The British Army's percussion hand grenades, 1914–16
D.M. Leeson pages 81-102View the article abstract
There are deep disagreements among historians of the Great War concerning the British Army\‘s willingness and ability to adapt itself to the conditions of trench warfare on the Western Front. One possible way of shedding new light on this old controversy is by closely studying one small case of successful adaptation: the case of the hand grenade. Unlike their French allies and German enemies, the British went to war in the summer of 1914 with only very small numbers of hand grenades; to make matters worse, the British Army\‘s hand grenade had a percussion fuse designed to detonate on impact when thrown. This weapon was not suited to the static trench fighting that prevailed on the Western Front after the autumn of 1914, and as a consequence British troops were forced to rely for the most part on improvised, experimental, and emergency hand grenades during the campaigns of 1915. By the summer of 1916, however, these early designs had been replaced by a safe and effective time-fuse grenade, the Mills bomb, which the British Army continued to use for the rest of the war.
Key Words: Great Britain, army, grenades, trench warfare, technology, adaptation, learning curve