|German stick grenade Model 24|
The Model 24 Stielhandgranate was the standard hand grenade of the German Army from the end of World War I until the end of World War II. The very distinctive appearance led to its being called a "stick grenade", or a "potato masher" in British Army slang, and is today one of the most easily recognized infantry weapons of the 20th century.
The stick grenade was introduced in 1915 and the design developed throughout World War I. A friction igniter was used; this method was uncommon in other countries but widely used for German grenades.
A pull cord ran down the hollow handle from the detonator within the explosive head, terminating in a porcelain ball held in place by a detachable base closing cap. To use the grenade, the base cap was unscrewed, permitting the ball and cord to fall out. Pulling the cord dragged a roughened steel rod through the igniter causing it to flare-up and start the five-second fuse burning. This allowed the grenade to be hung from fences to prevent them from being climbed; any disturbance to the dangling grenade would cause it to fall and ignite the fuse.
|Section of the Stielhandgranate Model 24.|
The first stick grenades featured a permanently revealed pull cord which came out from the handle near the bottom (rather than tucked inside the removable screw-capped base). These exposed pull cords had a tendency to accidentally snag and detonate the grenades while being carried, causing severe (usually fatal) injuries.
Stick grenades were stored in cases for transport, and their fuse assemblies inserted prior to going into combat — a reminder for the user was stenciled on each explosive charge ("VOR GEBRAUCH SPRENGKAPSEL EINSETZEN", in English: "Before use insert detonator").
This type of grenade, featuring a high explosive charge encased in a thin sheet steel can, is an example of an "offensive" (relying on blast effect), rather than "defensive" (fragmentation) grenade. A serrated fragmentation sleeve ("Splitterring") was adopted in 1942 which could be slid over the head of the grenade. Fragments of the sleeve would be scattered on detonation, making the grenade more effective against personnel.
The stick provided a lever, significantly improving the throwing distance. The Model 24 could be thrown approximately 30 to 40 yards, whereas the British Mills bomb could only be thrown about 15 yards. The design also minimized the risk of the grenade rolling downhill back towards the thrower when used in hilly terrain or in urban areas. However, the additional length of the handle meant that less of them could be carried.
The grenades were extremely useful for clearing out entrenched infantry positions. Although they were not individually very effective against armoured vehicles and fortifications, the grenade could be used in an improvised "bundle" style with another six explosive heads (without their sticks) wired around the central stick grenade. These were known as Geballte Ladung (literally "baled charge" or "concentrated charge").
The Stielhandgranate went through numerous variants, several versions being deployed in World War I before a settled design emerged in 1917. Into World War II the grenade had a slightly smaller head and the unnecessary belt clip was removed.
Each change was essentially a move towards a lighter device which was easier and less costly to manufacture, and to these ends the Model 24 was eventually superseded by the simpler Model 43 grenade, although the former continued to be used through to the end of the war.
Numerous Ersatz variations were developed towards the end of the war as Germany's resources and production capabilities dwindled. Other than the common high explosive (HE) stick grenade, Germany produced a smokescreen version, which existed in an early and later model and is easily identified by a white band around the handle and (on the later model) a grooved handgrip to permit a user to differentiate it from the regular explosive version in the dark by touch alone. As a cold climate could cause the Model 24 to fail to detonate, a special explosive powder was used in those destined for Russia, and these were marked with "K" (Kalt or "cold") on the can. Inert (non-exploding) training versions were also produced.
The stick grenade concept was also used in the Far East by the Imperial Japanese Army and the Chinese National Revolutionary Army in World War II, and later the Chinese Communists, who supplied the locally-manufactured "Type 67" to the NLF and People's Army of Vietnam.
|WWI German grenade and its Austro-Hungarian ceramic counterpart.|