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Remembered Today:

no 23 grenade


ypres tommy
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Hi Carl,

I have a lot of info on these things and the official details say the Grenade, .303-inch Rifle No 23 Mark 1 was approved for use on 27/6/16 but was being used sometime before that, possibly in late 1915. It was a parallel design with the No 5 originally as a rifle gren but later used in a dual role.

Very similar in design to the No 5 but with a solid brass or cast iron base plug with a threaded centre hole for the firing rod which measured 5.5 ins in length and was copper coated. The body shape had some very subtle differences to the No5, possibly deeper pinholes but the changes were more evident in the Mks 11 and 111.

The Mk 11 was introduced on 4/7/17 but was probably in use well before that date and the Mk 3 on 20/11/17. The Mk 11 base plug was made of cast iron with a central raised ridge for the rod. Lever design was also changed slightly.

The Mk 111 had a complete body shape change and looked very similar to the 36 which followed very soon after the Mk 111. In fact, if you swap base plugs with a WW1 36 the grens would be indistinguishable.The lever was made of pressed steel and of a much more simple design, as was the striker, making its production much more simple and its use much safer for the 'bomber'.

If you need any more info, please get back to me as i have all the design specs.

Andy A

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Hi Carl,

Worth a general search for 'Mills' too - dozens of discussion on the various Mills grenades over the years.

http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/i...ghlite=%2Bmills

Just to add a bit to Andy's excellent info - No.23's were possibly in use in the first half of 1915 - official introduction dates never tie in exactly with useage dates. If you include the 'M' versions ( 'Mesopotamia' - for the tropical campaign and waterproofed) of the No.23 then a total of six 'varities' were in use.

No difference between the MkI and II as far as body was concerned - changes were all to the internal and external components. Shape is more elongated than the first No.5 MkI (5 has plumper body) but as above the MkIII (rare) is really the same as a No.36 which is quite likely still in use by minor forces in various areas in the world.

Bodies were not painted but varnished (shellac) or rustproofed by different commercial processes, usual id bands were painted.

The rifle grenade of course needed a holder - the No.1 Mk1 for use with the SMLE and held on by the bayonet. The whole idea of using a rodded rifle grenade with it's inherant problems led to the superior No.36 with gas check and no rod.

Lots of minor details available (there were numerous variations in plugs, levers, fillings etc) but pics are best:

sketch23cup.jpg

23b.jpg

23e.jpg

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Carl

Adding to what Andy and Max have said there was also a seemingly one off batch of No 5 grenades that were sold to the Belgian Army with short rods for the 8mm Lebel. This may actually be the first use of the Mills grenade as a rifle grenade, that quickly evolved into the No 23. Dates are not clear on this.

Gunner Bailey

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Hi Gunner,

i was given a no 5 gren with the exact base plug you mentioned for a no 5 made by Morum & Co marked No 5 1 dated 8/1916 with the threaded hole for the 8 mm Belgian rifle. The grens nothing special, a bit pitted but the plugs great and i am sure its a precursor to the 23. I cannot say whether its the correct plug but you never know, i will happily say it is.

Andy A

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Hi Gunner,

i was given a no 5 gren with the exact base plug you mentioned for a no 5 made by Morum & Co marked No 5 1 dated 8/1916 with the threaded hole for the 8 mm Belgian rifle. The grens nothing special, a bit pitted but the plugs great and i am sure its a precursor to the 23. I cannot say whether its the correct plug but you never know, i will happily say it is.

Andy A

Hi Andy - Pretty rare stuff. And Morum are my favourite Mills Maker. I'm even driving past Lewisham Clock Tower this afternoon!

The date ties in very well as the 23 came in just after August 1916.

Gunner Bailey

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Hi Gunner,

here is a picture of my No 5 plug made by Morum & Co showing the hole for the rod. This certainly shows that the No 5 was used as a rifle gren and a precursor to the 23.

Andy

post-18379-1204381504.jpg

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What's your thoughts on the actual first service use then chaps?

My references suggest 1915 and maybe development alongside the No.5 but no concrete evidence of 1915 use.

Earliest plug I can find looking back on sold (No.23) examples is this one which appears to be June '16:

post-569-1204394248.jpg

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Hi Max

just spoken to a mate on the phone who has a Morum & Co No5 Mk 1 base plug with the threaded hole for the rod dated 2/16 so that is getting closer to 1915.

The parallel development of the No 23 with the No 5 obviously took place quite early on but so much information has been lost it may take time to find out.

However, the same guy with whom i have been talking to has got a contact with a Midlands museum re the firm Kenricks who have ' mountains' of old photographs with written details and he is going to follow this lead up. He is as keen on researching Mills grens as i am so i will let you know how he fares.

Watch this space.

Andy

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Hi again Max,

another thought could be that early 23 Mk 1 base plugs could have been made from cast iron which did not survive well. I am sure they would have been trialing all sorts of materiels. I know that they were produced from this but few examples have survived, brass doing a lot better. A lot more 23 Mk2s seem to have survived as they were copper washed as i believe. There dosnt seem to be any lead antimony 23 plugs about, too soft perhaps?

Andy

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Hi again Max,

another thought could be that early 23 Mk 1 base plugs could have been made from cast iron which did not survive well. I am sure they would have been trialing all sorts of materiels.

Andy

Andy

I'm pretty sure the cast iron plugs only came in with the 23 Mk2. It seems likely that the No5 was used as a Rifle grenade prior to the 23 and your info on plug dates seems to take it back to early '16. I think the we need to confirm the first date for the cup discharger as well?

My understanding was that the No 23 became available generally around August 1916. I've looked hard for specific references to them being used on 1/7/16 and have not found one. Had they been available on that date I think they could have made a real difference.

Gunner Bailey

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There were the regular rodded rifles grenades in use of course, the No.2 in 1914/15 and the No.3 and No.20 series first used in 1916 + the emergency pattern Pippen (No.22) used at Loos in 1915 and beyond - all eventually phased out to the superior No.36.

According to Saunders the No.23 entered service in 1916 and Hale filed a patent for an alternative holder (never used) in June that year...

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Here is a No. 23 with some surviving original paint, the remains of a pink band round the middle and a red band round the top. The date 4/17 is visible on the base plug.

post-6903-1204452647.jpg

post-6903-1204452763.jpg

post-6903-1204453033.jpg

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Hi Gunner,

i have seen a cast iron base plug for a 23 Mk 1 but all the markings were not discernable due to corrosion. The specifications also say they could be made of this materiel too. They just dont survive as well as the Mk 11s.

Darryl Lynn's book The Grenade Recognition Manual vol 11 states that the 23 was introduced for service on 27/6/16 but that it was being used by the BEF well before that, possibly as early as 1915.

Again, with so much of the records being lost, i am not sure we will ever find out, however when my friend goes through the Kenricks photos, something may turn up.

Andy

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Hi Gunner,

Darryl Lynn's book The Grenade Recognition Manual vol 11 states that the 23 was introduced for service on 27/6/16 but that it was being used by the BEF well before that, possibly as early as 1915.

Again, with so much of the records being lost, i am not sure we will ever find out, however when my friend goes through the Kenricks photos, something may turn up.

Andy

Hi Andy

There is probably a significant date difference between being introduced to service and being at the front line. I would reckon that the gap between release into service and being at the front line was a good two months, possibly three. Stocks would have to be built up in factories, released for testing by Trench Warfare inspectors, sent to the SRD in London, put on ships for France, transported to depots in France, then released for training (as a new weapon) and then issued to the front line. So even plugs dated 6/16 probably didn't see service until quite a while later. As you say, we'll never know exactly but I don't expect grenades produced in the UK were ever used in the same month as the date on the baseplug. I have a fantastic Toffee Apple dated July 1916, but I'm under no illusions that it was used in July 1916.

There's probably scope for another thread on how long gear took to get from the factories to the front line, with probably the quickest being aircraft!

Gunner Bailey

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Hi Gunner,

you are quite possibly right although the desperate need for the Mills would i am sure have made the suppliers and the logistic support move through hoops [metaphorically speaking] to get them to the front line and i expect the training of the troops would have been well in hand before they actually arrived. But we will probably never know.

I have a plug dated 7/15 which i am sure would have come from the first 60,000 Mills produced, and i will keep it along with those i have from August and September. I would give my eye teeth for one from May or June. I will continue dreaming about one.

Andy

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi Gunner,

said i would post this picture[many thanks for your help].

Found this in the last lot of plugs, its a No 23 Mk 1 made by A. Bullows & Son, Walsall, dated 1916, cannot make out the full date.

Its made from cast iron that has been copper washed, not in very good condition but good enough to confirm its a 23 Mk1. This type of plug could have been the initial type produced and possibly be the reason why no 1915 dated Mk 1s have been identified due to rusting. As i said before, we will probably never know.

Andy

post-18379-1205677362.jpg

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Hi Andy

Yes, that's a very interesting plug. Rare for being copper washed, and looks like a Mk1 not a Mk 2 (like most iron plugs) and from a maker more known for No 5's.

Keep that one for your collection!

Gunner Bailey

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