During the First World War trench warfare encouraged the use of mortars, grenades and clubs and knives for close combat. With heavy artillery, rifles and machine guns being used in field operations, soldiers sought refuge from the bullets in the trenches. To infiltrate enemy lines high explosive shells, hand grenades and gas were used to disorientate soldiers and disrupt defences.
Here are two examples of grenades from the collections at Northampton Museums & Art Gallery:
British Hand Grenade
No. 27 British hand grenade (175mm)
Introduced in 1916, this grenade contained white phosphorus and had a brass housing fitted with copper detonator with 7-second delay. Lightweight, sheet metal cylinder with screw threaded tube fitted to one end and a ring fitted with a split pin.
Grenades containing white phosphorus were first introduced by the British army in 1916 and were used throughout future conflicts including the Second World War (1939–1945). The grenades produced a dense white smoke ideal to create a smokescreen to conceal military operations.
Hales Rifle Grenade:
Hales Rifle Grenade
The Hales rifle grenade, No. 20, Mk 2.
The Hales rifle grenade is the name for several rifle grenades used by British forces during the First World War. Rifle grenades were produced in 1914 and based on a design by Frederick Marten Hale.
The grenade was attached to a rod, which was inserted into the barrel of a rifle that was pre-loaded with a blank cartridge. The soldier aimed the rifle at a high angle, removed the safety pin and fired the weapon. The fuse would ignite once fired at high speed and the grenade would explode upon impact with the ground or a solid object.
In 2018, objects like these and many more will be made available online for you to explore through a First World War digital archive. For more information on the Conflict & Community Project please click here.
British Library: Weapons of World War One