Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Friday, August 16, 2013

Weapons of War
Early Grenades and Launchers

At the start of the First World War, German forces had a distinct advantage in the use of grenades for close-in work as the trench system took shape.  Their opponents improvised in response, the British distributing the famous Mills Bomb grenade by 1915.  Below are images of some of the French solutions, which were published in the monthly Larousse Mensuel in September 1915.

It shows grenades in numerous configurations, but the most interesting illustrations are of the launching systems.  That explosive charges, rifles, and strong arms were used to send grenades toward the enemy, is well known.  Launching them via catapults and ping pong paddles, however, is not well documented.

The illustration below—from Tony Langley's collection—also includes a drawing of a primitive mortar.

Click on Image to Expand

The two best books on infantry weapons in the war.

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  1. Is the bottom middle a photo of the "Flying Pig?"

  2. 'torpille' - artillery; 'ailettes' - little wings. In search of 'Flying Pigs', I found a 'blind pig' mentioned in an overview of Trench Mortars -
    Quote: "The Canadians (namely Major-General G .L. McNaughton) invented a 91 kg mortar bomb, 9.45-inch in diameter, which the Canadian infantry nick-named the 'blind pig'. Generally unreliable and with a short range of 400 yards it nevertheless provided a boost to Canadian morale."

  3. This is not a "flying pig", which was a much larger mortar bomb. Rather, this appears to be a crude representation (censored, perhaps?) of one of the bombs used with Mortier de 58 mm type 2, commonly called the Crapouillot, the standard French medium trench mortar in the Great War. However, the image is wrong in many details, including the launching system. For a bit more detail on the "Crapouillot" bomb shown, see the images on the French web site