59 Comments

  1. Interesting side note, the grenade pictured is actually hard to find as a collectible. Not, because they were all blown up. But, because the original light sabre handle was made from these grenades. Ironic.

  2. Why French forces don’t developed its own high-angle artillery in years before WW1 (say 1905-1914), when Germans did introduced various Minenwerfer (literally mine launcher): 7.58cm, 17cm mittlerer Minenwerfer, 25cm schwerer Minenwerfer.
    As the French Army lacked high-angle artillery it put into use obsolete mortier de Bange de 220 (other name: mortier de 220 modèle 1880), did French Army believe that 75 modèle 1897 can do anything?

    • Well, yes. The idea, such as it was, was that the Canon de 75 was superior to all comparable field guns, and it would greatly simplify logistics for an army bent on offensive modes of warfare. The old 1878 heavy artillery with mechanical recoil, particularly the 155mm guns in the fortifications was deemed “sufficient” by the “Chapels” of theoreticians in the French GQC. It was a terrible error insofar as the war was actually fought. Coastal artillery, ships, and forts were stripped of obsolete guns, and rushed to the front, often on train cars. The loss of all the coal mines resulted in a serious deficiency in large part made up by American imports. After 1916, under influence from Pétain, the French finally emulated the Germans, and by 1918 fully 40 percent of French troops were in the artillery. The Schneider became the French “god of war” by 1918 and great hope was placed on technology since the army was out of men after the massacres of the infantry up until the 1917 mutiny.

      • According to Ian Hogg in The Guns 1914-1918, the French General Staff believed heavy guns would be of little importance because (a) warfare was now to be “war of movement” in which the heavies simply couldn’t “keep up”, and (b) in such open-field operations, the 75mm used en masse would be able to swamp an enemy formation or strongpoint with fire almost instantly, rendering heavier guns irrelevant anyway.

        The early stages, notably the Race to the Sea, more or less confirmed both points. What they didn’t expect was the horrendous use rate of ammunition, with single units firing off their entire (determined pre-war) daily unit of fire in as little as ten minutes. Some four-tube batteries were expending 1,000 or even 2,000 rounds in a single, relatively short engagement.

        When things “settled down” and the war of attrition in the trenches began, it was even worse. The found out the hard way that light to medium guns needed a lot of time and a lot of ammunition to reduce even improvised fieldworks. (Rammed earth makes an extremely good “sponge” for 75mm, 77mm, or 13 and 18-pounder shells.) This meant even more ammunition expenditure beyond prewar estimates.

        Worse yet, the prewar estimates called for most fire to be “shrapnel”,the advanced form of “canister” and “spherical case”, basically a huge shotgun shell loaded with round balls and having its own powder charge, pusher plate, and time fuze;

        http://www.metaldetectingworld.com/detecting_tavern_site/shrapnel_burst_diagram.gif

        It was very useful for “working over” trench lines, because it always fired at the right time and in the right direction.

        But the preponderance of fieldworks required high explosive shell to reduce them. And HE shell was a much trickier proposition to produce in large numbers, not least because of a shortage of HE to put in them. Also, QC had to be much tighter; a bore premature with shrapnel wouldn’t do much more than scare the detachment and cheese off the CO, but a BP with HE generally meant you needed a new gun and a new detachment.

        This was the main reason for the preponderance of mortars (ranging from light 2-inchers on up to heavy 10-inchers) and rifle grenades on all sides. Simply put, if all you wanted to do was fling an HE charge from one trench line to another, or drop a heavy shell on a pillbox, at relatively short ranges(under 300 yards), rifle grenades and mortars could do it faster and cheaper than any “proper” artillery piece.

        Ditto gas. A single Livens projector could deliver as much gas with one “drum” as a 3-inch or so field gun could firing for two minutes at maximum burst fire rate, simply because the “drum” was the size of a small beer keg. And the mule-stupid, almost primitive Livens was so simple and cheap to build, massing them in the hundreds and firing them all at once to drop tons of chlorine, phosgene, etc., into the enemy’s trench line was still cheaper than even one battery of field guns;

        https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/cb/LivensProjectorDiagramWWI.jpg

        http://media.iwm.org.uk/iwm/mediaLib/266/media-266605/large.jpg

        BTW, if you are at all interested in the subject, Hogg’s book, published in Ballantine’s Illustrated History of the Violent Century series in 1971, is invaluable.

        cheers

        eon

        • “The early stages, notably the Race to the Sea, more or less confirmed both points. What they didn’t expect was the horrendous use rate of ammunition, with single units firing off their entire (determined pre-war) daily unit of fire in as little as ten minutes. Some four-tube batteries were expending 1,000 or even 2,000 rounds in a single, relatively short engagement.”
          Also none except that this war was last more than few months, this with wide usage of fast-firing leads to Shell Crisis in Great Britain:
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shell_Crisis_of_1915
          Russia during WW1 and Civil War has produced so many cartridges for 76 mm divisional gun model 1902 that all following 76mm divisional gun (Model 1902/30, F-22, USV and Grabin ZiS-3) were designed to accept cartridges of model 1902 gun.

          • I tend to have two copies of each of his books. One for file, and the other for use. The latter is the dog-eared, taped-together one full of marginal notes in my handwriting.

            😉

            cheers

            eon

        • Light mortars and rifle grenades also had the advantage that they were right forward with the infantry, and so the lines of communication for control were much shorter and quicker.

          • The Germans re-organized units into true combined arms, with combat engineeers, flamethrowers, grenadiers, mortars, and a huge artillery park as part of the Prussian “Auftragstaktik” meets trench warfare. The French insisted in keeping an unwieldy system that kept higher ranking generals looking at maps in control of the big guns and much support. Eventually, every army began to recognize the newer systems…

  3. Nice posed photo.

    Note that the cocking piece is forward, and that the “Lefftenant” would rather not be standing there should the rodded grenade be fired 🙂

    • Under-barrel grenade launchers are essentially rifle grenades, and they’re in pretty common use today. Some armies still use traditional rifle grenades by the way. However, most rifles made today aren’t strongly enough built to use them without damage, nor do they have the gas system shut-off required for them either.

      A pretty common post WWII rifle which is designed to fire rifle grenades by the way is the Yugoslavian version of the SKS.

      The “rod” style rifle grenade in the picture fell out of use fairly quickly after the war because they tended to damage the barrel. The barrel would develop expansion bulges due to pressure peaks below where the rod sat in the barrel. The stock used to develop cracks as well. The WWII equivalent for the Lee Enfield used a cup discharger.

      In British Empire armies in WWI, it was common to designate a particular rifle to fire rod grenades, generally one which was in poor shape anyway. They would reinforce the stock with wire binding. We can’t see if that is the case in this photo because his hand is covering the area where the binding would normally go. If you see a photo of a rifle with binding like that though, chances are it was a dedicated grenade launching rifle.

      • Thanks for increasing my knowledge. I didn’t realize that modern rifles weren’t strong enough to do it.

        I did know that Yugo SKS did provide for doing it. There are a number of guys around here that fire practice grenades with their Yugos.

        I’ve seen pictures of Enfields with wire there. I had assumed that it was hasty field repair.

      • “The WWII equivalent for the Lee Enfield used a cup discharger.”
        Soviet Union also used rifle cup grenade launcher during WW2 – Dyakonov grenade launcher, description (Russian) here: http://www.battlefield.ru/soviet-rifle-grenade.html
        drawings from top to bottom:
        Dyakonov grenade launcher attached to Mosin rifle
        Dyakonov grenade launcher – cut away
        VGK-40 grenade
        description says that is VGK-40 grenade cut away but this looks to be error; notice that Dyakonov grenade launcher fire grenades with live round (unlike say American M7 grenade launcher) – bullet go through that hole in grenade; notice additional powder charge under grenade
        How to use Dyakonov grenade launcher – apparently colorized drawing from manual, as you can read distance between point of impact and allied soldiers should be 225m-250m and between said soldiers and grenade launcher crew should be 100m-200m distance

        • French VB Tromblon of WWI: “shoot through” rifle grenade. Led to German copy, Karabingranate 1917and Russian copies, yes?

          Also, there is that forgotten Soviet weapon: The 37mm mortar/entrenching tool where the spade could be used as a simple base plate and the soldat would have a belt with something like 15 37mm mortar bomblets to launch from the handle/tube.

          • One problem with “shoot-through” grenades like the VB, etc., was that unlike grenades launched with a blank round, the bullet went on to its full range, which at 45 degrees or so elevation was something like a couple of miles.

            While this was of little import on the battlefield (if an enemy soldier caught one coming down that was his problem), it was a serious problem in training. Because instead of just an open field about 200 to 300 yards across, they needed both the field and a large empty-of-people-and-houses-and-etc. area beyond it that the bullets could land in without causing problems.

            Reportedly, some areas of France behind the Allied FLOT got awfully chewed up by “steel rain” due to grenade launching practice after the VB entered service.

            cheers

            eon

          • “37mm mortar/entrenching”
            37-мм миномёт-лопата, you can read manual for it here:
            h t t p : / / w w w . r k k a . r u / d o c s / r e a l / m i n 3 7 / i n d e x . h t m
            (remove spaces – for unknown reason i can not post with working link)
            Even if you don’t know you can at least read drawings:
            Fig. 1. Combat mode
            Fig. 2. Using as a shovel
            Fig. 3. Parts naming
            Fig. 4. Belt for ammunition
            Fig. 5. How to use belt and transport mortar-shovel
            Fig. 6. At combat position
            Fig. 7. Firing when lying
            Fig. 8. Shell (literally mine, in Russian mine is not applied only to explosive planted in ground (as say Tellermine 35) but also to any shell fired by mortar which itself is called миномёт – mine-thrower)
            Fig. 9. Shell, cut-away

    • I suspect that it is more economical just to produce ~50 or ~60mm mortar than (repeating) rifle – if you use rifle as a grenade launcher magazine is not necessary (you have to reload grenade anyway), rifling in barrel is also unnecessary and Rate-Of-Fire is lower (in case of classic mortar you just throw shells into muzzle, in case of rifle-grenade-launcher you have also to cycle rifle).
      As number of light mortars was restricted in early WW1, adopting rifle was way to get substitute-light-mortar fast.

  4. He’d better not pull the trigger in that position, or his recovery mood will be worse than his hospital bills concerning his [unmentionables]!

    Weapon of choice scenario!

    [Radio Static]

    ACHOO! This winter weather is bad, but I think those vampires from whom I escaped will be even worse! Night vision goggles do nothing to detect them, and they won’t die unless they are deader than dead (for those who are useless at staking vamps, I recommend getting machine guns, grenades or artillery for this mission). Apparently, since I set fire to a castle by accidentally tripping on the firing lanyard of a heavy mortar, the undead inhabitants want me dead (and I personally think they should have stayed dead in the first place). If you’re not anywhere near me right now, try to find my position about 10 km west of the castle (it’s still burning, you can’t possibly miss it even with a blizzard in the forecast). Please get over here if you can [chugs down third bottle of cream soda, since I couldn’t bring alcohol here]. ACHOO!!!

    If you are stuck with me, grab something and hope for the best:

    1. SMLE No. 3 with rifle-grenades or Stevens 520 loaded with plate shot and fitted with saw-backed bayonet
    2. MG-18 TuF (chambered for 13mm T-Gewehr)
    3. Type 89 Grenade discharger or Type 98 dual mount auto-cannons loaded with HE rounds
    4. Konepistooli M44 with drum magazine
    5. Wooden Stake or tons of V40 mini-grenades
    6. StG-44 and tons of Molotov cocktails
    7. Flame-thrower (name your model), but I’m low on fuel for that
    8. 7.7 cm FK 16 loaded with chemical shells (Oh the inhumanity!)
    9. 8.8 cm PaK 43/41
    10. salvage another toy!

    If you’re driving or flying to this location, pick a way to travel:

    1. Mil Mi-24 or UH-1 gunship
    2. Zeppelin with your own PMC crew (and I’ll have to give them the crates of cream soda I’m sitting on
    3. Curtiss P-40
    4. BMW R75 with MG-34 on the sidecar
    5. Tiger I
    6. Churchill Crocodile
    7. Or per the usual, screw the budget and add your favorite toys to this list.

    This activity is totally voluntary. You are not required to go vamp hunting if you do not wish to do so. Please keep any and all criticism of this post humane and free of foul language.

    Thank you,

    Cherndog

    • “vampires”
      Known vulnerability?

      “Type 98 dual mount auto-cannons loaded with HE rounds”
      Better got ZU-23-2, higher fire-of-rate.

      “7. Or per the usual, screw the budget and add your favorite toys to this list.”
      Time for dragon. Magic Dragon (that was callsign of AC 47 in Vietnam War), citing one song:
      The AC-47 send their flames from all the barrels
      6000 shots per minute to make a hill all level

      Full text: http://www.metrolyrics.com/magic-dragon-lyrics-sodom.html

        • Answer to your question from your first response: Vampires are vulnerable to sunlight, fire, water, getting run through with a wooden stake, garlic, blood diseases, “holy symbols,” and getting beheaded. I assumed exploding a vamp would forego everything else, seeing as there is practically no direct sunlight in a snow storm… And of course, we hope vampires in this scenario haven’t learned to create magical anti-ballistic force fields!

          For your aircraft suggestions, yes, please do screw the budget if you feel it is necessary to do so. Collateral damage be d****d!

    • Tons of V40 mini grenades, and a wooden stake? As oppose either, I assume we haven’t got a knife or axe to make a wooden stake with, assuming there’s some accessible wood which is suitable. Because you’d have an axe or knife, but I mean if there’s already anti vampire stakes lying around, can’t we pick one up along with as many of the grenades as can be carried.

      • Good point, just axe the vamp to leave. [chuckles at having made a bad pun] Or, just get the stake AND the grenades. And no, we don’t have any well done sirloin steaks (bummer, man). As long as we’re not making tooth picks, feel free to get a knife or axe.

    • A 60mm Stokes-Brandt mortar with white phosphorus rounds is pretty hard to beat.

      If you have time to set up a perimeter, a few gallon paint cans full of gasoline (plus flake painter’s aluminum if you can find any)buried up to their lids in the ground, with a pull-fuse igniter each, make terrific “mini thermobaric munitions”.

      As for coming to your rescue, you might want to duck. I’m bringing an M67 Zippo;

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M67_Flame_Thrower_Tank

      cheers

      eon

      • Talk about toasty. Staking vamps is a bit outdated, so vehicular homicide gets the approval sticker. I’ll buy the drinks (and cold medicine) when we get back to town. Yes, I’ll also refuel the Zippo before any cigars get lit.

        Thank you,

        Cherndog

  5. So… everything right now has to be a Star Wars reference, right? That is plainly a lightsaber he is shooting at his enemies.

    • My brother told me this: “YOU NEVER THROW YOUR SWORD!” Throwing your primary weapon is a bad idea, let alone grenade-launching it half a mile away! And even if it reached the other team, the light saber would probably not hit the intended victim, although it may burn a hole in the roof of a bunker.

    • No, seriously, a No. 3 rod grenade was used to make one of the lightsabers for the original Star Wars film. I think Ian has succumbed to the dark Disney viral marketing machine.

      • Which lightsaber was made out of a grenade? Luke’s original was a Graflex flash gun handle with stuff glued to it. Which makes Graflex press camera collectors sad because the cosplayers snapped up all the flash handles to make replica lightsabers.

  6. I think the big reason for the demise of the rifle grenade has to do with the adoption of the small caliber rifle round, 5.56×45. All of the common “battle rifles” that used a full power rifle cartridge were built to throw rifle grenades. I think the grenades are too heavy to be launched by the smaller amount of gas produced by the 5.56 cartridge. Add to that the proliferation of effective improvements over the bazooka/panzerfaust and your primary reason for having the rifle grenade in the first place goes away. Tanks became tougher to kill after WWII also lessening the effectiveness of the rifle grenade and emphasizing the need for the anti tank rockets.

    The only thing they may still be good for is door busting or reducing light fortifications.

      • “Bullet trap” grenades (that have a hardened steel “cone” in the tail to stop the slug and transfer its KE to the grenade as thrust) were made by several munitions makers from the 1970s on. Most had 22mm ID tail tubes to fit the flash suppressors of any M-16 type or other 5.56 x 45mm rifle.

        These grenades were purposely made lighter, with mostly aluminum alloy and plastic structures, so their mass wouldn’t throw an unacceptable amount of recoil on the rifle.

        They got around the need for fragmentation by the modern method of a “sleeve” of either notched steel wire or very small steel shot around the warhead, to provide a controlled “fan” of fragments tat would be dangerous out to 10 meters or so but relatively harmless beyond that radius.

        Most such were made in both “blanks only” and bullet-trap versions. The latter were generally marked “BT” to distinguish them.

        Attempts to make BT type rifle grenades for 7.62 x 51mm rifles were less successful. The heaver 7.62 bullet tended to go right through the “catcher” cone and on through the grenade, with results best left to the imagination.

        cheers

        eon

        • I can’t remember if you shut the gas off, on the Sa80… You could move the plug dirty/normal ports, not sure if there was an off setting for RGGS, wasn’t a very big grenade 25mm diameter bomb say, lightweight. You could fire them from the shoulder/hip, slouch position if you will i.e. Leaning into the rifle stood up.

    • The French are still firm believers in the rifle grenade concept. The FAMAS is equipped to launch them, and current grenade designs use a “bullet trap” that transmits the energy of the impact of a standard 5.56 ball round into launching the grenade and initiating the fuse/safety. Therefore, there’s no need to carry separate grenade-launching blanks.

    • While I knew that rifle grenades were originally meant for anti personnel use, I was under the impression that the post WWII use was more anti tank and that the grenades were hollow charge types.

      I had heard that the bullet trap type had been developed, but was unaware that they didn’t work for the various 30 cal rifles.

      The useful range of the grenades dropping from 300 to 100 meters makes sense from the physics side (with the 5.56 cal rifles), but maybe not so much from the utility side.

      Thanks for the responses!

  7. Very interesting discussion so far, and as usual Cherndog’s scenarios with many, many alternatives to problem resolution leave one thinking long and hard about what to do or not do :).

    I did notice one thing, though — no-one has yet identified the model and type of rifle grenade in the photograph. I could very well be wrong, but I am guessing that the rifle grenade in question is of a design by Brandt, or something closely related.

    Any other information on this, anyone?

  8. I found this, might be the same Lt Barley “Men of the 2nd Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (19th Brigade, 6th Division) wearing cotton-waste pad-respirators (possibly of the type improvised by Lt Leslie Barley who was later appointed Chemical Adviser to the 2nd Army). The bottles which the men hold contain solution, probably sodium hyposulphate, for re-dipping the respirators to allow for their re-use. The sector is Bois Grenier, just south of the Ypres salient and the period is May-June 1915. Image courtesy of the Imperial War Museum.” http://www.1914-1918.net/6div.htm

      • British officer served with 1st Bn Cameronians on Western Front, 1915; served as Army Chemical Adviser with Headquarters, Second Army on Western Front and Italy, 1915-1918; served with Gas Services Department, Ministry of Munitions in GB, 1918-1919

        Content description:

        REEL 1 Recollections of operations as officer with 1st Bn Cameronians on Western Front, 12/1914-6/1915: role as bombing officer and regular officers’ attitude to hand grenades; impact of German use of gas in Ypres area, 4/1915; ineffective first anti-gas measures including issue of cotton wool pads; devising method of spraying gas neutralising chemical solutions along trenches to counter gas; meeting Lieutenant Colonel Wilson with medical and engineering officers at Headquarters, 6th Div, 4/5/1915; experiments on gas on establishing laboratory at school in Armentieres; success in devising cotton waste gas mask impregnated with chemicals; successful demonstration in front of senior officers of dispersing gas with chemical solutions whilst wearing respirator, 6/5/1915; improvements to cotton waste gas mask design. Aspects of period at III Corps Headquarters, Bailleul, 5/1915-6/1915: role supervising mass manufacture for troops. REEL 2 Continues: move to training role lecturing troops on gas attacks. Aspects of period as Army Chemical Advisor, Headquarters, Second Army, 1915-1917: pay; relationship with other Army Chemical Adviser; establishment of central laboratory; contacts with Professor Haldane and reports of his prior experiences on German gas attack at Ypres including Churchill’s advice on gas masks; role giving lectures and gas mask training to troops. REEL 3 Continues: routine duties; weekly meeting of Army Chemical Advisers at Central Laboratory, St Omer and co-ordinating role of Major Edward F Harrison; tests on Macpherson gas helmet and subsequent issue to troop; development of Phenlate gas helmet to counter possibility of German use of phosgene gas cloud; intelligence warnings of imminent use of phosgene, 11/1915; improvements to PH helmet; demonstrations of use of oxygen breathing equipment to machine gun crews; raids to gain intelligence of location of imminent German gas attack, 12/1915; capture and interrogation of German NCO; previous success in interrogation of German POW on location of German mining works. REEL 4 Continues: methods employed in successful interrogation of German NCO and consequent successful precautions prior to German phosgene gas attack in Ypres area, 19/12/1915; first German use of di-phosgene in gas shells; German use of mustard gas shells, 1917; amusing story concerning introduction and use of gas defence code words. REEL 5 Continues: establishment of divisional anti-gas courses and gas officers; development of dugout anti-gas protection using double blanket doorways; visit to front by civilian gas experts. Recollections of operations in Italy, 10/1917-4/1918: situation; inadequacy of Italian gas mask and arrangements to use of British pattern gas masks; state of Italian Army and Lieutenant General Hubert Plumer’s negotiations with Italian high command. REEL 6 Continues: Plumer’s negotiations with Italian high command and offer of assistance in gas warfare; demonstration of superiority of British gas masks in Rome and subsequent issue to Italian Army. Attending Inter-Allied Conference in Paris, 4/1918. Aspects of period with Gas Services Department, Ministry of Munitions, GB, 1918-1919.

        Leslie John Barley

  9. I certainly hope that that brass buttplate isn’t in close proximity to what it seems to be…boy’s gonna be singin’ soprano when the hostilities are over…

    • I said that already! If that trigger gets pulled NOW, that guy will be singing soprano in a very sad song about his honorable mention in the Darwin Awards.

      • Actually, I do believe he is straddling a wooden box that holds the butt of the SMLE rifle. No injury to private parts or groin unless, erm, there is a sort of “catastrophic failure” of the frame the grenade launching rifle is mounted in, or the rifle stock itself. Hmm. I wonder if this is the origin of the British term “box” for what we in the United States call a protective “cup?” 😉

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