This is the Zeitzünder M15 grenade, or the Guguruz, meaning something like corn-on-the-cob, as it was colloquially known.
Selected after trials (for economic reasons as much as any) and introduced into the Austrian Army in late 1914 or early 1915 as a defensive grenade, it was used initially to combat the threat of Russian assault troops whose continual raids against Austrian positions were not only causing casualties, but seriously damaging the morale of the troops in the front line.
Zeitzünder means ‘time fuse’, and these cast-iron grenades could be used both as hand grenades and rifle grenades, as the cap,…
…could be removed and different accessories attached (I have actually also read of Austrian troops on the eastern front using slingshots to deliver Zeitzünders into nearby Russian trenches).
Early models such as this one were segmented on the inside as well as the outside. It may be that a smooth tubular grenade fitted inside this fragmented sleeve – I have read this once, but I cannot confirm whether it is fact or not – but frankly I can’t quite see the point of segmenting the inside, and then adding a further tube inside. However at least one other Austrian grenade does use this system, as I will show you at some point, so who knows.
Logic suggests that both the cap and base of this particular example are adaptions for the rifle grenade variation, the cotton fuse emerging from the hole in the base you can see below, the rod that would need to be attached to fit in the rifle’s barrel fitting into the now-clogged centre hole. When used as a hand grenade the fuse would be attached to the cap end of the body, and a steel wire ‘stick’, allowing the user to throw the grenade and also attach it to his belt, would be fitted to the base.
Whether in use as a hand or rifle grenade the same inertial pull fuse was used; firing or pulling would spark the friction igniter, setting the seven or eight seconds time delay. Unfortunately, the M15 had a number of drawbacks, not least the fact that the exposed fuse was inaccurate and would sometimes burn quicker than intended, with potentially disastrous results for the thrower. In rain or damp conditions the fuse would become wet and fail to ignite – and mud could cause it to fail too – and the wire handle was easy to catch on objects, particularly when navigating packed trenches, with inevitably tragic consequences.
I have also once seen a photo where the steel wire handle had been attached through the hole which goes right through the nose cap (above & below), with the fuse attached to the base, as it would be if in use as a rifle grenade (are you keeping up?).
The insets show Austrian soldiers with Zeitzünder hand grenades. The steel wire grenade handle is evident in all four photos, and next time we shall look at an example with handle still in place. Oh yes! Bet you can’t wait. But you’ll have to, as I’m off early tomorrow morning on one of my Dublin trips – there are still two cemeteries in the city, with about 115 British Army Great War burials between them, that I have yet to explore, and a couple of individuals buried in small churchyards outside the city that I would like to find if possible – I suspect they would have had very few visitors over the years.
Dublin trip completed, here’s a link to the next post in this series: The Zeitzünder M15 Part Two.