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"German Antitank Magnetic Charge" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following report on the German Hafthohlladung hollow-charge anti-tank grenade and the BZE igniter originally appeared in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 23, April 22, 1943.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


Until a technical analysis reveals a detailed breakdown of the functional operation of this device, a practical, field analysis, made in the Middle East, is given in this report with a sketch which is not to scale.

a. The Grenade

It is painted field gray. The magnets attached to the base of the charge are said to be strong enough to hold it against a vertical surface. The total weight is about 6.5 pounds--the magnets themselves weighing about one-half the weight.

The main filling (1) is contained in a pressed metal container. The neck (2) performs the dual function of forming a hand-grip and also contains a recess (3) for the detonator. A screw-threaded closing cap (4) is set above internal screw-threads (5) which receive a BZE igniter (see description below of this igniter). Six bolts (6) tie the base of the conical portion to the magnets. Between the magnets and base of the conical portion is the plywood framework (7). There are three horseshoe magnets (8).

[Hafthohlladung, German Antitank Magnetic Charge]

Additional information obtained from enemy sources further serves to identify what is apparently the same grenade. The grenade is called Hafthohlraum Granate (clinging hollow-space grenade); it is funnel-shaped, and adheres to an enemy tank by magnetic attraction. It was said to be first employed on the Russian front in July 1942. These grenades are either transported in cardboard containers or else suspended from the soldier's belt.

In using the grenade, it is reported that the soldier moves forward towards a tank, via the "dead area" where the tank is unable to reach him with its fire. Upon reaching the tank, he places the grenade against the hull where it adheres through magnetic attraction. The fuze is pulled at the same time. Meanwhile, the grenade holds fast to the metal for several hours.

The destruction is caused by simultaneous melting of the metals and by destructive explosion.

The funnel-shaped body of the grenade is made of thin steel. The incendiary material is described as a pink dust which, when ignited, gives off a terrific heat--sufficient to burn through the armor plate almost immediately. Heat is accompanied by an explosion and the emission of choking gases.

b. BZE Igniter

(1) General

This is the standard igniter for the German egg-shaped grenade, it may also be used with demolition charges and booby traps. The head (5--see sketch) is painted blue; this igniter has a delay of about 4 1/2 seconds. However, there is a similar igniter with a head colored RED which has a delay of only 1 second. The latter is used with the so-called German "shaving sick grenade" (used as a booby trap) and a signal smoke flare; when used with these, the igniter cannot be easily removed because of the locking nut on the underside of the lid of the container, but they are reasonably safe to handle once the igniter has been neutralized.

It is important to note that it has recently been reported from North Africa that German egg-shaped grenades have apparently been booby-trapped with the 1-second delay igniter; if the red cap is removed and the firing cord pulled the grenade detonates almost instantaneously.

(2) Description

The BZE igniter consists of a brass body (1), which contains the friction composition through which the pull wire (2) is drawn. The lower end of this wire is coiled (3) to provide the resistance to the pull. The upper end of the wire has a loop through which is fastened one end of a cord 2 1/4 inches long.

The other end of the cord is attached to a disk (4) inside the spherical head (5). As the head is unscrewed and pulled, the slack in the cord will be taken up when the disk catches in the opening of the head. Pull is then exerted on the wire, the friction composition is ignited, and in turn ignites the compressed powder in the steel tube (6).

[BZE Igniter]

(3) To Neutralize

(a) If the igniter is found with the head in place, it is safe to handle without further manipulation.

(b) To render the igniter inoperative, carefully unscrew the head, taking care not to exert any pull on the cord.

(c) Cut the cord by means of scissors and replace the head with the cord inside.


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