World War I was an epic battle between the superpowers of the world which started in 1914 and lasted for four years and three months. Though it started off with the assassination of the Austrian Archduke it is believed there were deeper roots which served as the cause of this event. Germany was a powerful nation with a mighty army. It always had a close relationship with Austria-Hungary and when the war began several other entities also joined them to form the Central Powers. On the other side, the alliance of Russia, France, and Great Britain supported Serbia and together they were known as the Entente.
In 1917, the United States entered the war and brought along soldiers and war materials (i.e. weapons and tools) which were beneficial for winning the war. Following which the Central Powers admitted defeat in the fall of 1918. Associations of multiple countries of Europe were broken down to form new nations. Even though a peace settlement took place there were still issues that had remained unsolved and resulted in the Second World War.
WWI was one unique battle which employed modern sources of technology to develop new and advanced methods of defense and mass destruction. Soldiers fought with determination and desperation, first for survival but later on to safeguard their ideas and national heritage. Whether it was fought on and above the land, under and above the sea or in the air the ultimate goal was to annihilate the enemy force.
New resources of economic and even psychological warfare were tapped to increase the chances of victory. This led to the discovery of weapons and their large-scale industrial production was initiated. Soldiers were provided with the latest machinery and armory (i.e. rifles and barbed wires) whichever was best suited for the hellish environment of war. But out of them the most useful weapon in the battlefield was the grenade. Here is a list of the top 10 grenades which caused massive casualties during the war:
10. British Mills Bomb Grenade:
In the war, they were used in staggering numbers for the sole of purpose of inflicting damage on the enemy forces. Weighing in at just over one pound they would comfortably fit in the hand which also made them easy to throw on the enemy. The first Mills Bomb was developed and manufactured by a hand grenade designer William Mills in the Mills Munition Factory of Birmingham and it was used by the British Army as their standard hand grenade in the year of 1915. It was a simple design in the shape of a pineapple made of cast iron. A central striker was attached to the body with a hand lever and it was secured by a delicate pin. There were multiple grooves on the outer side of the casing to ensure better grip while throwing it on the exposed target. At first, it was fitted with a seven-second fuse, which gave the enemy a chance to escape the explosion. So, modifications were made and the seven-second fuse was replaced with a four-second one.
9. MK1 Grenade:
Just like the British the Americans also wanted their own hand grenade. So they came up with the MK 1 grenade. It was a similar design to the British Mills Grenade. However several problems occurred in its usage such as it wouldn’t ignite properly and the enemy force would throw them back completely lit. Due to this very reason, their production was stopped and newer versions with better modifications were introduced such as the Mk.IA1 and Mk2. They were widely used during the First World War and then later reintroduced in the Second World War.
8. 1 Grenade:
The No.1 was popular amongst the British troops due to its ability to be held easily in hand. It had a container which stored explosive material. This container was connected to a fragmented iron band. It also had a uniquely designed fuse which would erupt only when the top half of the explosive would touch the ground. The lengthy stick handle of the grenade increased its capacity to be hurled over long distances in the battle area. To ensure easy mobility of the explosive a metal ring was connected to its outer shell. This also enabled the men to hang the device from their uniform girdles.
Even though it has an efficient operating mechanism it became the cause of many accidents in the trenches. Several modifications were also made in the design to ensure it worked smoothly. But still, the device proved to be ineffective for war. When it came to manufacturing them in large quantities, it was not possible because they required a special detonator which was only produced by a few ordinance factories.
7. Hales Pattern Grenade:
These were also known as the No.2’s or Mexican pattern grenade’s which were designed by Martin Hales in 1907 and first debuted in the battlefield of the Mexican revolution. The design was an amalgamation of a percussion cap fragment and a standard rifle grenade. When the War happened it was obvious that the classic British grenade could not be produced in huge numbers quickly and hence the British Economy purchased all of the No.2 grenades which had been produced by the Cotton Powder Company. But just like the No.1 grenade it also required a special detonator which was produced by selected firms. This made it difficult for the Army to provide it in a timely manner to its troops in the battlefield. To speed up its production the explosive was changed to tonite which made it accept other detonators. But this also proved to be an obsolete step and the British army stopped using them in the war in 1916.
6. Rifle Grenade:
These grenades had rifle based launchers which allowed them to reach a more effective range something which was rather difficult to achieve through a hand grenade. They were initially introduced in the World War 1 but are still used today in many different forms. The Rod type variant was developed prior to World War 1 and had a standard metallic rod attached to its base. If it was not launched immediately it would explode within the hand; thus making it a risky choice for fights. To solve this problem the rod rifle grenade was swapped with the cup style launcher. It was in the shape of a soup can and was connected to the snout of the rifle. Their only drawback was that they needed cartridge reloading and this was a time-consuming task during the war. Later on, the cup version was replaced by a spigot rifle which was extensively used in World War II and for other defense operations.
5. Jam tin Grenade:
These were used by the British and Commonwealth forces (i.e the Australian and New Zealand forces) in World War 1. They were an improvised explosive device made out of Jam tins or beef tins. Soldiers required explosives but there was less supply of war equipment by the Government and hence these grenades were born out of that very necessity. It had an inner can of explosive material which was covered by metal fragments. There were many variants such as the double cylinder, no.8, and No.9. But the more explosive material was found only in the No.9 variant. These grenades served as great booby traps. They could be placed under dead bodies or heavy objects, and an explosion would take place if even the slightest amount of pressure was applied to them.
4. Racquet Grenades:
As battle armaments became scarce there arose a need for improvisation and making best of the war resources. Hence, the racquet bomb was born. They were used by the French, German and the British armies and came in the shape of iron balls which had a uniform size of 6mms. These were friction primed and sealed to protect them from bad weather conditions and moisture. A timed burn delay fuse was attached to the shell of the grenade which when ignited would activate the black powder and cause it to explode. The device was formed using the outer casing of a Battye Bomb which was attached to a long handle. The handle improved its throwing range during battle.
3. Iron ball/ Kugel Hand grenades:
Several European armies including the French, Germans and the British recognized the potential of the Kugel Hand grenade. It was a newer improved version of the ball grenades which had been around for 400 years. They had solid cast iron spheres which were covered in many fragmentation grooves. A traction igniter was attached through a drilled hole to the casting of the bomb. This ignitor was in the shape of a hollow bronze tube and was filled with explosive powder. It would get triggered by pulling a brass wire attached to the friction block. Once, the bomb was lit it would give the enemy 7 seconds to escape. When the German army entered the war in 1914 they had reasonable quantities of such explosives. Also, they were considered valuable War weapons because of their fragmented design and insensitivity to humid weather conditions.
2. The French F1 Grenades:
These were similar in appearance to the US MK1 grenades. They had a hollow cast iron body, which was heavily grooved in a pineapple like a pattern. The French F1 grenades were first introduced in the war by the French army in 1915. They had a match primer which was not resistant to moisture and hence was replaced with a weatherproof strike primer. This increased the utility and durability of the bomb to a great extent. It required the soldier to remove the safety covering of the bomb and then light the cap to ignite it. However, after lighting, it had to be tossed in the field for maximum impact.
Several inventors developed contraptions which could be used as a better replacement for the existing fuse present in the bomb. These included slow burn matches, pins and tumblers, and strikers. However, the one fuse that one was favored amongst all was the Brilliant Fuse system. It was a cast white metal fuse which was screwed into the head of the casing of the bomb and was secured with a safety pin and movement lever. When the bomb pin was pulled it would release the lever which would make two hammers fall and light up the primer. This would initiate a second delay burn within the fuse. When the burn would finish it would set off the detonator and in the end the explosive itself; thus blasting the bomb casing into small slivers. This model was more weather resistant and had a few more safety features than its first F1 cousin.
Also known as stalk hand grenades these had a unique design which resembled that of a potato masher. They were extensively used by the German troops in the First world battle. The Germans created it out of the necessity for a new type of design. They had only one grenade design which weighed 750 grams and could not be handled by all people.
They made their debut during the World War and had a unique friction igniter system which was less known in other countries but was very common in much German war equipment. The first model of this grenade was named M1915 and it was a direct competitor of the British Mill grenade.
Over the years as the war progressed the standard M1915 model saw many changes. For example, The pull cord which activated the grenade’s fuse could get caught in debris and thus cause the fuse to ignite and make the grenade explode. This problem was solved by introducing the M16 variant which had a porcelain ball directly attached to the pull cord. This prevented the cord from being directly exposed and no longer required the soldier to pull the cord. Following this many other enhancement were made in the grenade resulting in newer and more enhance versions such as M17, M24, and the K variant.