So i thought it might be good do dedicate a thread to this historically important yet very elusive shell type as its history is shrouded in mystery besides its famous use by the Germans in WW2 and later by the French and the British in the DEFA and ADEN cannons. If you have not read the title of the thread i am talking about mine shells. Also known under these names.
English 1 Mine-shell (most likely not an official military term)
English 2 High-capacity high explosive (not specifically for mine-shells but its a common substitute word for it)
English 3 Mine HEI (used on the international weapons market)
English 4 Shell-mine (during the 1800’s)
Italian Granata mina (at least during the 1800’s)
Spanish Granada mina (at least during the 1800’s)
French Obus fougasse (at least during the 1800’s)
Mine shells are high capacity high explosive shells which features thin walls to allow as much explosive filler (commonly HEI filler) as possible and are made out of high quality steel to not brake when fired at high velocity’s. Due to their high explosive load and minimal amount of metal they have different weight properties to normal HE shells and achieves higher muzzle velocities compared to equivalent HE types but loses momentum faster and therefore have more limited use at longer ranges. Their main use is to blow big main holes in their intended targets as their construction makes them give off less fragmentation and more pressure wave energy when exploding compared to common “high-explosive” shells. They often have a delayed fuse to maximize its entry hole. On older artillery shells delayed fuses were put at the bottom of the shell, while none-delayed fuses were put at the nose. On modern mine-shells the fuse is always at the front and has a mechanical fuse, even when delayed.
Where the name originates from is unknown but the word mine originally meant a big explosive device in several languages back in the pre-1800’s. (EDIT) As pointed out by Tony.Williams, the word mine most likely originates from actual mines (holes in the ground), either from explosives in mining or from tunneling explosives in siege warfare.
The name might also refer to actual sea mines as they kill ships with the same effect, that being pressure wave damage.
1800’s > WWI
The earliest known mine shells are for medium to heavy artillery cannons (example calibers: 105-220 mm) with the earliest usage of the word dating to the mid-late 1800’s. Pointed out by the user “Fede” the Italians had mine-shells (or at least something going by this name) by 1870. Its actual origin though is currently not known. In the following years the shell can be found in several countries such as Spain, France, Sweden, Norway and Germany for example. The usage of mine-shells in combat prior to WW2 is generally undocumented but they most likely did see use as a common artillery shell against fortifikations. As pointed out by the user “EOD” the shell-type was effective against fortified land positions in the days before steel-reinforced-concrete. After WW1 mine shells for artillery cannons disappear from munition manuals for unknown reasons. Most likely as steel-reinforced-concrete became common which made the shell type less useful.
WWII > Cold war
The shell type would see a resurgence at the start of WW2 as Germany started using the type as aircraft and anti aircraft ammunition to shoot down bombers. This was previously not possible due to the limitation of steel-working technology needed to produce mine shells in the size of aircraft and anti aircraft cannons (20-37 mm). This was the first important historical use of mine shells as this allowed the Germans to fend of the Allied bombing campaigns for as long as they did. After the war other nations copied the idea and started making post war mine shells for aircraft and anti aircraft weaponry. Some examples are the previously mentioned French DEFA and the British ADEN but also the Swiss and potentially also the Swedish made mine shells in autocannon calibers. The continued development of mine shells during the cold war is fairly unknown but the shell type exists for the 23 mm GSh-23L, 35 mm Oerlikon GDF, 30 mm Oerlikon KCA and the 27 mm Mauser BK27.
The modern day usage of mine-shells seems to be on the decline. For example, Sweden has replaced its Mauser BK-27 mine-shells with regular HE-shells and the shell-type is rarely mentioned on the modern weapons market. This is most likely due to anti air cannons nowadays relying on proximity-fuse pre-fragmented shells and airborne cannons being relegated as ground attack weaponry.
Here are some reference photos of early mine shells.
I have tried to puzzle together its history as good as i can but i am only human :D
For future readers. This thread originates on this thread. Swedish 20x110 mm Hispano ammunition data help It features informative posts as well for the interested one.