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October 19, 2005

The Whatzis? answer.

First some stuff just because I wanna.

Finally, Saddam goes on trial. Funny how some people are almost positing that "fair trial" means essentially, unless there is a real chance of a defense and acquittal, there can't be a trial, because that wouldn't be fair... so he (or anyone in that situation) should go free. Hey, no worries, it worked for OJ, right? You want to see that discussion, run through yesterday afternoon (18 October) at NRO.

Plamegate straggles on. Hey, Whitewater certainly dragged on, too.
I'll wait and see what happens and finally comes out. This pundit gig doesn't pay well enough to spend all that time digging.

Okay, let's clear up that little straggler from yesterday. Shock, surprise, not many of you made serious attempts to figure out what they were, except for those who have been deprived of intimacy of late... The rest of you, what, you got jobs or something?

Anyway - they're both grenades. Both Austrian. The stick grenade one is a Rohrhandgranate (Alt) or literally, Tube Hand Grenade (Old), as vice the "Neu" or New. No, Neffi - not missing the cap to the grenade handle. There wasn't one. The handle is a cardboard tube, taped over. In the case of mine, almost certainly a replacement - aside from it's condition for a 90-year old cardboard tube, it also doesn't project through the ball (as can be seen in the linked pictures).

The other is a Lakos. Mine is an early version, also larger than most later versions. Another give-away as to early... it has a fuze that must be lit, vice a percussion fuze as used on later grenades. This is just a tube with wooden plugs at each end, made of cast iron so that it would be more likely to break into pieces. One reason they are fairly common on Italian-front battlefields is the fuze often failed, or the explosive just blew out the wooden plugs.

WWI grenades are a fascinating study. You could find *both* of those grenades on the same battlefield, even though they represent very different levels of sophistication and technology.

Lest we think the Austrians were alone in relatively crude grenades... well, that's not true. Both an inadequate starting stockpile and an inability to produce "professionally engineered" grenades in quantity led to many battlefield innovations. Such as these Battye grenades from the Arsenal Collection. They were manufactured by French engineers in the town of Bethune, Northern France, for the British army in 1915. Named after the inventor, a Royal Engineer Major Battye. Segmented roughly cast iron cylinder originally containing Ammonal, sealed with a wooden plug, and having a lit or chemical fuze. Also prone to failure of the plug just blowing out, hence the wires.

Early in the war it was so bad both sides resorted to complete battlefield improvisation, producing a class of grenades sometimes referred to as "hairbrush grenades" for obvious reasons. The official french nomenclature was "Les Grenades Artisanales."

The French had an odd mix of grenades, too. I've covered the Vivien-Bessiere grenade launcher before. But they had grenades like the Citron Foug, which you slammed down on a hard surface to ignite the fuze. Many wartime helmets have dents in them - not from shrapnel, but from a desperate soldier in a muddy field who was trying to get his grenades to work...

Then there were gems like these French 'bracelet' grenades in the Arsenal. WWI vintage. The soldier wrapped a loop of twine or wire that has a hook on it around his wrist - hooks the loops on the grenades, throws. As it leaves his hand, it is supposed to pull out, igniting the friction primer. They were not popular.

Like this:

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The poster is "Journée du Poilu. 25 et 26 décembre 1915" which reads as "Day of the Soldier, 25 and 26 December, 1915. It shows a poilu just about to loft a bracelet grenade. If you go back to the picture of my grenades - you can see an obvious problem with the go-to-war version, the Fusee Modele 1882 (which is just a new fuze stuck in the Modele 1847 grenade... yes, 1847). They took out the wick fuze and stuck in this. Problem is, it's a friction-fit wood plug. Often as not - the grenade went sailing away, leaving the fuze dangling. Hence the second grenade, the Modele 1914, with a brass base, threaded so that it screwed in securely. Which grumped the Generals, because that meant they were more expensive, and you had to thread the old grenade bodies too! Dammit! I *hate* it when that happens. The Ghost of Gorgas. Those who know, know.

I'll continue this subject sometime when the muse next seizes me. Mebbe rod grenades...