Stielhandgranate

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Seen here are two First World War Stielhandgranaten alongside a vaguely similar Austrio-Hungarian ceramic design. The foremost Stielhandgranate is the Model 1917, and the other is the Model 1916. Note the visible belt clips.
Cross-section of the later Model 1924 Stielhandgranate (The standard issue grenade of Nazi Germany's armed forces, the Wehrmacht). Note the unique steel rod and fusing mechanism.

The Stielhandgranate (Literally, German for "stalk hand grenade") was a German hand grenade of unique design. It was the standard issue of the German Empire during World War I and World War II in which became the infamously issue of Nazi Germany's Wehrmacht. The very distinctive appearance led to it being called a "stick grenade", or "potato masher" in British Army slang, and is today one of the most easily recognized infantry weapons of the 20th century.[1]

Origins[edit]

Germany entered the war with a single grenade design- a heavy (750g) ball-shaped fragmentation grenade (Kugelhandgranate) for use only by Pioneers in attacking fortifications. It was too heavy for regular use on the battlefield by untrained troops and not suitable for mass production. This left Germany without a grenade and improvised designs similar to those of the British of the same period were used until a proper grenade could be supplied.[2]

The iconic 'stick grenade' first appeared in the midst of the First World War; it was introduced in 1915 for use by the German Empire's armed forces. As time went on, the design further developed, adding and removing certain features. Aside from its remarkably unique and unusual appearance, the Stielhandgranate used a friction igniter system, a method very uncommon in other nations, but was widely used in German grenades.

During the First World War, the original design of the Stielhandgranate, under the name M1915 (Model 1915), was a direct technological competition to the British standard issue Mills bomb series. The first design model of the Mills bomb- the Grenade No. 5 Mk. 1- was introduced the same year as the German Model 1915, but due to delays in manufacturing, it was not widely distributed into general service until a whole year later in 1916 (There was a small period of time where German troops had large supplies of their newly created Model 1915 grenades, while their British opponents only had a very small number). As World War I progressed and eventually drew to a conclusion, a wide variety of improvements and changes were made to the Model 1915.

As years progressed during the First World War, the Model 1915 Stielhandgranate was further improved with various changes, these received new designations- corresponding for the year of introduction -the Model 1916, and the following Model 1917.

Official production variations of the Stielhandgranate[edit]

Model 1915 (M15)[edit]

Model 1915 Stielhandgranate
Place of origin  German Empire
Service history
In service German Empire (1915–1918)
Used by See Users
Wars World War I
Production history
Designed 1915
Specifications
Filling Trinitrotoluene
Detonation
mechanism
friction igniter and 4¹/₂ second delay

In 1915, industries of the German Empire designed and began production of the original Stielhandgranate, appropriately named Model 1915. The Model 15 Stielhandgranate utilized a priming system, unlike many others of the time. Most grenades of the period used the percussion cap pin, a fuse system quite different to that of the Stielhandgranate. The easily recognizable "potato masher" shape is a result of a number of different styles and choices of the design. The grenade mounted a charge head within a steel sheet cylinder atop a long hollow wooden handle. Internally, the explosive filler - initially ammonal but later approximately 170 g (6.0 oz) of trinitrotoluene filling) [3] was connected to a detonator, and a pull cord ran from the detonator down the length of the hollow handle, emerging from the base. To use, a soldier would simply pull the string downwards, dragging a rough steel rod through the igniter within the fuse. The rod's abrasive contact would cause sparks and a flame to light from within, setting the fuse burning. This fuse took approximately four and a half seconds to reach the detonator before exploding.

The Stielhandgranate's handle design provided a lever motion in a throw, significantly improving the effective range of use. It could be thrown by the common German infantryman approximately 27 to 37 metres (30 to 40 yd), whereas the British Mills bomb could often only be thrown about 14 metres (15 yd)[4] The British War Office report "WO 291/472 Performance and handling of HE grenades" gives an average figure for a standing throw of a Mills bomb as 27 m (30 yd), when crouched 23 metres (25 yd) and lying prone 22 metres (24 yd)). One issue that hand grenades of the time had was unpredictable rolling after landing. The German Stielhandgranate does not suffer nearly as much (and in some respects not at all) from this problem as the handle together with the charge head resisted rolling. Instead of rolling straight down a hill or across rough terrain, the Stielhandgranate could create an axis for rotation (simply put, it would instead roll from side to side, because the charge head and length of the grenade acted as a balance). However, the additional length of the handle, as well as the irregular overall shape, meant that fewer grenades could be carried.

Additionally, it took longer to prime the grenade than an allied counterpart, such as the Mills Bomb.

The Stielhandgranate primarily relied on a concussion blast effect from the charge, the container creating little fragmentation compared with many grenades of the time, such as the Mills Bomb and the French F1 Grenade, as well as the later Second World War American Mk 2 grenade, and the Soviet F1 Grenade. Fragmentation was relied on more as the shrapnel produced could wound enemy infantry over a large area. This factor made this type of grenade very good for open areas, such as fields, the expanse of No Man's land (the area between the front lines during the First World War, reduced to nothing but craters, mud, and barbed wire), beaches, spacious trenches, and wide city streets. Concussion grenades, on the other hand, based their wounding ability purely on the shock and blast of the explosives of the hand grenade. The Stielhandgranate was extremely effective and reliable in clearing enclosed areas, such as buildings, fortifications, and in the case of the later stages of the First World War, even the fighting compartment of an enemy tank. On the other hand, performance in wide open areas was far less than satisfactory. The blast effect could only go so far before dying out, while pieces from an equivalent fragmentation grenade could fly hundreds of meters (it was not unrealistic to expect that metal shrapnel could hit a soldier that the grenade was not intended for, especially in open areas).

Model 1916 (M16)[edit]

Model 1916 Stielhandgranate
Place of origin  German Empire
Service history
In service German Empire (1915–1918)
Used by See Users
Wars World War I
Production history
Designed 1916
Specifications
Filling Trinitrotoluene
Detonation
mechanism
friction igniter and 4¹/₂ second delay

The original M15 design is hard to come by in modern times, and for good reasons. The grenade itself suffered from an issue not only unfortunate, but also deadly. As previously mentioned, the string- of which pulling activated the grenade's fuse- extruded from the base of the original Model 15. These exposed cords could get caught in debris and clutter on the battlefields of World War I, causing the fuse to be ignited, and the grenade to eventually explode on the belt of an unaware infantryman. This resulted in a new design, the Model 1916, to be introduced very quickly.

While the M16 and the M15 were functionally identical, the new successor included a vital change in the base design; a small porcelain ball was placed at the base of the grenade- attached directly to the pull cord. This new addition prevented the string from being exposed. The small bead was partially enveloped in the wooden handle, meaning that some force was needed to pluck it out. Operation was nearly identical, except that a soldier no longer needed to pull the string itself.

Model 1917 (M17)[edit]

Model 1917 Stielhandgranate
Place of origin  German Empire
Service history
In service German Empire (1917–1918)
Used by See Users
Wars World War I
German Revolution
Production history
Designed 1917
Specifications
Filling Trinitrotoluene
Detonation
mechanism
friction igniter and 4¹/₂ second delay

One final development of the Stielhandgranate was implemented during the later stages of the First World War, and was very minor in differences to the original. Identical in function to the Model 1916, but yet another change was made to the actual priming system. The base of the Stielhandgrante's handle was slightly redesigned, and a metal cover cap was introduced. This cap concealed the porcelain bead and pull cord, allowing it to simply rest freely inside of the handle. The cover cap would simply be pulled off, and the M16's motions followed.

Model 24[edit]

Model 1924 Stielhandgranate
The Model 1924 Stielhandgranate.
Place of origin  Weimar Republic
Service history
In service Weimar Republic (1924–1933)
Nazi Germany (1933–1945)
Used by See Users
Wars Spanish Civil War
World War II
Production history
Designed 1924
Specifications
Weight 595 g (1 lb 5.0 oz)
Length 365 mm (1 ft 2.4 in)
Diameter 70 mm (2.8 in)

Filling Trinitrotoluene
Filling weight 170 g (6.0 oz)
Detonation
mechanism
fricion igniter and 4¹/₂ second delay

Upon the German Empire's defeat at the conclusion of the First World War, the total and complete collapse of industrial capability and military strength of Germany left many projects and ideas lost and forgotten for a number of years. However, as the newly created Weimar Republic progressively began to repair the both physical and economic devastation that remained in wake of World War I, allowing a slow rebuilding of the armed forces- according to the limitations set by the allies at the end of the war.

The Weimar Republic revived the Stielhandgranate, and created a new version in 1924, the "Model 1924 Stielhandgranate" (M24) This design, unlike the previous M1916 and M1917, did include some rather significant changes to the original. While still retaining the same explosive, and same fuse, the main distinction between the Model 1924 and Model 1915 is a slightly shorter charge head, and most significantly the removal of a belt carry clip. Another very minor change in the design was a lengthening of the wooden handle. The intent of these design alterations was simply for mobility; German soldiers could easily (and often did) tuck the grenade in behind their uniform's belt, held tight and secure. Being slightly lighter, and smaller in thickness, it improved usage overall.

The Model 24 is well known as the standard hand grenade of the armed forces of the Wehrmacht during the Second World War. As military industry and frontline strategy erupted into what can only be described as the birth of modern warfare, the common soldier adapted to the newly changed field of battle. German soldiers would arrange them directly in front, making access easy and quick. However, towards the later years of the war it was often advised to carry them in a different manner, as it was very likely any sort of explosion or heat could light the fuse from the grenade on the belt, thus causing unnecessary casualties- something that Nazi Germany could not afford.

The Model 24 Stielhandgranate was stored in specially designed crates during transport, which could carry up to 15 individual grenades. In ideal situations, units of the Wehrmacht were advised to only insert the actual fuse assemblies when about to go into combat for safety precautions. Later in the war, however, many soldiers of the Wehrmacht would always have their weapons ready, due to the fierceness seen in the Soviet Red Army in the east, as well as the progressive advance of the Allies on the Western Front. During production, a reminder was stenciled on each explosive charge: Vor Gebrauch Sprengkapsel einsetzen ("Before use insert detonator").

Variants of the Stielhandgranate 1924[edit]

The Model 1924 was rather ineffective by itself at damaging or disabling an enemy armored vehicle or destroying fortifications. It also lacked the shrapnel effect of most other grenades of the time. To overcome these faults, various German industries during World War II produced a number of variants that widened the utility and capability of the Model 24.

'K' Variant[edit]

During the numerous operations of the invasion of the Soviet Union, the Wehrmacht found that under the harsh, frozen climate, as well as very low temperatures, the Model 24's fuse had a decent chance of failing to ignite, thus causing a dud. In order to create a solution, a variant was created that utilized an entirely different explosive filling that was much more resistant to the cold. From that point forward, most units deployed on the eastern front (especially farther east, into present day Russia) were equipped with these variants. They were marked during production on the metal charge head with a letter 'K', referring to the German word Kalt ("cold").

Nebelhandgranate[edit]

Another form of weapon that the Wehrmacht lacked was a proper smoke grenade, a vital piece of equipment allowing infantry to cover advances or retreats, or blinding their foes while assaulting a position. To solve this, Germany designed and produced a nebel (German, literally "fog") grenade that essentially was a copy of the standard issue Model 1924 Stielhandgranate with a number of minor changes. Firstly, the smoke variant had its explosive filler removed, and the fuse mechanism was remodeled slightly. Unlike most smokescreen grenades of the time, Germany's nebel grenade was not a unique design (since it was a rebuilt Model 24), and therefore a number of complications arose. In detail, the essential manner in which the nebel variant worked was that the fuse was primed as normal, but when the smoke material ignited, it was emitted from small holes cut into the underside of the usual metal charge head. One complication was that Wehrmacht infantry needed a way to recognize this new grenade, because at the surface, it looks like any ordinary Model 24 Stielhandgranate. In order to treat this issue, German industries produced the nebel variant with entirely separate markings. The largest visual change was a large white band was painted onto the stalk handle of the grenade, as well as a number of general inscriptions on the metal charge head (expressing that the grenade was a smokescreen version). As the war progressed, another precaution was taken, as well, to aid infantry in determining the variant even in darkness. The wooden stalk handle was given a relief texture by using grooves, allowing a soldier to tell the original Model 24 and the Nebel version apart, even if he is not able to see the grenade (useful in nighttime operations, as well as when fighting in city streets, within the confines of large buildings). This variant is often referred to as a nebelhandgranate (German, literally "fog hand grenade").

Training variants[edit]

Like most of the forces that were involved with World War II, the Wehrmacht also produced Inert (not able to explode) versions of the standard issue grenade, designed to aid recruits on how to properly throw and operate the weapon during training[5].

Improvised "bundle charge"[edit]

To counter the lack of effectiveness against hard targets such as tanks and buildings, a common solution was created in the form of an improvised "bundle" where the charges of a number of Model 24 grenades - their handles and fuses removed - would be strapped around a complete grenade, usually with simple rope, cloth, or metal wire. These could be crafted with up to and including six additional charges, and in battle the most common styles to see was the addition of four or six. Unofficially, these improvised bundle grenades were known as Geballte Ladung ("bundled charge" or "concentrated charge"). As a result of this quick, but cost effective and reliable solution, the standard infantryman of the Wehrmacht now had a grenade with up to seven times the explosive power. This simple improvisation allowed infantry to be able to assault and defeat various fortifications (to a degree). The effectiveness against armor was conditional, however: the additional charges added to the weight of the weapon as a whole, which made it more difficult to throw, and the increased size meant that it wasn't practical to carry with one hand alone, and its greater size meant far fewer could be carried. These factors meant that infantry squads, if faced with an armored enemy, would have to close to a reduced range if they wanted to use the bundle charges. During the early years of World War II, there was little in terms of truly effective German handheld weaponry designed to fight hard targets such as armored vehicles and structures, and even later in the war this style of bundle grenade still remained useful to the common Wehrmacht infantryman.

Foreign designs of the Model 1924[edit]

Separate from Nazi Germany, the Model 24 Stielhandgranate was used globally during World War II. A number of nations either directly acquired or purchased stockpiles of the grenade, or created similar versions with very slight adjustments.

Type 23[edit]
Chinese workers making their own design of the Model 24 Stielhandgranate by hand (known as the 'Type 23' during World War II)

In 1933, the Chinese designed and produced a grenade based on the German Model 1924. This grenade was deployed under name 'Type 23' by the National Revolutionary Army. In comparison to the Model 24, the Chinese version was shorter in length and had a smaller diameter. The Type 23 operated very similarly to its German counterpart, but with a few exceptions; most significantly, the fuse delay was slightly longer, at five and a half seconds. The other differences included a small thumb release lever to hold the screw-on cap in place, and the lack of a porcelain bead attached to the fuse's pull cord (both unlike the German grenade). Some of these Type 23 grenades were used as booby traps, by removing the cap and attaching the pull cord to a tripwire. As the United States entered the war, and operations in the Pacific Theater began, the Chinese Type 23 grenade was mistakenly listed in early intelligence reports as being Japanese made.[6]

Following the conclusion of World War II, one further version of the Type 23 grenade was locally manufactured by the Chinese Communists, with their intention set on supplying the NLF as well as the People's Army of Vietnam. This was designated as the 'Type 67'.[7]

Type 98[edit]
Chinese suicide bomber putting on an explosive vest made out of Model 24/Type 23 hand grenades to use in an attack on Japanese tanks at the Battle of Taierzhuang.

In 1938, the Imperial Japanese Army copied the Chinese Type 23 and produced them at a Japanese factory in Manchuria. The design was designated as the 'Type 98'. Unlike both the original German Model 24 Stielhandgranate and the Type 23, the Type 98 was a fragmentation grenade. The charge, however, was weak and only contained 3 oz (85 g) of picric acid (more powerful but less safe explosive than TNT). The weapon operated identically to the Type 23 on which it was based, except that a pull ring was attached to the igniting cord, and the actual fuse delay itself was reduced to four to five seconds (varying from grenade to grenade). Like the Type 23, however, it was simply a cheap crude design based off the Model 1924, and a number of issues plagued the Type 98's effectiveness.[8]

Model 1943[edit]

Measures were implemented to ensure the safety and reliable operation of the weapon. As the war progressed, and the Wehrmacht began to lose strength and momentum against the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany began focusing on making each item of equipment and weaponry have some form of safety; the Wehrmacht needed to make sure that as little risk of injury or death could be caused by the faults of its military equipment, munitions, and weapons.

Germany's industrial capabilities decreased as the war progressed. As a result, the production of munitions, equipment, and weaponry had to become easier and more cost efficient. Some of these, like the Maschinengewehr 42, were more than a success on the level of resources, but many were just less expensive and complex versions of an existing item. The Model 24 Grenade, was technically "succeeded" by the Model 1943. The Model 43 was a copy with a few expensive parts removed or replaced for easier production - and because of this, the original remained in service with Wehrmacht infantry right to the end of the war. The Model 43 was known as an ersatz production version - a lesser quality design of an already used item.

The only truly significant alterations in the Model 43's design is the inclusion of a self-contained detonator, meaning that the fuse and the explosive are directly linked. The Model 43 also utilized an entirely different fuse assembly, very similar to that of the Model 39 grenade, another German hand grenade of the time.

Users[edit]

A Chinese infantryman wielding a German Model 24 Stielhandgranate. The German-made uniform and equipment was a result of German involvement in modernization of the Chinese Army

Following its introduction in 1915, the German Stielhandgranate has been used globally during a number of different conflicts, and most significantly, during World War I and World War II.

A list of the various users of the Stielhandgranate is as follows:

Official and unofficial users of all versions of the Stielhandgranate
User Type of service Self-Manufactured Version
Model 1915 Model 1916 Model 1917 Model 1924 Model 1943
Official users
 German Empire Full military service X X
 Weimar Republic Full military service X X X X
 Nazi Germany Full military service X X X
Unofficial users
 Austria-Hungary Leased/purchased X X X
 Kingdom of Hungary [9] Leased/purchased X X X X
 Independent State of Croatia[citation needed]  ? X  ?  ?  ? ✓? ✓?
 Finland Leased/purchased X X X X X
 Sweden[citation needed]  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?
 Soviet Union Captured/scavenged X X X X
 Latvia Captured/scavenged X X X
Foreign designs
User Type of service Version
Type 23 Type 98 Type 67
 Empire of Japan Captured/Local design produced X
 Republic of China Local design produced X X
 People's Republic of China Local design produced X X
 Indonesia[citation needed]  ?  ?  ?  ?
 North Vietnam Leased/purchased X X

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bishop, Chris (1998), The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II, New York: Orbis Publishing Ltd., ISBN 0-7607-1022-8 .
  2. ^ "Intro & History", Bergflak's Lounge 
  3. ^ Chen, Peter. "Model 24 Stielhandgranate Grenade". ww2db. Lava Development LCC. Retrieved 8 March 2017. 
  4. ^ The Discovery Channel: "Weaponology: Episode 10: Frags, Pineapples, and RPG's", 2007.
  5. ^ http://www.bergflak.com/m24ub.html
  6. ^ Rottman, Gordon (2009), World War II Axis Booby Traps and Sabotage Tactics, New York: Bloomsbury Publishing plc, p. 23, ISBN 1-8460-3450-7 .
  7. ^ Peverelli, Lex. "Stick Grenade Type 67". lexpev.nl. Lex Peverelli. Retrieved 2 April 2017. 
  8. ^ Rottman, Gordon (2009), World War II Axis Booby Traps and Sabotage Tactics, New York: Bloomsbury Publishing plc, p. 23, ISBN 1-8460-3450-7 .
  9. ^ Tibor, Rada (2001). "Német gyalogsági fegyverek magyar kézben" [German infantry weapons in Hungarian hands]. A Magyar Királyi Honvéd Ludovika Akadémia és a Testvérintézetek Összefoglalt Története (1830-1945) (in Hungarian). II. Budapest: Gálos Nyomdász Kft. p. 1114. ISBN 963-85764-3-X. 

External links[edit]