• No.68 MkIIII A.T. Grenades

    No.68 MkIIII A.T. Grenades
    (Mfg by Gestetner of London in 1942)

    (Click PIC to Enlarge)

    Originally Posted by :
    Caliber: ....................... .303 British Grenade Cartridges
    Rifling & Twist: ............ Smooth bore Enfield discharger cup
    Overall Length: ............ 7 in.
    Diameter: ................... 2.5 in.
    Weight: ...................... 1lb, 15.5oz
    Charge Weight: ............ 5.5oz of Lyddite, Pentolite or RDX/Beeswax
    Qty Mfg: ...................... approximately 8,000,000 made in the UK between 1940 and 1945

    Source: .... Before the Dawn by Brigadier Sir John Smyth, V.C., Wikipedia, WW2equipment.com, correspondence from Norm Bonney and Warren Wheatfield
    Observations: (by "Claven2" and "Wheaty")
    Note: Pics of grenades provided courtesy of Milsurps.com moderator Claven2.

    As fate would have it, when the BEF was driven back to Dunkirk in 1940 (26 May 1940 – 4 June 1940), a great deal of that failure was due to a lack of armored formations with which to counteract the German Blitzkrieg. All of this had a rather profound effect upon the British who began to immediately try and counteract their disadvantage in tanks by developing ways to destroy German tanks which could be employed by the private soldier in infantry regiments.

    One such way was the Boys rifle, which unfortunately was nearly obsolete by the time the war started as its armor penetration was lackluster where panzers were concerned.

    Another way was the rather novel No.68 Anti-Tank (AT) grenade. This often forgotten rifle-fired projectile was developed for use in the venerable Lee-Enfield grenade firing cup discharger with the sole aim of penetrating armor - it had negligible anti-personnel effectiveness. By June 1940 10,000 grenades had been delivered and issued out of a requested 2 million grenades - not nearly enough to save the situation in France.

    Depicted above are not one, but TWO original examples of this rather uncommon Lee Enfield "accessory".

    As you can see, one is painted and the other appears to have never been painted. Both retain original cotter pins and brass instruction tags. The unpainted example is, unfortunately, missing the screw-on cap that held the brass disc which kept the shape charge in the grenade's cup. The second (painted) grenade retains the cap, but is also missing the brass disc. Both retain their fuze mechanisms. For some reason, the vast majority of examples in collections today are missing the brass disc which retained the charge in the grenade.


    (Click PIC to Enlarge)

    The unpainted grenade appears to have never been painted, and indeed not all originals wore paint when issued. This is not really surprising since the body of the grenade is made from some form of cast aluminum alloy.

    Unlike the angled trajectory of the No.36 Mills Bomb more commonly used in the discharger cup, the No.68 was aimed directly at the enemy vehicle, usually within FIFTY YARDS (yikes!). To be effective, the grenade had to strike the vehicle +/- 15 degrees of perpendicular, else the blast from the shape charge could glance off the target. The charge was ignited by inerita as a tungsten firing pin would act against spring pressure, shearing a soft copper retaining pin, and striking the primer which would then ignite the high-explosive packed into the cup. this would then fire a dart of molten metal through the armor plate, much like a modern RPG.

    (Click PIC to Enlarge)

    These grenades would have been fired with a ballestite grenade-firing cartridge identical to that used with the Mills Bomb.

    The No.68 AT rifle grenade was, arguably, the first fielded HEAT projectile. It was first fielded as the Mark I in 1940 and was continually improved up to the Mark VI version when it was withdrawn from service in 1945. In addition to the approximately 8 million No.68 grenade made in the UK, The No.68 was also made in the USA for both Canada and the British. These US made ones are very rare.

    In addition to Gestetner of London, Patent Diecasting Co, Sparklets, Westinghouse Brake, Rawlings, Metropolitan Vickers, and Wolverhampton Diecasting.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: No.68 MkIIII A.T. Grenades started by Badger View original post
    Comments 4 Comments
    1. roconn's Avatar
      Badger:
      Such an interesting item and so little different from the all the other types currently in use!
      Roconn
    1. gmbear's Avatar
      Excellent article.It is so very important to retain this information and knowledge, which might otherwise be lost forever. Keep up the great work.
      gmbear
    1. Bonnex's Avatar
      Excellent document. The No 68 Mark VI was manufactured in Canada by the Sunshine Waterloo Company in Ontario but the grenade was declared obsolete before any shipment was made to the UK. There is a nice picture in the Waterloo Library archives of a lady looking lovingly at a No 68 Mk VI (I have done the same myself :-) see [ Full Image View: Sunshine Waterloo Company Limited: Waterloo Public Library Digital Collections ]. I thought the only North American production was done by Sunshine in Canada but would be interested to see anything suggesting USA manufacture.

      Norm Bonney
    1. bombdoc's Avatar
      I believe that the 68 Grenade was the first use of a shaped charge warhead by the UK..

      The grenade (along with the 36 (Mills) and 75 (SIPW) grenades were also used in the Northover Projector by the Home Guard..

      Because of the Home Guard connection, these still turn up occasionally in the UK, usually in the inert, white practice version..
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