Aerial Hand Grenade


#1

This was just something that popped into my head, so I thought I’d ask. Back when I was a child, I remember my maternal aunt had a large segmented grenade casing she used as a door stop. It was much larger than the typical “pineapple” hand grenade casing, but the same general shape. I can’t be precise at this late date, but I would say it was in size somewhere between a pint and a quart bottle. I used to play with it. I seem to remember it was painted a light blue, but my memory may be playing tricks on me. And of course, she could have painted it any color. Her story was that it was dropped from airplanes during WWI, but I don’t know whose planes. Were there ever such grenades made for aerial use?


#2

Maybe you’ll find a photo that you might recognize here:
http://www.inert-ord.net/index.html#home


#3

There was an experimental British hand grenade, very short lived, that they developed to try and bring down the Zepplins over London.
Looking like a cross between a hand grenade and a grappling hook the idea was that when a plane flew over the airship the observer would try and lob it down hoping it would snag on the fabric and ignite the gas inside.

Obviously it didn’t work and the service life was probably no more than about a week.

The early aerial bombs in WW1 were had dropped though, they have (or had ) one sectioned in the RAF museum at Hendon. It didn’t have a fuse though, the detonating mechanism was the proverbial rusty nail and a live .303 round. Very sophisticated.


#4

I went through the Inert Ordnance pictures, and didn’t see anything that looked like an oversized pineapple grenade there. So if it wasn’t likely to have been some sort of antipersonnel device to be dropped from an airplane into the trenches of France, what else could it be?

Regarding the British Zeppelin grenades, in a similar vein, I ran across an article in a 1945 Popular Science magazine (which I have, but again, I’m one place while it’s in another) describing how the Japanese were planning (or maybe tried) a tactic to destroy B-29s in flight over Japan. This was by flying above the bombers and dropping cluster bomblets on them. I don’t remember ever reading about this tactic elsewhere. Did such anti-B-29 bomblets actually exist?


#5

This is the January 1945 Issue of Popular Science I mentioned previously. Note the bomblet is described as being a modified rifle grenade.


#6

This one shown here is in fact a modified HEAT rifle grenade (design came fom Germany). But it is supposedly used against armored formations on the ground.
If the Japanaese dropped submunitions above US bomber formations (as Germany did with the time fuzed SD-2 and even 500kg bombs) they been using certainly one of their HE submunitions of which they had several types. So what is stated above is basically correct but is showing the wrong item (never trust the media).


#7

The words grenade and aerial are almost self cancelling because of the implied presence of a fuse. In the early days of WW1 aircraft were used only for observation although I can easily imagine early fliers lobbing a few grenades down into enemy trenches but that must have been bravado rather than tactical intent. It would be a very expensive and inefficient way of bringing a few ounces of explosives into contact with the enemy.


#8

Vince, hopefully not disappointing you but the very first aircraft bombs in WWI were deployed exactly like this and their size was also that of a hand grenade (the Germans also tried converted rifle grenades).


#9

I have heard that allegedly the first aerial bombing occurred in Mazatlan, Mexico early in the Mexican revolution, using fused dynamite. This was before WWI started.

From Mazatlan’s website:
“The city also bears the title of being the first city on the American continent, and the second in the world, to be bombed. [color=#FF0000]Tripoli, Libya is the first[/color]. The bomb was a crude piece of construction that was filled with nails and dynamite and wrapped in leather. This rather unpleasant surprise was intended by General Carranza to be dropped on a specific target. Tragically for the citizens of Mazatlan, the bomb was as crudely dropped as it was made. The explosive landed in the middle of the busy city streets of the city and killed several citizens and soldiers. This, however, is only a reflection of Mexico’s war-torn past.”

You might remember the movie “Villa Rides” (I think, with Robert Mitchum, Yul Brynner as Villa, with Charles Bronson as Rodolfo Fierro, Villa’s executioner), in which Mitchum was Villa’s bomber pilot, also using dynamite. A superb “Gun Movie.”


#10

[quote=“EOD”]This one shown here is in fact a modified HEAT rifle grenade (design came fom Germany). But it is supposedly used against armored formations on the ground.
If the Japanaese dropped submunitions above US bomber formations (as Germany did with the time fuzed SD-2 and even 500kg bombs) they been using certainly one of their HE submunitions of which they had several types. So what is stated above is basically correct but is showing the wrong item (never trust the media).[/quote]

FACTS!


#11

But were they fused or ground detonated?. The one in the RAF museum is no bigger than a pinapple and the primitive detonation system must make it very early. It was the question of having a fuse that I was particularly focusing in on because that (IMO) would introduce operational difficulties.


#12

All of these early munitions were contact or powder train time fuzed. Command detonation as a practical weapon for air platforms was not practical.


#13

Back to my original question - is there such a thing as the oversized “hand grenade” I clearly remember? Even though it was many years ago, I don’t think my memory has decayed that badly. It was in the size range of a real pineapple. As it was so large, throwing it by hand would not be practical, but use of a ground launcher of some sort or dropping it from an aircraft could be effective.

It would seem that a physically larger grenade would make some sense for aircraft use, as it could carry a greater explosive load, produce more fragments, and allow a longer fuse providing more burn time needed for dropping from higher altitudes.


#14

Yes, there was plenty of variety in this early ordnance. There used to be grenade collectors who came on and could have helped with this but I think most of the heavy ordnance folks went away. I only come on now and then myself.