The first hand grenades were used in China. And in the sixteenth century, hand-held ball bombs made of clay or metal also began to be used in the armies of European countries. They were stuffed with gunpowder and thrown at the enemy. When the bomb exploded, lethal fragments were thrown around.
For the first time such bombs were called “grenades” in the 16th century by the gunsmith Sebastian Gele, who lived in Salzburg. Indeed, they looked like the fruit of a pomegranate tree, the seeds of which, when hitting the ground, scattered in different directions.
For throwing grenades, or, as they were also called, grenades, tall and strong infantrymen were selected, capable of throwing a projectile much further than an ordinary warrior. They were called "grenadiers", that is, soldiers throwing grenades. For example, in the Austrian army of the 17th century, a company consisted of 10-12 grenadiers.
Interesting Facts About the Grenadiers
- These warriors wore a special headdress called the "grenadier" - a tall cone-shaped hat. The usual soldier's cocked hat for grenadiers did not fit, as it interfered with the swing when throwing a grenade. In addition, the grenadier visually increased the height of the already tall warriors, frighteningly acting on the enemy.
- Grenadiers appeared in the Russian army during the reign of Peter the Great. Extra strong guys were selected from the recruits, teaching them the art of throwing grenades. From the grenadier, not only physical strength was required, but also courage. The soldier had to light the fuse and throw the grenade, timing precisely. The slightest confusion and a shell will explode in the hand, crippling or killing the grenadier himself.
- In 1716, during the Northern War, Peter the Great decided to give his ally, the Prussian King Frederick William, a special gift - 55 selected grenadiers from the Russian army. Having served their time, the grenadiers dreamed of returning back to their homeland. This was done many years later, during the reign of Peter's daughter, Elizabeth.
- In 1827, Emperor Nicholas I issued a decree: to form a special unit from the lower ranks of the guard who distinguished themselves in the Patriotic War of 1812, a company of Palace Grenadiers, so that the veteran soldiers would be provided with salaries for the rest of their lives. The task of this company was to guard the palace of the emperor. The emperor was personally involved in the development of the form.
- In the armies of many countries, grenadiers had one "essential" privilege - the right to wear mustaches. While it was strictly forbidden for ordinary infantry soldiers to do this, they had to shave.
- The skeleton of one of the Prussian army grenadiers of the 18th century is kept in the Forensic Science Museum in Potsdam. His height was 2 meters 23 centimeters. And if you add here heels and a grenadier hat, you get about three meters!
- Already in the second half of the nineteenth century, in connection with the improvement of firearms, the need for grenadiers disappeared. But, many regiments have retained the name "grenadier", as a sign of an elite military unit.
- In 1941, the 1st Grenadier Brigade of the Red Army was formed in the city of Tikhvin. It got its name due to the fact that, due to a lack of weapons, most of the personnel were armed only with hand grenades.