Two more M1917 Stielhandgranate handles, and this post we shall take a closer look at the workings at the base of the stick.
But first, a look at the top of the handles, where the cylindrical head containing the explosive was once attached, and where distinct differences in the dimensions and manufacture are clear,…
…as are the nails used to attach the metal handle top in the example on the left, as opposed to the screws used on the right. These things were made in their millions in many different factories, and these are good examples of differing manufacturing techniques.
I explained last time about the problems with the first model stick grenades, the M1915, which the Germans solved by adding a cap which screwed on to the base of the handle. Before long this cap became the star shape you see in these photos (above & below), as it was realised that unscrewing a muddy cap with frozen hands in a waterlogged trench could be made much easier if the soldier could actually gain purchase on the cap.
The replacement model to the M1915 was the M1916, which included this small porcelain ball half embedded into the base of the handle, through which the central cord ran, and which required some force for the soldier to pull out.
This was then replaced by the M1917, where the cord and porcelain ball were all enclosed in the cavity in the base of the handle…
…kept securely in place by the base cap.
So if you ever see one of these little porcelain doughnuts lying around on the battlefields in Flanders or France, and there must still be thousands, if you didn’t know before what it was, you do now.
Before we finish, this fragment of a fifth stick grenade shows another of the star shaped base caps, still firmly screwed into the remains of the base of the wooden handle, and a second porcelain ball, again of a slightly different manufacture to the first,…
…and which, when placed inside its cavity, allows me to show you the ball inside the stick from a viewpoint you very rarely see. The burn marks on the wood that still remains inside the base suggest this fragment comes from an exploded grenade, but the still attached base cap suggests it was not in offensive use at the time. Perhaps a box of grenades detonated accidentally – hardly an unusual happening by all accounts – but you can make up your own story, because we shall never know. We shall return to the Stielhandgranate again later in this series, but next, something completely different. Well, different, anyway.