German Hand Grenades of the Great War Part Five – The M1915 & M1917 Stielhandgranaten

A seriously scorched M1917 model German Stielhandgranate.

Because you have all read the previous Stielhandgranate posts, I shall not be repeating myself here, but I will give you the appropriate link at the end of the post.

The previous posts explain the workings of the grenade, and all about the porcelain ball and star-shaped cap on the end of the M1917 stick, but what I haven’t yet shown you is the serious bit of the weapon, the bit at the other end, so we shall have a closer look now.

This contemporary diagram is not entirely accurate, but it does show, always remembering that there were many manufacturing variations within each model, the M1917 in the centre, and the M1915 on the right.  The M1916 on the left should really have a cap at the base of the stick, or perhaps it shows a M1915 variant with a later cylinder head, who knows?  The red paper band was the only protection for the exposed end of the cord until the base caps were introduced.

The cylinder head of the M1917 (above) is slightly narrower than that of the M1915 (below), as the more powerful TNT that was beginning to replace ammonal as the explosive of choice for the Stielhandgranate by the end of 1916 could be used in smaller amounts, allowing a smaller cylinder head to be produced.

Indeed sometimes the M1915 head was used with the required amount of TNT and a wooden block to fill the space.

So, taking a closer look at the cylindrical head of the M1915, what is obvious is that the cylinder is made of an inner and outer layer (of thin steel) and has a crimped cap, unlike the M1917, which, if you check back a couple of photos, is made from a single piece of steel with no detachable cap.

The remains of the belt hook, and remnants of the cap fasteners on the left (see earlier diagram).  Stick apart, you might be wondering why there are clear differences between the design of the head of the Stielhandgranate and the Kugelhandgranaten we have seen in previous posts.  The Stielhandgranate was a concussion grenade, designed to kill through blast alone*; excellent for trench fighting and combat in an enclosed space (you want to clear a room?  Lob a couple of Stielhandgranaten through the window.  Same applies for a trench).  But not so effective in open warfare, the blast quickly dissipating, necessitating greater accuracy from the thrower, hence the reason for the stick in the first place – circular grenades roll, whereas stick grenades tend to hang around, roughly where they landed.

*I have a theory that more men were killed in action by blast during the Great War than by any other means.  The only good thing about such a theory is that nobody can ever disprove it.

Kugelhandgranaten, such as the example above, were fragmentation grenades, designed to spread shrapnel across a wide area, hence the deep grooves in the body of the grenade.

Anyway, back to the M1915, and this is the end that connects to the stick,…

…and this is the cap on the other end which, if you remove it,…

…reveals a third layer, the last half-inch or so visible in the shot above.

Looking inside,…

…there appears to be a layer of cardboard, much like a toilet roll, inside the steel cylinder head.

The M1915 suffered from problems with humidity not only at the other end of the stick, where there was no protection until the base cap was introduced with the M1917, but presumably at this end too, another reason for the later models being made of a single sheet of steel.

And finally, what do you think this might be?

It has holes,…

…and traces of its original red paint still cling to it.  It’s clearly a cylinder head to a Stielhandgranate…

…and you can see the remains of the wooden handle inside the base of the cylinder,…

…but what exactly is the purpose of the holes, do you suppose?

This is actually an example of a practice Stielhandgranate, the heads of which were painted red, the smoke emitted through the holes on impact allowing the accuracy of the thrower to be easily gauged.  Images of them in use are rare, but the young soldiers in the inset are most certainly on the practice range.

And finally, some photographs of the Stielhandgranate in the hands of Central Powers troops.  Anti-clockwise from centre top: three young German soldiers with their M1917 Stielhandgranaten, two of the men holding the pull cord at the base of the grenade; two veterans, the M1917s attached to their belts all with base caps removed and pull cord and porcelain ‘doughnuts’ dangling for instant use.  The soldier on the left also holds an egg grenade in his right hand; too late – a dead German soldier still holds the cord of the Stielhandgranate he was about to throw when death came calling; defensive use of the Stielhandgranate as an entrenched gas-masked German soldier pulls the cord of a M1917 – grenades, depending on their type, could be used either defensively or offensively, sometimes both, and we shall look at this in a later post; these two Austro-Hungarian soldiers appear to be posing with M1917s, and it may be that the soldier on the left is, but you will notice that the heads of the grenades are different, the man on the right actually holding an Austrian Rohr grenade, and yes, I’ll show you one in more detail in the next post in this series.

You can find the first of the earlier Stielhandgranate posts by clicking here.

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4 Responses to German Hand Grenades of the Great War Part Five – The M1915 & M1917 Stielhandgranaten

  1. Sid from Down Under says:

    Ausgezeichnete post Sir !

  2. Fraulein says:

    It is pretty cool to learn about allied and axis history.

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