Intro & history
The history of the handgrenade dates all the way back to the midle-ages, but modern handgrenades didn't really catch on until the Russian-Japanese war in 1904-05. Reports about the use and effect of handgrenades during the battles in Port Arthur and Mukden was presented by the press in Europe as a totally new concept. This did in turn trigger the European armies to consider the use of handgrenades as a part of their arsenal. Several inventors applied for good, and not so good, patens for their inventions.
The modern handgrenade consisted of a container filled with explosives, a detonator and a fuse. The variations between the different models constructed and offered lay in the shape, ability to send out shrapnels and construction of the fuse, with or without safeties.
The fuse could be either a time-delay or a impact fuse. Time-delay fuses were either of a mechanical clockwork construction or of the burning fuse type, with the burning fuse being the most used patent. The time-delay fuses seldom had any safeties beyond the transport safety. One of the big drawbacks of the time-delay fuse was the need to synchronize the time it took to throw the grenade the distance to the enemy and the actual burn time of the fuse itself. The first German handgrenade had a burntime of 7 seconds, enough to throw the grenade 50 meters. If the enemy was closer the thrower had to wait for the fuse to burn accordingly. Throwing the grenade too early meant that the enemy could grab it and return it. The burning fuse would be ignited either by a friction thread (like a matchstick) or with a spring actuated striker hitting a percussion cap. The internal delay pellet would ignite and burn for 3,5 to 7 seconds, depending on the model, before it set of the detonator. Impact fuses would detonate upon impact, but had a much higher failrate. There was also the danger of inadvertantly setting off the grenade prior to throwing it. A real danger when throwing them from narrow trenches was hitting the rear wall, with fatal consequences to the thrower.
Some models incorporated advanced safeties, but these increased the failrate considerably. A Norwegian patent by the Ingenieur N.W. Aasen from 1913 incorporated a double wall cannister with 56 embedded shrapnels and a impact fuse that was disarmed during flight. A cord was coiled up inside the grenade and held by the thrower. This would remove the safety pin when thrown beyond 10 meters. If the thrower forgot to hold on to the cord it would fail to detonate. A second model by the same inventer was later adapted by the German and Italian army.
In the army of the Kaiser, handgrenades was considered a weapon only for Pioneers that would be attacking fortified positions. As a result, the German army entered the Great War with only 2 models of handgrenades, the ball-shaped hangrenade with a clockwork fuse (Kugelhandgranate Uhrwerkzünder) and the ball-shaped hangrenade with a burning fuse (Kugelhandgranate Brennzünder). The stocks of the prewar "Kugelhandgranate Uhrwerkzünder" was soon exhausted and it was impractible for wartime mass-production.
The "Kugelhandgranate Brennzünder" weighed in at 750 grams and was much too heavy for inexperienced throwers. In addition the thick iron casing gave off a deadly hail of shrapnels that were lethal up to 100 meters. This made it only usable for defense in the trenches.
As a stop-gap measure the need for handgrenades was covered by trench-production. Explosives was attached to wooden boards and covered with different types of metal trash in order to act as shrapnels, and fitted with fuses. These resembled the later production Stielhandgranaten.
The next production model was the discos shaped handgrenade with impact fuse and a safety that was deactivated during flight. This grenade was popular with the soldiers as it was easy to throw up to 40 meters and could be carried in numbers due to its small size and weight.
The first experiences with handgrenades showed the need for an improvement to the functionality and handling quialities, the throwing range and the possibilities for the soldiers to carry more grenades into battle. In the spring of 1915 this resulted in the first Stielhandgranate. It consisted of a can filled with explosives mounted on a long handle that contained the fuse. The initial model was made "ready for use" at the factory, but this soon proved to be dangerous, as the detonator would be set off during transport and even under storage. Another problem was the fuse that would get moist, which in turn would result in malfunctioning. To prevent this from happening, the fuses and detonators would be shipped separated from the grenade heads, and was installed by the troops prior to use.
In 1915 - 1916 a total of 5 different models of the Stielhandgranate saw service, with different models of safeties and fuses, including one with a impact fuse and and a spring activated safety handle, released during throwing.
A Stielhandgranate with impact fuse and the "Poppenberger spoonsafety"
By the end of 1916 only one model was left in production. It was designated "Stielhandgranate 15 mit Brennzünder 15". It was 380 mm long, the head was 60 mm in diameter and weighed 700 grams. It contained 250 gram of the explosive Ammonal and the fragments would go 15-20 meters. The handle was hollow and contained the fuse and a rope with a small ball at the end. The pull mechanism was sealed off with a star-shaped screw cap. The side of the can had a hook attachment that made it possible to carry the grenade suspended from the belt. There was also an improved igniter available designated the Brennzünder 16.
Stielhandgranate 15 mit Brennzünder 15
To complement the Stielhandgranate 15 a small smooth egg-handgrenade was introduced in 1916. It only weighed 318 grams and could be thrown up to 60 meters. This handgrenade could be carried in large numbers in breadbags and pockets. An improved model, the Eierhandgranate 17, had a serrated belly belt that made it easier to handle and improved the fragmentation effect.
The production followed the consumption of handgrenades during the Great war, and it reached its zenith during the winthermonths of 1916 -1917 with a monthly output of 9.000.000 grenades. By the end of the Great War the handgrenade had been fully accepted as a standard infantry weapon, with a very high consumption rate in the trench war.
A photo from the trenches of the Great War. 1) Stielhandgranate with external burning fuse, note lack of safety cap to the end of the handle. 2) Trench-made handgrenade, made from recycled food cans. The fuse sits in the centre of the lid, and must be lit with a flame. 3) Discos handgrenade, Modell 1913. 4) Kugelhandgranate Brennzünder
The Treaty of Versailles of 28 June 1919 imposed huge restrictions on the loosing armies, with some weapon systems forbidden altogether, like submarines and airplanes. The german army was restricted both in size, as well as in number of men and weapons. Due to this the remaining arsenals of handgrenades had to be limited, and a total of 16.550.000 hand- and riflegrenades had to be destroyed. For continued service in the new Reichswehr only a limited number of Stielhandgranaten 15 mit Brennzünder 15 was allowed to be kept for further use and training. But these grenades had all been manufactured during the Great War for instant use, and were not suited for long storage. Combined with the wish to improve the Stielhandgranate 15, a new and improved model was ready in 1924-1925, the Stielhandgranate 24 with Brennzünder 24. As the production of the Stielhandgranate 24 started up, the old stocks of Stielhandgranate 15 were gradually used up. An order from the Reichswehrministeriums dated 27. January 1927 stated that all existing stocks of Stielhandgranate 15 should be collected and destroyed (blown up) on the units' training grounds by the end of March 1927.
Construction of the Stielhandgranate 24
The Stielhandgranate 24 was made up of 4 main parts.
1. The head
The lid with the detonator channel is visible under the lower cover plate. Note that the lid was painted prior to mounting. Also visible is the beaded pattern pressed into the lower cover plate for structural strength.
A very interesting picture. This grenade is in mint condition, apart from the heavy corrosive damage to the head. It clearly shows the waxed paperbag that contained the explosive filling. It is also clear from this picture that the detonator channel was pressed into the waxed paperbag that helSome weapon systems were forbidden altogether, like submarines and airplanes.d the explosive filling when the lid was crimped in place with the lower cover.
On early heads a painted band appears on the lower part. It will always differ in color from the spray painted head and it is always applied unevenly with a brush. This was a finishing touch applied at the factory to cover areas that had lost its paint under the crimping process and to improve the weather-proofing qualities.
The explosive filling
The standard explosive in the Stielhandgranate 24 from the start of production was the Füllpulver 2 (TNT). The total weight of the explosives was 165 grams. On 16 February 1940 the Chef der Heeresrüstung announced that the head of the M24 Stielhandgranate was to be filled with Ammonalsprengstoffen, Manochit I and II and Donarit I and II, for the rest of the war. Donarit was made up of 55-84 % Ammoniumnitrat with up to 22 % Nitroglykol and 11-16 % TNT and could either have a "flaked" appearence, as below, or could be of a fine-ground brown powder substance
The full contents of a M24 can of Donarit. (9mm rounds for comparison).
It came in prefilled paperbags from the sub-contractors, so the actual makers of the Stielhandgranate 24 only placed them inside their own parts and crimped it all together. The actual waxed paperbag was filled with the explosive and the top was folded flat. The top was then sealed with a paper disc that was glued on.
The above paper was removed from a 1941 RR marked grenade. By 1941 they had started using recycled paper for the disc. The one above carries a commercial print, and the words "Pudding" and "Nougat", as well as the price of 9 Pfenning are readable. The hole where the detonator channel was pressed in when the lid was installed can be easily recognized in the center of the disc.
2. The handle with the safety cap and pull cord
The wooden handle was hollow, with metal fittings in both ends. At the top a threaded cap (colored yellow in the picture below) was pressed on with a sealing compound. The threaded cap had a links-threaded hole in the center to hold the BZ24. A rain-sleeve (red) with a oil-soaked cardboard ring (blue) was attached with four small wooden screws and held the threaded cap in place while at the same time providing weatherproofing. The raincap was painted after installation, with some green paint spilling over on the wooden handle. This was done to further weatherproof the joint.
Picture at left above shows the raincap installed with screws and painted in position. In the right picture above both the threaded cap and the rain-sleeve has come off, clearly showing the sealing compound.
The handle is screwed into the threads on the lower cover plate once the fuze and detonator has been installed.
The hollow handle contains the fuze and a pull rope that runs down to the end of the handle.
The rope consisted of three parts; the actual braided rope, a porcelain doughnut to give a firm grip when pulling, and a small bead on the opposite end that was used to attach the rope to the fuze. The porcelain ball stayed the same throughout the production time, the rope changed from braided to twisted and the bead changed from lead to glass to iron.
The threaded ring for the safety cap is pressed on the end of the wooden handle with a sealing compound and secured with tiny nails.
A safety cap with a spring tensioned cardboard disc closes the handle end to add pressure on the porcelain ball to stop it from rattling, and makes the end weatherproof.
The handle is made of hardwood and soaked in linseed oil to make it weatherproof.
3. The Brennzünder 24
Brennzünder 24 can be loosely translated as "Burning fuse, Model 1924". It is a waterproof metal detonator with a fixed burning time of 4,5 seconds.
The igniter consists of a leadtube or sheath connected to a threaded alloy metal fitting by a steel tube (covered in red or black laquer in the picture above). The steel tube is threaded on both ends and contains the powder delay pellet. The lead sheath contains a copper capsule which holds the friction composition. A friction wire is coiled to provide resistance to pulling and is joined to the pull loop. The pull loop extends through the lead tube, which is flattened or pressed together at the upper end, thus preventing the loop and friction wire from being freely and inadvertently withdrawn. When the loop is pulled, it frees itself from the soft lead tube, drawing the friction wire through the friction composition contained in the capsule. The resulting flame ignites the delay pellet. When the delay pellet burns through, it ignites a fuze or a detonator attached to the fitting. The pellet used with the stick grenade has a delay of 4,5 seconds, accuracy is +/- 0,2 seconds, the delay time is printed on the body of the fuse with the text "4.5 S". The end of the Brennzünder is threaded on the outside to accept the Übungsladung 30. This will be described in the section deling with the Übungsstielhandgranaten 24. The colored laquer applied to the end and center of the BZ24 was meant as a protection against moisture. The color has no significance. The picture above displays a early fuse with red laquer, and a late fuse with black laquer.
The Brennzünder 24 came in boxes of 15, sealed with wax or tape. Early boxes were cupper-plated steel, second generation boxes were steel painted green and the third generation boxes were made of waxed cardboard. "Verzögerungsröhrchen" translates to "Delay tubes", and "mit weicher Abfeuerung" means "with soft firing". The last text is a warning found on boxes manufactured from 1942 and onwards. When the cord was pulled this igniter would give no hint if it did in fact fire or not (but it would fire). To hang on to the grenade to see if it worked was not a good idea....
As the war progressed the supply of lead quickly became a problem, and it was listed as a "scarce" metal. The Brennzünder 39 (above) was manufactured with the use of alternative metals, exchanging the lead with aluminium and using rubber seals. The time delay was the same as the Brennzünder 24, but it was not printed on the body any more. An interesting fact is that the US Technical manual over German explosive ordnance, dated March 1953 claims that the burning time for the Brennzünder 39 is 7 seconds instead of the correct 4.5 seconds.
The Brennzünder 39 was introduced as a new fuse for the Nebelhandgranate (the smoke handgrenade strongly resembling the Stielhandgranate 24), and as a replacement for the Brennzünder 24, previously used with the Stielhandgranate 24 and the Übungs-Stielhandgranate 24. It was introduced on 20. August 1940 by the Oberkommando des Heeres, but didn't last too long. Due to fatal accidents a new order was issued in November 1941 that limited the use of the Brennzünder 39. It was only allowed for use in Nebelhandgranaten after this date.
The Brennzünder 39 came in boxes of 15, sealed in waxed cardboard boxes. The late war boxes carried the same warning as the Brennzünder 24 boxes; "mit weicher Abfeuerung".
A new version was introduced in March 1943 called the "Brennzünder 39 (umg.)", "(umg.)" being the abreviaton for "umgebaut" (right picture above). Translated it would read "Burning fuse model 39 (reconstructed). This totally new and longer fuse caused problems. The fuse could no longer be used in the Nebelhandgranate as it would not fit, but was now ready for duty with the Stielhandgranate 24, once again replacing the Brennzünder 24.
A paper tag from inside of a transportation box. It states that the box containes 15 Brennzünder 39 (umg.) and 15 Sprengkapseln Nr. 8.
4. The Sprengkapsel No 8
The commercial "Sprengkapsel no. 8" was used as detonator.
It is a small, open-ended tube made of aluminum with a 2 grams load. Very early versions were made of copper.
The explosive in any handgrenade contains an amount of potential energy, but to release the energy it must be detonated. Explosives used in handgrenades are formulated as insensitive as possible, to make them stable and safe to handle. They will not explode if accidentally dropped, mishandled or exposed to fire. In order to detonate a handgrenade, a detonator (or blasting cap) is needed. The detonator contains an explosive that is easy to ignite and which will provide the energy needed to start a detonation in the more stable explosive used in the handgrenade. This is the reason why the Stielhandgranate 24 was shipped without the detonators or fuses installed.
The detonator itself consisted of a aluminum tube of 6 mm that contained a 2 grams load of Tetryl as the main charge (explosive) and lead azide as the initiator. The heat emitted from the fuse when the time-delay pellet had burned through would be sufficient to trigger the lead azide to explode, setting of the Tetryl. The Tetryl as a high explosive would in turn detonate the Donarit explosive charge in the handgrenade head.
The detonator was very susceptible to moist, and a drop of rain inside the detonator would most probably lead to a misfire. To prevent this from happening the detonators, as well as the fuses, would be kept in sealed containers until they were supposed to be used.
The number assigned to the detonator (Sprengkapseln No 8) is a result of the amount of explosives in the tube. For reference a number 6 would contain 1 gram, a number 8 would contain 2 grams and a number 10 would contain 3 grams. The primary detonator for all military demolition work is the "Detonator no 8".
The Sprengkapseln No 8 came in a wooden box that contained 15, each Sprengkapsel stored in a separate room. The wooden box was again covered by a cardboard box again covered in wax, to ensure that the detonators didn't get moist.
The same product was also delivered in boxes of 100, but these Sprengkapseln were meant for explosive charges, demolition and construction work only.
Product-evolution of the Stielhandgranate 24
The first version of the Stielhandgranate 24 had a head that attached to the handle with links-threads (not to be confused with the Brennzünder 24, which was links-threaded from start to finish). A change to standard threads came towards the end of the 1920's and the remaining stock of Stielhandgranaten 24 with links-threads were handed over to the German Police. The first version of the Stielhandgranate 24 had a Trageösen (carrying eyelet) that was welded to the side of the can, close to the top. This eyelet would be used together with a special spring, a "Tragefeder", that attached to the bayonet frog on the belt.
In a manual dated 1940 named "Waffentechnische Unterrichtsbuch" by Schmitt, the Trageösen was still part of the drawings of the grenade, but the text states that "Trageösen fällt bei Ausführung A fort" (Carrying eyelets will be discontinued with the A model). This is the only reference to separate "models" ever encountered in the original documentation from the era.
It is no longer known what the "Tragefeder" looked like. They were supplied in the same numbers as the Stielhandgranate 24, and came in the same boxes.
The above picture from 1 July 1932 shows two Reichswehr soldiers guarding the Reichswehrministerium in Berlin. They are both armed with Mauser rifles and two Stielhandgranate 24. The Trageöse and Tragefeder is clearly in use, even though details can't be seen.
In the Heeres-Verordnungsblatt Nr. 10 from 5 April 1933 it was announced that the Trageösen and Tragefeder would be discontinued altogether.
The Ausführung A had a safety cap that was similar to the ones used on the Stielhandgranate 15, but the WW1 model had a star shaped disc riveted to the bottom.
The initial one made for the Stielhandgranate 24 also had a star shape, but this was done by simply shaping the upper edge of the cap. This model seems to have been discontinued around 1936-37. These caps are often wrongly identified as a special "winter-model" to ease the unscrewing with mittens on. The early WaA found on these (picture above left) should have been a dead give-away!
The next simplification came in April 1940, when it was decided to discontinue the painting of the white text "VOR GEBRAUCH SPRENGSKAPSEL
EINSETZEN" on the heads.
The next to disappear was the painted band applied to the lower part of the head for weatherproofing. This was discontinued sometime around 1941-42.
Then another production simplification was introduced. From 1942 the raincoat was no longer attached with 4 small screws. Instead of the screws 4 triangular cuts were pressed into the raincoat when it had been mounted on the handle, thus attaching both the raincap and the threaded cap to the handle.
In 1943 the safety cap was simplified. The spring and cardboard disc was replaced with a simple cardboard disc. This one no longer added any pressure to the porcelain ball, it simply sealed off the end and weather-proofed it.
The last production improvement was introduced in 1943, but has only been observed on Stielhandgranaten 24 made by Metallwarenfabrik Hermann Nier, Beierfeld, code fcc. The design of the screw attachment between the handle and the head was simplified with pressed threads instead of the more time-consuming machined threads. The lower edge of the threaded part of the can was pressed out into a flange that would sit against the oilsoaked cardboard ring between the threaded cap and the raincoat. This late variation was only made by Metallwarenfabrik Hermann Nier and must be considered a makers product improvement, and not a new "model".
The finish on the individual parts detoriated through the whole production periode, and was different from one manufacturer to another. The raincap is one example. During the war-production it was no longer painted after installation for added weatherproofing, but painted during production prior to assembly. Some manufacturers stopped painting it allready in 1940 using phospathing instead (see picture below right), while other manufacturers kept on painting them until 1944. For further details see the section about each individual manufacturer.
The following description is valid for a mid 1940 manufactured Stielhandgranate 24. The markings on the Sprengkapsel and Brennzünder was described in the description above. The "identity" markings on the Stielhandgranate 24 consisted of the normal combination, found on most German WW2 ordnance and weapons related equipment.
A WaA (approved by an inspector) mark can be found on the head (white ink or metal-stamp), on the upper part of the handle (wooden stamp with black ink) and on the safety cap at the end of the handle on early versions (metal stamp). The year of manufacture and makers code/mark can be found on the handle (hot-iron) and top of the can (metal stamp). Up until 1942 the full four digits were used for the year of manufacture. From 1942 only the last two digits were used (42-43-44-45), and some factories actually stamped the last digit from the end of 1944 (4-5). The code "RR564" on this example is "Wilhelm von Hagen Metallwarenfabrik, Iserlohn Westfalen"
For further details see the section about each individual manufacturer.
The inked markings on the side of the can relates to the explosive filling of the paper bag that has been placed inside the head. Since the explosive came from a sub-contractor, the assembly plant had to mark the heads with the ink-stamps to denote the contents. Different explosive manufacturers supplied the waxed paper bags filled with the Füllpulver 02 or Donarit to the different Stielhandgranate 24 manufacturers. The above marking is "K 4 8/40". The "K" stands for Kalt (cold), denoting that the explosive was guaranteed to function as normal even in arctic climates. "4" presumably denotes the type of explosive filling, and 8/40 is August 1940.
Up until 1940 the ink stamp will tell who made the explosives and when. From 1940 and onwards the ink stamp will specify the type of explosives and when it was made.
A late war version. "K syn Do 3/1944" should translate to "For use in Cold weather, filled with synthetic Donarit, made in March 1944".
6 different varieties. Upper row shows Donarit filled cans from 1940 to 1944. Lower row shows that the explosive fillings were manufactured by WASAG. "Rdf." is a code from the code system for explosive manufacturers, that was introduced on 07.09.1936. "Westfälische-Anhaltische Sprengstoff AG, Werk Reinsdorf" was often shortened as "WASAG", but here it is the location Reinsdorf that has been coded to "Rdf". Incidentally the code "Rdf." was only lightly changed when the new three-letter code system was introduced in 1940. The new code was "rdf". The lower row doesn't state what kind of explosive the cans have been filled with, only who made it and when.
The above marking reads "Ld. Aug 1939" and denotes that the explosives were made in August 1939 in Lechfeld & Depyfag G.m.b.H, Werk Neumarkt/Oberpfalz.
The above marking reads "Sk. 4 1939" and denotes that the explosives were made in April 1939 in Lignose Sprengstoffwerk GmbH, Werk Schönebeck, Elbe.
The text was always in white paint, and applied with a rolled stamp, leaving a pattern of micro-dots. Original Stielhandgranaten has been observed with yellowish paint, but these have become yellow due to a postwar coating of laquer, or simply from aging. The factory color was always white.
The following markings are not that easy to explain, but will be included anyway.
This 42 evy has a red ring painted around the handle, but the purpose is not known.
Cans marked with a yellow ring in the same spot as the waterproofing was normally applied. Several of these grenades are known, but no good theory why the ring is present has been fielded yet.
A SS Unterscharführer with a Stielhandgranate 24 in his belt. It is hard to tell if the lighter colored ring around the crimped area of the can is a yellow ring or just the secondary paint applied at the factory.
This brb 43 has a black painted ring around the upper lip of the raincoat. Undoubtebly periode done, but not explainable.
A can with the filling details stamped to the top of the head instead of the usual position, to the side of the can.
A wc 1943, manufactured by Hasag, Hugo Schneider AG, Metalwarenfabrik Leipzig, werk Meuselwitz, Thuringia. The makers marking is followed by a large "K". The reason for this added marking is unknown. What springs to mind is that it is supposed to "mirror" the large "K" stamped in ink to the side, but that wouldn't make sense, as the filling of explosives was delivered by another manufacturer.
Richard Rinker, the main player
According to the Treaty of Versailles of 28 June 1919 the german army was restricted both in size, as well as in number of men and weapons. Article 168 restricted the number of manufacturers that was allowed as suppliers of ordnance to the german army, and specified a list of the approved manufacturers. Each weapon type or accessory could only be made by one approved company, and some companies even made several items. The company of Richard Rinker G.m.b.H. in Menden/Iserlohn was selected as the sole manufacturer of "Artikel 17, 18, 19 und 20. Stielhandgranaten, Eierhandgranaten, Gewehrgranaten und dazuhörige Zünder". Westfälische-Anhaltische Sprengstoff AG, Werk Reinsdorf (WASAG) was also on the list, and was the sole supplier of explosives.
The company of Richard Rinker was founded in 1910 and was specializing in forged parts of brass for the building industry. One of their first products were doorknobs. Towards the 1930's most of their output was based on stampings and sheet-metal products. Their domestic items production was stopped in the prewar era, as all their capacity was needed for military purposes. Their company logo was a stylized double "R" with the first letter inverted, the letters joined at the midle, and with the letters in a font remnisicient of the Art Deco style of the 1920's. Note the big, bulging "stomach" and the very short legs.
The company logo to the left above. The other picture shows a ink stamp from the company found on a cardboard plate with a cut-through Stielhandgranate 24.
Click on the above picture for a full size picture of the instructional chart.
Since the Stielhandgranate 24 litterally was a "use and throw away" item, it is difficult to find a complete series of early versions to study. The initial marking on their products to represent "Richard Rinker G.m.b.H. in Menden/Iserlohn" was the company logo shown below. The code used by the Waffen Amt inspector at this factory was WaA65, although reading the numbers in ink can be hard sometimes.
In 1925 a coding system consisting of three numbers were introduced. Richard Rinker G.m.b.H. in Menden/Iserlohn was assigned the code "336", but did not use the code until the outbreak of war. In 1940 their products could be marked RR 1940, 1940 336 and even RR 1940 336.
From April 1940 a new system was introduced that was meant to replace all previously used codes, company logos or fulltext names of manufacturers. The system was meant to prevent allied sabotage or bombing, by hiding which companies made which items and as a result were important strategic targets. Richard Rinker G.m.b.H. in Menden/Iserlohn was issued the manufacturers code brb. For unknown reasons this code was not placed on their products until mid-1941. The "336" code was followed by yet another periode using the "RR" logo before the brb code was fully incorporated in 1941. It stayed on their products until late 1944 at the least. No 1945 dated brb marked product has been found so far, so it is possible that the code was changed in late 1944, but the new code is not known.
Sometimes during the mid-30's the increased need for grenades could not be covered by the output from the factory in Menden (brb), and a second Richard Rinker factory started manufacturing the Stielhandgranate 24. This was the Richard Rinker GmbH, Neubrandenburg in Mecklenburg, which from April 1940 was issued the manufacturers code dbk. The code used by the Waffen Amt inspector at this factory was WaA560.
Although the second Richard Rinker factory used the same factory logo it is possible to tell them apart. The brb factory in Menden kept on using the Art Deco style "RR", while the dbk factory in Mecklenburg simply used a standard "RR" (small stomach and long legs) with the first letter inverted. Also easily recognizeable by the WaA560, although the ink often is smeared out and unreadable it is most of the time possible to tell if it has two or three digits.
From 1925 to 1935 all years of manufacture were to be coded as well, using a capital letter. This code can be observed on Richard Rinker made products predating 1935. The above handles for Übungshandgranaten (the ones most likely to survive!) were made by Richard Rinker and dated "M" for 1927 and " G" for 1935.
Increased needs and new makers, the "RR" mystery
As mentioned above, the strict treaty of Versailles only allowed Germany to manufacture its military hardware in certain factories. But for the rising Reichsheer, and later Wehrmacht, the need could not be met by these factories alone. Contracts were drawn up with other manufacturers, but they had to mark their products in a way that made it look like Germany still stood by its obligations in the treaty. In 1925 a code system consisting of two or three numbers was introduced.
Simson Werke in Suhl was appointed as the sole manufacturer of small arms, and was issued the code "S". All other manufacturers of small arms were disguised by using the same "S" code followed by the code number. As an example, Mauser-Werke AG, Oberndorf an Neckar used the code S/42. The manufacturers were not in any way under the administration of Simson, the coding was simply a way to disguise the breaches of the Versaille treaty.
The same system was also used within the production of small arms cartridges and artillery cases. The sole manufacturer under the Versaille treaty was the company of Polte Armaturen- u. Maschinenfabrik AG, Magdeburg, Saxony, later renamed Polte-Werke, Magdeburg. They used the code "P", and all other manufacturers of ammunition contracted by the Heeres Waffen Amt were disguised by using the same "P" and their respective code numbers. As an example, P131 was the code for DWM (Deutsche Waffen- u. Munitionsfabriken AG, Berlin-Borsigwalde).
The same system was of course also used to disguise the manufacturers of grenades, fuzes and mines. Richard Rinker, Menden was listed as the sole manufacturer. Any other company manufacturing the same type of ordnance was disguised with the code "RR" and a identity number of two or three digits. The tricky part was that the company of Richard Rinker didn't use normal letters on their products, they used the Art Deco logo. This lead to an array of different versions of the "RR" code, followed by the identity number.
A sampling of manufacturers markings on Stielhandgranate 24 cans. The first is the company logo of Richard Rinker. The second picture is the marking of "564", which was Wilhelm von Hagen Metallwarenfabrik, Iserlohn Westfalen. The "RR" is a not quite perfect copy of the Richard Rinker logo. The third picture is the marking of "217", which until now is unknown. The "RR" marking is a reversed "R" followed by a normal "R", but they are linked at the midle, like the original logo. The number is also followed by a hyphen. The fourth picture is the marking of "90", which was Bergmann elektrizitätswerke AG, Berlin Wilhelmsruhe. The "RR" marking is a reversed "R" followed by a normal "R", but they are not linked at the midle, like the original logo. The last picture is the marking of "517.", which was Metallwarenfabrik Siegwerk Gebrüder Schuppener, Siegen. The "RR" marking is simply two normal capital letters, but this company persistently used a dot after the number. So to sum it up; all manufacturers followed the standard coding system of "RR xxx", although there were several ways to write "RR". To complicate matters, some of the makers even changed the way of writing over the years. This system was gradually replaced with the three-letter codes from April 1940, but as an example, Richard Rinker kept on using their logo until well into 1941. The different manufacturers will be discussed more thoroughly at the end of this article.
The change to the Stielhandgranate 43
By 1942 the combined yearly output of all manufacturers of the Stielhandgranate 24 had reached a total of 5.912.000 pieces, but production capacities had reached it's limit. Simplifications of the existing design had eased some of the burdens, but they were simply not enough. A whole new design was needed to save both labour hours and raw materials. The simplified model was designated Stielhandgranate 43 and it was announced in the "Heerestechnische Verordnungsblatt" dated 1 May 1944. The production started in 1944 and continued into 1945. The change in production from the Stielhandgrante 24 to the Stielhandgrante 43 must have taken place quite rapidly for all of the manufacturers, with Metallwarenfabrik Hermann Nier, Beierfeld, code fcc being the last one. 1944 dated Stielhandgranate 24's are scarce, with fcc 44 marked ones being the most common one. Metallwarenfabrik Hermann Nier is also the only observed manufacturer that painted his Stielhandgranate 24 in Dunkelgelb.
The main modification was the simplified handle. The new handle saved the industry from drilling out 6 million handles yearly and the manufacturing and installation of 6 million safety caps, porcelain balls, strings, rain caps and thread caps each year. The new handle simply had a metal cap with pressed threads crimped to the end of the handle. The head could be carried and thrown like the Eihandgranate 39 by removing the handle. The detonator channel was no longer attached to a separate lid, but was now mounted directly to the top of the head and had threads to accept the fuse.
Apart from the much simplified manufacturing process the new model also had the advantage of much better and easier waterproofing. The head was hermetically sealed and the fuse was screwed into the fuse channel sealing off the access to the Sprengkapseln once installed.
The Stielhandgranate 43 was also claimed to be easier to handle, with the fuse in the top of the head.
The Brennzünder 24 was replaced with the Brennzünder für Eihandgranaten 39 with modified wings. The old model had downfolded wings that would follow the contour of the egg, but would not have fitted the head of the new Stielhandgranate 43. The sole mission of the wings was to assist in the mounting and removing of the fuse.
The Brennzünder für Eihandgranaten 39 worked on the same principle as the Brennzünder 24. Drawing the friction wire through the friction composition contained in the capsule would result in a flame that ignited the delay pellet. When the delay pellet burned through, it ignited the detonator.
In December 1944 a new fuse was introduced to replace the Brennzünder für Eihandgranaten 39, the Brennzünder 40. Outwards the fuses looked identical, but the ignition system was completely different. The Brennzünder 40 consisted of a spring loaded striker and a small percussion cap. A strong puburnt or pressed into the handle, and ll on the rope causes the striker release plate to be drawn from the the igniter body, carrying with it the striker and compressing the striker spring. When the release plate is withdrawn fully from the igniter body, it disengages from the striker and the striker is relased. The compressed striker spring then forces the striker to impinge upon the percussion cap. The percussion cap will then ignite the delay pellet, burning for 4.5 seconds.
The problem with both the Brennzünder 24, the Brennzünder 39, the Brennzünder 39 (umg.) and the Brennzünder für Eihandgranaten 39 had been the "soft firing", written as the warning "mit weicher Abfeuerung" on the boxes. The soldier igniting the handgrenade would have no warning to tell him if he had in fact succeeded to ignite the delay pellet, leading to fatal accidents. The new Brennzünder 40 would give off a sharp sound when the striker ignited the percussion cap, actually saving lives!
Both the Brennzünder für Eihandgranaten 39 and the Brennzünder 40 had a blue head (Blaukopf), denoting a 4,5 second delay.
The Brennzünder für Eihandgranaten 39 and the Brennzünder 40 looks identical on the outside. To tell them apart the ball has to be unscrewed, and the anchorage for the pull string inspected. The Brennzünder für Eihandgranaten 39 will have a coiled wire and the Brennzünder 40 will have a striker release plate instead.
Different versions of the Brennzünder. Red head (Rotkopf) has a 1 second delay, mostly used in boxes of colored smoke and message boxes dropped from aircraft. Gray head (Graukopf) was instant, used for demolition work, booby traps and ignition of black powder fuses. Blue head (Blaukopf) had a 4.5 second delay, used in different types of handgrenades.
The Stielhandgranate 43 was mainly delivered in Dunkelgelb (tan) color, but some (early?) examples came in the same ordnance green color as the Stielhandgranate 24. The markings followed the same pattern as the Stielhandgranate 24, with black ink denoting the explosive contents.
The makers code and year of production was metal-stamped both to the top and the bottom of the head, and burnt or pressed into the handle.
Registered manufacturers of the Stielhandgranate 43 so far includes evy, bdp., fcc, brb, wc, flf, gck and prd. prd is a "second generation code", and not a new maker. The code was assigned as a new code to a company allready registered under a different code towards the end of 1944. I suspect prd might be the new code for brb, but no evidence has surfaced so far. For further details see the section about each individual manufacturer.
The Übungs-Stielhandgranate 24
The Übungs-Stielhandgranate 24 followed quickly after the introduction of the Stielhandgranate 24. It closely resembled the original in weight and form, but the head was specially constructed. The upper part had 8 holes for gas evacuation, and the top was concave to better withstand the gass pressure created by the training charge. The lower part of the head that held the threads was pressed on the upper and secured with 6 rivets. The thicker metal used for the head compensated the weight for the missing explosives. Both the head and the raincoat on the handle was painted red, for ease of observation once thrown and to avoid confusing it with a real Stielhandgranate 24. The handle had a reinforced thread cap to better withstand the gas pressure, and was marked with "Ueb" or "Üb" in the same area as the standard markings applied to the handle. The first generation had a Trageöse riveted to the head, resembling the original but much sturdier. The production of the Übungs-Stielhandgranate 24 followed the standard production, with the same simplifications to the manufacturing proces.
Reichswehr soldiers posing, ready for training. There are four Übungs-Stielhandgranaten visible in the picture.
The handling and priming of the Übungs-Stielhandgranate 24 was done in the same manner as the Stielhandgranate, except for the fact that the detonator was exchanged for a Übungsladung 24 or 30.
See pages 21 to 27 in the publication "Die Handgranate 24 und das Handgranatenwerfen".
The Übungsladung 24 consisted of a laquered cardboard tube filled with 2.7 grams of blackpowder. According to the manual above it was delivered allready attached and sealed to the Brennzünder 24. No picture of the Übungsladung 24 is known to exist. This training charge must have been unsatisfactory, both in construction and handling, as the replacement came swiftly. The new model was called the Übungsladung 30. The standard Brennzünder 24 could now be used, as the mushroom-shaped Übungsladung 30 simply screwed on to the end of the Brennzünder, replacing the detonator in the live handgrenade. The mushroom contained a charge of blackpowder and was constructed to disintegrate into a few, large pieces that would be too big to escape through the gas-escape holes in the head.
The text above is from the 1940 dated manual named "Waffentechnische Unterrichtsbuch" by Schmitt. It states that the Übungs-Stielhandgranate 24 did not come in a special box, but old transportation boxes for the Stielhandgranate 24 could be used. Also worth noting is the information that "Tragefedern for Übungs-Stielhandgranaten will not be delivered, the units must use the ones supplied for the Stielhandgranaten 24."
During training manouvers in 1928 it was reported that too few of the special springs were available for the troops.
The same publication also describes the Trageöse and the fact that it will be discontinued, 7 years after it actually was removed from production....
No signs of a Übungs-Stielhandgranate resembling the Stielhandgranate 43 has ever been observed.
The fragmentation sleeve
The Stielhandgranate 24 contained 165 grams of explosives, and would have a fatal effect on personell within a radius of a few meters from the blast. The thin metal casing only gave off a small element of fragmentation. The idea behind the Stielhandgranate 24 was that it was an offensive weapon, and should not be a danger to the user himself. Well into Russia the Wehrmacht quickly found out that the enemy possesed handgrenades with much better effect than their own.
The RGD 33, the Russian equivalent to the Stielhandgranate 24.
It had a detachable fragmentation sleeve that could be used when the thrower had good cover, for example when under attack in trenches. The information about this grenade with the detachable fragmentation sleeve was reported from the front directly back to the Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler, who had his own informants in the Waffen SS units fighting on the southern part of the Eastern front. And that was the start of the strange story about the fragmentation sleeve for the Stielhandgranate 24. The SS-Waffenamt, responsible for the weapons and equipment used by the Waffen SS, with its leader SS-Oberführer Gärtner was against the idea from the start. A direct order from the Reichsführer SS (RfSS) to develop a copy of the Russian construction was issued on 16. June 1942. In a memorandum dated 11. July the same year the SS-Waffenamt informs the SS-Führungsamt that a fragmentation sleeve has allready been developed, but only for use with a mechanism used to launch handgrenades from permanent fortified positions. A fragmentation sleeve for the Stielhandgranate 24 had not been developed due to several reasons. The device would be lethal for all personell within a radius of 100 meters, not only killing the thrower but all his fellow soldiers. This would make it unsuitable for anything but trench warfare. Further on it would increase the weight of the grenade, de-creasing the throwing distance possible, and it would mean a higher consumption of steel by the industry. According to the document, the RfSS had been informed and accepted the negative information, but had still ordered development and testing of a prototype. The Heeres Waffen-amt was informed about the project on 13. July 1942 and invited to participate, but the Chief of Staff of the Heeres Waffen-amt, Oberst Löhr, was also against the idea, using the same arguments. But on 7. January 1943 a new letter from Oberst Löhr to SS-Oberführer Gärtner informed him that the Heeres Waffen-amt had completely changed their mind; the danger to the thrower was by then viewed as acceptable if he took cover. Due to this, the Heeres Waffen-amt had started developing a model based on the RGD 33 fragmentation sleeve with pre-cut squares. But in the mean time Generalmajor Gerloff of the Technischen SS- und Polizei Akademie had developed a new version that was supposed to be less lethal for the thrower. It consisted of a smooth circular spring with the thickness of 1,5 mm that would be attached to the head simply by the built in tension of the steel. This model had allready been shared with the Heeres Waffenamt, but they had obviously decided to develop their own model. Despite this the SS-Waffenamt sent the Heeres Waffenamt 100 examples of their smooth sleeve for trials in January 1943. A head from the Stielhandgranate 24 was set off with a electric detonator, and plywood boards of 20 mm and 40 mm thickness were set up at different distances, used to count the number of hits and penetration ability of the fragments.
The SS model resulted in more, but lighter fragments, loosing it's effect beyond 10 meters. The Heeres Waffenamt concluded that the best fragmentation sleeve would be the one developed by Richard Rinker (the Heeres model), as it was decided that the thrower would be using the grenade from cover. The SS model was described as "considerably easier and quicker to manufacture in large numbers", but not likely to wound the enemy standing more than 15 meters away from the blast.
The SS Waffenamt and the Heeres Waffenamt ended up with different conclusions, as their criteria were different from the start. The Heer wanted a fragmentation sleeve that would have the maximum of effect, since they would only be thrown by personel that had sufficient cover in the defensive rolle. The SS wanted a fragmentation sleeve that would be effective during assault without danger to the thrower.
In a letter dated 18 February 1943 the approbation of the Heeres model was announced by the Heeres Waffenamt "without further trials by the troops". But since the tooling and machinery for the Heeres model would take some time to organize, it was suggested in the same document that production of the SS model should start as soon as possible as a "stop-gap" measure. This lead to the peculiar situation that the procurement office of the Heer actually ordered both models made.
The distribution method and number of fragmentation sleeves had allready been suggest in a letter dated 3. February 1943 (above) from the Chef des Heeresrüstung to the Chef des Infanterie. 5 out of the 15 Stielhandgranate 24 in a standard transport box would be pre-fitted with the fragmentation sleeve at the factory. With a monthly production output of up to 1 million Stielhandgranaten 24 this meant a corresponding monthly production of 330.000 fragmentation sleeves.
The transportation boxes were marked with the new contents as shown above to the left (this picture was printed in the Recognition handbook for German ammunition, April 1945, published by SHAEF). There was also a loose leaf (Merkblatt) in the box with the appropriate warnings, and instructions for removal of the sleeve if the handgrenades would be used without the fragmentation sleeve. Of interest is the much lower "danger zone". When the SS-Waffenamt was against the initial idea they claimed the radius to be 100 meter, but this warning label claims 30 meter.
A Fallschirmjäger armed with a FG42 and two Stielhandgranate 24, pictured by Kriegsberichter Arthur Grimm somewhere in France during the summer of 1944. Note that one out of the two handgrenades has been fitted with the SS-model of the fragmentation ring.
Both models shown above. The Heeres model was manufactured by Richard Rinker in 1943, marked "brb 43", it is shown with the attaching ring open. The SS-model is slightly shorter than the head and held only by the friction created by the spring tension. The sleeve could be pushed all the way down or attached at the end, like the picture of the Fallschirmjäger above shows. Both models are painted ordnance green on both the inside and outside. The SS model carries no marking.
The Heeres model was made from rolled sheet metal of "Thomas-qualität" that was welded to a tubular shape, with the welding seam visible on the inside. It would then be heated and the pattern was rolled into it, creating slightly irregular squares. Then the ring was fitted, with the three springs in turn spot-welded in position, and finally the whole assembly painted.
The makers code on the fragmentation sleeve was pressed into one of the squares closest to the bottom edge (with the attaching springs).
The lower picture above shows the text "Do 3/1944" inked on the body of a brb44 fragmentation sleeve.
The fragmentation sleeve is mounted on a matching 1944 brb. It is very likely that Richard Rinker stamped the explosive contents filling to the fragmentation sleeve after the sleeve was factory mounted to the grenade head.
The picture above shows a complete transport frame offered for sale at the SOS 2015. Note how the fragmentation rings of the SS-model have just been put on the handle, most probably by the seller to better display his merchandise.
Packing material & transport
A german POW at work sorting and defusing grenades. Both models of the transport box are visible.
The Stielhandgranate 24 was shipped, handled and stored in two different transport boxes; one wooden and one made from steel. Both boxes contained 15 Stielhandgranaten 24, one box of 15 Brennzünder 24 and one box of 15 Sprengkapseln Nr. 8. Both due to stability and safety the handgrenades were not assembled until they had reached the units and were needed.
The first model of the transport box was made like a suitcase. It contained a separate rack that held the grenades in spring clips and had separate pockets for the detonators and fuses. If needed, the grenades could be carried in the rack alone.
The second model was made of wood. It had a detachable lid on both sides and an internal rack that held the grenades. There were also two separate compartments for the boxes containing the fuses and detonators.
Autumn 1943. Stielhandgranaten 24 is distributed among soldiers of the Legion Freies Arabien in Greece. Note the wooden transport box.
A 1945-dated, simplified transport box for 15 Stielhandgranaten 43. This box was constructed with only one lid and is missing the interior, which must have been detachable.
Any box would do of course. The grenades in this picture from Monte Cassino, early 1944, has been placed in a standard "Patronenkasten 88" box. The picture was taken by Kriegsberichter Wahner, which undoubtebly "arranged" the picture. The grenades actually belong in a standard wooden box that is situated behind the gunner, and would not do well in the "line of fire".
The normal way to transport the Stielhandgranat 24 was to tuck it inside the belt.
Other alternative carrying methods. The bicycle rider has tied a string to each handle and slung them around his neck. The Unterfeldwebel in the centre picture has, very unusually, placed a grenade upside-down behind his belt. The Luftwaffe guard has tucked 4 grenades behind his Y-straps.
A set of specially constructed bags xxxxxxxxxxx
The German infantry bicycle had a box mounted within the frame that would take a box of 250 rounds of MG ammunition, or three Stielhandgranaten 24. In this picture from a temporary manual it is shown with the Übungsstielhandgranate 24.
As long as the classical "Knobelbecher" marching boots were distributed and used, the Stielhandgranaten could be worn inside the boot.
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