We had something of a surprise last week when Bugle reader Ken Brookes brought along a hand grenade to Bugle House. Thankfully it wasn’t live, but it was a genuine Mills bomb of the First World War.
Ken acquired the grenade many years ago when he was doing a job at a lady’s home in Silver End, Brierley Hill. She used the old bomb as a doorstop but she kindly let Ken have it. Ken was interested because stamped on the base of the grenade were the letters SGB, for Stourbridge Glazed Brick, where his mother worked.
Stourbridge Glazed Brick, whose main works were at Blowers Green, Dudley, with another large works at Moor Lane, Brierley Hill, did not make the bombs; they were made at an unknown foundry and delivered to the brickworks where they were packed with explosive.
The Mills bomb was designed by Sir William Mills (1856-1932) at the Mills Munition Factory, Birmingham, in 1915.
That year it was adopted as the standard grenade of the British Army, with a number of variants developed, and it was later adopted by armed forces around the world. During the First World War around 75 million Mills bombs were made and it remained in British service until 1972, while in India and Pakistan it remained in use until the 1980s.
The Mills bomb was a defensive grenade, with the thrower immediately having to take cover to avoid the blast.
It initially had a seven second fuse, reduced to four seconds in 1940, and a practised thrower could send it around 50 feet, but its blast range was greater than this. Its “pineapple” design was to aid grip but it also increased the fragmentation of the cast iron case.
Sir William Mills claimed to have lost money on his design. The government gave him £27, 750 for his grenade but he was unable to avoid paying income tax on this and on his death he left only a modest fortune.