How to throw a hand grenade : British Army weapons training

Discussion in 'Weapons, Technology & Equipment' started by dbateson, Oct 29, 2013.

  1. dbateson

    dbateson Junior Member

    Does anyone know how the British army taught soldiers how to throw a hand grenade (such as a No. 36 'Mills bomb')?

    I would like to understand the technique and perhaps see it or read a description of what the official army training manual said (looking at the early war years 1939/40).

    Thanks db
     
  2. DPas

    DPas Member

    It depended on where they were. I know some of the Infantry Training Centres had trenches and ranges. That was one. The other was they would train for street fighting (urban combat). Some would use bombed out buildings if available (although this would be later in the time period to what you are talking about).

    Here is a link about street fighting training in general

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/51562865/World-War-II-Street-Fighting-Tactics

    I cannot quite remember, but I think this chap (James Corr from DLI) mentions something about learning to throw grenades from trenches on Reel 2

    http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/80012803

    Hope this helps,
    Dave
     
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  3. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

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  4. AB64

    AB64 Senior Member

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  5. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Dbateson

    As I recall when we were being trained on Tanks - we still had to do the Infantry training as well and so it was off to the battle school at Barnard Castle to throw grenades

    now the procedure at that time was that you stood in the slit trench with your left shoulder facing down the range - hands cupping the grenade at your belt - on the order - the pin was pulled -

    then the grenade holding arm was extended to the rear holding in the trigger - and the grenade thrown as far as possible - overarm - meanwhile ducking and rising to see the fall of the exploding

    grenade…...very simple BUT….not everyone fully understood that the grenade would explode in either four or eleven seconds….so my best friend Frank Alison managed to hit the back wall with his

    extended arm - and dropped the grenade--- and never had so few ran so fast in such a short time as that next few seconds…..

    the next time was even more tragic as on yet another grenade throwing - the live grenade was again dropped - and Major Kempster threw himself on the grenade thus saving others from injury

    he was killed and awarded the GC- this was in August '43 when we were at Pentheverie near Bone. Algeria

    Cheers
     
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  6. dbateson

    dbateson Junior Member

    Thank you very much, DPas, CL1, AB64 & Tom Canning for sharing your knowledge and experience. db
     
  7. Red Goblin

    Red Goblin Senior Member

    From a Home Guard perspective, much the same as SAT v1 p13 but with additional procedure for throwing from a prone position. Dad had the 1942 grenade pamphlet amongst his SAT collection but also a couple of HG-specific books and some HG course notes worth part-quoting :-
    • Apr 1941 (2nd ed.) - The Home Guard Training Manual
      Based by permission on War Office Instruction Books
      (edited by John Langdon-Davies and revised by General Sir A Godley)
      John Murray & the Pilot Press

      "SECTION VIII
      "HAND GRENADES"

      "
      3. How to Throw. Grenades are thrown with the same arm action as that of an over-arm bowler at cricket. This enables you to propel them with a high trajectory, which is suitable for their purpose of attacking over obstacles such as barricades. As they are meant entirely for close-quarters fighting, there is no point in trying to throw them very far; it is much more important to get accuracy than length of throw.
      " It is important that every man should learn to throw the grenade with the movement which comes most natural to him. He must cultivate a free natural body swing rather than any set of drilled movements. During grenade practice you must make a point of accurately observing where the grenade falls. You will practice throwing over a high wire, and from behind cover, both standing and in a lying position. You will throw into circles marked on the ground, always remembering that you are throwing at an enemy who is behind cover.
      " Only one man will throw at a time. No man will throw without a direct order: grenades will never be thrown from man to man. No man will attempt to catch a grenade: no man will pick up a grenade which has been thrown, until ordered to do so.
      " These instructions must be rigidly obeyed, in order that, from the very start, you will instinctively learn to treat grenades with respect. There is no need to be nervous with a grenade, however, as long as you understand it.
      " 4. Throwing practice with live grenades will only take place on a grenade range and under a qualified instructor as defined in Instruction Leaflet No. 28."

      "EXERCISES
      "1. - Standing Position.
      " 1. Ready Position. Pick up a grenade. Hold it in the right hand, base downwards, the lever under the base of the fingers, the thumb just below the filling screw gripping it firmly. Place the first or second finger of the left hand through the ring of the safety pin - the hands with the knuckles uppermost and close to the waist. Face the target, turn to the right and balance the body by carrying off the left foot towards the target.
      " 2. Prepare to throw. Keeping the left arm still and close to the body, withdraw the pin (during practice go through the action of withdrawing the pin) by thrusting the right hand downwards and backwards. Glance at the shoulders of the grenade to see that the hole pin has been drawn out. Keep the pin until the grenade has been thrown.
      " 3. Throw. Fix the eyes on, or in the direction of the target, keeping the left shoulder pointing at the target. Slightly bend the right knee. Swing back as far as possible, allowing the left arm (and foot if necessary) to come up naturally. Without a pause swing quickly forward, keeping the right arm upright and deliver the grenade.
      " NOTE. When throwing in open country lie down at once after throwing to avoid fragments.
      "2. - Lying Position.
      " 1. Ready Position. Lie face downwards directly towards the target. Hold the grenade as in the standing position, both hands close under the chin, elbows outward.
      " 2. Prepare to throw. Remove the pin as before.
      " 3. Throwing. Place the hands in a natural position for pressing up, keeping the pin in the left hand. Press quickly up. Keeping the left knee on the ground, swing the body quickly back, allowing the left arm to come up and the right leg to go back naturally. Keeping the eyes and left shoulder on the line of the target, swing forward, right arm as upright as possible, and deliver the grenade. Quickly lie down."
    • Nov 1942 (3rd ed.) - Training Course for Home Guard Instructors
      ... The Technique of Bomb Throwing ...
      (written & published by Capt. C A Marques, MBE School Commandant Gt Amwell)

      "CHAPTER VI
      "BOMBING
      " Grenades in the hands of men who have been trained to drop them where they hurt most - men who have had fear replaced by confidence - are very powerful weapons of attack. In the hands of untrained me they are a danger and a waste of ammunition.
      " Get to know your strength. Never try to hit a 40-yard target when you know jolly well you cannot reach 30 yards - wait for a target within your range, or get within range of your target.
      " Realise the great power of each grenade against the enemy, and yet know there is no need to fear its strength yourself if you know how to take cover.
      "* H.E. No. 36."

      "THROWING GRENADE: STANDING POSITION.
      " "Ready position." Pick up grenade. Hold it in the right hand, base downwards, the lever under the base of the fingers, the thumb just below the filling screw, gripping it firmly. Place the first or second finger of the left hand through the ring of the safety pin - the hands with the knuckles uppermost and close to waist. Face target, turn to right and balance body by carrying off left foot towards target.
      " "Prepare to throw." Keeping left arm still and close to body, withdraw pin (during practice go through the action of withdrawing the pin) by thrusting right hand downwards and backwards. Glance at the shoulders of the grenade to see that the hole pin has been drawn out. Keep the pin until the grenade has been thrown.
      " "Throw." Fix the eyes on the target, keeping left shoulder pointing at target. Slightly bend right knee. Swing back as far as possible, allowing left arm to come up naturally. Without a pause swing quickly forward, bringing right arm upright and over, and deliver the grenade.
      "THROWING GRENADE: PRONE POSITION.
      " "Ready Position." Lie face downwards towards target. Hold grenade as in standing position, both hands close under chin, elbows outward.
      " "Prepare to throw." Remove pin as before.
      " Throwing. Place the hands in a natural position for pressing up, keeping the pin in the left hand. Press quickly up. Keeping the left knee on the ground, swing the body quickly back, allowing the left arm to come up and the right leg to go back naturally. Keeping the eyes and left shoulder on the line of the target, swing forward, right arm as upright as possible, and deliver the grenade. Observe fall of grenade. Quickly lie down.
      "POINTS WHICH WILL ASSIST BEGINNERS IN BECOMING EXPERT THROWERS.
      "(From the writer's personal experience.)
      " Do not look back longer than is necessary to make certain that the safety pin has been withdrawn.
      " Get your eyes on the target as soon as possible, and keep them there until after the grenade strikes the ground.
      " Concentrate absolutely on the target.
      " Adopt an easy attitude, with feet not too far apart (27" being ample), left shoulder pointing to target, left arm up and made to act as lever bringing the left shoulder down towards the target.
      " Bend the right knee as required, and keep the hips back slightly, giving a slackness. If the hips are forward the action is stiff and cramped.
      " Get as much power as possible by straightening the right knee at the beginning of the throw.
      " Follow through, pointing and looking at the target after the grenade has left the hand.
      " When throwing from the prone position, bring the right heel up to a position 6" behind the left knee; keep the left knee on the ground and rise up on the hands. The thrower should now be sitting on the heel of the right boot, with the calf and thigh muscles touching and in compression, the left thigh and knee pointing to nine o'clock of the target. When about to throw, the grenade, right heel, left knee, left hand, and target, are almost in a straight line. Push the body away from the right heel by straightening the right knee, and follow on by bringing the right arm over towards the target: the left knee acts only as a pivot. The whole action is thus a natural one in a straight line all the way, and if the timing is done as above it will be found that a slightly built thrower can easily attain a length of 30 yards without straining."

      "PRACTICE 36 WITH FUSE AND CHARGE.
      " Make up powder bag containing ¼ oz. of powder with 2½" of safety fuse.
      " Take out base plug and place powder bag in grenade with fuse projecting through striker hole. Screw in base plug.
      " Thrower stands in "Prepare to throw" position while fuse is lit. After lighting, wait for orders "Ready position" - "Prepare to throw" - "Throw," which should take 2½ seconds, leaving 3¾ seconds for fuse to burn before exploding charge.
      " This practice gives men an idea of timing, and demonstrates that height is necessary."
    • 4 Jan 1943 - Home Guard course notes

      "Course ----- BOMBING"

      "
      '36' GRENADE (H.E.)"

      "
      EMPLOYMENT.
      "Ensure first that your comrades are under cover or know your intention to throw, so that they can fall flat, owing to the shrapnel.
      "Accuracy very essential. Better for grenade to fall slightly short of target than over, as it may thereby roll towards target & not away.
      "Lob it, do not "sling" or "chuck" it, unless necessary to to so under certain conditions. Lobbing lends itself to greater height & accuracy.
      "HOLDING.
      "Hold in throwing hand, with thumb on filling screw. (Note; Left-handed throwers may hold down striker lever & reverse safety pin, i.e. insert from the left).
      "Do not grip the grenade tightly, just use a nice steady grip, as gripping causes a lag in releasing the grenade.
      "Hold hand into hip until ready to throw, forefing (sic) of other hand hooked through ring on safety pin. Stand in a comforta (sic)
      "
      KEEP EYES ON TARGET.
      "When ready, extend throwing arm away from, & in line with target, putting weight on that foot & slightly bending knee. Withdraw pin, retaining the ring on forefinger, quickly glance down at grenade to make sure the pin is out & return eyes to target, then extend free hand towards & in line with target & when ready to throw the grenade overarm, releasing it just before coming overhead.
      "Counting 3, watch it fall & land, then duck behind your cover, if any, or fall flat on face.
      "Do not throw safety pin away, it may come in useful.
      "Note:- It is advisable to throw this grenade from behind cover, but can be thrown, so long as the thrower falls flat on the ground after throwing."
    Steve
     
  8. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    KEMPSTER, ANDRE GILBERT

    Rank:

    Major

    Service No:

    138804

    Date of Death:

    21/08/1943

    Regiment/Service:

    Royal Armoured Corps



    145th (8th Bn. The Duke of Wellington's Regt.; West Riding) Regt.

    Awards:

    G C

    Grave Reference

    II. D. 1.

    Cemetery

    BONE WAR CEMETERY, ANNABA

    Additional Information:



    Citation
    The London Gazette of 9th November, 1943, states that this officer was awarded the George Cross "in recognition of most conspicuous gallantry in carrying out hazardous work in a very brave manner." Major Kempster threw himself upon a live grenade to save the lives of recruits on the practice range at Phillipeville, Algeria.
    http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/938514/KEMPSTER,%20ANDRE%20GILBERT
     
  9. Joe Brown

    Joe Brown WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Tom:

    Excellent memory! Just how it was done.

    In 1942 when attached to the RAF for a few weeks as part of a infantry training cadre sent to Waterbeach in Cambridge to train the first echelons of the RAF Regiment in infantry tactics and weaponry, and was there to assisting the sergeant who was in charge of a squad of Senior WOs and NOCs practising throwing Mills 36 Grenades.

    The sergeant was in a trench and carrying out the procedure; left arm forward, and throwing overhand with the right, look where it landed and then duck below the trench.

    As they were unprimed grenades, I was not in a the trench but standing well to the right flank, observing. A Warrant Officer whilst aiming at the target failed to throw overhand and let his grenade leave his hand sideways which flew in my direction and struck me with considerable force on the side of the head.

    As I went into unconsciousness, I heard shouts of "Oh!" When I became conscious again in the airfield's underground hospital, an RAF officer wearing a DFC ribbon, was looking down into my face said aloud: "Oh, this 'brown job' is going to live!" I was left with a scar and my first grey hairs began to show!

    Regards,

    Joe
     
  10. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Joe

    Have you ever stopped to consider that had you been killed by the grenade, the cause of death might have been recorded as "killed by an unprimed grenade ?

    You were certainly most unlucky to have been hit in this manner but equally lucky to have survived a blow from one of these most unfriendly projectiles :)

    Glad you made it !

    Ron
     
  11. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Joe

    Thankfully ever after when grenades were mentioned - I stayed clear by a long way….but many saved lives as I recall in Italy by dropping on to a fallen grenade picked up by children

    but not recognized with a GC… Major Kempster was sadly missed as was his replacement who was promoted and KIA on his way to take command of "B" squadron..c'est la guerre

    Cheers
     
  12. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Did any of the vets actually find a use for a safety pin??

    TD
     
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  13. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    TD

    This seems to come under the heading of useless information as I can't visualize a worn out Infantryman slogging through the eternal mud with 50 odd grenade pins on his belt...

    Cheers
     
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  14. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    That what I would have thought, but someone in writing the instructions presumably had the thought that they could be used for something else - what, I have no idea - once the grenade has gone who cares what happens to the pin, but someone has given it some thought and knowing the humorous side of people perhaps they came up with some innovative uses for them ?? -


    TD
     
  15. ploughman

    ploughman Junior Member

    Grenade technique seems very similar to that, that I underwent 70s 80s.
    Our training site throw was from behind shaped brick walls.
    This with the instruction that if a live grenade is dropped within the brick wall then "Get Out Fast"
    The shaping of the wall deflecting the blast.

    As for the Grenade Pin.
    One use that a lot of Army personnel found was to attach to the zip on a combat jacket.
    This made it easier to zip up when wearing gloves in cold weather.
     
  16. Red Goblin

    Red Goblin Senior Member

    You may mock but I can think of two possibilities. Either my dad was overstating the obvious need to hang on to the pin, in case of needing to abort and replace it, or, being on the course en route to becoming a trainer and already an engineering draughtsman by trade, he was maybe thinking ahead to maintaining a stock of spares to replace training losses - Dad's Army is well-rooted in fact and you may care to recall the s3e4 episode The Bullet is Not for Firing as an object lesson in the difficulties faced in dealing with such shortages. And thanks ploughman for suggesting a third.
     
  17. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron

    I wouldn't be surprised if the pins were used as ear rings ... :)
     
  18. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    PLOUGHMAN

    You had gloves…..sheesh

    Cheers
     
  19. ploughman

    ploughman Junior Member

    I also had a heater that worked in the cab of my digger.
     
  20. BiscuitsAB

    BiscuitsAB Member

    The scary thing about the No 36 grenade was that it usually fell with its long axis pointing back at the thrower. This guaranteed that the largest, and most dangerous, fragments, that's the base plug and the shoulders around which the safety lever rotated, came back in the throwers direction.
     

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