SOME WW1 GERMAN GRENADES

Version francophone




Stick grenade model 1916 with its origin wood stick (Found in  Verdun - Mort Homme)
INTRO : THE WW1 GERMAN GRENADES

HAND GRENADES
Kugelhandgranate 1913
Kugelhandgranate 1915
Diskushandgranate offensive
Diskushandgranate défensive
Stielhandgranate 1915
Percussion Stielhandgranate 1915
Stielhandgranate 1916
Stielhandgranate 1917
Eierhandgranate

RIFLE GRENADES
Rifle grenade mod 1913
Rifle grenade mod 1913
Karabingranate

SPECIAL GRENADES
Priest mortar granate
Austrian Schnellwerfer granate

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German grenades

The 1914 German arsenal grenades technology, although a little bit more sophisticated than the French ones, is proving enough the little interest given to this kind of weapon before its necessity was demonstrated by the early positions war. In Germany, the improvised 'hairbrush grenades' that were used by all the armies in war gave birth to the mighty stick grenades used by the Kaiser's troops, declined in numerous variants, and used until 1945.

Other interesting war developments quickly imposed themselves as well, such as the strange lenticular percussion grenades or the compact and handy 'egg' grenades, not to forget the succesful copy of the famous French 'VB' rifle grenade, or the grenade launchers projectiles.





Hand grenades


Kugelhandgranate 1913
Model 1913 Kugel hand grenade

Careful observers of the Russo-japanese 1904 war, several European armies including France and Germany recognized the need to pay some interest again to this 400 years old weapon almost forgotten. The 'Kugelhandgranate 1913' is a first development (dated 1913) of the previous centuries ball grenades.

These cast iron spheres were machined with outside deep fragmentation grooves (for the production of 70 to 80 pieces), drilled with a threaded hole made to receive a transportation plug, then an igniter in fighting conditions.

This traction igniter was a hollow bronze tube, filled with compressed black powder (giving a 7 seconds delay, or 5 seconds for the red-painted igniters), and triggered by pulling a brass wire attached to a friction block dipped in a mixture of glass, manganese bioxyde and potassium chlorate.

The German troops entered the war in 1914 with reasonable quantities of such grenades, relatively modern thanks to their fragmentation design and their igniter quite insensible to the humidity.

Weight 1 kg, including 45 g. black powder / baryte nitrate / potassium perchlorate mixture

Kugel grenade model 1913
Kugel grenade model 1913, bottom view
Kugel grenade model 1913, dismounted igniter
Kugel grenade model 1913, a rare simplification of the machining pattern has also been produced
Kugel grenade model 1913 - Wartime scheme from a German manual



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Kugelhandgranate 1915 n/A
Model 1915 Kugel hand grenade

In 1915 a simplified fragmentation pattern of the 1913 Kugel grenade is adopted, in order to improve its massive serial production ability. This Kugel grenade Model 1915 ('Kugelhandgranate N/a') only difference to the older type was the outside grooves pattern easier to machine, but was keeping all the other characteristics.

The use of these two Kugel grenades was pretty safe, but uneasy due to their heavy weight (1 kg). Launched by hand, their range was not longer than 15 meters, unless on a favourable ground on which they could continu to roll on a certain distance after landing. The only way to reach longer (up to 300 m) ranges was the use of mechanical spring based grenade launchers.

Not answering anymore to the trench war fighting conditions, these grenades were gradually replaced by newer models, including the famous stick hand grenades. But the German industry had produced meanwhile so big quantities of these Kugelhandgranate, so that re-use tests were made as a anti-tank grenades (with the more powerful tolite explosive), as a percussion grenade (including the use of a specific hand launching system (called a 'bilboquet'), or as a percussion stick grenade. These new usages were no really successful nor consumed the huge stocks, and big quantities of these grenades survived the war.

It is interesting to note that the 1913 and 1915 Kugel grenades were gradually equipped with different kinds of igniters :

  • bronze traction igniter model 1913 with 5 seconds delay
  • bronze traction igniter model 1913 with 5 seconds delay
  • zinc alloy traction igniter model 1915 with 8 seconds delay
  • zinc alloy traction igniter model 1915 with 5 seconds delay
  • embossed steel plate traction igniter model 1917 with 5 seconds delay
  • zinc alloy percussion igniter model 1916 with 5 seconds delay

Weight 1 kg, including 45 g. black powder / baryte nitrate / potassium perchlorate mixture

Kugel grenade model 1915
Kugel grenade model 1915, bottom view
Kugel grenade model 1915, dismounted igniter
Kugel grenade - bronze model 1913 traction igniter with 5 seconds delay - wartime scheme from a German manual



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Offensive Diskushandgranate M 1915
'Turtle' Offensive grenade M 1915

The trenches war reinforced the long time expressed need for grenades exploding at impact, leaving no opportunity to the ennemy to grab it and send it back to the launcher like a conventional 'time' grenade. In Germany, an original and efficient answer was bring as soon as 1915 with the 'Discushandgranaten' (called 'turtle grenades' by the allied soldiers). The offensive model was made of two thin steel plate shells, crimped together.

Thes egrenades has a lenticular shape, included two bags filled with explosive stuff, and were equipped with an ingenious igniting system looking like a star with 6 hollow tubular cast aluminium. 4 perpendicular tubes were containing mobile inertia blocks wearing a starter. At the center of this cross was a percussion star with 4 percussion pins, oriented towards the inertia blocks starters. The two other tubes, facing each other, were containing a detonator for one of them, and a brass tube for the the other one. This brass tube was masking the percussion star pins at rest, and was kept in position by a safety pin.

To use this grenade, one had to remove the safety pin, than to launch the grenade as a pebble, giving it a spin movement. The centrifugal force given by the spin pushed back the inertia starter-bearers, as well as the brass tube, unmasking the central star percussion pins. When landing, was L'utilisation de cette grenade s'effectuait en retirant la goupille de sécurité, puis en lançant le corps à la manière d'un galet, en lui imprimant un mouvement de rotation. Sous l'action de la force centrifugeles masselotes amorcées étaient repoussées au fond de leur logement, et le tube de laiton libéré par la goupille démasquait les pointes de l'étoile centrale. En aterrissant, one of the inertia blocks at least was projected against the central star, firing its starter, and communicating the fire to the detonator, then to the grenade esplosive.

Weight 420 g, including 130 g explosive.

Offensive turtle grenade. Front view. See the 6 branches of the star and the crimping fold.
Offensive turtle grenade. Side view (lenticular shape). Detail on the central tube.
Opened offensive turtle grenade. View on the 6 branches star tubes and the central percussion pins star. Pictures courtesy Luc Malchair.
Opened offensive turtle grenade. View on the 6 branches star tubes and bags containing the explosives.
Offensive turtle grenade - one of the radial tubes is opened, showing the mobile inertia starter-bearer in brass.
Offensive turtle grenade - Wartime scheme.



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Diskushandgranate défensive M 1915
Grenade 'tortue' défensive M 1915

The 'Discushandgranaten' existed in two versions :

  • a defensive model, designed to kill within a wide radius by projection of deadly fragments
  • an offensive model, designed to stun or wound the ennemy with little risk to the assaulting launcher
The defensive Diskushandgranate= was made of two cast iron innerly prefragmented shells, smaller that the oddensive grenade and with a less powerful explosive charge, but having an impact igniting system based on the same 'star' design.

The turtle grenades of both models were also used as booby trap, posed in equilibrum and safety pin removed. Both models wer suffering of too high a sensitivity to humidity.

Weight 360 g, including 20 g explosive.

Defensive (left) and offensive (right) turtle grenades. See the size difference.
Opened defensive turtle grenade. Nice look on the inner prefragmentation grooves.
Defensive turtle grenade - wartime scheme.



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Stielhandgranaten 1915
Stick hand grenades 1915

From the very start of the static war, all the fighting armies realized the utility of grenades in close combat. German and French soldiers improvise 'hair brush' grenades, hasty build of a small wooden plank with a stick, together with an explosive load surrounded with metal pieces, and a wick and detonator ignition system.

On the German side, this concept seems so seducing that it is developped to give birth to the famous family of the stick grenades ('Stielhandgranaten') that will be, for both of the XXth century world wars, THE german grenade in the public collective mind.

Appreciated because of its simple and cheap manufacturing, its long stick for an easy and poweful launch by hand, but quite cumbersome in the trench bags or hanging on belts, this grenade concept will be the subject of numerous developments during the conflict.

The first characteristic model, the Stielhandgranat 1915, appeared in 1915 and was made with a thin steel plates (1 mm) cylinder (105 to 120 mm high, 72 mm diameter) crimped with a bottom and a cover of the same material, dipped in paraffin for some waterproofing and equipped with a belt hook, and a wooden stick 24 to 26 cm long. The ignition system was composed of a simple string longitudinally passing through the wooden stick and acting on a traction igniter linked to a detonator via a wick. This system gave a 7 seconds delay (or 5.5 seconds in some versions). The production being made by numerous private manufactures, and the specification being imprecise, the size of the components can vary.

Weight 820 g, including 270 g Ammonium Nitrate and tolite.
A family picture of stick hand grenades from 1915 to 1917.
Stick hand grenade model 1915, recognizable with its thick wooden stick, no stick cap, and its crimpled steel cylinder with mounting tabs
Stick hand grenade model 1915 in better condition, crimped box
Stick hand grenade model 1915 - Wartime scheme from a US manual



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Stielhandgranate 1915 percutante
Percussion Stick hand grenades 1915 with spoon

More and more complex variations were designed on the basis of the simple initial model. At the end of 1915, two percussion stick hand grenades were developped, based on the fact that stick grenades trend to land vertically on their head :

  • the 'percussion Stielhandgranate M 1915 with spoon'
  • the 'percussion Kugelhandgranate M 1915'

Percussion stick hand grenade M 1915 with spoon - Lorraine museum
Percussion stick hand grenade M 1915 with spoon - private museum in Champagne
Percussion stick hand grenade M 1915 with spoon - dismounted handle



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Stielhandgranate 1916
Stick hand grenades 1916

In 1916 the number of stick grenades variations is increasing, with the apparition in small series of :

  • the 'percussion Stielhandgranate Wilhelm M 1916'
  • the 'percussion Stielhandgranate M 1916'
  • the 'Stielhandgranate M 1916 with automatic ignition'
But 1916 is mainly the year of introduction of a new model that will be widely used in huge quantities, the 'Stielhandgranate M 1916'. This famous model was an outcome particularly resistant to humidity issues thans to its stick cap screwed at the bottom and hiding the ignition string. It was later even improved by the riveting of a star-shaped plate that helped the unscrewing of the cap in muddy conditions.

At the end of 1916, the powerful tolite starts to replace the ammonium nitrate as a grenade explosive, allowing to make the crimped box smaller or filling the unused space with a wooden block.

Stick hand grenade model 1915 - detail of the stick base : the unprotected string opening was a weak point for waterproofing properties
Stick hand grenade model 1916 - detail of the stick base : the stick cap (here equipped with additional star plate and unscrewed) is protecting the string hole from humidity.
Stick hand grenade model 1916
Stick hand grenade model 1916 - detail of the delay writings on the stick (5.5 sec)
Stick hand grenade model 1916 with a remnant of its wooden stic as observed in Verdun - Mort Homme
Pieces of stick caps: the star shaped plate is designed to help the cap unscrewing in muddy conditions (Observed in Verdun - Mort Homme)
Stick hand grenade model 1916 - Wartime scheme from a US manual
Stick hand grenade model 1916 - Variation loaded with tolite explosive, therefore needing less material, excedent space filled with a wooden block - Wartime scheme from a US manual



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Stielhandgranate 1917
Stick hand grenades 1917

From 1916, the ammonium nitrate used as explosive for stick hand grenades models 1915 and 1916 was gradually replaced by the more powerful tolite. As a consequence the grenade box volume could be decreased, and the manufacturing process could evouluate from the usual crimping to thin steel plate stamping in one piece. This modification gave birth to the :

  • Stielhandgranate M 1917
In the same time the manufacturing specifications became much more precise, so that the numerous producers realized stamped boxes having the same shape and the same dimensions (11 cm long and 6 cm diameter).

All the Stielhandgranate models were used both as offensive and defensive hand grenades, very deadly and stunning in a short range (15 m). They wer however all affected by the same defect induced by their cumbersome sizes and shape, both for transportation and 'ballistic'.

Weight 820 g, including Tolite.

Stick hand grenade model 1917
Stick hand grenade model 1917 - Detail on the detonator housing at the base of the cylinder
Stick hand grenade model 1917. Stamped box, and remnants of the belt hook.



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Eierhandgranate M 1917
'Egg' grenade Model 1917

The 'egg' grenade ('Eierhandgranate') appeared in the beginning of 1917, as a complement to the othe reglementary grenades that were either too heavy (Kugelhandgranate) or too cumersome (Stielhandgranate) for the assault sections. The small size steel cast body (6 cm long, 4.6 cm diameter), took the shape of an egg, therefore giving this grenade its nickname.

Initially entirely smooth, the body was modified in 1917 to receive a fragmented belt ('Eierhandgranate Neuer Art' - n/A) to improve its handling. Its size and weight allowed a long range hand launching (up to 50 meters) and as easy transportation in big quantities, even in the battledresses pockets.

This grenade will be successively used with different ignition plugs :

  • Zinc alloy traction igniter M 1915, 5 seconds delay
  • Zinc alloy percussion igniter M 1916, 5 seconds delay
  • Stamped plate and cap traction igniter M 1917, 5 seconds delay

Weight 318 g, including 32 g gun powder, aluminium and baryte nitrate mixture.

'Egg' grenade n/A, view on the ignition plug threaded hole
'Egg' grenades (The right one has been observed in en Champagne)
'Egg' grenade with igniter and launching string'
'Egg' grenade n/A, with stamped plate traction igniter M 1917, 5 seconds delay
'Egg' grenade n/A, detail on the body bottom markings 'A W'
'Egg' grenades n/A, with stamped plate traction igniter M 1917. This dismantled piece shows the small sphere that was contained in it
'Egg' grenade first model (smooth body) aquipped with a transportation plug
'Egg' first model - wartime scheme



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Rifle grenades


Karabingranate M 1913
1913 rifle rod grenade

The rifle grenade M 1913 is the first of a series of grenades developed by German intended to be lauched using the simple Mauser infantry rifled armed with a blank ammunition, after inserting the long steel rod into the gun.

The 4 mm thick cast steel body with external prefragmentation grooves network, was filled with explosive and traversed by an axial tube that connected the 'fuse' head (in fact a simple plug) that held the detonator with the base plate. This one was holding the inertia block mechanism that was armed by the launching energy. This action ignited a small compressed powder rod whose combustion released the movements of a inertia block system that would project a starter against a percussion pin at the impact time. It was clearly a percussion system with pyrotechnical safety, comparable to the one present in many German percussion fuses used in the Kaiser Artillery at the same period.

The range could be adapted by the rifle angle, but when a close range was needed a 9 cm removable disk was screwed at the top of the body that served as a aerodynamic brake during the trajectory.

The main problem with the model 1913 was its very good aerodynamic properties making it too effective a projectile, sinking too deep into the ground before explosion with lesser effects.

Weight 900 g, including 80 g ammonium nitrate.

Rifle rod grenade M 1913
Rifle rod grenade M 1913, dismantled
Rifle rod grenade M 1913 - base detail with smoke escape holes
Rifle rod grenade M 1913 - wartime scheme
Rifle rod grenade M 1913. This nice aerodynamic shape was more an issue than a quality



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Karabingranate M 1914
1914 rifle rod grenade

The issues induced by the too good ballistic properties of the rifle grenade M 1913 were making this grenade inefficient, so a solution had to be quickly found. Developments led to the birth of a less aerodynamic and more massive grenade that would limit the penetration in the ground at impact, the rifle grenade M 1914 .

This variation was made keeping constant the total weight to keep the firing table unchanged, and therefore admitting a small redusction of the explosive charge. An optional steel cupola could be added at the base of the body to reduce the range, depending the way it was mounted (25% or 50%).

The ignition system was completely different from the one of the 1913 model. Le mécanisme d'allumage était complètement différent de celui du modèle 1913. Entirely confined into the brass piece screwed at the top of the projectile, it was this time a real percussion fuse with inertia arming system (inertia block and springs). At the departure (and after the safety pin had been removed), inertia force pushed back a ring, unmasking the percussion pin. From the outside, this 'armed' condition was reckognizable by the elevated position of the fuse head, also giving it a bigger power at the impact to trigger the starter / percussion pin.

Other evolution, the detonator was now inserted inside a high explosive relay-charge, itself included into the body explosive load. Thes characteristics provided that grenade an internal organization surprisingly similar to some high explosive shells of the artillery of the same times.

Despite these improvements, none of the 1913 or 1914 rod grenades went 'popular' within German infantrymen, the need of changing the rifle ammunitions to blank type to use them being a frequent source of fatal accidents in the fight heat.

Weight 900 g, including 70 g tolite.

Rifle rod grenade M 1914
Rifle rod grenade M 1914 dismantled. See the brass fuse, and the HE relay-charge.
Rifle rod grenade M 1914 mounted with the optional cupola range limiter
Rifle rod grenade M 1914 - detail of the range limiter cupola
Rifle rod grenade M 1914 - wartime scheme from a US manual - see the 'safe' and 'armed' fuse position.



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Karabingranate 1917
Grenade for Mauser rifle sleeve

The apparition of the remarkable French Viven-Bessière on the battlefields in 1916 was a little revolution in the trench warfare. Safe because not needing to change the rifle ammunitions, easily transportable in large quantities and tactically efficient since it could saturate a target by the fire of several launchers just as a miniature artillery fire, this weapon was copied as soon as 1917 by the German army with the Rifle grenade M1917 ('Karabingranate 1917').

Based on the same general principles than the French VB, it was likewise cylindrical, innerly prefragmentated, introduced in a sleeve fixed to the Mauser infantry rifle, propelled by a conventional ammunition combustion gasses, and explosive after a fixed time triggered by the passing of the bullet inside of a central tube.

Major differences were found in its bigger size (6 cm diameter instead of 5 cm for the VB), and by the ignition system, not triggered by the bullet hitting a small hammer like with the VB, but instead igniting a lateral starter communicating with the detonator via a radial channel.

The maximum range could reach 180 m.

Weight 440 g., including 36 g tolite

Karabingranate 1917
Karabingranate 1917 - bottom view with manufacture marks
Karabingranate 1917 dismantled
Karabingranate 1917 with the mauser gun launcher
Karabingranate 1917 - wartime scheme
Karabingranate 1917 sleeve - wartime scheme



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Special grenades


Granatwerfer ('Priest Mortar') Granate
'Pigeon' Grenade

At the border between grenade launcher and minenwerfers, the Priest Morser is a little trench weapon designed in 1915 by Austria (presimingly by a priest, hence the name). Called Granatwerfer (grenade launcher) by the Germans that massively used it, this light (45 kg) and easily transportable weapon was simply composed with a base plate supporting a orientable mandrel equipped with a spring percussion mechanism.

The Granatwerfer explosive grenade was made with an externally prefragmented ovoid, then cylindrical steel body, mounted at its base on a hollow mantle wearing 3 to 4 winglets, and at its head with a simple percussion fuse. The propelling charge was just a blank mauser cartridge included in a shaft penetrating inside the grenade body at the top of the mantle.

At firing time, the detonator was added on the fuse and mounted on the grenade, the projectile tail was slipped on the launcher mandrel that had been orientated before, the safety pin was removed, and the launching triggered by pulling on a rope connected to the trigger. This action projected a pin to the base of the blank cartidge located at the bottom of the grenade tail, and provoked the projectile take off, on a trajectory stabilized by the winglets, to a maximum range of 250 m.

At impact, the explosion was ordered by the head percussion fuse connected to a detonater dipped in the explosive charge. This weapon was feared by the allied soldiers because of its stealth, the departure sound being very low, and the flight silent with the exception of a flying pigeon, hence the nickname !

The granatwerfer received different projectiles, amongst wich one can cite :

  • the explosive winged ovoid grenades
  • the explosive winged cylindrical grenades
  • the message-bearing winged grenades
  • the lighting winged grenades
  • the rebounding explosive winged grenades
This latter surprising model had a similar shape to the one of the explosive cylindrical wiged grenades, sometimes innerly prefragmentated, and having a specific propelling charge in a brass bucket equipped with a starter, at the bottom of the tail. The grenade head was included inside a steel hat containing a small black powder charge that could be ignited at impact by the percussion fuse. This charge gave a 'rebound' move to the grenade over the ground just before explosion, considerably more dangerous for the ennemy infantrymen.

Weight 2.450 kg including 200 g high explosive (explosive winged cylindrical grenades)..

Family picture of granatwerfer explosive projectiles : 3 or 4 winglets, ovoid or cylindrical bodies
Granatwerfer cylindrical winged explosive projectile
Zoom on the propellant cartridge inside the granatwerfer projectile tail (Observed in Champagne - Mont Tétu)
Granatwerfer : the launcher, named 'Priest Mortar', from an Austrian inventor (in a Lorraine museum)
Granatwerfer : the simplified launcher, extremely mobile (in a Lorraine museum)
Granatwerfer projectile dismantled : view to the propellant cartridge shaft
Granatwerfer projectile - wartime scheme of the ovoid explosive projectile (same inside organisation than the cylindrical explosive grenade)
Lighting or message-bearer Granatwerfer projectiles (private museum in Champagne)
Rebounding Granatwerfer projectile (left) and classical one (right)
rebounding explosive Granatwerfer projectile - wartime scheme



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Schnellwerfer Granate
Schnellwerfer (Austrian) grenade

There are little details known upon this grenade launcher, that has been made by Austria, and probably used by Germans only in the Argonne forest where its projectiles can be observed. The Schnellwerfer was designed to quickly fire 6 grenades at a maximum fire rate of 50 to 120 shots per minute and at a range of 200 to 500 meters, probably giving very efficient defensive properties.

The launcher was composed on a base plate, a two axis pointing device, a percussion device, and an inclinable grenade container for 6 projectiles transversally sliding as a drawer on a guide. When used, the drawer container was sliding transversally, positionning the casings in shooting position, and sequentially firing all the 6 projectiles a bit like a lateral ammunition belt machinegun.

The Schnellwerfer explosive grenade was made with a tubular cast iron body containing the explosive, drilled with a threaded hole on the top extremity for screwing the fuze, and a bottom external thread to screw a propulsive charge cup (gun powder).

The fuze included a inertia arming system actionned by the departure energy, and igniting a wick that triggered the detonator after 11 seconds.

Total weight and explosive load unknown..

Grenade for Schnellwerfer observed in Argonne, France
Grenade for Schnellwerfer.
Grenade for Schnellwerfer : projectile scheme
Grenade for Schnellwerfer. Dismantled 'fuze' and detonator.
Grenade for Schnellwerfer. Bottom view - the screwable cup with the propellant stuff has disappeared
Percussion mechanism of the Schnellwerfer
Schnellwerfer, its sliding container is loaded with 6 projectiles



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