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Remembered Today:

Shrapnel ID.( Fragment).


nikp

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Can anyone help me in identifying this large lump of shrapnel. Found on the Somme. It was approximately 9.5 inches in diameter and is around 1.25 inches thick. Thanks. As pointed out it is not shrapnel but a fragment. OOPS.

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Edited by nikp
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I can't I.D. the shell from whence it came, but for WW1 the correct term for such a lump is 'fragment' not Shrapnel, which must be applied to the filling usually round metal balls found within Shrapnel shells.

I had this explained to me in no uncertain terms by an ex Major of Artillery once long ago.  The terms 'bloody' and 'idiot' were also employed!

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Many thanks for that. I will now class myself as a " Bloody idiot " and it is a lesson learnt. Stands to reason that it is not shrapnel and I along with many others have fallen into the trap. Hope to find more on this years trip in March. A tip I was told is look at the bottom of slopes where the rain and gravity tend to push items downhill. Giving away my secrets now !!

 

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To finish the story, I was part of coach party studying the Verdun battlefields and surrounding fortifications.  We parked up in some less well visited spot and as I stepped off the coach my foot landed on this large lump.  Eagerly I picked it up and called out to my father who was ahead in the group, "Look dad, Shrapnel"!  This voice of great authority boomed out from behind "That's not Shrapnel its fragment you b"...the rest you can guess.  After his rather curt, correction he then went  onto give an impromptu chat about ww1 artillery which was so informative, I wish I could remember it in detail.

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Splinter is an alternative term, probably more used in the Navy. In battle, splinters from near-miss shell splashes would often shred a ship's boats and damage superstructure  even if it wasn't actually hit. At a rough guess it looks as if it could've come from a shell of 8 - 11" calibre, from just ahead of the driving band. I take it you've checked it's ferrous metal, not part of a rum jar or suchlike?

 

I've got a much more irregular splinter - it looks like a map of Cyprus - that I think came from a shell of about 6"/15 cm calibre. It still had turning marks on the outside. I picked it up close to Ulster Tower, thinking at first it was an odd-shaped stone but then surprised at how heavy it was.

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Definitely ferrous. It weighs a few kilos and makes a cracking door stop.

 

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If you make an impromptu curvature gauge for the outside of the fragment you should be able to get a rough outside diameter of the shell. Add about 6 to 8mm to the OD should give the calibre of the gun. The problem with a fragment like this is that there will be a considerable error in the measurement of the curvature, and your estimation of calibre is likely to have an error of +/- 20mm.

 

The more accurately that the curvature can be measured the more likely you are to positively identify the origin. Nationality will remain a bit of an issue. There is a small segment of the body from under the driving band. This may give an indication as the way the ribs under the copper band where forged/machined was specific to each nationality. This is where the western front iron harvest collectors are far more knowledgeable than I am.  

Cheers

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10 hours ago, Chasemuseum said:

If you make an impromptu curvature gauge for the outside of the fragment you should be able to get a rough outside diameter of the shell. Add about 6 to 8mm to the OD should give the calibre of the gun. The problem with a fragment like this is that there will be a considerable error in the measurement of the curvature, and your estimation of calibre is likely to have an error of +/- 20mm.

 

The more accurately that the curvature can be measured the more likely you are to positively identify the origin. Nationality will remain a bit of an issue. There is a small segment of the body from under the driving band. This may give an indication as the way the ribs under the copper band where forged/machined was specific to each nationality. This is where the western front iron harvest collectors are far more knowledgeable than I am.  

Cheers

Many thanks for that. All info gratefully received.

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Although 'fragment' and 'splinter' are both correct terms for pieces of the shattered body of an artillery projectile, neither word is somehow quite adequate for the bigger examples, and in particular the horrifically long, jagged and pointed ones.   I have one of the latter in front of me now ... part of the body of a German 28cm (11") shell, picked up in the sand dunes on the Belgian coast almost 20 years ago.  Coincidentally, it is 11" long and it resembles nothing more than the rusted, jagged remains of the blade of a great sword.  Another word sometimes used is 'shard' ... not, perhaps, as 'shell shard', but in descriptions like 'fearsome shards of white-hot metal'.  

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I also have a shard with me. It is about 9" long and resembles a knife blade .Very sharp and I would shudder to think of the damage that such a thing could inflict.

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Yes, they're scary just to think about. Even my little splinter at about 150 grams, at hundreds of metres per second and spinning, would likely go through any human tissue as if it were hardly more substantial than smoke.

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Where an HE shell is deliberately engineered to shatter into large fragments this is not intended as an anti-personnel fragment. These big fragments can easily be thrown 300 or 400m and if hit by one it will happily rip your head off. As the shell will generate relatively few fragments, it will be possible to be near the bursting shell and not be hit by a fragment, while a very large safety zone is required for friendly troops operating near the target area.

 

As such, shells generating these fragments are a poor anti-personnel weapon. Their value is being able to destroy material, deep dugouts, fortifications and entrenchments etc.

 

The lessons were learned and army HE shells of WW2 were much more effective in multiple roles.

Cheers

RT 

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