Many of the early hand grenades in use during the first few months of the war, across all the combatant nations, were improvised explosive devices, tins full of bits of metal or anything likely to cause damage, often attached to handles for easier throwing. The Austro-Hungarian Army was no different, but by the spring of 1915, these improvised hand grenades were being replaced by not only the German Stielhandgranate, which the Austrians soon began importing in large quantities, but by other Austrian-manufactured stick grenades, and in particular the Rohr hand grenade.
The Rohr hand grenade was a cast-iron cylinder concussion grenade filled with explosive, and generally attached to a cardboard handle, again as opposed to the German Stielhandgranate with its wooden stick. I say generally because some photos I have seen appear to be Rohr grenades with wooden sticks, so I wouldn’t rule that out completely. Nonetheless, because the handles were generally made of cardboard, you simply don’t find any around today, although there are some marvellous replicas, if that is your thing, a snap of one of which I have borrowed from the web to show you in a minute.
The ignition system was similar to the German Stielhandgranate, with a seven second delay fuse, and, other than the Stielhandgranate, the Rohr grenade would become the standard Austro-Hungarian grenade of the Great War. The top inset photo you’ve seen before – maybe they are both holding Rohrs, as I am sure, like most Central Powers grenades, there were manufacturing variations. The bottom inset photo shows Hungarian troops with short-handled Rohr grenades.
This inset photo shows a Rohr hand grenade with replica handle, and if you look closely at the main picture, you can still see traces of the cardboard handle inside the cylinder of my example (recovered from a glacier in Italy at the northern part of the Austro-Italian front, hence its remarkable condition), and also how much thicker the cast-iron cylinder is than the German Stielhandgranate. There was also a fragmentation ‘stick’ grenade, with a very different head to this one, although still refered to as a Rohr, which we shall take a look at next time.