Summary

 (Esterhazy)

Von Franz Felberbauer

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Castle Forchtenstein holds the largest collection of historic hand grenades in Central Europe.In the early modern era hand grenades were made of glass, fired and unfired clay, cast iron and various non-ferrous metals. Forchtenstein holds mainly glass grenades, but also a sizeable number of cast iron and a few made of clay. With the kind support of the Esterházy Private Foundation it was possible to analyze a number of glass hand grenades with respect to measurements, composition and manufacturing methods, and to analyze existing fragments optically and chemically. Chemical analysis and color distribution suggest that the glass hand grenades apparently originated from at least three different melts or glass works. According to the re-constructed anufacturing process new glass hand grenades were produced in a Bavarian glassworks and were subjected to explosive tests by the Austrian army. Slightly modified standard NATO explosive tests showed a surprisingly large number of fragments and an extremely high splinter density of the glass hand grenades, when the wooden delay fuse protruded sufficiently deep into the interior of the grenade. Using the finest commercially available black powder and a suitable length of the delay fuse the glass hand grenades showed a splinter distribution and fragment density which exceeds those of hand grenades from the First and Second World War by far. It comes close to properties of hand grenades manufactured in the last quarter of the 20th century. The old “Feuerwerker” had apparently found an easy way to regulate the number of fragments by using different amounts of black powder and by appropriately choosing the length of the delay fuse. By this method a simple glass hand grenade could be alternately converted into an offensive or a defensive weapon. The devastating effect of glass hand grenades was apparently well known, and according to contemporary literature they were supposed to be used solely against the „Turks, Tatars and the Arch-Enemy”.

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