Making Mills Bombs

The No.36 or Mills Bomb was one of the longest serving grenades, developed during the First World War it originated from a Belgian design by Albert Dewandre and Capitaine Léon Roland. It was improved by a British industrialist, William Mills, who owned several metal forging factories.

A No.36 Grenade (Matthew Moss)

It entered service in late 1915 as the No.5 Mk1 and continued to be improved during the war with several iterations before it finally became the No.36M Mk1. We’ll look at the Mills bombs development more closely in a future video/article – today, with the help of some 1940s newsreels from New Zealand we’re going to look at how they were manufactured. While the newsreel doesn’t state the factories featured they were made by a number of factories including Anderson Engineering in Christchurch (these were marked with an “A” below the filler plug), Booth Mcdonald, of Christchurch (marked BM), Scott Brothers, also of Christchurch (marked SB), and Mason & Porter, of Mt Wellington, in Ackland (marked MP).

William Mills’ 1916 Patent for the grenade.

In the first newsreel, courtesy of Archives New Zealand (Weekly Review No. 70 (1943)), we see No.36 grenades being cast – the newsreel takes a slightly humorous approach of describing the process as a recipe – making ‘pineapples’ – a slang name by which grenades were sometime’s known. The factory is using the sand casting method with a pattern pressed into the sand and then removed. The two halves of the grenade’s body are pressed into sand, a pressed sand core could then be placed inside which would allow the grenade’s body to be poured hollow to allow room for explosives and detonator. If we again pause here we can see a machinist is centring and counter-sinking the filling hole’s first thread for its plug.

Cast grenade bodies ready for filling (Archives New Zealand)

The footage includes a brief shot we see a woman factory worker drilling out the top of the grenade’s body and perhaps de-burring the side of the safety lever holder. In the next shot we see more machinists at work with one lady linishing the body of the grenade, removing imperfections from the casting on a grinder or polishing wheel and in the background some women a working on milling machines or drill presses. 

Women factory workers linishing the grenade body castings (Archives New Zealand)

At the very end of the film we can see the grenade bodies are stacked ready for the next phase of production. Sadly, we don’t see the threading of the filling hole or base in this film nor the painting or filling of the grenades.

In the second newsreel (Weekly Review No. 63 (1942)), however, which celebrates the production of 1 million grenades, we do seem more of the production process. In this short segment we see how the grenades are filled and how they work. We see the cast bodies of the grenades being transported on a conveyor after being shellacked to keep moisture out. If we pause here we can see this worker packing a case with “gascheck” discs and fuses.

Loading grenades, fuses and gas checks into a transit case (Archives New Zealand)

The gas check disc and a 7 second fuse was used when the grenade was being fired from a rifle’s cup discharger, while a 4 second fuse was favoured when throwing by hand. In this final clip we see the internals of a grenade – which was filled with just over 2oz of explosive through the round filling-hole (on the side opposite the safety lever) which was then screw plugged. The newsreel then concludes the grenade segment by showing the striker spring inside being compressed and a No.27 Detonator, with fuse, being inserted into the sectioned grenade.

We’ll examine more British grenades, including the No.36 in future videos and articles.


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Bibliography:

Weekly Review No. 63 (1942)

Weekly Review No. 70 (1943)

W. Mills, ‘Grenade and Other Like Apparatus’, 4 Apr. 1916, US Patent #1178092, (source)

NZ Mills Grenades, Lexpev.nl, (source)

No.36 Mk1 Grenades, MillsGrenades, (source)

Vickers Gun In The Rhineland

In this final video of the Rhineland Campaign Weapons series we take a look at the little known role of the British and Commonwealth forces’ Vickers Guns. With the help of the Vickers MG Collection & Research Association we recreated a platoon line consisting of 4 Vickers Guns to recreate the Pepperpot tactics used during Operation Veritable – the western Allies’ invasion of Germany.

In this video we examine how Vickers Medium Machine Guns were used en masse to soften up enemy positions before Operation Veritable began and during the subsequent advance into the Rhineland. The Vickers was used alongside artillery, mortars and even anti-aircraft guns in what was known as a ‘pepperpot’ fire plan – where the focus was on weight of fire. The Vickers supported the advance through out the campaign and in this video we aimed to capture some of the feel of what those pepperpot bombardments might have been like – albeit on much, much smaller scale.

Using contemporary photographs and footage we recreated the gun pits, complete with overhead cover, pits dug to the original manuals and plenty of empty belts and belt boxes. Right down to the gun crews being badged up as Middlesex Regiment. Check out the comparison of our shoot and a contemporary photograph taken during the battle for Goch, 20 February 1945.

Below are some behind the scenes photos from the shoot taken by myself and Robbie McGuire:

A huge thank you to everyone who made the shoot possible, I’m very proud of what we were able to achieve with this shoot.


If you enjoyed this video and article please consider supporting our work here. We have some great perks available for Patreon Supporters. Thank you for your support!

Fighting On Film: The Forgotten Battle (2021)

We are zipping up our Denisons, checking our Rifle No.4s and climbing aboard our Horsa Glider for this week’s look at the brand new Dutch war film ‘The Forgotten Battle‘, directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. it boasts the second largest budget ever for for a Dutch film at around €14 million. With a cast of British and Dutch actors ‘The Forgotten Battle’ is sett during the the Battle of the Scheldt in 1944.

The film is an ambitious attempt to combine three storylines into a film just over 2 hours long. Competently made with some decent performances and a real eye for Mise-en-scène and atmosphere. The Forgotten Battle attempts to cram in too much and largely forgets the ‘Forgotten Battle‘ of the title. While the film brings us three engaging and potentially fascinating story lines that tackle the moral choices that faced soldiers and civilians alike during war, however, there is not enough time or space for them to all develop and ‘The Forgotten Battle’ may have been better adapted as a limited series. We explore all this in this week’s episode!

The episode is also available on all other podcast platforms, you can find them here.

Here are some stills from the film:

If you enjoy the podcast then please check out our Patreon here. Be sure to follow Fighting On Film on Twitter @FightingOnFilm, on Facebook and don’t forget to check out www.fightingonfilm.com.

Thanks for listening!

The No.4 Rifle in the Rhineland

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of filming some segments on small arms for the new documentary on the Rhineland Campaign – ‘Rhineland 45‘. Not all of the segments I filmed discussing weapons could be included in the finished documentary – I filmed quite a few – so I’m pleased to share a couple here. This short video examines the Rifle No.4 (Lee-Enfield) used by British and Canadian troops during Operations Veritable and Varsity. This video was filmed at the Vickers MG Collection and Research Association.

Rifle No.4 (Robbie McGuire)

Check out the first video of this series on the use of the PIAT here and our video on the Panzerfaust & Panzerschreck in the Rhineland here and our video on the STENs used in the Rhineland.


If you enjoyed this video and article please consider supporting our work here. We have some great perks available for Patreon Supporters. Thank you for your support!

The STEN in the Rhineland

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of filming some segments on small arms for the new documentary on the Rhineland Campaign – ‘Rhineland 45‘. Not all of the segments I filmed discussing weapons could be included in the finished documentary – I filmed quite a few – so I’m pleased to share a couple here. This video examines the various marks of STEN gun used during Operations Veritable and Varsity. This video was filmed at the Vickers MG Collection and Research Association.

The Sten MkIV (Robbie McGuire)

Check out the first video of this series on the use of the PIAT here and our video on the Panzerfaust & Panzerschreck in the Rhineland here.


If you enjoyed this video and article please consider supporting our work here. We have some great perks available for Patreon Supporters. Thank you for your support!

Fighting On Film: Cockleshell Heroes (1955) ft. Saul David

Prime your limpet mines, pull on your windproofs and climb into your canoes and join us as we paddle furiously into enemy territory to discuss 1955’s Cockleshell Heroes with none other than historian Saul David.

Saul has a new history of the Special Boat Service out so what better film to tackle than Cockleshell Heroes. Starring Trevor Howard, Jose Ferrer, Victor Maddern, Christopher Lee and Percy Herbert as the Royal Marine Commandos tasked with sinking enemy ships deep in enemy territory on Operation Frankton!

The episode is also available on all other podcast platforms, you can find them here.

Here are some stills from the film:

If you enjoy the podcast then please check out our Patreon here. Be sure to follow Fighting On Film on Twitter @FightingOnFilm, on Facebook and don’t forget to check out www.fightingonfilm.com.

Thanks for listening!

British Army Thompson Submachine Gun Manual

It’s essential for soldiers to know how to use and maintain their weapons properly. We’ve been collecting training manuals, pamphlets and handbooks (as part of the TAB reference collection) to give us a wider understanding of how troops were trained and how they used their weapons.

In this video we take a look at the British Army’s 1942 small arms training pamphlet for the ‘Thompson Machine carbine’.

Diagram showing firing the hip (Matthew Moss)

The pamphlet, issued in July 1944, is written for instructors to train troops how to handle, maintain and use the Thompson. The pamphlet was eventually superseded by one covering both the STEN and Thompson.

Diagram showing the Thompson Machine Carbine disassembled (Matthew Moss)

The pamphlet is just 12 pages long but includes some interesting insights and an appendix looking at the ‘spotlight projector’ training instrument.


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