02 November 2023

Leading Plant in the Country

In 1950, Poland began implementing the 6-Year Plan, developed by communist economists. It aimed to rapidly and extensively industrialize the country on the model of the Soviet Union, primarily focusing on the expansion of heavy and metal industries. The plan predicted that industrial production in Poland would increase by at least 85% over six years, and agricultural production by at least 35%. The construction of the Nowa Huta metallurgical complex became a symbol of the plan itself and the ambitious actions undertaken by the communist authorities. Although the Radom factory was not among the primary plants included in the plan, the authorities decided on its expansion. The opening of a new chapter was emphasized by a change in the factory's name. Starting from December 31, 1951, it operated as the General Walter Metal Works in Radom, under the supervision of the Ministry of Heavy Industry (previously overseen by the Ministry of Industry and Trade). This was accompanied by significant personnel changes. The previous director, Marian Poniatowski, who had made significant contributions to the post-war reconstruction of the plant, decided to focus on scientific work. He was succeeded by other engineers, who changed after short periods. The situation stabilized in 1953 when the position of CEO was assumed by engineer Kazimierz Jackowski. As the future would reveal, he would hold this position for the next few decades until engineer Marian Sopa took over as the director of "Walter" in 1966.

According to official data, from 1951 to 1954, "Walter" received approximately 250 million PLN for expansion. The majority of these funds were allocated for the construction of new factory halls and the purchase of new machinery and equipment. This significantly strengthened the plant's production potential. As we know today, within the framework of these arrangements, it was intended to become the largest producer of weapons in the country, supplying not only the People's Polish Army but also the armies of the so-called People's Democracies. Against this backdrop, the production of the "Mosin" wz. 44 rifles began in Radom at the end of 1949. This was a Soviet weapon that had been introduced into mass use in the Red Army towards the end of World War II. The data available in documents—although the precision is unknown—indicate that the plant was capable of producing 30,000 units of this rifle annually. In the following year, the Radom plant started production of the complete "Pepesza" (previously only barrels were manufactured), which continued to be popular among soldiers and uniformed services. Although the potential scale of its production was 25,000 units per year, the "Pepesza" was already considered an outdated weapon. It was replaced by the PPS submachine gun, produced in Radom since 1951. In 1952, the production of the DP light machine gun, colloquially known as the "Degtyaryov," began at "Walter," with a production volume of 2,500 units per year. In the same year, the DT version of this machine gun, intended for tank installation, also started production. After some time, in 1955, the production of an improved version of this machine gun, designated as the DTM, began.

It is generally accepted that the peak of weapon production at the Radom "Walter" plant occurred between 1950 and 1953. To this day, no statistical data on the number of rifles produced are known. The weapons produced in Radom, which accounted for nearly 70% of the plant's global production, were counted annually in tens of thousands of units. However, after a period of enormous prosperity, a noticeable crisis arose as the "Mosin" rifles and PSS pistols gradually phased out of army equipment. The prospect of severely reducing military production put the future of the plant in question. The turning point came in 1955 when the so-called People's Democracies formed the Warsaw Pact, an official military alliance. It was understood that complete standardization of military equipment and reliance on the AK-47 rifle, popularly known as the "Kalashnikov," would be the foundation of this alliance. The first units of this weapon (with wooden and folding metal stocks) left the "Walter" warehouses in 1957. According to the available documents, while 20,300 units of this rifle were planned for production in that year, the production volume was expected to reach nearly 120,000 units in 1958, and 200,000 units in 1960, remaining at that level in subsequent years.

Focusing on mass production of "Kalashnikovs" did not mean that the production of other types of weapons was abandoned at "Walter". For a relatively short period, from 1958 to 1962, a modified version of the "Degtyaryov" light machine gun was produced in the halls of the Radom plant, followed by the RPD wz. 44 light machine gun, known in the People's Polish Army as a light machine gum (RKM) model “D”.

Its projected scale for the Radom plant included 1,500 units in 1957 and a systematic increase to 5,500 units in 1960. Documents from the late 1960s at "Walter" also mention plans to produce the Soviet ZU-2 machine gun (better known as KPW) for anti-armored vehicle combat, as well as a modified version for anti-aircraft use. Production was scheduled to start in 1958, initially with 200 units per year, and increase to 900 units within the following two years.

Although "Walter" primarily produced Soviet weapons, the plant's excellent reputation within the country was demonstrated by the fact that it was chosen to implement projects for new pistols developed by Polish designers. These included the "Vir" wz. 57 pistol (prepared by the team of Prof. Piotr Wilniewczyc and Eng. Stanisław Rojek) and a pistol designed by Eng. Ryszard Białostocki. However, none of them entered mass production. In contrast, implementation work on the P-64 pistol, popularly known as the "Czak," progressed differently. It was developed by a team of designers from the Small Arms Division of the Central Artillery Testing Ground in Zielonka. It became the first post-war Polish pistol produced in series and gained the status of the official service weapon for uniformed services, replacing the old Soviet "TT" in the process. Serial production of the P-64 pistol began in Radom in 1964, but its exact scale remains unknown.

At the same time, the "non-catalog production" of the Radom plant expanded to include another type of weapon: the PM-63 "Rak" submachine gun, developed by a team of specialists from the Warsaw University of Technology led by Prof. Piotr Wilniewczyc. Production of the "Rak" most likely began in Radom in 1965.

Military production was accompanied by civilian production, based on sewing machines. At a certain point, it became a priority for the plant and was developed by a team of designers led by Eng. Bogusław Białczak. Starting in 1957, the "Łucznik" sewing machines were produced in Radom in numerous models, intended for both industrial plants and private customers. Continuously improved, they achieved enormous market success. In total, between 1954 and 1960, 38,300 industrial machines, 574,600 household straight-stitch machines, and 11,900 household zigzag machines were produced in Radom. A significant portion of these machines was sold outside of Poland. In 1960, the Machine Design Center for Sewing Machines was established in Radom, as a recognition of the competence of "Walter" employees. Soon, Radom's "Łucznik" became one of the world's largest sewing machine manufacturers. By 1969, the annual value of their production exceeded 560 million PLN, with domestic sales of household machines contributing 520 million PLN. By that year, it was revealed that over the past two decades, the plant had produced 2 million machines, with nearly half of them exported. In addition to the People's Democracies (Soviet Union, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, etc.), they were exported to countries such as West Germany, Greece, Turkey, Chile, Iraq, Lebanon, Morocco, Algeria, and even in small batches to the United States and Canada.

"Walter" also gained recognition for other products aimed at civilian consumers, including wrench sets, automotive parts, simple welding machines, refrigeration compressors, door locks, and "Łucznik" padlocks, which were sold domestically and exported to Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria, and Egypt, among other countries. Single-shot sporting rifles also found numerous buyers within and beyond the country's borders.

The increase in production was accompanied by an increase in employment. In 1966, "Walter" employed over 9,800 people, including 5,400 production workers, 2,600 auxiliary workers, 250 service workers, 1,200 engineering and technical staff, and 400 administrative office staff. Efforts to enhance the qualifications of the workforce led to the establishment of a technical school for working individuals in 1961, followed by a vocational school for juveniles (with specialties including lathe operator, miller, and fitter) and a vocational school for working individuals in the subsequent years. The plant suffered from a significant shortage of engineering personnel. Efforts were made to build the workforce by maintaining regular contact with technical universities and supporting the development of the Higher Engineering School in Radom, with the hope that the institution would educate subsequent generations of workers for the local industry.

Another attraction to retain employees and strengthen their connection to the workplace was the social care provided by the plant's management, strongly supported by the state and party authorities. Efforts were made to secure as many housing units as possible, and childcare centers and kindergartens were developed. The plant organized recreational colonies and employee leisure activities, eventually building its own recreational base. The workforce was also systematically affiliated with the party. Numerous social organizations operated within the plant, including the Club of Honorary Blood Donors and the Association of Engineers and Technicians, Mechanics Division (in the 1960s, its members built and donated a heart resuscitation device to the Radom hospital). Many employees became involved with the Cultural Center of the Metal Works, established in 1952, which hosted theater, dance, recitation, and variety groups, a brass band, and several children's ensembles. The plant also published its own biweekly magazine called "Życie Załogi" (The Life of the Staff).

Sport remained an important sphere of the plant's life. In 1956, a decision was made to revert the "Stal" club back to its pre-war name, "Broń," and expand and professionalize its sports activities to some extent. The most renowned section of "Broń" was the boxing team, with Kazimierz Paździor as the unquestionable star. He won the European Championship title in 1957 and the gold medal at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome. Other successful disciplines included track and field cycling, soccer, competitive shooting, and tennis.

Dr. Sebastian Piątkowski

Our website uses cookies for statistical, advertising, and functional purposes. Thanks to them, we can individually adjust the website to your needs. Everyone can accept cookies or disable them in their browser, which means that no information will be collected. Learn more

No results

Try entering a different search phrase.