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Remembered Today:

Grenade Company


JMB1943
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My grandfather served in a line infantry regiment on the Western Front (Jan '15- Feb '19), and was trained as a bomber.

Early postcards sent from England (Jul-Oct '15) have him in "C Company", while at Dec '15 he is in "Grenade Company".

Obviously, "C" Coy did not disappear, so I have some questions,

(1) what would have been the strength of a "Grenade" Coy ?

(2) when were they formed ?

(3) what was the rationale for combining (all of ??) the bombers in a single unit ?

(4) were the Grenade companies maintained for the remainder of the war ?

Regards,

JMB

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Hello JMB

Not sure that I can answer your questions - but this might get the ball rolling

Plans for a raid with a few 'bombers' - in August 1916, but I know the 1/6th Sherwood Foresters had 'bombers' as early as november 1915. And certainly during the attack on Hohenzollern Redoubt in October 1915 there were groups of bombers

cheersMike

post-4619-0-57936700-1408811277_thumb.jp

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Never come across a grenade company given the structure Battalion divided into companies, divided into platoons divided into sections a company would be far too big a unit to be all bombers. However at one point every platoon would have a section of bombers (possibly two sections). along with rifle sections, rifle grenade sections and Lewis gun sections But even in a bomber section not everyone was a grenade thrower as there would be men who carried grenades for the bombers and men with rifle and bayonet to provide defence and deal with enemy flushed out by the bombers. In 1918 it was decided that bombing was a core skill that every infantrymen should have so everyone was trained in throwing grenades, at which point platoons essentially just had rifle sections and Lewis gun sections but every man in a rifle section could throw a grenade (and some could operate a Lewis too)

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Hello JMB

I think this must have been a purely local usage. Grenade companies in the sense of the old 17th century grenadiers were never formed on an official and widespread basis. The division of the standard infantry platoon into sections of riflemen, bombers, rifle bombers and Lewis Gunners dates from early 1917 so it is quite possible that a few battalions chose in 1915-16 to segregate some of their specialists into particular companies or platoons, but they were never part of official War Establishments.

Indeed, the use of the name grenadier was strongly resisted by the Grenadier Guards, hence the use of the word bomber instead.

Ron

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Mike, Centurion & Ron,

Thank you for your input.

So the "grenade company" was possibly the battalion CO's idea. GF had previously served as a regular and presumably knew how to keep his head down (both literally & figuratively), so the appellation is unlikely to have been dreamed up by him.

Is it known if letters to men in e.g. the HQ company or MG section specified that ?

JMB

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Anthony Saunders in "Trench Warfare" refers to Bombing or grenade squads which were made up of bomber sections from more than one platoon but not in sufficient quantities to form a company size unit even with an ad hoc.formation created for a particular raid. Memory does drift over time so is it possible that your GF conflated squad and company?

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The 1/4th King's Own had a 'bombing squad' of twenty men in each of the four companies in June 1915. At Festubert these attacked as a separate entity. The grenades used prior to the Mills, particularly the No. 1 grenade, were possibly almost as deadly to the user as they were to the enemy in the hands of the untrained. Consequently, bombing was seen as a specialist skill only suitable for those who had been trained as bombers. Every man carried two grenades in an attack, but these were to pass to one of the 'bombing squad' when needed and not for personal use. After Festubert 51 Highland Division decided this was a daft policy and every man was trained in bombing, though they still kept the specialist bombing squads, who had undergone more in-depth training as regards tactics.

When 55 Division got the Mills, in Jan 16, the specialist bombing squads were dissolved and every man was trained at Brigade Bombing Schools, though each platoon retained specialists in bombing, but these were integrated into the normal platoon structure. In 1917 you see each platoon split into four sections- rifle section, Lewis section, bombers, and rifle grenade section.

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141 Brigade 47th Division organised a bombing platoon from the four battalions for the battle of Loos September 1915. One section was attached to the bombers of each battalion for the attack.

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141 Brigade 47th Division organised a bombing platoon from the four battalions for the battle of Loos September 1915. One section was attached to the bombers of each battalion for the attack.

Still a lot less than a company

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As are the other examples given.

That's my point _Grenade companies per se do not appear to have existed

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Kevin & Squirrel---Thanks for your interesting info on this topic.

Centurion---"Memory does drift over time so is it possible that your GF conflated squad and company?"

Well, these are post-cards addressed to him at the time (1915) so there is no confusion due to memory. However, it may have been his wife who was confused ! One possible scenario (of many) is that GF writes home saying 'all is well...now in a special group using grenades...' His wife thinks of that special group using grenades as a "Grenade Company."

On a slightly different note, several of you have used the term "squad"; was that used in 1914-18 ?

Regards to all,

JMB

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That's my point _Grenade companies per se do not appear to have existed

My point as well.

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Kevin & Squirrel---Thanks for your interesting info on this topic.

Centurion---"Memory does drift over time so is it possible that your GF conflated squad and company?"

Well, these are post-cards addressed to him at the time (1915) so there is no confusion due to memory. However, it may have been his wife who was confused ! One possible scenario (of many) is that GF writes home saying 'all is well...now in a special group using grenades...' His wife thinks of that special group using grenades as a "Grenade Company."

On a slightly different note, several of you have used the term "squad"; was that used in 1914-18 ?

Regards to all,

JMB

Squad was used but whereas Company, Platoon and Section were all specifically defined units in a Battalion a squad was "A small number of men perhaps haphazardly assembled" (The Long Trail Brophy and Partridge) In other words an ad hoc formation with no fixed or permanent structure used for a particular job e g "Sergeant form a squad and get those huts cleared before the new details arrive"

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I stand corrected on my earlier assumption that 55 Division's bombers had been absorbed back into the platoon structure in January 16. This is from 1/5 King's Own in April 16 and clearly shows that this was not the case. I'm now suspecting that it may not have been until late June 1916. None of the Movement Orders, or distribution lists for battalion orders, include 'bombers' after 23 June 1916.

Edited to add: Clearly these squads must have been smaller than the 20 men in a bombing squad from June 1915, but I have no indication as to size, though suspect each squad was no less than four men and a NCO and probably nearer eight. Their organisational structure (gathered by distribution lists) seems to be as one body of men, under the Bombing Officer situated at HQ- almost a distinct 'company' within the battalion.

bombers_zps5f4f16ab.jpg

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  • 1 year later...

This being the centenary of the Somme, I was again perusing the War Diary of 2nd Bn Royal Sussex Regiment.

The entry for May 6th, 1916 contains the following, which refers to training at Les Brebis.

"On the 6th a practice crater was exploded on the Brigade Bombing Ground. Fifty other ranks witnessed the explosion and the consolidation of the crater which was carried out by the Brigade Grenade Coy." [Capital letters are copied directly from the W.D.]

So at least one brigade (the 2nd) had apparently consolidated a considerable number of men into a single, specialist bombing group.

Perhaps this event is also recorded in the WD's of 2nd Brigade and of the other component battalions (1/ Loyal North Lancs; 1/ Northants; 2/KRRC). If so, it would be interesting to know if the 'Brigade Grenade Coy.' terminology was also used.

 

Regards,

JMB

 

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The various diaries can be downloaded from TNA's website at £3.45 each. How interested are you?

 

Ron

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Ron,

Interested enough to download the 2nd Infantry Bde War Diary for 1916, Jan. 1 - Jul. 31

Unfortunately, the entry is less than informative !

Les Brebis, May 6th: "Bde in billets. Training continued. Nothing of interest to report."

I'll read the whole download to see if 'Brigade Grenade Coy' is mentioned elsewhere, before chasing down WD's of the other battalions.

Regards,

JMB

Edited by JMB1943
Date error
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"Brigade Grenade Company" is referenced at least 4 times in orders during the time period noted.

The O.C. BGC received cc's of orders just as the Brigade Scout/Signals/Transport Officers did; no mention of the strength of this company.

The first reference is on Feb. 11, 1916, so the time-frame is in agreement with my G'father being in such in Dec. 1915.  I may download the WD for Jul.- Dec. '15 to determine when the Bde. Gde. Coy. was first constituted.

Regards,

JMB

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I did download the 2nd Bde WD for Jan. 1 - Dec.31, 1915, and found that the Bde Gde Coy was formed on Oct. 19, 1915.

Also, by chance found that an Albert Medal was awarded on Dec. 19, 1915 to a man in the 3rd Guards Bde Gde Coy.

As an aside, a good number of the citations for award of the Albert Medal showed "grenade incident".

 

MG, do you know how the Bde Gde Coys operated ?  Were the members physically separated into the company, or were they only called together for a large-scale assault ? Did all brigades form a BGC ?

Any info gratefully received.

Regards,

JMB

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  • Admin

I'll say I don't know anything about this - but if you google "Brigade Grenade Company" you get plenty of relevant "hits" some of which are from Regimental histories - here is an example from the history of the West Yorks - (re the 23rd Bde):

 

 

Brigade Grenade Company.JPG

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Russ,

You will note that I first raised this topic 2 yrs ago, and At that time It was pretty well shot down. Since the shooters all seemed very definite that such a unit had not existed, I did not even think to run it through Google, so thanks for posting.

Regards,

JMB

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  • Admin

Further to the above, I thought I would have a look at the 23rd Infantry Brigade War Diary to see if there were any further details. There are, one page of which is posted here that provides a bit more background, make-up and purpose of the unit.

 

I note that each Brigade in the IV Corps was instructed to form such a Company - the Diary refers to the unit throughout as a Brigade Grenadier Company in contrast to the Regimental History above stating it as Brigade Grenade Company.

 

I hope it is of some use ..

 

Russ

 

 

Brigade Grenadier Company 10.JPG

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5 hours ago, RussT said:

I hope it is of some use ..

 

Russ

Many thanks, absolutely what I was looking for ! I'll make a copy of that Brigade Order that you posted for the record.

#4 of the order states that the Bde Gde Coy will be billeted in La Flinque; would you know where this was relative to Bde HQ and the 4 bns of the brigade ?

#8 implies that the BGC would have been relatively close to the 2/Devons, at least.

Regards,

JMB

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