This is the Ball Rohr Stielhandgranate (stick grenade), once attached to a cardboard handle (as in the replica inset), remnants of which you can still see inside the ball in the main picture.
Austrians practicing with different designs of hand grenades – the men standing in the trench all appear to have Ball Rohrs. Now you may be thinking that you have seen this type of grenade here before, and if you are, you’re right, because almost exactly five years ago, as we were heading into the final year of the Great War centenary (five years!), I did indeed publish a post about the Ball Rohr. However, in the interim, there’s been a new addition to the collection that needed to be either added to the original post, or included in a new post, and the latter seemed much the more sensible solution. So although entitled the same as the original post, in order to slot it in in order*, this one is pretty much brand new.
* ‘In order to slot it in in order’ is possibly, I think, the finest use of words I have ever come up with. I am probably in a minority of one on this point.
So, starting with the technical stuff, this grenade was not a replacement for the standard Rohr hand grenade, which was a concussion grenade, designed to kill through blast. As you can see from the small shrapnel fragments that still survive set into the plaster inside the head, this was a fragmentation grenade, designed to be used from cover because it spread shrapnel across a wide area, and was thus, in theory at least, used in entirely different situations to the concussion Rohr.
The cardboard handle went right through, extending a short distance from the top of the ball, but, as with all cardboard-handled grenades, was prone to disintegrate in damp conditions.
The diagram shows a Ball Rohr in cross-section; note the string within the handle that the soldier on the left is holding ready to pull and start the delay. The man on the right has a Ball Rohr on his belt, along with three Zeitzünder grenades.
The body of this grenade was made of cast iron, and sensibly a small section of the ball was flattened so that the grenade would be stable when put down and would not roll around, as balls tend to do.
Once upon a time a belt handle was welded onto these two small protuberances,…
…and this fairly recent addition to the collection (above & below) shows exactly how.
Many examples, as we’ve already seen, are missing these belt handles after so many years,…
…but the main reason I wanted this particular Rohr Ball grenade…
…is that finding an example that still retains much of its winter plumage (above & below) is even rarer.
More hand grenade practice, this man, and those in the following shots, sporting a grenade-carrying cloth sack draped around their shoulders.
Two Ball Rohrs are visible in this shot,…
…a single one here,…
…with another seven, that I can count, in the air here (along with a standard Rohr on the right). So much for the Ball Rohr being used from cover! But then this is only practice.
Whereas this may well not be. Austro-Hungarian troops, wire cutters in hand, Ball Rohrs attached to their belts, advance carefully through barbed wire on the Belorussian front. I’d love to determine the authenticity of this photograph – the soldier fourth from the front appears to be in some distress, perhaps, and the photographer is keeping close to the ground, which may be a clue. Or it may not.
Austro-Hungarian troops with various grenades at their disposal, including Zeitzünders, a Zeitzünder rifle grenade, and both types of Rohr hand grenade. This series on Austro-Hungarian hand grenades continues with a look at Captain Róbert Lakos’ eponymous improvised devices.