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Making Smoke


Rob Connolly
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What smoke-generating kit would a British battalion of @ 1917 have to hand in the front line? I've read of Fumite bombs and smoke candles, but these were earlier (1915 &1916 respectively). Would smoke pots be kept as trench stores or kept by the unit when it rotated out of the line? I'm aware of artillery and mortar smoke shells, but am trying to see if there were other smoke-screen creators.

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I cannot say that I have read much about use of smoke by the infantry at the front. I, too, am under the impression that smoke was more a tool of the artillery and the trench mortars. In any case, it would have been difficult to provide the trenches with too great an assortment of stuff, since everything had to be packed up.

On the other hand, this is from the instructions of the 31st(Alberta) Battalion for the Passchendaele operation on 6th November 1917. It notes that an expense dump is to maintained on the scale of 10 "P" Bombs per Company. I presume these were Phosphorus bombs and could, I suppose, be used to make smoke. They do not seem to have been used in this case.

post-75-1237144839.jpg

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Certainly by that time the Special (Mortar) Companies of the Special Brigade Royal Engineers fired smoke rounds from their Stokes Mortars (as well as gas). 'Light Smoke' or W.P. was white phosphorous, 'heavy smoke' or R.P. was red phosphorous.

cheers

Steve

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Rob,

I reckon Simon Jones might have a handle on this if you give him a PM. I know that the infantry had phosphorous grenades that were supposed to be used for clearing any long grass in front of the parapet, but were equally useful (but with some danger to the thrower) for producing smoke. In addition to making smoke, they were often utilised for clearing German dug-outs during raids and attacks. Also, the Medium Trench Mortars (RA & Inf) had Phosphorous (Toffee Apple) bombs for the 2" mortar. I think they may have went out of service in the British Army in early 1917, replaced by the 6" Mortar.

The special brigade were often used for producing large volumes of smoke for the infantry using the 4" Stokes and also Livens projectors.

It looks like white phosphorous was often used in 1917.

Hope this is of some use.

Aye

Tom McC

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Rob,

I think they may have went out of service in the British Army in early 1917, replaced by the 6" Mortar.

Although they were supposed to be replaced entirely by the 6 inch this had no smoke or chemical capability and some 2 inchs were retained for this purpose. Bat war diaries show that the Australians in particular did this

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What smoke-generating kit would a British battalion of @ 1917 have to hand in the front line? I've read of Fumite bombs and smoke candles, but these were earlier (1915 &1916 respectively). Would smoke pots be kept as trench stores or kept by the unit when it rotated out of the line? I'm aware of artillery and mortar smoke shells, but am trying to see if there were other smoke-screen creators.

British used smoke candles to create smoke screens - candles were composed of:

40% Potassium nitrate (saltpeter)

29 Pitch

14 Sulfur

9 Coal Dust

8 Borax

Gave a brown smoke of little obscuring power which disapated quickly

French used "Berger Mixture" - zinc dust/Carbon tetrachlorise mix which when ignited gave white/gray

smoke which was denser and longer lasting than British mixture

Artillery shells were loaded with liquid tin tetra chloride (KJ) which on bursting reated with atmospheric moisture to create dense irrating cloud. Smoke shells were often used in cojuction with gas shells.

Theory was that the smoke would "weigh" down the gas cloud and prevent it disapating too quickly

One trick Brits used was to attack section of German trench with smoke shells - germans would think it

at first was gas attack. Would do this for several days in a row - once Germans got used to the smoke

clouds and no longer would react to them would then hit the trench with lethal barrage of gas. Often caught Germans by surprise and caused number of casulties from gas.

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Hi Rob

If you can get hold of a copy the book "Smoke tactics" By Lt Col P R Worrall, DSO & MC, the Devonshire Regiment. This is the para from the book on the Infantry.

The weapons he would have used for smoke are:

The "No.27 W.P." hand and rifle grenade with a 6 1/2 inch second fuse. It has a range of 240 yards with a 15 inch rod. it weighs 1lb 4oz with the rod.

In order to get the distance between fifty and 240 yards rubber rings are supplied, which when put on the rod, will give for every 1inch of rod in the muzzle a range of 15 yards commencing with a minimum of 5 inches giving 75 yards.

It may be used, as a hand bomb, as such can be thrown 50 yards.

The general disadvantages of the hand bomb is, If the smoke draws fire the thrower is close to the smoke and is likely to be caught.

With the rifle grenade on the other hand the firer is a considerable distance away.

The "P" bomb a rather cumbersome article that was in use in France until replaced by the Mero Portable No27 grenade (which has the additional advantage of being a rifle and hand grenade combined). Its chief use was for bombing dugouts. Its contents are now often used for filling trench mortar shells.

Smoke case type "S" very similar to the P bomb, chiefly used in making screens which is better done by the artillery and trench mortars.

The discharger No1. Mark 1. the present discharger is not considered satisfactory. It is too heavy, and does not allow the bayonet to be fixed,and it affects the accuracy of the shooting.

It is understood that a new type is in course of preparation, if a good type can be produced the discharger as many advantages over the rod on account of its increased range and accuracy.

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Fantastic, just what I was looking for. Thanks very much for the replies, chaps! Once again the GW Forum hive-mind comes up with the goods.

Now, that stuff about wearing gas-masks does lead to another question - (cont. Page 96)

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