Italian Grenades of the Great War Part Three – The S.I.P.E. Hand Grenade

Back in the world of hand grenades that look like hand grenades (at least to those of us of my generation), this is one of the most common types of defensive grenade used by Italian troops during the Great War. 

Introduced in 1915, it’s a pretty cheap piece of kit, its cast-iron body sporting a predetermined fracture pattern – here’s a quick spin around the grenade – which, by all accounts, sometimes fractured as intended, and sometimes simply split in two (inset below).

Standard S.I.P.E. on the left, and S.I.P.E. Variante on the right, the only difference being the original lead screw safety cap (left) was replaced by a brass screw cap (right), better, I gather, at keeping the fuse moisture-free. 

Italian Alpini with a box of S.I.P.E. hand grenades, the man standing on the left apparently holding one in his hand.  The fuse, once the safety cap was removed, operated exactly like a match striking the igniter strip on the side of a matchbox.  The exposed end of the fuse, coated with a phosphorous paste, much like a match, needed to be rubbed* along an igniter strip, and by the looks of the small inset diagram, a matchbox really would suffice, although I suspect in reality these were small bespoke boxes that could be attached to finger or wrist – and, again much like a match, a naked flame would do the job equally well.  Either way would ignite the fuse and begin the seven or eight second delay before the detonator at the other end of the fuse inside the grenade exploded, followed by the charge.

*hence you will sometimes see these grenades referred to as ‘bomba a manno a sfregamento’, or literally, ‘rubbing hand grenade’.

There was one other main variation of the S.I.P.E. which featured a percussion fuse and safety pin (Coppiglia – literally, ‘split pin’), as seen in this diagram.  S.I.P.E., incidentally, stands for la Societa Italiana Prodotti Esplondenti, or the Italian Society of Explosive Products (who else?).

Despite many S.I.P.E.s being stamped with different manufacturers’ marks, as this selection shows,…

…as far as I can see,…

…there is no evidence of any such markings on mine.  And if anyone has a spare fuse that needs a good home……

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9 Responses to Italian Grenades of the Great War Part Three – The S.I.P.E. Hand Grenade

  1. Alan Bond says:

    Thank you

    • Magicfingers says:

      Thank you Alan. Not exactly ‘With the British Army in Flanders’, I know, but hopefully of interest to some of you – anyway, the British Army found itself fighting in Italy, so there’s my tenuous link…….

  2. Walter Cornelissen says:

    Weeral interessant artikel

  3. Magicfingers says:

    No problem Walter. I appreciate the thought.

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