Last month we looked at John Bailey’s book on rifle grenades of the Great War. This month we are considering its companion work which takes a detailed look at the Mills Grenade entitled “Mills Grenade Development 1915 To 1918”. At the start of World War I use of the grenade had largely fallen from favour, and although there was a small quantity of grenades available based on observed practice in the Russo Japanese War but these were not particularly effective and not available in the numbers required. There was a rapid scramble to create a working grenade that could be mass produced, worked effectively and was safe enough that it did not harm the user as much as the enemy. After many false starts, the Mills grenade was to emerge as the pre-eminent grenade design and remain in service for the next fifty years.
John Bailey’s book tracks the development of this iconic weapon, from its earliest prototypes and inspirations through to the mass production of World War One and its development for other purposes such as rifle grenades. The book relies heavily on original documentation which helps ensure it can tell a full and accurate story. This detailed story is accompanied by a wide range of period photographs and diagrams together with photographs of rare survivors of different grenade types. Added to that, the book also goes into a detailed look at different manufacturing variants, experiments with different base plugs and other details to build up the most comprehensive coverage of the grenade in World War One. The story ends, however, in 1918 and although some references are made to post 1918 developments, it is not the focus of the book so this is something to note if the grenade’s use in the Second World War is your primary area of interest. At 142 pages there is plenty of space to explore the story of production in World War One nicely and this book strikes the balance between detail and readability nicely.
The book has clearly been produced on a minimal budget and some of the design and layout of the pages lack professional polish, although the pictures and text are clear and the print quality excellent. Overall though, this is a well written, nicely produced book and fills an important gap in the collector’s bookshelf. It is available for £20 from Paul Meekins Books here and is well worth purchasing.