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Imperial German Eierhandgranate 1917, WWI

Kugel / Egg Comparison

(Note - The smooth egg body is repainted.)

As WWI progressed, there was a need for a smaller grenade, something more portable than the heavy Kugel and less cumbersome than stick types.
Development started in late 1916 which lead to the introduction of the cast iron "Egg" grenade, Mle.1917. It was loaded with black powder, or other explosive fillers. The average soldier could be expected to reach distances of over 40 meters, which meant the Eierhandgranate could be used in an offensive role as well as defensive.
Egg Models

The smooth body proved difficult to hold with wet or muddy hands so the design was quickly modified, adding a raised center band for a better grip.
This is referred to as the Mle.1917 Na.

          Mle.1917                      Mle.1917Na                  Mle.1917Na (Var)

A different pattern of this grenade body has been observed, having a more pronounced segmented ring. There is no formal designation of this type, but it appears to be more than just a manufacturing variation.

Training and Practice Types

Egg Instructional Types German instructional grenades were also produced. These can be classified as training and practice types. A training type was for handling and throwing exercises, while the practice type contained a live delay fuze to add a degree of realism. At far left is a practice egg, which is hollow and has three vent holes in the base to allow gases to escape. This appears to be an original configuration and is interesting to note it has an earlier fuze.

Hand grenades were transported to the front in small crates, with fuzes removed. The Germans typically added a training type with a transport plug to those crates as well. Evidently this was to help with last minute instruction on how to fuze the grenades prior to being distributed to troops.

The characteristic red color was used to denote its instructional nature. This identification scheme was used by the French as well.

To counter the introduction of the Eierhandgranate, the British developed an "egg" type of their own. They made a greater effort on the concept however, exploring a number of ideas, The result was their No.34 series. Three different "marks" were eventually issued for service.

Shown here is the No.34 Mk.III next to its German counterpart. The No.34 used a percussion fuze... pull the pin and strike the plunger, which forced a firing pin down, hitting the internal fuze primer.
German & British Eggs
           Mle.1917Na      British No.34 Mk.III


Fuze Types
The Eierhandgranate was designed to use the same fuzes as found on the Kugel grenade. The first fuze, Model 1913, was machined from bronze. It evolved into more weather resistant designs.
These were igniting fuzes, where a final flash from the bottom set off the main explosive charge after the delay had burned through.

Although a late war development, Mle.1917 Eggs are often found with earlier fuze types.

- Friction (5 or 7 sec.), Bronze
Mle.1915 - Friction (8 sec.), Zinc Alloy
Mle.1915 - Friction (5 sec.), Zinc Alloy
Mle.1916 - Percussion (5 second)
- Friction (5 second)

Mle.1913 Cutaway
Mle.1917 Fuze
With the exception of the Mle.1916, these fuzes are all friction pull types. This type of fuze uses a friction sensitive ignition compound with a pull wire imbedded in it. A sharp pull on the wire ignited the compound, which in turn started the delay.

The Mle. 1916 was a departure from the pull/friction designs, using an internal spring striker and a percussion cap primer. Pulling the cap, with a twisting motion cocked the striker, when withdrawn a sufficient distance the striker automatically released and snapped back, firing the primer cap and igniting the fuse.
It proved complicated to manufacture with no significant advantage in the field over the pull types.

The 1917 model returned to the previous friction design but added a pull-ball attached to a short lanyard or chain. The top of the fuze body was sealed with a wax type substance. Unscrewing the cap provided access to the ball.

Fakes and Forgeries