Category Archives: Grenades

No 68 Drill Grenade

By 1940 it was obvious that the Boys Anti Tank Rifle was completely obsolete. It would take time to develop a new anti-tank weapon (what would eventually become the PIAT) and what was needed was something in the interim that was cheap to produce, effective against armour and could be got out to troops rapidly. The design that was eventually produced used the SMLE cup discharger (normally used for throwing Mills bombs) to fire a grenade holding a shaped charge at short range. Although often forgotten today, the No68 Grenade as this new weapon was called, was a major technological leap forward when it was introduced, even if two years later it had been superseded by technology. The manual instructed troops:

The No 68 A.Tk Grenade has been introduced with the object of damaging hostile AFVs. It is fired from the discharger fitted to the service rifle, a 30-grain ballistite cartridge being used.

The grenade itself consists of a small die cast cylinder, with four stabilising finsimageAnd a circular iron plate on the end to allow it to work with the cup discharger:imageAs can be seen this example is painted white, indicating it is a drill grenade. This is also indicated by the large holes bored into the head of the weapon to show it is free from explosives:imageThis example is solid inside to allow troops to practice firing it safely, the live examples used a shaped HEAT projectile, as illustrated in this contemporary diagram:no68planThe round had to hit the target at an angle of +/- 15 degrees and had a range of about 50 yards so the user had to be exceptionally brave to use it! The manual instructs:

It must be realised that the ballistite cartridge used in conjunction with the grenade gives a considerable recoil; and, owing to the flat angle at which the rifle must be held it is essential to place the butt of the rifle against a sand bag or similar object…

Considerable initiative must be displayed in preparing positions from which to fire the grenade. These may be from behind low cover, from trenches or from the loopholes of pill-boxes. no68-grenadeReturning to my example, it can be seen that there is a split pin and pull ring on the grenade fin:imageThis again mirrors the live example where these were used as a safety pin to prevent premature detonation. The fins themselves have the grenade type cast into them:imageAnd the date of manufacture, 1942:imageAlthough it is hard to make out there is a small cast ‘PDC’ on the base of the fins:imageThis stands for ‘Patent Diecasting Co’ who were one of the companies who manufactured the grenade bodies. The grenade eventually reached a Mk VI version and was removed form service by 1945, although by that point it was really only the Home Guard who made use of them. About 8 million of these grenades were made in various types, the training ones are uncommon but still around as they were used by the Home Guard and not always returned to stores!

Energa Anti-Tank Rifle Grenade

During the Second World War the British Army had made good use of the PIAT as an anti-tank weapon, however it was clear even then that it was something of an anachronism. Sadly the British Army rather ignored infantry anti-tank weapons until the need became desperate and they British ended up buying a Belgian designed anti-tank rifle grenade called the Energa that could be launched from the No4 service rifle:ENERGA_Anti-Tank_Grenade_No94_003_1000pxI have been lucky enough to pick up an early practice version of the Energa rifle grenade, painted in black:imageThe grenade is marked with white lettering on the main body:imageLater training examples were painted blue. The tail unscrews from the main body:imageNote how one of the fins has snapped off; this seems to be a common problem with training examples where the alloys used in manufacture couldn’t stand up to repeated firing, this problem of course not being an issue on live examples as they were only used once! The grenade was fired using an overpowered blank called a ballistite round and could penetrate 7.8 inches of armour, using a special launcher that fitted over the muzzle of the rifle:ENERGA_Anti-Tank_Grenade_No94_005_1000pxThe grenade was first issued to British troops on the Rhine in 1952 and as with other British weapons a training pamphlet explained the characteristics of the grenade:

The Anti-Tank Grenade, No. 94 (ENERGA)

  1. This grenade has been introduced to provide the infantry section with a powerful and effective anti-tank weapon. It is discharged from a projector attached to the No. 4 rifle, and fired by means of a special grenade cartridge.

General Characteristics

  1. The weapon’s chief characteristics are its great power and lightness. It is highly efficient against armour, concrete, etc., and can be used against “thin-skinned” targets.
  2. Performance.—The grenade will penetrate the sides and rear of the heaviest known tank. The effect of the explosion is to burn a small hole through the armour. Through this hole a high velocity jet of burning gases and molten metal from the grenade is projected into the tank. This, besides causing casualties to the drew, may set fire to the fuel and ammunition.
  3. Accuracy.—The grenade is a first-class and efficient weapon. For an unrotated projectile its accuracy is of a high standard. A trained soldier should, after very little practice, group to approximately 30 inches at 75 yards. The shock of discharge on firing is, not unduly great and the firer, or any observer, can easily follow the flight of the grenade to the target.
  4. Effective range.—Ideal ranges are from 25 to 50 yards. Moving targets can be engaged with reasonable accuracy at any range up to 75 yards.
  5. Carriage.—The projector, when not on the rifle, is carried in a care which is attached to the waist belt. Grenades are carried in containers holding two grenades each.

Tactical Handling

  1. The primary role of the section anti-tank weapon is the destruction of tanks. In its secondary role, it can be used against thin-skinned vehicles and other targets, such as personnel, houses and concrete emplacements.
  2. When the weapon is sited for use in its primary role, the following points must be considered:

(a) It needs a field of fire of only just over 100 yards.

(b) Surprise and concealment are most important.

(c) Any obstruction in its path is likely to detonate the grenade before it reaches its target.

(d) It must cover likely tank approaches, such as gaps in minefields.

(e) It is best to engage the side or rear of a tank.

(f) It is normal to fire it from a fire trench.

(g) Few grenades are carried, and fire must be held till a kill is certain with each grenade.

(h) Some defilade from the front is desirable.

  1. The uses of the weapon in its secondary role are manifold. Some suggestions are:

(a) House clearing and street fighting.

(b) Ambushes.

(c) Concrete emplacements and fortified houses.

(d) Assault boats crossing rovers, and beach landings.

(e) Enemy concealed in trees, hedges, etc.

(f) Soft-skinned vehicles.

  1. When it is decided to use the weapon in is secondary role it must never be forgotten that the weapon is primarily anti-tank and that sufficient grenades must be kept for this purpose.
  2. In addition to his anti-tank duties, the Energa rifleman is a member of the rifle section; if the tank threat is remote, his section commander will site him as a rifleman rather than as a tank killer.

Whilst my example is an inert training version, the following diagram shows the interior of a live grenade:ENERGA_Anti-Tank_Grenade_No94_006_1000pxThe rifle grenade remained in use after the No4 rifle was replaced by the SLR and was finally superseded, in the UK at least, by the Carl Gustav recoilless rifle in the 1970s.

L28A1 Drill Grenade

On the face of it grenades are very easy to use- you pull the pin out and throw them at the enemy. However it was discovered in the First World War that there was rather more to the matter than this and men needed to practice with dummy grenades of the same shape and weight as a real grenade to enable them to judge the distance and force needed to throw these bombs accurately. The throwing of dummy grenades is also essential in helping new recruits overcome an obvious fear of the weapon and build up their confidence before they try something with real explosives inside.

Up until the cold war soldiers tended to be issued white painted Mills bombs that had been rejected for manufacturing faults on the production line for practicing with. As the outer shell of a Mills bomb was made of cast iron these rejects had a realistic weight and were a cheap solution to the problem. When the British Army replaced the Mills bomb they turned to a US grenade the M26 which was adopted as the L2 grenade. This grenade didn’t have the cast body of the Mills bomb so a weighted drill version was needed and this was made from a solid piece of aluminium, painted blue:imageAll drill ordnance in the British Army is painted blue to make it easily identifiable. This drill grenade is designated an L28A1 and this is stencilled on the grenade body:imageThe grenade is designed to be as realistic as possible and has a striker mechanism and ring to remove the pin:imageThe fuse assembly has the designation L30A2. The top of the striker is also clearly marked as being for drill purposes only, and there is a date of 1977:imageUnscrewing the striker reveals there is no internal mechanism:imageThe British Army’s website has a blog from a soldier under training who explains about grenade training:

Another good lesson this week was grenade throwing. After learning about them and how to look after, handle and throw we completed our grenade weapon handling test. The best bit was once you were competent and has passed the test we got to throw a grenade with a fuze. Our other study this week was mainly C-IED revision for the test; fingers crossed we all passed ok.

The L2 grenade has now been superseded as has this drill grenade, but examples come up for sale on the collector’s market fairly regularly and make a nice addition to a Cold War collection.

British Army Smoke Grenades

Tonight we are looking at a number of British Army smoke grenades. These used examples were gifts from a fellow collector a few years ago and date from around ten years ago.

PLEASE NOTE these were not removed from a range by myself and to other collectors who are serving members of the Armed Forces- do NOT take used munitions from training exercises no matter how tempting. Used grenades are available for sale online at reasonable prices and this is a far better way to add them to your collection!

I have three smoke grenades in my collection, the two in light green are standard grenades, the dark green example is one for use in training:imageThe grenades themselves are metal cylinders with a plastic firing handle and wire pull ring attached to a pin on the top (only one of my grenades still has this):imageThe base of each grenade has a small aperture for the smoke to escape from.imageThe manufacturer’s website offers a description of the L83A1 Training Grenade:

Hand White Smoke Grenade L83A1 The L83A1 smoke grenade is an operational store used to provide a fast build-up of screening smoke in the visual wavelengths for troops in the field. The HC Smoke Grenade emits a dense cloud of grey-white screening smoke for a period of 60 seconds, after a safety delay of delay 3.5 seconds. It can be thrown by hand or projected from a rifle. Robust and waterproof, they can function reliably over a wide temperature range from arctic to tropical conditions (-40° C to 50° C).

The training grenade here is an L83A2, identical to the A1 version but with a larger hole at the bottom allowing the smoke to be emitted faster. It is painted in dark green and has pale green lettering:imageThis example was produced in May 2009. The other two grenades are standard examples for use in combat, including a L70A1 red smoke grenade:imageAnd a more unusual L100A1 yellow smoke grenade:imageThese grenades were first developed by Halley and Weller, which was the absorbed by a company called Pains Wessex and then Chemring. The company developed a commercial series of grenades called the N130 series, which were then adopted by the British Army with the following designations:

Red: N130 L70A1

Green: N132 L68A1

Blue: N133 L71A1

Yellow: N135 L100A1

Orange: N136 L69A1

Purple: N137 L101A1

Full these grenades weigh 325g and burn for 30-45 seconds, so marginally less than the practice examples. When the pin is pulled and the grenade is thrown:

(1) The striker, under pressure of its spring, forces the lever to fly off, then continues its movement until it strikes and fires the percussion cap. The fly off lever is retained by a plastic cord. This is particularly designed to remove the hazard of a loose fly-off lever when throwing from a helicopter.

(2) The flash from the cap initiates the igniter which transmits a flash down through a central flash tube and ignites the lower and upper smoke pellets.

(3) The lower smoke pellet ignites first after a delay of three seconds. The smoke is emitted for a minimum of 30 seconds.800px-Marine_Throws_Smoke_Grenade_for_CIED_Team_Cover_MOD_45151907

World War One Souvenirs

Today we are going to look at some souvenirs from the First World War that I have picked up over the years. The British seem to have always loved their souvenirs and examples have been made for all major events in the national arena. Though it seems odd to modern sensibilities, it was very common at the period to make souvenirs for whichever conflict Britain happened to find herself in. Following the experience of the Boer War manufacturers were keen to satiate public desire and quickly brought out commemorative china. As the conflict progressed the latest weapons of war became popular choices for souvenir manufacturers.

Commemorative Saucer

Dating from the start of the war, this wonderful saucer (sadly the cup is long gone) has a late Victorian battleship at the top and the flags of the allied nations at the bottom with the wonderfully bellicose motto ‘Might in the Right Cause Shall Prevail’.


It is interesting that the battleship is hopelessly outdated for the Great War and one wonders if this was a design created for the Boer War 13 years earlier that the manufacturers merely dusted off and updated to quickly get their products out to a clamouring public!

China Tank

Of all the inventions to come out of the First World War, perhaps the one the public latched onto most strongly was the rhomboid shaped tank which seemed to fire their imagination in a way no other machine did. The tank was a reassuringly British invention and offered a modern alternative on the battlefield to the miserable attrition of trench warfare. It is perhaps therefore no surprise that millions of different tank related trinkets were offered for sale to an eager market.

This tank is from the huge field of Goss china- white china in a myriad of shapes with the coats of arms of different towns and villages emblazoned upon them. Here a mk1 tank is emblazoned with the coat of arms for Bridgnorth:


Sadly this example has lost the wheeled steering tail it once had, but it’s still an attractive and iconic piece that has happily sat on the mantlepiece for the last few years as it was sold to do so many years ago.

Hand Grenade money box

This final piece is a bit different as it was designed as an actual weapon of war that has been converted into an attractive souvenir. It is a bog standard WW1 No5 hand grenade that has been chromed, had a stopper fitted and a slot cut to turn it into a money box:


These money boxes are very desirable things and not that common so be prepared to pay a premium if you want to add one to your collection.

No 69 Grenade

Of all the grenades used by the British in the Second World War, the No69 grenade is the cheapest and easiest for a collector to find. Unlike a traditional hand grenade the No 69 is made of bakelite and has a smaller blast radius than the No 36 Mills Bomb we looked at earlier:imageUnlike a traditional grenade which has a spring plunger, the No 69 used an ‘always fuze’:imageThis was a metal ball bearing that was held by a pin with a weighted tape. When thrown the tape unravelled and pulled the pin out. When the grenade landed the ball bearing hit the detonator and the grenade exploded instantaneously:imageThe always fuse was so called because it did not matter whether the grenade landed on its nose, base or side, it would always detonate. The grenade weighed 13.5 ounces and contained 3.2 ounces of explosive:No_69_grenade_diagramIts use was limited and they seem to have been used quite frequently for training. Perhaps because of this the grenade seems to have been a common survivor and deactivated examples are common and can be found for as little as £40.

No36 Grenade

If there’s one area of my collection that I would like to improve the most its that of weapons and ordnance. I have a respectable collection now; with virtually all the major British used weapons of the Second World War, but there are many, more unusual, weapons I would love to add to the collection. Part of the reason I haven’t got more weapons is that they tend to be expensive and hard to get hold of. You don’t come across them on markets and bootsales very often so you are beholden to the prices online dealers charge. They are also far more restricted by the law, guns need to be deactivated and the explosives need to be removed from grenades and shells (you will get no complaints from me on that one…I don’t fancy having a live grenade in the house!).

Having said all that I do have some nice pieces in my collection including this ‘Mills Bomb’. Officially titled the No36M Grenade, this grenade is a development of the No5 grenade that was introduced in WW1. The original grenade design was developed by William Mills of Sunderland and consisted of a pineapple shaped cast iron body segmented to allow it to break apart into shrapnel when it exploded. The grenade was to prove incredibly successful and was modified to become the No36M in 1917 and this model remained in use with the British Army into the 1970s.imageThe grenade weighs 1lb 11oz and a trained man could throw it up to 50 feet, however if the grenade exploded on a hard surfacce it could send fragments up to 100 feet so it was advisable for the thrower to have somewhere to hide from the blast when it exploded.

This example is in lovely condition and still has the shellac waterproofing and red and green markings clearly visable. The red crosses mean that the grenade is specially waterproofed and sealed for use in tropical areas whilst the green line indicates it originally had a filling of Baratol. Baratol is a mixture of TNT and barium nitrate with 1% wax to bind the explosive together.imageThe grenade breaks down into several pieces including the pin, base plug, plunger and spring. The base plug is dated 1944 and the grenade itself is 1945 and marked ‘G’ which indicates the body was made by Galt Metal Industries of Ontario, Canada. The base plug was made by The Schultz Die Casting Company, also from Ontario.imageWhilst not hard to find, due to their iconic status, Mills Bombs in good condition are hard to find for less than £80 these days, however it is the quintessential British grenade and I am very glad to have one in my collection.