1. Uh oh! I see that at least one soldier seems tempted to grenade the camera man! Nice cigar, though. Rifle grenades of the “blank propelled” variant always seemed to me an idea that wouldn’t work too well under stress, especially if the grenadier gets flanked or side-swiped. Would charging a rifle-grenade armed person be tantamount to suicide if he pulls the trigger at point blank?

    Weren’t there rifle grenades that didn’t require blanks either because their launchers were vertically offset or because they had holes for bullets to pass through on the way to their intended victims (in which case the grenade is considered overkill)?

    • The French Vivien-Bessiere rifle grenade (1916) used a discharger cup like the British “Grenade,Hand or Rifle, Number 23” aka the original Mills Bomb. The difference was that while the Mills needed a blank cartridge, the VB had an open “channel” right through it to allow a standard ball round to be used. As the bullet passed through the channel, it hit a striker and forced it aside to ignite the cap that lit the time fuse train. Most VBs had a seven-second delay, IIRC;


      One major problem with using ball rounds to launch the VBs was that since the rifle was normally elevated to around 40 to 45 degrees to launch the bomb, the bullet went on to just about its maximum possible range, which for the Lebel 8mm was in the vicinity of 4,000 yards. Which didn’t matter a lot in combat, but presented some problems in training, since it was necessary to have a long, wide “danger space” beyond the grenade firing range where the bullets could land without “crowning” somebody.

      The U.S. adopted the VB for the .30 Springfield and M17 Enfield rifles, and used it during the last two years of the war.

      Quite a few modern rifle grenades are known as “Bullet Trap” (BT) types. This means they have a hardened steel “cup” built into the tail boom that the bullet slams into, which both stops the bullet from going anywhere else and transfers its full kinetic energy to the grenade, giving it some serious impetus downrange. Still, “BT” models of most rifle grenades have shorter “projection” ranges than the more conventional blank-cartridge versions of the same model.



  2. Modern rifle grenades seem to come in two types. Bullet trap where a normal bullet is fired from which the energy of the bullet it used to propel the grenade towards the enemy, however there are risks that the trap doesn’t work and can lead to unfortunate consequences. The other type is the shoot through which allows the bullet to pass through the grenade, however the gas from the round is used to propel the grenade down range, this doesn’t have the risks inherent in the bullet trap.

  3. Flickr.com user drakegoodman has a neat and growing collection of WWI photos from the German side. I just searched his Flickr site for grenades and read this in one of the photo annotations:
    Undoubtedly the greatest grenade battle of the war occurred on the Pozieres Heights on the night of 26-27 July 1916.

    Lasting for twelve-and-a-half hours without a break the Australians, with British support, exchanged grenades with their German foes (who threw multiple types of grenade: sticks, cricket balls, egg bombs and rifle grenades). The allied contingent alone threw some 15,000 Mills bombs during the night.

    Many grenadiers were killed that night, while many others simply fell down due to complete exhaustion.

  4. The fellow in the foreground is holding an early German “rodded” grenade, which worked on roughly the principle of the British Hale Grenade. The long narrow body with the “rings” was made of cast iron, and had a central channel full of HE (usual tetryl or picric acid), which efficiently blew up and sent fragments of the casing whizzing around as shrapnel.

    The major problem with rodded grenades was that the sudden gas pressure check at the end of the rod when fire inevitably caused a ring bulge in the rifle barrel. Not to mention the strain firing such weights of projectile exerted on the stock, etc.

    Occasionally you can still find SMLEs with the forearm, wrist, and stock wound tightly with wire that is soldered together. Known as the “EY” rifle (no one is quite sure why), this was intended to be used exclusively as a grenade discharger, with the wire binding helping to keep the rifle from coming apart under the recoil. I believe the Germans came up with a similar setup for the Gew 98, but theirs were all field expedients AFAIK; the British version was “factory-built”.

    The fellow in the background has an interesting gadget. It looks very much like a “spigot mortar” of the type Lt. Col. Blacker was such an advocate of in the Second World War. In fact, if it were a bit bigger, it could just about double for a Blacker Bombard with a tube and shield added;


    It just goes to show that there truly is “nothing new under the sun”.



  5. Bleak, that picture isn’t it, we had Smle snipers “side mounted scopes” Vickers-Maxims, artillery .455 Webley’s, bayonets, Lewis guns… They had stuff also, better off playing football.

    Like they did once…

    Generally though, it must have been hell in earth, closing with, and generally being harried by each other between 1914-18 on the Western and other fronts.

        • Good to read you note(s) PDB. As we know German nature may not be as visibly cheerful as British might be – I guess it depends on circumstance. But you observation is spot on. It was very ‘industrial’.

  6. No cheer on faces of those man and for good reason. Everyday was struggle for survival. At the end, just few were left.

    Label overhead gives out notice what is going on at this particular ‘stellung’ – German trait of order is visible. The technician seem to be fiddling with some fine device… looks like gauge. Now I am going to look what ‘eon’ says.

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