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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Shrapnel Wounds & Bullet Wounds


PhilB

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I quite agree, Mick. I was pointing out that it was possible for a rifle bullet to pass through with less damage than a shrapnel bullet which would not. A flesh wound from a shrapnel bullet is likely to cause more damage than one from a rifle bullet.

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I'm always amazed that the rounds used today that can cause tremendous damage, are only fractionally larger than a .22 slug we used to fire at each other from air weapons when we were kids (yes yes I know, very stupid and don't try it at home etc) although obviously slightly more velocity than my old BSA.

Mick

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I quite agree, Mick. I was pointing out that it was possible for a rifle bullet to pass through with less damage than a shrapnel bullet which would not. A flesh wound from a shrapnel bullet is likely to cause more damage than one from a rifle bullet.

Tom

There was an excellent demo on the programme 'Weaponology' where they fired 3 rifles into clay blocks (representing human flesh) to show the differences in wounds. The first was a 1770s musket the second was a pre WW1 rifle and the third was a WW2 98. Increasingly the wounds got worse and worse, with the musket being most survivable. A shrapnel bullet would be more like a musket ball in speed and shape than a HV round.

Modern HV rounds can go right through without causing a huge cavity, but that's mainly in thinner limbs. Evidence from the Falklands where both sides fired 7.62mm SLR rounds shows massive wound damage even from 'thinnner' areas such as the bicep or shoulder. Give me the choice I'll get shot by the musket (or shranel ball) -please.

(I'd recommend the Red and Green Life Machine by Rick Jolly on this subject).

GB

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Bullets,Shell Fragments (Now called Shell Splinters) Grenade fragment and Shrapnel Bullet, as well as portions of clothing, are the most common foreign bodies which are found in wounds, and they are usually found in the non-perfortating types.

Shell Fragments and fragments from grenades and bombs do not undergo no change on entering tissue and retain their shape when the shell or granade exploded.

Shrapnel Bullets thse consist of hardened lead, the changes in shape that they undertake are numerous especially after hitting bone, they deform and sometimes partically or completely disintegrate. See X-Rays The velocity of Shrapnel Bullets falls off very rapidly, in two of the X-Rays the bullets have penetrated tissue but not to any great depth, but in the other on the Shrapnel Bullet not only penetrate but with sufficiently velocity to break the bone.

John

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Not all Shrapnel bullets were lead, many found in German shells were steel balls.

Mick

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So were some of ours they were called sand shot.

John

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Thanks for putting up these X-rays John. I think you have proved my point. Shrapnel balls (lead or steel) had limited penetration power and were far less lethal than high velocity bullets. That's not to say they could not kill or disable but they did far less damage than a rifle or machinegun bullet. The fact that they were moving at maybe 900 fps compared to a bullets 2400 fps is a huge difference.

GB

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Disease is a big killer, insanitary conditions will increase mortality irrespective of the 'limited penetration power' of shrapnel balls. As would lack of immediate response, poor medical facilities, loss of blood etc, etc.

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I noticed a couple of instances in the book 'Somme Mud' by EPF Lynch where he was wounded twice by shrapnel balls that literally broke the skin but did not penetrate deeply. In one case he picked it out with his fingers. So this is probably the minimum effect of a shrapnel ball hit. Others detonating closer would have penetrated helmets and lodged deeply in the body or head. I don't think a shrapnel ball had the power to pass right through a body like a rifle bullet. As previously mentioned, they had more the characteristics of a musket ball than a bullet.

General shrapnel was of course far more lethal. It would also have been the size of a large dinner plate, and could cut a man in half. I have shrapnel from both wars and all of it looks pretty evil. Perhaps the worst piece is a bit of WW2 German Bomb shrapnel I found embedded in the rafters of a house I bought. It's about 5 inches long and jagged in all directions. If it had ever hit anyone the wound would have been horrendous.

Gunner Bailey

There too many permantations to as what damage a shrapnel ball could cause. - Distance from detentation of device, thickness of clothing worn by the "victim", protection/armour worn etc. Never the less it was still a "lottery" as to wether serious injury/death was caused.

"A doctor was just finishing bandaging me up and he said, 'Get a stretcher for this man as soon as you can'. I had been hit by a shrapnel shell full of steel balls the size of marbles that scatter from the height of 25 yards or so. One ball had blown an inch of bone out of my upper arm, one had taken a clean 'bite' out of my jawbone without breaking it and one had gone deep into the left of my chest, breaking the collar bone on the way in"

Private Alfred Warsop. 1st Battalion, Sherwood Foresters. 31 July 1917

Extract from the book; Passchendale, The Sacificial Ground. by Nigel Steel and Peter Hart.

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There too many permantations to as what damage a shrapnel ball could cause. - Distance from detentation of device, thickness of clothing worn by the "victim", protection/armour worn etc. Never the less it was still a "lottery" as to wether serious injury/death was caused.

"A doctor was just finishing bandaging me up and he said, 'Get a stretcher for this man as soon as you can'. I had been hit by a shrapnel shell full of steel balls the size of marbles that scatter from the height of 25 yards or so. One ball had blown an inch of bone out of my upper arm, one had taken a clean 'bite' out of my jawbone without breaking it and one had gone deep into the left of my chest, breaking the collar bone on the way in"

Private Alfred Warsop. 1st Battalion, Sherwood Foresters. 31 July 1917

Extract from the book; Passchendale, The Sacificial Ground. by Nigel Steel and Peter Hart.

Hi Doc

I certainly agree about the possible permutations. However I would suggest that had this soldier been hit by three rifle bullets from 25 yeards range the damage would have been far worse. He probably would not have survived to tell the tale.

This still does not detract from the effectiveness of shrapnel. It was dangerous, could do a lot of damage, but I would contend, never as lethal as a bullet.

Gunner Bailey

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Hi Doc

I certainly agree about the possible permutations. However I would suggest that had this soldier been hit by three rifle bullets from 25 yeards range the damage would have been far worse. He probably would not have survived to tell the tale.

This still does not detract from the effectiveness of shrapnel. It was dangerous, could do a lot of damage, but I would contend, never as lethal as a bullet.

Gunner Bailey

I'm sorry if my quote misled you. I was using it to demonstrate the wounds caused by shrapnel balls from a shell burst. Hopfully to clear up the misdirection I quote what Pte. Warsop said prior to the posted quote;

I was sitting in a trench, soaked to the skin. I had to change my position as the side of the trench was slowly sinking being only

made of wet mud. There was a flash in the sky. I realised with a shock that I had been badly hit. My right arm jumped up on its own and flopped down.

It felt as if my left arm and part of my chest had been blown clear away.....

From the book: Passchendaele. The Sacrificial Ground by Nigel Steel and Peter Hart

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Rifle bullets are not necessarily stable and in-line in flight. The AK47 round is tail-heavy and wobbles in flight, inflicting serious wounds when penetrating.

Also there is a vacuum immediately following the passage of a bullet, which tends to suck into the wound the uniform material and dirt surrounding the point of entry. Once hitting even flesh there is a trendancy for the bullet to deform and/or change dierction and begin to tumble and, for this reason, causing a more serious exit wound should it find its way out of the body.

Ian

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I can categorically state that a soldier's first action on receiving a penetrating wound is not to think "I wonder what has hit me, is it a bullet or a shrapnel ball?" It is more likely to be "Am I going to die?", "How swiftly can I get medical attention?", "Can I stop the bleeding?", "Where's my morphine?" I do find the tone of this thread rather disturbing, soldiers are not insects to be looked at under a microscope. I fully understand the need for research but what is the purpose of this thread - I assume that no one here is a surgeon? Instead of posting photographs and speculative comments for the titillation of others can I suggest that you visit Selly Oak or Headley Court, you will find live specimens there. Having dealt with gunshot wounds I can tell you that it is not an academic matter. People receive a penetrating wound, they live or they die: end of. Mods: please lock this thread.

Kind Regards

Woolly

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I can categorically state that a soldier's first action on receiving a penetrating wound is not to think "I wonder what has hit me, is it a bullet or a shrapnel ball?" It is more likely to be "Am I going to die?", "How swiftly can I get medical attention?", "Can I stop the bleeding?", "Where's my morphine?" I do find the tone of this thread rather disturbing, soldiers are not insects to be looked at under a microscope. I fully understand the need for research but what is the purpose of this thread - I assume that no one here is a surgeon? Instead of posting photographs and speculative comments for the titillation of others can I suggest that you visit Selly Oak or Headley Court, you will find live specimens there. Having dealt with gunshot wounds I can tell you that it is not an academic matter. People receive a penetrating wound, they live or they die: end of. Mods: please lock this thread.

Kind Regards

Woolly

Woolly,

I am sorry that you find this thread unsetting. I too have seen battle injuries and lost comrades in action.

The study of ballistic wounds and effects form a significate part of a military surgeons training. Enough so within

paramedical military staff. There is the concern, that this thread may feed some form of titilation, however education

can only be achieved by asking questions. Please remember the originial question was in regards to weapons of the

Great War.

Doc (Still Serving)

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I can categorically state that a soldier's first action on receiving a penetrating wound is not to think "I wonder what has hit me, is it a bullet or a shrapnel ball?" It is more likely to be "Am I going to die?", "How swiftly can I get medical attention?", "Can I stop the bleeding?", "Where's my morphine?" I do find the tone of this thread rather disturbing, soldiers are not insects to be looked at under a microscope. I fully understand the need for research but what is the purpose of this thread - I assume that no one here is a surgeon? Instead of posting photographs and speculative comments for the titillation of others can I suggest that you visit Selly Oak or Headley Court, you will find live specimens there. Having dealt with gunshot wounds I can tell you that it is not an academic matter. People receive a penetrating wound, they live or they die: end of. Mods: please lock this thread.

Kind Regards

Woolly

Woolly

I find your post strangely disturbing. There have been many debates on this forum regarding wounds and the things that cause them. You are the only person that suggests this is done for titillation rather than debate and analysis of the Great War. To ask the mods to close a thread because YOU think it's wrong suggests the problem is yours not the forum or the forum regulars. If the mods had thought this thread was in any way wrong they would have closed it long ago.

Gunner Bailey

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I think that sometimes there is a fine line where 'academic interest' meets 'personal engagement' and this is one of those cases - to be honest if I'd spent time patching up battlefield casualties I might have issues with people who discuss the differing effects of bullets over shrapnel just because it's academically interesting (and that's really what we're doing here) rather than for medical reasons.

I used to be a history teacher in Swindon, where there was a large Polish community before there was a large Polish community everywhere. You do the Holocaust in year 9 as part of the curriculum and the purpose is to teach it as a factual history event, however you had to be aware that you may have kids in your class for whom the dead of the holocaust were members of their family and for whom that's not one of 6 million dead jews but their great uncle. However you still have to teach the mechanics and ideology of nazi genocide despite this, because with that knowledge comes understanding.

However, I think that the only way to understand historical events is to look at them dispassionately and academically, as that allows you to remove the myths and legends and helps you come to an understanding of the history. Many of us here started out because we were looking for people connected with our families who died in the great war, real grandparents or real great-uncles, or whatever. It's not like we lack the personal connection with real people who die and are injured, but we go beyond the details of 'died of wounds' to start asking the questions about what that means, how are wounds different, how do WW1 munitions kill or injure people?

I don't find your post disturbing Woolly, I sense that you have actually dealt with this with real living (and dying) people and do not see this as an academic topic, and I understand that viewpoint; I don't agree that it should not be an acceptable topic for debate and enquiry on a forum for people interested in the military history of WW1 though.

My 2p anyway...

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I do not know the other contributers to this thread personally, only through this forum, but I would not look upon any of the above as writing up for titillation purposes.

The amount of effort put into researching servicemen and women's histiories, in trying to ensure commemoration of those 'missing' from official lists, by many pals on here leaves me comfortable that they do not view servicemen/women as 'insects' to view through a microscope.

We may miss first-hand experience (and not even want to experience it) but I am confident my fellow posters

are here for all the 'right' reasons. And how else are we to learn?

Ian

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I can categorically state that a soldier's first action on receiving a penetrating wound is not to think "I wonder what has hit me, is it a bullet or a shrapnel ball?" It is more likely to be "Am I going to die?", "How swiftly can I get medical attention?", "Can I stop the bleeding?", "Where's my morphine?" I do find the tone of this thread rather disturbing, soldiers are not insects to be looked at under a microscope. I fully understand the need for research but what is the purpose of this thread - I assume that no one here is a surgeon? Instead of posting photographs and speculative comments for the titillation of others can I suggest that you visit Selly Oak or Headley Court, you will find live specimens there. Having dealt with gunshot wounds I can tell you that it is not an academic matter. People receive a penetrating wound, they live or they die: end of. Mods: please lock this thread.

Kind Regards

Woolly

Sorry Woolly, i have to agree with the others, im very aware personally of a soldiers first action on being hit, some of us are ex or serving soldiers dont forget, their is nothing titillating about this thread, certainly first thoughts or words were though, beginning with F then hell, then medic :D

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I think Woolies intentions were meant well, but by the amount of posts he has, he may not understand or realise just

how knowledgeable and hungry for information....not kicks.. .were the posters who have many many posts between them!

The knowledge that some of these chaps have for ALL things Great War absolutely amazes me, and I put

Woollies words down to inexperience of 'THIS Forum'

Well, I hope I'm right anyway..

and I'm certain the Mods. understand this and will not close the topic...

Ivan.

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