German Hand Grenades of the Great War Part Four – The Eierhandgranate Model 1917

A few years ago I published a post about the German egg grenade, or the Eierhandgranate Model 1917, as it was officially known. 

This new post replaces it entirely, because, although at the time I was able to show you one of these,…

…I was not in a position to show you one of these.  And now I can.

Pictures of troops with egg grenades are not that easy to find, mainly because they were only little – there’s a box of them here in the foreground – and it appears soldiers generally liked to pose with larger weapons of destruction when being photographed.  Probably an ego thing,…

…or should that be eggo?  I’m sorry.  It’s late.

The fighting on the Somme in the latter half of 1916 had shown the Germans the need for a smaller, less cumbersome, grenade than the heavy Kugelhandgranaten (above) or unwieldy Steilhandgranaten (stick grenades).  The Kugels, considerably larger, were essentially defensive weapons; because of their short range due to their weight, were you to use one in an offensive capacity you were as likely to take yourself out as the enemy.  The Eierhandgranate could be thrown considerably further, up to around 150 feet by a decent thrower, allowing its use as both an offensive and defensive weapon.

The first version of the Eierhandgranate, the ‘Aa’, featured a completely smooth body…

…which proved difficult, in combat conditions, to grip properly,…

…so the next version, the ‘Na’, was swiftly introduced, with a raised and grooved centre band for better grip.  As with other German hand grenades, there were slight differences in these grenades depending on the company of manufacture, the different makers’ marks still visible on the base of these examples,…

…and you can see small differences in the shapes of these grenades too.  I have even seen it suggested that these are not actually manufacturing differences, but different models, but I am yet to be convinced.

The Eierhandgranate was sensibly designed to take the same friction fuses already used in the Kugels,…

…the diagram on the left showing the simplicity of its operation, with the various fuses that could be used shown on the right, including a percussion fuse, the Model 1916, illustrated second from right,…

…and which is the only one of these fuses that I cannot show you in reality, because I don’t happen to own one.  Actually, the two Mle.1915* fuses are, I think, both examples of the five-second version, the eight-second fuse, as the previous version of the diagram shows, being slightly longer (and probably giving an alert enemy just a chance of chucking it back at you before it went off).

*the diagram being in French, the Mle is short for ‘Modelle’, thus these fuses are referred to, like most German grenade equipment, as simply Model 1913, Model 1915, and so on.

The fuse on the far right in the previous picture was a new friction igniter introduced in 1917 (and thus called the Model 1917), here seen undressed, with pull-string and porcelain ball, for easy grippage*, exposed.

*it may not be a word – yet.

Different fuses being of differing sizes, a small spanner wrench, like the rusty examples shown here, was supplied to help screw (or unscrew) whichever fuse was being used into the grenade.

Two tough-looking Bulgarian soldiers with stick grenades at the ready – note once again the, larger this time, porcelain balls attached to the Stielhandgranaten – the man on the left clutching an egg grenade in his right hand,…

…as does this Austrian soldier, who is also equipped with both a Rohr grenade (with cardboard handle, the attached instruction label shining white in this shot) and a German Stielhandgranate.  The somewhat curious plate hanging around his neck,…

…can also be seen displayed by some of the German Stormtroopers pictured here.  Actually, let’s be serious, these are schoolkids, aren’t they – compare with the seasoned soldiers in the previous shots.  You might also notice that all the stick grenades visible here have holes in various places, as all are practice grenades (and would have been painted red).  Back to the plate,…

…which is actually one of these, referred to as a ‘Brustschild’ according to some modern sources, although as the translation of brustschild is simply ‘breastplate’, I do personally wonder whether this is a case of an erroneous capital letter.  Anyway, you don’t see too many around these days.  Which doesn’t explain its usage,…

…but hopefully this montage of stills from a short German training film showing a soldier discharging an egg grenade using a brustschild does.  Before the introduction of the Model 1917 fuse with its porcelain ball, which allowed a soldier to simply grab the ball and pull sharply to set off the delay within the fuse, the brustschild served the same purpose.  Rather than fiddling about with frozen fingers, simply hooking the loop at the end of the fuse over the rod on the plate and swiftly pulling downwards would not only start the five-second delay (note the puff of smoke in two of the centre photos), but the process of throwing the grenade would also take up a couple of seconds, denying an opponent any chance of returning it before detonation.  Actually, forget those frozen fingers, let’s have a look at using the egg grenade without the brustschild, also under training conditions:

What you see here is the fuse being screwed into the top of the grenade* (1-4), a lanyard being produced from a pocket (5-8) and wrapped around the left hand (9-11), and then the loop in the fuse being attached to the carabiner at the end of the lanyard (12-15),…

*unfortunately not using one of the little spanner wrenches I showed you earlier – I have yet to see a photo of one in use.

…after which a sharp tug with both hands begins the five-second delay within the fuse, and then, if I were you, I’d get rid of the thing, and if you know what you are doing,…

…you might find yourself still alive afterwards.  Any chance of a brustschild?  Sir?

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15 Responses to German Hand Grenades of the Great War Part Four – The Eierhandgranate Model 1917

  1. Nick Kilner says:

    Excellent! A really informative post, and very nice to see a little more of your collection.
    In an interesting comparison with the Kugel and the Mills, the Mills was commonly referred to as the Co-op bomb, so named because “everyone got a share”. The blast radius was recorded as being 32 meters, which was generally far further than it could be thrown. The Royal Armoury stated that a good thrower could manage 30.5m, and I strongly suspect that was the furthest anyone managed. Not a problem if it was going into a enemy trench, but bloody dangerous to everyone if it landed on open ground. Makes you wonder how many accidental deaths it caused.

    • Magicfingers says:

      Thanks mate! I had not heard the term Co-op bomb and by the end of the sentence was laughing out loud. Which cheered me up watching the cricket highlights………

  2. Steve Monk says:

    Another interesting and informative article “M” thank you once again Sir.

  3. Margaret Draycott says:

    Have to say in all honesty M don’t really have an interest or understanding of all the technical stuff you have written here. But have to say I am impressed with your obvious knowledge and the incredible research that you have put into this article. To me a grenade was a round thingy that you took a pin out of and threw it as far as you could, as quickly as you could, now I know there was a lot more to them than that. So thank you.

    And as always Nick I love your additional information you always come up with something different.

  4. Everett Sharp says:

    Yes, another great article.

  5. Jon T says:

    Fascinating as always. Must have been quite a different experience successfully deploying these things in the heat of battle when compared with the calm, almost nonchalant characters in those training films !

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