"A Copse. Evening"

"A Copse. Evening"
A. Y. Jackson, 1918
"I don't make hell for nobody. I'm only the instrument of a laughing providence. Sometimes I don't like it myself, but I couldn't help it if I was born smart."

1st Sgt. Milton Anthony Warden.
"From here to Eternity"

Paul Valery

"You are in love with intelligence, until it frightens you. For your ideas are terrifying and your hearts are faint. Your acts of pity and cruelty are absurd, committed with no calm, as if they were irresistible. Finally, you fear blood more and more. Blood and time."

The Wisdom of the Ages

"When a young man, I read somewhere the following: God the Almighty said, 'All that is too complex is unnecessary, and it is simple that is needed',"

Mikhail Kalashnikov
"Here lies the bravest soldier I've seen since my mirror got grease on it."

Zapp Brannigan

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Things that go boom

How grenades work; an instructional video:

A bit crude I admit.
The "inspiration" for the above can be found here.
"Pull the safety pin!"
I was probably fascinated by grenades even before I was by trench knives.
When I was about nine I had a working plastic model (MK II)
Pull the pin, the spoon would fly off, the striker would swing around and... click.
Unless you loaded it with a cap under the striker (a cap for Christ's sake) in which case it would make a ...cap sound... as soon as you let go of it.
It left something to be desired.
Later I bought a cast-iron, practice grenade at the Army/Navy store.
It had a pin you could pull but, for realism that, and the weight, was about it.
The whole thing, the spoon, the fuse thingie, everything was cast 'of-a-piece'.
It was hollow so I could put a firecracker inside it, light the fuse and toss it.
It was better than the cap-powered predecessor but not much.
But those were simpler times. If only I'd known; grenades are simple.
Low-tech. Not quite stone-age but closer than here.

Pictured above: Two of the pick 'o the bunch vis-a-vis hand-tossed ordnance, circa 1915.
Pay no attention to the lower of the two. It possesses a more "sophisticated" ignition system than the "...hit the end of the fuse with your cigar. Then toss it - the grenade - not the cigar" example above.
Seriously, here we have the two largest, probably also the best equipped and certainly the most technologically-advanced, armies on earth.
That is to say: Germany and France.
Factor in Britain's rather smaller but immensely valuable force as a contingent of what was probably the most professional army on earth; and you have a veritable brain-trust of folks-who-know-how-war-is-done.
So why were all these seasoned warriors compelled to revert to a 16th century weapon?
Check out the upper of the two pictured grenades.
It's nothing but a stick with two charges, wrapped with lots of wire (fragmentation) and a fuse... That you light!
As an aside, notice the size of the charges on these items.
At the time the Brits were experiencing a shortage of processed munitions, ie shells - but it wasn't due to any shortage of materials, rather skilled labor back home.
The lucky result was that the lads got to cobble together their crude little fireworks with top-notch explosives.
Perhaps propellants is a better term but, being for example gun-cotton or cordite or some other rather quick-burning "low-explosives", they had no difficulty spreading their freight of nails, wire, whatever to the four winds when the time came.
To the left we see the version 2.1 of the aforementioned "charges on a stick".
This is a petard (as in "...hoisted on his own..."), four views of the same one.
The charge is contained in a piece of gas-pipe, with far-more-than-necessary wrappings of wire (fragmentation again) holding it in place to the stick that makes up the body of this jewel.
The far end of the stick holds the "ignition system" (For years I've had a love/hate relationship with the word "system" - All thanks to "This Old House").
It's all awful technological and all but this next pic may help.

First off, we see Mr. Petard. He's just chillin'. He's got his "nail" in the "safety" position.
He ain't buggin' no body, ain't no body buggin' him.
BTW The hole out in front, that God and everybody sees - the one you put the nail in if you want to... you know...
Back in the day, a paper label covered that little aperture. Not to worry.
Lower pic... Well now, the bad boy's going "into battery" (I love jargon. I've come up with my own definition for the CCW, gun-nut factions version of same: Tech-Tac-Talk. TTT for short)
Needing only for Mr. Petard to appropriately insert the nail, then bang the entire unit against his boot-heel, his helmet or some similar obstinate surface and toss it in the direction of trouble, we, the observers are in deep shit.
Sneak away quietly.
See children; some explosives taped to a stick, lit with a match or with a small amount of resourcefulness and, presto the wonders of Baroque-era technology can be, indeed will be yours.

3 comments:

Culpeper said...

Cool!

Yeah, in the beginning the French and the Germans all had Plan XX and Plan X. And the British had their own plans. Grenades were not a forethought I suppose.

Assrot said...

Interesting stuff. I never really thought much about grenades other than how useful or useless they were depending on your perspective.

Back in the late 60s I threw more MKII grenades than I care to remember. They were basically a minor improvement on what I believe was called the Mills Bomb used in WWI.

I did manage to get my hands on a M16 with what was known as an M79 grenade launcher attached to it during one of my tours of duty.

I thought the grenade launcher / rifle combo was a piece of shit. The hand thrown pineapples and the incendiary thermite grenades were much more reliable and effective in a combat situation.

I remember a buddy putting a thermite grenade on the intake manifold of a VC troop carrier and the damn thing went right through the engine block and dropped out the bottom.

That made one hell of a fire, the gas tank on the damn thing blew up and everything around it started lighting up after that. We got the hell out of there. Our orders were to take out everything we could and I think we did a damn good job of it.

I think if someone would have shown me one of your stick grenades and told me to use it I'd have replied with a hearty "Fuck you Sir!"

:-)

Joe

Culpeper said...

I finally got through The Guns of August. I did alright through the whole thing, which ends the day before the Miracle at the Marne began. What got me was the footnote in the Afterword:

Per population capita casualty rates at war's end:

1:28 French
1:32 German
1:57 British
1:107 Russian

Here's to the Class of 1914. The back of my grandfather's Victory Medal says it all, "THE GREAT WAR FOR CIVILIZATION". That was 1919.

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