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June 15, 2006

Whatziss, Answered. Meet the Grenade, .303 rifle, No 22 Mk II.

That's whatziss is, as surmised, a rodded rifle grenade.

Newton Pippin Rifle Grenade

I guess, as a final hint, I should have said, "Think Hobbit." Go ahead, google "Rod Grenade Pippin."

A paucity of formally adopted and procured rifle grenades were a problem for all combatants in the early stages of WWI. The WWI procurement bureacracies hov'red over the battlefields, very much process-bound, much as they still do today, leaving the troops in the field to innovate.

{To save on loading times and bandwidth, I've moved the rest of this post to the Flash Traffic/Extended Entry so we'll only bug the ones who want to read it. You're welcome, Princess Crabby]

In June of 1915, Captain Heny Newton of the Sherwood Foresters designed a rodded rifle grenade which could be manufactured locally, in the regimental shops. There was little machining involved, sparing the need for skilled craftsmen in the production process (see STG 44 in WWII). The grenade was originally known as the "Newton Pippin Grenade" and the good Captain produced about 80K of them in his shops.

The original design was inverse to the one in the Arsenal, being narrow at the top, where the fuze is, and fat at the bottom, where the rod attaches (see the pic above). The fuze system was a metal cap with a striker in it, that initiated the impact fuze as seen here in the hand grenade version. Note that it used locally available items like a shortened SAA (Small Arms Ammuntion) cartridge (to get the primer) which set off a piece of safety fuze with a detonator (like Engineers use for demolitions). The initial design has some flaws from the user perspective. Upon firing, the set-back of the striker plate sometimes caused the grenade to function early - as in right about at the muzzle. This annoyed the firer and any of his buddies nearby. No - it wasn't always fatal. There's a reason you see the soldiers ducked low (and always wearing a helmet) when firing grenades of this type. A premature detonation could certainly kill or wound you, but the way the grenades were built didn't produce a globular fragmentation pattern - though the shockwaves were. The frags went out parallel to the long axis, hence the annoyance of the firer's buddies. At best, however, the shooter was going to have a serious case of tinnitus.

Efforts to address this problem resulted in the pattern of grenade in the Arsenal Holdings. Improvements in cap material, addition of a safety pin, a change in fuzing and a change in the shape of the grenade to that of the one in the Arsenal addressed that most pressing of issues, and the grenade went from being the "Newton Pippin" to the No 22 Mark I.

The change of fuzing is interesting in itself. The No 22 is initiated by either a standard Mk V .303 cartridge with the bullet removed, or the N0 8 Mark VII detonator - actually simplifying things a great deal. A further change in shape of the striker cap resulted in the Mark II. The red band, btw, indicates which explosive was used for filling, important to know for the people who stored them. Red indicates amatol. This is a repainted battlefield recovery and is empty, btw. Just in case you were concerned. One of the reasons the grenade in the Castle holdings is a Mark I (check the striker cap flange shape) is they are more plentiful - being more prone to dud than the Mark II's. That said, because the copper cup is intact, much less still attached to the rod, indicates this was probably dropped on the battlefield, vice a fired example.

No 22 Mk II.  Cartridge inserted, cap not fully seated.

Use was simple. Insert the grenade rod into the barrel of the rifle (in the pic, the cap is not fully seated - it would *not* be sticking up like that in service). The copper cup on the end of the rod (remember Part 1?) will expand on firing and seal the bore and engage the rifling. The spin isn't needed, the seal is to give reasonably consistent ranges for the grenadiers. Put in a blank, orient on the target, SWAG the elevation (very few rifle grenadiers had actual sights for their grenades) and pull the trigger. The fully loaded grenade weighed about 1.5 pounds, which produced a lot of recoil and was tough on the rifles, which were prone to stock splitting. Many times older, worn out rifles were wrapped in large gauge copper wire and turned into "EY" grenade launching rifles - but *that's* a different post.

No 22 Mk II with cap fully seated