The earliest known hand grenades date back to the Easter Roman, or Byzantine, Empire in the 8th century when Byzantine soldiers would throw glass or ceramic jars full of Greek fire. By the 11th century, Chinese soldiers began using gunpowder in ceramic or metal vessels and the first prototype for the modern grenade wa born. They soon became a staple of warfare, but almost disappeared completely around the turn of the 20th century.
In 1902 the British War Office determined hand grenades as an obsolete weapon that was not effective enough to justify the danger posed to the grenadier. Barely two years later the advent of trench warfare in the Russo-Japanese War led to incredible improvements in grenade design.
The first modern frag grenade was born near just in time for service throughout WWI. The “Mills bomb” became available to British forces in 1915 and was considered the world’s first “safe grenade.” The Mills grenade was soon followed by the “stick grenade” in Germany. Both weapons saw extensive use throughout the first half of the 20th Century.
Since then grenade technology has advanced offering an increased variety including concussion, stun, fragmentation, chemical, smoke, and anti-tank. The fuse type also varies with the use of the grenade. Impact, timed fuse, and pull fuses are the most common.
Take a look inside the traditional fragmentation grenade with a timed fuse in the video below.