One of the very first objects I covered on the blog was the No36 grenade here. That example was in lovely condition and as such I have not really been looking for another example to add to the collection. Whilst on holiday in Scarborough however I came across an example that was so cheap I had to pick it up for the collection. This grenade is not in such nice condition and clearly needs restoring at some point, but is interesting in that it is clearly a drill grenade:The two obvious ways to tell that this grenade was for training are the large holes drilled in the body, and the remnants of white paint showing through under the gloss black:Drill grenades were to be painted white to clearly show they were free from explosives, as seen in this illustration from a 1960s manual on explosive markings:The grenades used for drill and practice models were those which had been rejected by the factory as unsuitable for actual use. The factory itself then drilled holes in the body and put them to one side. The rest of the grenade is completely standard to allow for realistic training, there is a large zinc base plug:The base plug is cast with the date of manufacture, 1945:Under the base plug is space for a dummy detonator to be fitted:Sadly this grenade is missing a correct fly off lever, a piece of wriggly tin sufficing for now. The rest of the components are present though and it can be stripped down:Going forward I would like to replace the lever with an original one and I want to strip and repaint the grenade back into white as it would have been in service. It would also be interesting to see if there are any markings on the body indicating who manufactured the grenade, any there might be are currently buried under the thick layer of paint.
Over the last few years we have covered a number of pouches and a complete bandolier set up to hold 40mm underslung grenade launcher rounds. Tonight however we are looking at one of those 40mm rounds, an L8A1 practice round:Sadly I do not have the cartridge case for this round, just the projectile but I am sure the missing piece will turn up soon enough. Complete the rounds look like this:As this is a practice round, the head is blue to indicate that it is safe and free from explosives:The head does contain a coloured powder however to indicate where the round has impacted during training, usually in pink or orange. Whilst this is perfectly safe it is very messy so it is not advised that you try and dismantle a round. A rubber obdurating ring is fitted to the lower part of the round to help create a gas seal with both the cartridge case and the inside of the launcher:The round works by having a small high pressure cup inside the case holding the propellant, when it is fired this cup ruptures and the gas escapes into the rest of the casing where it expands and produces the low velocity needed to launch the grenade itself. The back of the grenade is slightly tapered and there is a circular void in the base which works with this cup to provide the thrust needed to propel it:Markings are printed in white on the outside of the practice round and indicate the size, 40mm calibre and 46mm long, that the round is a practice round with the designation L8A1 and that it was manufactured in February 2011:The size of this round is a common one used by many grenade launchers and is a low velocity round with a typical velocity of just 249 feet per second. These rounds are not hard to find and can be easily found for under £10 but are very attractive and affordable pieces of ordnance for a collection.
Today we are used to the idea of an underslung grenade launcher for the SA80, this has been used very successfully in conflicts for the past fifteen years. Before this was introduced though, the SA80 was issued with a rifle grenade that fitted over the muzzle of the rifle and was fired by a cartridge from the breach of the gun itself:To accompany this grenade, a special pouch was created as part of the PLCE webbing systems. Originally in olive green, this carrier was later produced in DPM:The original design was a full pouch, this DPM version though is just a skeleton pouch. Two white plastic cups in the base of the carrier hold the noses of the grenades:Two little lids are provided, one for each grenade:Straps underneath the lid help hold the tails of the rifle grenades secure:The pouches are designed to be used in a number of ways and so the back of them is very ‘busy’:A flap is provided on the back for a belt to pass through so the pouch can be worn on the belt:Under the flap are a pair of ‘T’ bar fasteners that lock into the belt of the PLCE system:Primarily however it was expected that a pair of pouches would be zipped to a bergan in place of one of the standard side pouches. In order to do this a heavy duty zip is fitted round the outside rear of the pouch:Fastex clips are also fitted to allow a shoulder strap to be fitted or to attach the pouches to the day sack yoke:This particular pouch dates back to 1997:The muzzle launched rifle grenade was only a short lived concept, the much smaller and more effective underslung launcher replacing it and rendering these pouches obsolete. As such they are readily available on the surplus market and a cheap addition to the collection.
There are certain items of military equipment that are fundamentally good designs and last in service for decades- the Mills Bomb and Lee Enfield rifles being two examples of this. Another long lasting design was the No83 smoke grenade. This smoke grenade was designed during the Second World War and is a pressed metal cylinder with a ‘fly off’ lever type igniter:The original No83 grenade used a friction match type striker mechanism:This was replaced by the MK II in February 1944 which has the striker mechanism that screws into the top and used a spring and pressed metal handle:The handle is made from one piece of metal, stamped and folded into shape:The grenade was very easy to use, a safety pin was pulled out and when hand pressure was released from the metal handle an internal spring threw the handle off and set off the fuse:The smoke grenade came in four colours; red, yellow, green and blue and smoke was emitted for between 25 and 45 seconds through a hole in the base of the grenade:There was a four second delay before the smoke was emitted allowing the grenade to be thrown into position. Grenades were issued in a B166A ammunition box that carried 24 of the grenades, weighing in at a hefty 47 lbs. This grenade is extremely worn and has virtually no external paint left. What is left is an apple green colour indicating this is a post war example- the type remained in use up until the 1970s. This design was very successful and set the basic design of a smoke grenade up until the present day- look at the modern smoke grenades I posted here and the design lineage is very clear.
“Grenade, British and Commonwealth Hand and Rifle Grenades” was first published back in 2001 but I have only recently added a copy to my reference library and I suspect many of you, like me, had not realised just what an excellent book it is. The book is currently selling for eye watering prices on Amazon, however far more affordable copies are available for purchase and I include a link at the end for a more sensibly priced supplier.Grenades have been used for many centuries, but rather fell out of favour in the nineteenth century. The Great War though brought the back to the frontline and there was a massive proliferation of these weapons in many different configurations. Happily for the authors and ourselves, these grenades were logically numbered from ‘Grenade No1’ onwards in a standard sequence and the authors look at each design in turn, drawing heavily on contemporary sources for descriptions, preparation and use of these munitions. Obviously some grenades get more detail than others- the various iterations of Mills bomb being an obvious example. The book is profusely illustrated throughout with black and white photographs and original diagrams illustrating the internal workings of each grenade. In a nice touch, many of the sections on grenades include information on the packaging of the grenades and the markings on ammunition boxes.The book is slightly weaker on more modern grenades, for the simple fact that as many are still in use or covered by the thirty year ruling, they were still classified at the time of the book’s publication. With the authors hailing from Australia, there is also quite a bit of detail on Australian grenades, but less so on other commonwealth countries, although Canada is covered briefly. The book is rounded out by a section on grenade launchers and launching cartridges- an often overlooked topic as well as methods of carrying the grenades and a few examples of heroism from soldiers who won the VC with grenades.This is truly an authoritative volume and I have learnt an awful lot from it- indeed I heartily wish I had access to it whilst writing some of the grenade posts on to blog as it would have helped provide me with a lot more information. I have no hesitation in recommending this book, and copies can be purchased for £40 each plus postage from here.
As mentioned a few weeks back when we looked at a drill igniter for a Mill’s bomb here, the igniter is a sensitive piece of explosive that can be set off by rough handling. It was therefore common practice not to fit the igniter into a Mill’s bomb until it was actually needed and to transport the two components separately. These igniters were carried in special metal tins that held them securely and offered them some protection from the elements and being knocked about. Large examples existed that could hold twelve igniters, but tonight we are looking at a smaller tin that held just three:These tins seem to be universally painted red, here with a stencilled filling date of 1958. This tin was sold out of army service in 1970 and so has a large label pasted on it confirming it is free from explosive:Inside the tin a set of holes are provided to hold the long tubular detonator securely:These are part of an internal removable cradle that can be taken out of the tin if required:Each detonator fits into one of the holes, with the cap resting in the top part, the two outer examples facing one way, and the centre cap facing the other:This tin dates from 1952 and has the date impressed in the metal on the base:As with so much ammunition packaging these tins were, to a degree, disposable so they are not all that common today. Having said that they are out there with a bit of hunting and are a great addition to my little grenades collection. Here we see a Canadian Company Sergeant Major taking advantage of a quiet period in Ambelie France on 7th August 1944 to fit the igniters into No 36 Mills bombs:
Although inert Mill’s bombs are pretty easy to find, the igniter sets that go inside them to actually fire the grenade are much harder to find. Live examples are of course illegal, but inert drill igniters are legal to own, however they can be rather scarce. My thanks therefore go to Andy Dixon for his help in adding this one to my collection:The igniter is used to explode the grenade and on a live version is consists of a .22inch cap in a chamber, a short length of safety fuse bent to shape and a detonator, as illustrated in this diagram from the 1951 army pamphlet of grenades:My example is clearly stamped drill on the cap chamber:The detonator also has large holes drilled through it to show it is for training purposes and not live:There are tiny date numbers on the back of the cap chamber, and I believe these are for 1943 or 1944 (they really are miniscule!):Live igniters are obviously very dangerous, and this safety warning comes from the pamphlet:
The set must be handled carefully, holding by the fuze and cap chamber; it must never be struck or crushed and it must be kept away from heat and not allowed to become damp. No attempt will be made to strip down any part of the igniter set.
The manual also instructs users on how to insert the igniter into the grenade:
…to prime the grenade the base plug is removed; the detonator sleeve must then be inspected to ensure that it is free from any obstruction and has no rough edges. Holding the igniter set by the cap and fuze between finger and thumb, squeeze them very gently together to ensure that they will go into the grenade easily. The detonator is then inserted carefully into its sleeve and the cap chamber pushed in as far as it will go. If for any reason the igniter set cannot be inserted easily into the grenade, both should be rejected. The base plug is replaced and screwed up with the base plug key.