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K Ronson

Grenade training accidents

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Last week, a friend was kind enough to post details of an accident during grenade training that led to 3 deaths.

We were already aware of an accident on 4th November 1916 near to Vismes au Val again during training away from the front.

Can anyone out there tell us anything about the 5 victims? They were:

WT Kerns MM (1975) Lancashire Fusiliers

WJ Pye (37140) Lancashire Fusiliers

H Smethurst (28165) Lancashire Fusiliers

J Taylor (37695) Lancashire Fusiliers

John Munro (M2/032195) Army Service Corps (11th Field Ambulance)

The first 3 were killed and the two others were injured and died later.

Were such accidents common? The two that we know about were geographically close together.

Thanks in advance for your time and assistance.

Kevin and Bren

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Hello Kevin and Bren,

They can't have been that uncommon.

I have three seperate incidents on file from Crowborough Camp, which resulted in Coroners Inquests.

Phil

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One man I researched spent time in Camiers hospital as a result of a grenade during training....maybe not rare

Peter

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For someone with small hands, a Mills bomb is quite bulky. It is very easy to pull the grenade from one's hand while pulling the pin from the grenade. The elaborate precautions taken nowadays and for quite a few years back, when training, are an indication of how easy it is to have an accident and suggest a long history of such accidents. That is with one of the safest grenades used. In the hands of a novice, a percussion grenade would be deadly dangerous. Grenade instructors ought to have had a medal all to themselves.

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Worth a read - ther are nearly 20 pages odd (including numerous illustrations - not of bombs though) about bombers and bomb schools in the book Harry's War by Harry Stinton 2002 Dag Publications Lts ISBN 1 85753 317 8.

In one instance, he describes attempting to throw a bomb with a 10 second fuse. Being in a trench with his instructor, he prepares to throw and, in drawing his arm back, hits his hand on the frozen soil on the back of the trench and he drops the bomb. The bomb rolls under the duckboards and everybody makes themselves scarce until it goes off and the instructor then does a head count. No casualties on this occasion.

He also says that when he volunteered to be a bomber, his mates told him he was joining the Suicide Club.

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Worth a read - ther are nearly 20 pages odd (including numerous illustrations - not of bombs though) about bombers and bomb schools in the book Harry's War by Harry Stinton 2002 Dag Publications Lts ISBN 1 85753 317 8.

In one instance, he describes attempting to throw a bomb with a 10 second fuse. Being in a trench with his instructor, he prepares to throw and, in drawing his arm back, hits his hand on the frozen soil on the back of the trench and he drops the bomb. The bomb rolls under the duckboards and everybody makes themselves scarce until it goes off and the instructor then does a head count. No casualties on this occasion.

He also says that when he volunteered to be a bomber, his mates told him he was joining the Suicide Club.

Thanks,

Kevin and Bren

For someone with small hands, a Mills bomb is quite bulky. It is very easy to pull the grenade from one's hand while pulling the pin from the grenade. The elaborate precautions taken nowadays and for quite a few years back, when training, are an indication of how easy it is to have an accident and suggest a long history of such accidents. That is with one of the safest grenades used. In the hands of a novice, a percussion grenade would be deadly dangerous. Grenade instructors ought to have had a medal all to themselves.

Thanks,

Kevin and Bren

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Lt Devenish was killed after his arm became entangled with that of the thrower during practice in the field. The grenade fell into the trench and he failed to get around the traverse in time.

In another incident a few moths later live grenades were being lobbed back and fore in practice (pins in) when one exploded and wounded several officers. Not too serious.

Both Swansea Bn incidents.

Bernard

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Were such accidents common?

Many of the MSM for "Gallantry in Performance of Military Duty" citations were for such accidents as were a number of Officer MBE awards {The MSM for Gallantry was instituted as the VC had been recommended/ awarded for an increasing number of such accidents & its standing was not wanted to be devalued}

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A chap on one of my local memorials died in a grenade training accident. - Doesn't appear that rare an occurance.

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In my files I have reference to members of the Connaught Rangers Training Battalion

being involved in such an incident with a Mills bomb in a practice session, one officer and three men

injured and died, in a training accident at Kinsale, County Cork, must dig it out and scan it.

Connaught Stranger.

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This is a fascinating thread for me as I have discovered that my grandfather, 17964 P J D'Hooghe 20th Hussars was injured in a grenade throwing practice accident in the village of Warne, near St Omer in Sept 1915. It appears on his hospital records and is mentioned in regimental records. The accident eventually resulted in the loss of his right eye and eventual discharge from the army in April 1917. In the 1960s my sister and I when young (and not old enough to understand), were always amazed to be able to see his glass eye in a glass of water at bed time!!

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I have the medal group to Pte Cyril Garrard from South Africa, 4th SAI. His service records show that he was wounded in a bombing accicent at Borden Camp 26/5/1916. On 25/7/1917 he was discharged as permanently medically unfit, with scars on wrist, stomach and face.

/Lars

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When I did a tour of the Salient a couple of years back we did a bit of research on at least 1 man per cemetery (c300 men in all). I cannot remember the exact numbers and don't have access to the data just now but a good number had been wounded in grenade training accidents or it was the direct cause of their death. From memory only a couple had been previously wounded by rifle or machine gun fire in training.

If I get the chance I will try to dig out the info.

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Regrettably a frequent occurence.

IIRC there's an incident mentioned in Robert Graves Goodbye To All That.

Grumpy can probably give the exact reference.

Cheers,

Mark

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Hi,

This is from Captain A C Brett MC journal while with the 3rd Battalion, The Connaught Rangers on 10th Nov 1915 at Kinsale, Cork.

Regards Mark

post-14045-1247756867.jpg

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This is what happened at Hurdcott Training Camp, as described by my Grandfather Thomas Kermode (8/32nd AIF and then D Company, 8th Training Bn) in one of his letters home. He was a grenade instructor for some months there. Doesn't seem like it was all that noteworthy as that is all he says about it. I am working on a web site and book, based on the 80 letters that survive from a 12 month period 1916/17 --

Data base ID: 1660; letter date:7/12/1916; Subject: Thomas Kermode Grenades, Mills, destructive power described;

Text: One was badly aimed the other day and fell among a number of men. Killed 2 & wounded ten.

Ed Kermode

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As I'm very interested in the Albert Medal (To my opinion, an lesser know and undervalued award), a lot were awarded after grenade accidents/incident.

Currently, i've no time to made a total list of them, but you can also read them on http://www.1914-1918.net/grandad/albert.htm

And in "Heroes of the Albert Medal" by Allan Stanistreet.

Maybe there names are somewhere in the accounts?

Some accounts, which are illustrating some mortal grenade incidents:

1 March 1917: Sergeant Michael Healy DCM MM and Bar, 2nd Royal Munster Fusiliers. Chuignolles. A War Office letter records the following:-"On 1st March, 1917, this non-commissioned officer, with a total disregard for his own personal safety and solely prompted by the desire to save his comrades, rushed to pick up a live bomb which had been thrown by a Private and which struck the parapet and rolled back into the trench near Lieutenant Roe and the Private. Sergeant Healy, fearing the party could not escape in time, made a most gallant attempt to seize and hurl the bomb from the trench. It exploded, however, and mortally wounded him. This was the last of Sergeant Healy's many acts of gallantry and devotion to duty". Buried in Bray Military Cemetery.

31 July 1917: Lieutenant Arthur Halstead MC, 10th Duke of Wellington's. Inglinghem, France. During instruction in the throwing of live bombs, a bomb was accidentally dropped. Lieutenant Halstead placed himself between the bomb and the soldier who had dropped it, in order to screen him, and tried to kick the bomb away, but it exploded, fatally wounding him. The soldier was slightly wounded, and there can be little doubt that Lieutenant Halstead's gallant action saved the soldier's life." He is buried in Longuenesse Souvenir Cemetery, St Omer. Albert Medal in Gold.

14 December 1917: Temporary Captain Charles Fiske, 7th Buffs. Margate, kent, England. Wounded when protecting a man in a grenade incident.

Kind regards!

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This is what happened at Hurdcott Training Camp...

Ed Kermode

The 2nd Hull Service Battalion, later the 11th East Yorkshire Regiment, were taught how to make home-made bombs from jam jars and condensed milk tins when at Hurdcott in late 1915; they were judged as lethal to their makers as to the enemy.

An Australian corporal was killed, and 10 men injured, during bomb-throwing practice at Codford Camp in November 1916.

In February 1915 a lance-corporal died, and three other soldiers were injured, when his hand caught the side of a trench at Chisledon Camp; the bomb fell and exploded.

Moonraker

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Hi.

You may find the following of some interest from some notes i put together as regards the actions of the 7th Yorkshire Regiment in August 1915.

This unfortunate accident occured whilst the battalion were training at Reninghelst.

I believe this incident had very far reaching consequences as regards the further production and use of the 'Pitcher' Bomb, ultimately leading to the withdrawal of this design.

'After resuming training, on the 19th, an unfortunate accident occured as an exercise in bomb throwing was taking place. A 'Pitcher' Bomb, either a No. 13 or No. 14, a type of early hand grenade with the propensity to detonate 'early' as a tape was pulled that ignited a primitive fuse, exploded in the hand of Private James Cull killing him instantaneously. The ensuing explosion also wounded Second-Lieutenants Thomas Large and George Preston and 2 Other Ranks. It was ascertained after a Court of Enquiry that the bomb had been correctly prepared for use. On the pulling of the tape, the spark from the ignition lighter bypassed the fuse to the detonator causing the grenade to explode prematurely. Instead of the six second delay enabling the bomber to 'pitch' the grenade forward to its alloted target, the explosive charge had detonated.'

All the best.

Chris.

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This example, involving one of my nan's cousins (Douglas Arthur Albert Phillips - see my signature) happened in the frontline.

From the War Diary of the 1st Royal Marine Battalion, RMLI for August 1916; the battalion was then in the Angres sector (sourced from Campaigners for War Grave Commemorations website):

10th August: ...........2 ORs accidentally wounded by premature explosion of a Rifle Grenade.

13th August: ..........A Court of Enquiry was held to investigate & report the circumstances under which the following were accidentally wounded. Ch 18660 Pte. DAA Phillips & Ply(S) Pte. T. Welsh. President Lt. & (T) Capt. WA Pinkerton RMLI. Members (T) 2nd Lt. Wm. Hodding RM & (T) 2nd Lt. R. West RM . The finding of the Court was:- That the above named Ptes. were wounded by the premature explosion of a Newton Pippin Rifle Grenade................

I wonder if this was a common occurance with these rifle grenades?

Private Welsh, as far as I'm aware, survived the war. Douglas was wounded in the hand during the attack on the Ancre on 13th November, and was later sadly killed in action at River Trench on the first day of the Battle of Miraumont, 17th February 1917.

All the best

Steve

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From the 1st Battalion Wiltshire regiment diary

1st Wiltshire Saturday 12th June 1915 Belgium, Near Ypres

Rest, during the afternoon an accident occurred with a [?] LZDDITE Grenade killed 2nd Lieut Stansfield-Smith and one man and wounded 23 others.

Best regards

Bob

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477550 Sergeant Walter Lowe, MM, of The Royal Canadian Regiment died of wounds following a grenade training accident, October 1916.

His story, including the transcription of the Court of Enquiry conducted atthe Canadian Corp Bombing School can be seen here.

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Its been awhile since I have read the book "My Funny Little War" by a French Army officer. I believe it does mention that French Handgrenades of WW I could be as dangerous to their throwers as the enemy.

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My Dad was almost killed during grenade training during World War II. A sergeant was taking two men at a time to a foxhole -- first one guy would throw his grenade and then the other would throw. The U.S. grenades then were supposed to be held for about two seconds after the lever (spoon) was released before it was thrown. When Dad and another guy were summoned to the foxhole the other guy was so shaking and nervous that he tossed his grenade without waiting. The sergeant had just opened his mouth to chew him out when, KABOOM, the grenade went off prematurely. Had he waited like he was supposed to all three of them would have been killed.

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I have just finished researching a man who was killed firing a No23 rifle grenade. His blank cartridge miss-fired and the grenade exploded still attached to his rifle.

Aye

Malcolm

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