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Designed by William Mills - a golf club designer from Sunderland - he patented, developed and manufactured the 'Mills bomb' at the Mills Munitions Factory in Birmingham, England in 1915.

The Mills bomb was adopted by the British Army as its standard hand grenade in 1915, and designated as the No. 5. It was also used by the Irish Republican Army.

The Mills bomb underwent numerous modifications. The No. 23 was a variant of the No. 5 with a rodded base plug which allowed it to be fired from a rifle. This concept further evolved with the No. 36, a variant with a detachable base plate to allow for use with a rifle discharger cup. The final variation of the Mills bomb was the No. 36M which was specially designed and waterproofed with shellac for use in the hot climate of Mesopotamia in 1917.

By 1918 the No. 5 and No. 23 were declared obsolete and the No. 36 continued in use until 1972.

Your comments:

  • The No 5 and the No 23 grenades were declared obsolete in 1920. The No 5 effectively became the No 23 Mk I in January 1916. The only difference was the base plug. The No 23 Mks II, III and the No 36 were used to the end of the Great War.
    .......... John Bailey, Ashford Kent, 18th of December 2014

  • My Grandfather was a bomb/grenade instructor in the UK in 1916/1917. He tells in his letters home about some of his experiences with the Mills Grenade. Here is a sample - 7/12/1916 Hurdcott One was badly aimed the other day and fell among a number of men. Killed 2 & wounded ten. 7/12/1916 Hurdcott The Mills grenades now entirely used by the British are the best of any used by any nation & are absolutely destructive anywhere within 10 to 20 yards, pieces have injured men 250 yards away. 12/12/1916 Hurdcott They can kill 6 or 8 men if one falls among them. But one learns to dodge around a traverse in a trench or lie absolutely flat. 26/01/1917 Hurdcott We wear the steel helmet when bombing. Very good they are, too
    26/01/1917 Hurdcott One man today got a piece of bomb.
    26/01/1917 Hurdcott I have been acting as a bombing instructor in bombing bays. We take say 60 men and from behind breast works they
    throw, under our direction, the famous No. 5 or Mills grenades. Before throwing we learn them how to assemble the bomb, then to throw them. Now and again what we call a "dud" occurs, that is it is thrown with the safety pin out, the cap strikes, but the explosion fails. Each instructor has therefore to go out from cover and pick this "dud" up. We are not sure whether it will go off before we get to it, but a pose of courage and careless indifference is shown, or what would the men think. I had my first experience of doing this today. I can tell the blood tingled in the roots of my hair, for I knew if it did go did go off as I approached it, my face would get the lot. Still, I showed no hesitation and it was alright. But it is no mugs game. End of sample. Hope you found this interesting. I am writing a book based on his letters.

    Saturday 25th September 2010
    .......... Adrian Kermode, Adelaide, South Australia, 25th of September 2010

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