Jump to content
Free downloads from TNA ×
The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

flammenwerfer?


truthergw

Recommended Posts

First, a short quote from "Tunnelers",Capt. W. Grant Grieve. The following is extracted from a captured German document, describing the first mine attack on the British. " They rushed into the enemy's trench, searched it for mines, and cleared it with hand grenades and incendiary torches".

Is this a mistranslation or alternative translation, of flammenwerfer, or is this another weapon? Date of attack was December 1914. I thought this very early.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Tom;

Have to run, can write more.

Almost certainly not FWs.

Very likely another Pionier weapon, the Brandrohr. It's use frequently eas mistaken for FW, although the jet of flame was only about 2 meters long.

Bob Lembke

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Brandrohr was an incinderary device, a Pionier weapon; I think it came in two sizes. About 4' long, 8" in diameter. When ignited, the device spurted intense flame say 2 meters, and smoke and fumes even further, out one end. For example, when Pioniere got on the roof of Fort Vaux at Verdun, they dangled them with rope from the roof of the fort driving the fire, etc. into the embrasures for French MGs, driving the MG guys away. When the French returned to the MGs they dangled sacks of grenades from above and ignited them against the firing slots.

The French wrote that these were flame throwers (FW), but I know from documents that the first FW arrived several days later, although they were in use nearby. When the Germans got into the fort, the fighting in the narrow corridors was too bad even for the FW; a successful flame attack the fire in the confined space injured the crew as well as the enemy. They were useful in eating up the oxygen and heating up the garrison. This fighting was really awful, even by WW I standards. When the French had to surrender, partially due to thirst, the Germans gave them military honors as they marched out, and the Crown Prince had the French CO to dinner and showered him with honors and privileges. He went into captivity with a sword (he had none at the fort), his dog, a servant, so much cake that he had to feed it to his dog, and even a pistol! And then he was paroled to Switzerland! (I haven't been able to affort a Swiss vacation in 20 years!) And the crusty guy complained bitterly! He did admit that the Crown Prince (the army CO at Verdun) spoke absolutely fluent French.

But it seems that the Brandrohr was not an ideal weapon for such an attack. How could you hold it? It would be hot as hell. But it would be good against a pillbox, but whould the Brits have one there? So the weapon may have been something else, perhaps just a flare to smoke defenders out of dugouts. But no FW. First use was several months later.

Bob Lembke

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks again. It was the early date that got me wondering. You don't believe it might have been a local effort? RE were noted for experimenting in the early days and I suspect the German engineers were just as keen. There was certainly no pillbox and not even a dugout as we would understand it. In December 1914, the British barely had a trench.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Very unlikely that this was a FW attack. At the beginning of the war it seems that some Pionier siege trains had an early FW model, but I and other FW nuts have never found evidence of them being used at the beginning of the war. Late in 1914 an experimental FW unit was formed and carried out the first FW attack at Malancourt Woods near Verdun on Feb. 26, 1915. 12 FW were used, 10 of them wooden hand-powered models made along fire pump designs (All of the first FW troops were firemen, including the CO). The trenches were very close in the area where the attack occurred, the French broke under the novel attack, and 1911 POWs and 33 MGs were taken. Two FW Pioniere were killed by French counter-battery fire, but not in the initial attack, although I assume that some infantry died as well. There was little resistance.

The FW were withdrawn from the Pionier siege trains and probably given to the FW experimental group. There is evidence of at least one use of FW by other Pioniere early in the war, but, bizarrely, to spray liquid poison gas, clearly an astonishingly dangerous proposition. It was successful, but the experiment was not repeated, it seems.

So it is very unlikely that the attack you mentioned was with FW. The German FW effort began in 1901, and within a few years was being directed by the War Ministry's research infrastructure, while there was a lot of independent experimentation in the Brit effort, I believe.

Bob Lembke

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I 'll put that one in the puzzle pile until something turns up. Probably a Brandrohr. Thanks again for your time and effort.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...