German trench mortar

artefact

FIRST WORLD WAR

The German grenade-thrower was officially designated “Granatenwerfer 16” and the grenade “Wurfgranate 16”.

This German Trench Mortar was made by Maschinanfabrik Alfred Wolff, Berlin SW68 and shows a four fin grenade.

The Granatenwerfer 16 was a spigot-type mortar. These consisted of a solid rod or spigot; the grenade has a hollow base which fits over the spigot. The weapon was fired by using a lanyard connected to the trigger mechanism at the base of the spigot. This fires the primer, a blank rifle cartridge, which ignites the propellant at the top of the hollow base and launches the grenade.

The grenade (Wurfgranate 16) was a basic high-explosive grenade with a segmented head allowing for easy fragmentation. French soldiers nicknamed them “pigeons” because of the unique warbling sound made by the grenade as it descended.

First produced at the end of 1915, it was deployed with German infantry companies. It weighed about 40 kilogrammes and could send its standard 1.9 kilo grenade about 450 metres. The launcher (Granatenwerfer) was normally sited in either the first or second row of trenches. It was most effective when employed in batteries of four with at least eight battery positions in each company sector. They were spaced 15 to 20 metres apart so that a single shell could not put more than one of them out of action. With a trained crew each mortar was capable of launching 250 - 300 grenades an hour.