This artifact was donated to the museum just last week and has not yet been added to our collection. It is a defused hand grenade from World War II that was given to a local boy as a souvenir by a grateful family in Holland when he toured Europe with the Alberta Honour Band.
From research, this hand grenade seems to be a Mills bomb, a popular name for a series of prominent British hand grenades. These Mills bombs were the first modern fragmentation grenades used by the British Army, they saw extensive use during World War I. It was William Mills, a hand grenade designer, that patented, developed, and manufactured the "Mills bomb" in the Mills Munition Factory located in Birmingham, England in 1915. The Mills bomb was inspired by Belgian Captain Leon Roland and later Roland and Mills were engaged in a patent lawsuit. The Mills bomb No. 5 hand grenade was adopted by the British Army as its standard hand grenade in 1915.
The mills bomb underwent numerous modifications. The No. 23 was a variant on the No. 5 with a rodded base plug that allowed it to be fired from a rifle. This concept evolved further with the No. 36, which had a detachable base plate to allow use with a rifle discharger cup. The final variation on the Mills bomb was the No. 36M, which was waterproofed with shellac. This variation on the Mills bomb was the standard issue British grendade during the Second World War. This specific hand grenade was designed and waterproofed specifically for use in the hot climate of Mesopotamia in 1917, but remained in production for many years. By 1918, the No. 5 and No. 23 were declared obsolete and the No.36 (but not the No. 36M) followed in 1932.
The "pineapple" design of this grenade allowed for the user to grip the device more easily; however, the design also made for unpredictable fragmentation. After throwing, the user had to take cover immediately. A competent thrower could manage 49 feet with reasonable accuracy, but the grenade could throw lethal fragments farther than this. The British Home Guard were instructed that the throwing range of this defensive grenade was about 30 yards with a danger zone of about 100 yards. After the Second World War, Britain adopted grenades that contained a segmented coiled wire in a smooth metal casing.
In 1987, this waterproofed No. 36M Mills bomb souvenir was brought back home from Holland on the plane. Security was definitely not as tight as it is today.
Back in 2017 our staff wrote a new post each week about a different artifact from our Museum collection. We no longer keep up this tradition as we have moved on to other projects, but we have left them on our site for interest's sake. Enjoy this sneak peek of our Museum and make sure to stop on by to see more!