occupies the center of the hall. Among the magazine-feds there’s a MG 1913 Dreyse, a couple Browning WZ-28 (Belgian and Polish made BARs), two Lewis models, a Vickers K, a Madsen 1903, two versions of the Degtyarev DP28 (infantry and vehicle, the last one adapted for dismounted use), a VZ 26B and it’s Spanish offsprings: an Oviedo-Coruña (O.C.) and a FaO (for Fábrica Militar de Oviedo) plus an Astra Union rounding up the Spanish designed machines. A Cahuchat, a Breda 1920 and a Mexican Mendoza complete the collection. Displacing our attention to the belt feds, fans of the Maxim design would love this collection as it comprises three German models (08, 08/15 and 08/18 the last one with what looks like a bullet hole through the front plate), a Spanish M08 on a Sokolov mount and two Russian specimens: an M1910 and a Maxim-Tokarev air cooled light version analogous to the German M08/18). A Vickers 1915 completes the collection. There’s a Colt 1895/1914, the first machine gun model ever used against Spanish forces (during the Spanish-American war of 1898), a model that was later used by the Spanish Army in the North Africa campaigns of the 1920s, gaining a reputation of unreliability, the troops being very partial to the French Hotchkiss Model of 1914, of which there are a couple on display as is a Puteaux – Saint Etienne 1907 and a much more modern Anf1. The display of German machine guns is rounded up by a MG 15 and a MG 34. There’s also a couple specimens of the Spanish Alfa 44, a Schwarzlose-Janeck 1907/12/24, a Polish version of the Browning m 1917 (Wz30) and also a Czech ZB-37, part of a shipment of a thousand units sent by Germany during WWII, which went to the Spanish Army Academy were there was taken an accompanying picture of the current King Juan Carlos I firing it.
Other objects of interest are a superbly preserved Brixia mortar, an M40A1 recoiless rifle, an Instalaza M88 bazooka, a brass mortar of 1866 and six unique brass cannons made in Sevilla in 1859 and used in the Africa War of 1859-60 which were the first rifled artillery employed in campaign by the Spanish Army. Being muzzle loaders, the projectiles were pre-engraved.
The María Pita Hall is dedicated to the memory of the local hero, whose courageous acts marked the turning point on the British 1589 raid on the city. The hall contains edged weapons, medals, flags, paintings and art objects.
The uniforms hall houses a very interesting collection of uniforms and headgear, highlighted by pieces used in Cuba and the Philippines during their wars of independence and those used by regular troops in the Spanish Sahara up to the 1970s decade. There’s also photographic documentation of the construction of the Vickers 381mm battery at Mount San Pedro and a huge bore brush used on those guns.
The Laboratory Hall displays devices from the powders laboratory, part of the ancient local Artillery Park, a display of different propellant powders, a collection of land mines, shells, rockets, artillery projectiles and pyrotechnic devices from the early 19th century on, memorabilia from the 1898 Spanish-American War, WWII (Allied, German and Spanish items), and a collection of scale models highlighted by a very detailed model of the Battle of Elviña, fought on January 16, 1809, just outside La Coruña which was the first battle confronting British and Napoleonic armies on Spanish soil.
The Museo Militar Regional (Regional Military Museum) is sited at Plaza de Carlos I, s/n C.P. 15001, La Coruña, Spain. Phone: (+34) 981 20.67.91 / 981 20.53.00 Fax: (+34) 981 20.67.91. Web Site: www.ejercito.mde.es/unidades/Madrid/ihycm/Museos/coruna/index.html
Opening hours: Monday to Friday from 10:00 to 14:00 and from 16:00 to 19:00, Saturdays, Sundays and hollidays from 10:00 to 14:00. Admitance is free. Pictures and video taping is allowed unless the specific object is otherwise marked with a red text line on its description card. The museum has informative sheets in Spanish only. The staff is very kind but generally Spanish speaking only. The museum has a small shop. Sorry, but there are no facilities for the physically impaired.
Nearby places of interest:
San Pedro Hill Battery: a Vicker’s 381/45 mm, model of 1926, the biggest bore artillery pieces to have ever served under the Spanish flag:
General Moore’s Graveyard: across the street from the museum, is a small garden overlooking the port, remains of an artillery site and San Antón Castle:
Castillo de San Antón: Fortification built at the end of the XVI Century:
Torre de Hércules (Tower of Hercules):
There’s a lively Association of Friends of the museum:
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