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

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Weapons of War: Germany's Turtle Grenade

The trench war reinforced the long expressed need for grenades exploding on impact, leaving no opportunity for the enemy to grab it and send it back to the launcher like a conventional "time" grenade. In Germany an original and efficient answer was bring as soon as 1915 with the Discushandgranaten (called "turtle grenades" by the Allied soldiers). The offensive model was made of two thin steel plate shells, crimped together.

The disk grenade had a novel arming mechanism. The grenade contained a cross of four tubes with metal rods that blocked the spring-loaded firing pin. If the grenade was thrown with a spin, the restraining rods moved outward, releasing the firing pin which ignited the fuse. (This is a highly simplified explanation.)

It was made in two versions, an offensive version (.9 lb) for use against a specific target, and a defensive version (.8 lb) with a wide blast spread to defeat attacking waves of infantry.

During 1915, however, the "potato masher" grenade was perfected, which carried a larger charge and did not require as much of a wind-up to throw.

Sources: and

1 comment:

  1. I've heard this was highly dangerous for Germans and was discontinued due to the high rate of "friendly fire" explosions. I was told that when throwing in the confined spaces of the trenches, any of the rods could ignite the fuse if bumped against other objects, trench sides, etc. True?