Friday, 27 October 2017

Military History Photo Friday: The Volkshandgranate 45, A Grenade Made Out Of Concrete:

I've been reading Antony Beevor's excellent history book Berlin: The Downfall 1945 as part of my research for my Volkssturm novel. The Volkssturm were a German civilian militia formed in October 1944 in a last desperate bid to stop the Allied advance. The Volkssturm called up all able-bodied men aged 16 to 60 who weren’t already in uniform. It also called up some women.

A passing mention in Beevor's book told me of a weapon I didn't know about--the Volkshandgranate 45, or the "people's hand grenade 1945". This crude grenade was developed in the last months of the war and was the product of a chronic shortage of raw material. By this time most of the Third Reich's industrial base had been taken by the Russians, and the Germans resorted to making hand grenades out of concrete. These would be filled with bits of scrap metal, gravel, and nuggets of cement. The whole thing was fitted with a fuse and some explosive. Beevor says the Volkshandgranate 45 was more dangerous to the user than the target, and yet hundreds of thousands of them were produced in the last months of the war and distributed to the Volkssturm, Wehrmacht, and even some elite SS units.

It just goes to show how desperate the Third Reich had become in the last months of its existence. As the Nobel Prize winning author Heinrich Böll, who was drafted in to the army during the war, put it, the men were fighting not for their country, but for survival, and their only hope was that they would somehow survive after they were defeated.

1 comment:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That does seem like a bad idea for a grenade. You probably couldn't toss it very far.

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