Deployed with German infantry companies, the
“Granatenwerfer 16” was a trench weapon which could throw a grenade up a
distance of 460 meters. It was portable, weighing slightly more than 38 kilos,
and extremely effective against trench positions, sentry posts, machine guns
and other infantry targets.
The grenade-thrower was first employed by
Austro-Hungarian troops and was called the “Priesterwefer,” as it was designed
by a Hungarian priest named Vecer. Seeking new weapons effective for trench
warfare, the Germans began producing the grenade-thrower near the end of 1915
under license at Stock & Co in Berlin-Marienfelde.
The German grenade-thrower was officially designated
I am aware of two different manufacturers of the Gratenwerfer 16, the Bing Brothers in Nürnberg and the Maschinenfabrik Alfred Wolff in Berlin. There are small differences in the Werfer, the variations can be seen HERE
The 1916 Model was easier to operate than its
predecessor (Granatenwerfer 15) and quickly became very popular among German
troops because the it was able to propel a grenade much further than could be
achieved simply by throwing it by hand. German infantrymen were further
impressed by the Granatenwerfer's excellent rate of fire and the explosive
effect of the grenade which made it a most effective weapon for trench warfare.
The Weapon and its "Noisemakers"
The Granatenwerfer 16 was a spigot-type mortar. Spigot
mortars consist of a solid rod or spigot instead of a conventional hollow
mortar tube; the bomb has a hollow base (or stick) which fits over the spigot.
A trigger mechanism at the base of the spigot fires the primer (a blank rifle
cartridge for the Granatenwerfer 16), igniting the propellant at the top of the
hollow stick and launching the grenade. The advantage of a spigot mortar is
that the weapon (including baseplate and spigot) is lighter than a conventional
mortar of equivalent range and explosive effect. It is also simpler to
Weighing in at 38.1 kilos, the Granatenwerfer 16 could throw its
standard 1.9 kilo grenades a distance of up to 460 meters. The range could be
adjusted by varying the angle of the spigot, with 85 degrees being the maximum
elevation. According to „Particulars of German Weapons for the Close Combat“
the Granatenwerfer could be fired at a rate equivalent to 250-300 rounds per
Above: In the Photo above we see that the Granatenwerfer 16 was not only a defensive weapon. The assault troopers above have Werfer rounds in the sandbags around their necks.
The Granatenwerfer 16 consisted of three basic parts; the
baseplate, the launcher (or grenade-thrower), and the traversing arc.
weapon was fired by using a lanyard connected to the trigger mechanism. The
baseplate was circular with the front being flanged. There was a handle
attached to the front along the flange to be used in carrying the plate. When
the weapon was being prepared for action the flanged edge was placed firmly in
the ground. On the baseplate there were two range tables, one for high angle
fire and the other for flat trajectory fire.
The launcher or grenade-thrower
consisted of the spigot, a clamping arrangement and a plate with a clinometer
(mechanism used for setting elevation) and a V-shaped back sight. The limits of
elevation were +85 degrees to +14 degrees. The traversing arc rotated on the
baseplate and was secured to it by a vertical clamp screw with handle. The
limits of traverse were 80 degrees to the right and 80 degrees to the left.
The Granatenwerfer 16 fired a basic high-explosive grenade
with a segmented head allowing for easy fragmentation. The grenade covered a
large area with individual fragments.
A later version used a cover over the
head of the grenade filled with a small powder charge. When the grenade
impacted, the small powder charge would ignite, propelling the grenade 3-4 feet
into the air. The grenade would then explode as a small air burst, increasing
its deadly effect. There also was a grenade version that could deliver messages
or leaflets upon exploding.
French soldiers nicknamed incoming bombs from the
Granatenwerfer “pigeons” because of the unique warbling sound made by the
grenade on descent.
All Grenades shown below are empty of explosives
Above: The 1915 model grenade, this grenade was used with the Granatenwerfer 15, then continued to be used with the Granatenwerfer 16 while stocks lasted.
Above: A rare Grenade used in early-mid 1916. Few examples are known, it seems not to have been widely used.
Above: Two slight variations of the 1916 Model grenades.
Above: A Verdun found Relic condition Grenade, a model 1917 bouncing grenade. The diagram below shows how it looks with its sleeve.
Above: The Werfer was also used very effectively for shooting flares.
Firing the Granatenwerfer 16
Emplacing a Granatenwerfer 16 was a relatively simple task. First, the
baseplate was placed on the ground with the flanged edge facing forward and
firmly sunk into the ground. The grenade-thrower was then attached to the
baseplate, ensuring that the spigot was screwed in tightly. When properly set
up the grenade-thrower would move freely on the baseplate. Since there was some
recoil with the weapon, a sandbag could be used to check the recoil; however,
the sandbag had to be placed sufficiently far back to allow the grenade-thrower
to slide freely on the baseplate and to ensure the baseplate did not shift
during firing. Once the spigot was placed in the proper position for firing and
the firing angle was set, the cocking lever would be thrown sharply against the
fore stop. This action automatically cocked the spigot and set the weapon on
safety; the indicator “S” could then be seen on the weapon (Sicherung =
The grenade would then be placed on the spigot and
the safety pin would be removed from the grenade. Throwing the cocking lever
sharply against the backstop would disengage the safety cam and the side of the
weapon painted red and marked with an “F' (Feuer = fire) would then be visible.
Because of the recoil when fired, it was recommended that the Granatenwerfer be
operated from the side, preferably the left so that the graduations on the
elevating mechanism (clinometer) could be read. The grenade would be fired by
giving the lanyard a sharp jerk. An indicator bolt moved to the right showing
that the bolt had been released. The grenade-thrower would then have to be
pushed up hard against the traversing arc, as it would have jumped back when
fired. It was a relatively simple method; the basic movements were pushing the
cocking handle forward then back before firing. The maximum rate of fire for a
well-trained crew was reported to be 250-300 rounds per hour. The infantrymen
trained to use the Granatenwerfer were given constant practice in order to be
able to accurately judge the distance to their target, eliminating the need for
registration fires that could alert the enemy.
The Granatenwerfer could be used in two firing modes, high
angle and flat trajectory. High angle fire was used against targets that were
out of the line of sight, such as sap heads, trench works, and in order to
assist raiding parties or patrols while in No Man’s Land. Flat trajectory
firing was used for the destruction of light cover such as sandbag revetments and
loophole plates. Flat trajectory was also sometimes used against sentry posts
when the situation was favorable. The accuracy of the weapon was reduced when
it was used in a flat trajectory mode as opposed to high angle fire. There were
three methods of fire employed by the Granatenwerfer:
A. Independent fire; flat trajectory fire against
B. Salvoes; high angle fire for effect executed by a battery of Granatenwerfer
against targets under cover.
C. Barrage fire; rapid high angle fire at ranges suitable for barrage purposes.
Due to its range the Granatenwerfer was normally
placed in either the first or second trench. In order to be most effective
against enemy trenches and especially to prevent any movement to a flank, a
wide front had to be covered simultaneously. Therefore, Granatenwerfer would
normally be employed in batteries of two or more. At least eight battery
positions were located in each company sector. The most efficient number of
Granatenwerfer to group in a battery was four. If a larger number was used the
battery commander could not maintain control with verbal commands and it would
take too long to personally check each Granatenwerfer before firing a salvo.
The weapons were dispersed at approximately 18 meter intervals so that two of
them could not be put out of action by one round from an enemy gun.
The battery commander would normally position himself in
the centre of the battery. The non-commissioned officers in charge of each
Granatenwerfer were given instructions by the battery commander in regards to
their targets, giving ranges and the necessary corrections for wind and drift.
Then the order to prepare to fire was given. Each crew would load and arm their
weapons, then report to the battery command that they were ready to fire. The
order to fire was not given until all weapons reported ready in order to fire
simultaneously and achieve the full effect of their fire. Depending upon the
direction of the wind or proximity of the enemy the order to fire could be
given by voice command, by whistle or by a signal. However it was imperative
that there was no possibility of alarming the enemy before the first salvo was
fired. Employed in batteries, the Granatenwerfer’s high rate of
fire and accuracy made it an ideal weapon to use in support of infantry raiding
parties. It was also useful in driving off enemy patrols that had been detected
in No Man’s Land. Simple and effective, the weapon made the German infantryman
in the First World War ever more deadly; however, it couldn't stem the ultimate
course of history. Nonetheless, the Granatenwerfer 16 was a unique weapon
forever tied to life in the German trenches.
On the left are 2 variations, the top one is a scarce Bavarian made Granatenwerfer 16, made in Nürnberg by the Gebr. Bing.
The lower one is made by Wolff in Berlin.
This page would not have been possible without the help of a number of guys.
J.R. "Killer" helpen me find some wonderful pieces for the collection.