French Hand Grenades of the Great War Part One – Grenade Modèle 1914

Now that’s what I call a proper Boy’s Own bomb. 

The weapon of choice of 19th Century anarchists,…

…and the only official grenade available to the French Army at the start of the war in 1914, the Modèle 1847 (above) had hardly been updated at all, barring a slightly better fuse, since its introduction.  A seriously rudimentary grenade, the fuse (above left – originally simply a wooden plug with a wick running through the centre) was inserted – not even screwed – into the hole, a lanyard was required to throw it (diagram & inset photo above – click to enlarge), and pray the fuse doesn’t come out and remain attached to the lanyard, because chances are you won’t have time to do anything else if it does.  Ever.

So, very quickly, the French came up with this, the Modèle 1914 defensive grenade, the inside of which, unlike the 1847 model, was segmented to aid fragmentation (see inset),…

…the fuse now screwing into the body, improving both safety and waterproofing.

The old wooden fuse was replaced by the new fusée modèle 1914,…

…a friction fuse with a four-second delay and featuring a brass body,…

…with a wooden plug at the top from which the metal pull loop would once have protruded, the stamped loop just visible in the inset within its protective wooden surround.  This still required the use of a lanyard to operate, a system hardly well adapted to conditions in a narrow, muddy, trench.

Once filled with approximately four ounces of black powder the whole thing weighed just over two pounds, about the same as a regular bag of sugar where I live, so see how far you can throw one of them, and you’ll get an idea of its range.  Let’s just say not very far.

By the time this grenade began reaching the Poilus in the trenches early in 1915, however, other, more modern, grenades were also beginning to be introduced – not that they all worked successfully, by any means – and before long the Modèle 1914 would be relegated to, in effect, trench harassment work, often fired from a catapult, using a seven-second delay fuse, to extend its range.

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2 Responses to French Hand Grenades of the Great War Part One – Grenade Modèle 1914

  1. Nick Kilner says:

    Interesting stuff! That really was a basic grenade, not much more than a small version of an early mortar. Acme explosives springs to mind!

    • Magicfingers says:

      Hi Nick. I know, Road Runner encountered loads of these! Doesn’t it show how far grenades came in just a few decades in the first half of the 20th Century if things like this were actually being manufactured at the start of the Great War? How fortunate that I have one of those French pear grenades, which arrived in the trenches at about the same time as this grenade, to show next time, eh, nudge nudge.

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