The First World War was to see the hand grenade become an established modern weapon of war, essential as a force multiplier in trench raids and assaults. Whilst the hand grenade was developed into an essential weapon of war, it had its limitations, most notably range. The weight of a grenade limited how far it could be thrown, and if it was made lighter to allow it to be thrown further, the amount of explosives and its effectiveness were both reduced. The answer was to develop the rifle grenade. This was a way of launching a grenade using the force of a blank cartridge to propel it far further than any human could throw unassisted. The British used a number of different rifle grenades over the period, some purpose made and others adaptations of hand grenades. Making sense of the rapid changes and developments in British rifle grenades during World War I is not easy, and so John Bailey’s book ‘British Rifle Grenades of the Great War’ is a welcome addition to the collector’s bookshelf.
The book is a slim volume, but packed with information on the development and use of this weapon. The text covers the individual rifle grenades in use on the front line, as well as a selection of prototype grenades and the author does a good job of getting the complex story of innovation and development across to the reader. Accompanying the text are a series of photographs and documents. These range form modern photos of surviving rifle grenades to period images of them in use and excerpts from patent documents. These build up into a thorough and well researched account of this crucial but often overlooked weapon.
The book itself is from a small production run, however the paper quality and reproduction of images is good and for the student of trench warfare or weapons development this is an essential tome. It is available on eBay or from Paul Meekins Books for £10 here.