White phosphorous

Discussion in 'Weapons, Technology & Equipment' started by Steve Leach, Jun 23, 2011.

  1. Steve Leach

    Steve Leach Strategy junkie

    I've read a couple of accounts online about the use of white phosphorous in munitions during ww2 and it sounds like nasty stuff.

    In one account I read that an allied tanker shot a round into an abandoned bank in which the Germans had set up an anti tank gun.

    Apparently all that was left of them after that was their shoes.

    Was this stuff legal to use in the war? Once it starts burning it doesn't stop and if it happens to hit your skin it will burn right through you!
     
  2. Jakob Kjaersgaard

    Jakob Kjaersgaard Senior Member

    Nasty stuff it was. Must be an awful slow way to go.

    I remember reading in Anthony Beevor's D-day book about a Tommy during operation Epsom in Normandy, who was advancing towards a german mortarposition. A german mortar hit nearby him, causing his phosphorusgrenade which he was carrying in his backpack to go off. The soldier next to him watched him die in agony for a few minutes.
     
  3. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Was this stuff legal to use in the war?


    Nowadays only if used as a smoke screen.

    The Geneva Treaty of 1980 stipulates that white phosphorus should not be used as a weapon of war in civilian areas, but there is no blanket ban under international law on its use as a smokescreen or for illumination

    Quote from here.
    Times Online article
     
  4. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    This from my diary:

    Wednesday 2nd. May 1945
    Jerry threw his hand in in Italy & Austria. Fired all our 2" mortars, phosphorous bombs & verey lights & had bonfires all over the shop.
    Cease fire about 11 pm.



    If I can trust my memory, the phosphorous shells were 2" in diameter and intended to be fired from the 2" mortar to produce a smoke screen.
     
  5. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Here you go Ron,
    2-inch mortar - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Ammunition type (+ round weight and colour)
    High explosive (HE): 2.25 lb (1.02 kg) - olive drab body, red band
    White phosphorus smoke (WP SMK): 2.25 lb (1.02 kg) - dark green body
    Titanium tetrachloride smoke (FM SMK): 2 lb (0.91 kg) - dark green body
    Illumination (ILL): 1 lb (0.45 kg) - drab khaki (light OD) body
    Signal Multi Star: 1 lb (white 2 lb) - light stone (grey) body


    Photos of Examples here.
    Visual Collector Links - WWII British Mortar Rounds, Mines and PIAT Rounds
     
  6. Jedburgh22

    Jedburgh22 Very Senior Member

    WP or WILLY PETER was still in use in the 1970s by most armies - in grenade form good for clearing enemy from behind cover or in buildings but nasty stuff to be on the receiving end off.
     
  7. Wills

    Wills Very Senior Member

    White Phosphorous - Instantaneous smoke.

    Grenade No 77
    2008429152828_WP_N77_1.jpg

    2in_mortar.jpg 2 inch

    1943 - Grenade No 77 something you would want to heave a long way! A small charge disperses 8 Oz of WP which produces instant smoke. It will on contact burn itself through organic material.

    2 inch WP Smoke I last used it near Imber (Salisbury Plain)early 70s. A sweet cloying taste in your mouth as you go through it.

    We were instructed that these weapons were not 'direct fire weapons' but if enemy casualties occurred so be it!

    The same rules applied for tracer! Ridiculous legal speak. You are not to use tracer as a direct fire round! Nonsense of course. On fighting patrols as a section commander I would ensure the top round of the magazines of all riflemen was a tracer round. Come under fire and a riflemen sees the contact - rather than give a long winded fire control order. he shouts WATCH MY TRACER and engages. That apparently is legal. I suspect that had I hit a non combatant the lawyers would have pinned me to the wall.

    WW2 it was listed as Anti personnel and Incendiary.
     
  8. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    Owen

    'Oos a clever lad ?.................... and come to think about it, who needs a memory when chaps like you can find me pics of the bloody stuff in the twinkling of an eye :)

    Many thanks !

    Ron
     
  9. Smudge

    Smudge Member

    Hi Steve

    We were taught that WP, used to provide instant smoke screens as oppposed to smoke grenades that took a while to build up, would burn right through you. The only thing that would stop it was complete immersion in water. Upon contact with the air it would re-ignite so it would have to be dug out with a sharp blade ( bayonet) while in the water.

    I wouldn't fancy either.

    Smudge
     
  10. Wills

    Wills Very Senior Member

    Yes the No 83 Hand Grenade Smoke (coloured smoke is a slow smoke generator) the No 77 was instantaneous. the WP dispersed, a dull pop as the WP was discharged and you got a pretty umbrella of particles trailing thick white smoke over about five metres. A dangerous piece of kit if the thrower did not heave it far enough away - impact fuse. I can still taste the saccharine sweet chemical taste of the smoke. Not good on areas of dry scrub, the whole shooting match would be covered in smoke then!



    untitled.png


    gren76.jpg

    Grenade 76 SIP Self Igniting Phosphorous - Home Guard issue (Ye gods)
     
  11. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    WP or WILLY PETER was still in use in the 1970s by most armies - in grenade form good for clearing enemy from behind cover or in buildings but nasty stuff to be on the receiving end off.

    Steven,

    My late father would vouch for your comment, as he was on the receiving end of a phospherous grenade whilst on overseas training at Middleton Camp in Lancashire.

    A misdirected grenade thrown and landed in the rear of his transport truck.

    He was lucky and received only splash burns to the face but it could have been so much different as a colleague next to him was apparently killed by the main force of the explosion.

    He was doubly lucky that the RAF had taken over the nearby Middland Hotel on the Morcambe Promonade and was being used as a burns hospital.

    Regards
    Tom
     
  12. Steve Leach

    Steve Leach Strategy junkie

    Nasty stuff it was. Must be an awful slow way to go.

    I remember reading in Anthony Beevor's D-day book about a Tommy during operation Epsom in Normandy, who was advancing towards a german mortarposition. A german mortar hit nearby him, causing his phosphorusgrenade which he was carrying in his backpack to go off. The soldier next to him watched him die in agony for a few minutes.

    Ouch! That must have happened more than once. I wonder how many squaddies decided to deploy theirs early to avoid such a fate.
     
  13. Mike L

    Mike L Very Senior Member

    In Cornelius Ryan's A Bridge Too Far there is an account of a British Airborne Officer found at the edge of a drop zone with terrible wounds from tracer rounds. Still alive, he was rumoured to have been left with a pistol to end his agony. Ryan does not disclose the Officer's identity to avoid distress to the family.

    Wills - isn't one problem with tracer that 'it works both ways' i.e. it reveals your position?
     
  14. Wills

    Wills Very Senior Member

    Mike L. Tracer does not ignite until it has travelled for 100 metres. If he has fired on you, your position is known. The 7.62mm NATO ingnited at 100 and burned out at 1100.


    Looking up .303 Tracer - crikey, there are so many types! Admirality had a different spec to army. Short burn and long - 1000yds - dark ignition (first 100yds) bright burn (flame) and on it goes!
     
  15. Mike L

    Mike L Very Senior Member

    Good point Wills
     
  16. Steve Leach

    Steve Leach Strategy junkie

    Here's an extract from one story I found:

    Peter Cottingham:

    We got in the ditch and one of the guys, about two from me, had some white phosphorous [incendiary] grenades in his pack, which was sticking up a little bit and a machine gun bullet hit it and burned him in half. It was a pretty bad spot.

    Yikes!
     
  17. Tab

    Tab Senior Member

    We always carried the Phosphorous Grenades and the Phosphorous Smoke Grenades as they were great for clearing buildings and pill boxes and we were still using them in the 1957
     
  18. Chris Lock

    Chris Lock Junior Member

    And we were still wanging off 120mm WP rounds from our Chieftains in the mid 70,s.
    I remember watching a Sqn WP shoot on a hill at BATUS and thanking my lucky stars I wasn't in a slit trench under that lot. Smoke screen or devastating infantry killer, it works either way!
     
  19. Wills

    Wills Very Senior Member

    BATUS - happy days - not so worried about you boys, it was the bloody mortar boys dropping shot just to our front. The sound of artillery rounds parting the air and air bursting or hitting the ground to your front. In reality it was just what the training was all about trust in other arms. Our poor old Mk 1 AFV 432 trying to keep up with a Chieftain at full chat - no chance! 5 Skins with our battle group.
     
  20. Warlord

    Warlord Veteran wannabe

    Which stuff was more effective, and in general, better: White phosphorous or napalm?
     

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