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Old July 17, 2014, 08:59 PM   #1
Glenn E. Meyer
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Germans denounce French Dum-Dums - WWI

http://karlgoetz.com/ImageDetail.aspx?idImage=72

This is a fascinating nuance of the past. Given one of my other interests, I was reading a world coin journal and they were discussing coins of WWI.

There was a picture of a medal by Karl Goetz - a well known medal fantasy designer. This one denounced the use of dum-dum bullets by the French as noted by the rounds -marked as such and the French rooster kicking the Geneva convention.

The article pointed out the classic mistake the we see all the time confusing Hague and Geneva. What a strange intersection of interests!
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Old July 17, 2014, 10:14 PM   #2
Gary L. Griffiths
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Interesting. I recall reading a memoir of a WWI aviator in which he decried Germans using "explosive" bullets in their aircraft machine guns. As far as I know, they used standard 8x57mm Mauser ammo in their Spandau machine guns, and I really don't see how an 8mm bullet could be made to explode, especially with the technology available a century ago.

Just an interesting sidelight.
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Old July 17, 2014, 11:16 PM   #3
kilimanjaro
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You can blow a doughboy of the Great War to fragments with a howitzer, burn them with a flamethrower, blind them or liquefy their lungs with poison gas, blow off limbs with .50 caliber rounds meant for armored vehicles, but don't shoot them with a hollowpoint, that's inhumane and unnecessary.
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Old July 17, 2014, 11:47 PM   #4
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I agree

You are trying to kill the enemies of your homeland and heaven help you if you are too efficient at it?
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Old July 18, 2014, 08:02 AM   #5
Mike Irwin
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"As far as I know, they used standard 8x57mm Mauser ammo in their Spandau machine guns, and I really don't see how an 8mm bullet could be made to explode, especially with the technology available a century ago."

Explosive bullets, as well as tracer and incindiary, in rifle calibers were developed in the lead up to World War I.

From "Flying Guns – World War 1: Development of Aircraft Guns, Ammunition and Installations 1914-32' by Emmanuel Gustin and Tony Williams" (I think Tony is a member here, he and I have chatted frequently about cartridges in the past, nice guy!)


The signatories to the Declaration of St Petersburg in 1868 renounced the use of any projectile weighing under 400 g which was either explosive or "charged with fulminatory inflammable matter." At that time, the appropriate calibre for 400 g shells was 37 mm, which accounts for the popularity of this calibre for decades thereafter. This limitation was generally adhered to until 1914. However, as we have seen, tracer, explosive and incendiary bullets were all developed and used even in rifle calibres during the First World War. After the fighting was all over, it was decided that the legal position should be clarified so in 1922 a Committee of International Jurists met at the Hague to consider a set of rules for aerial warfare. They decided that the use of tracer, incendiary or explosive projectiles by or against aircraft was not prohibited.

Explosive and incindiary bullets were used primarily against balloons. They were filled with hydrogen, so the best way to knock them down was to set them on fire.

It was quickly discovered that rifle caliber machine guns weren't very effective, so the French modified their M1914 Hotchkiss and the British their Vickers gun to fire the 11mm Gras cartridge, which the Allies adopted as their standard heavy machine gun round.

In one of his books Eddie Rickenbacker talks about using 11mm Gras rounds to bring down balloons, and having to use the cartridges VERY sparingly because they were in such short supply.



What I don't know for sure, though, is whether the Germans ever developed a similar machine gun for attacking Allied balloons.

They did develop a Spandau-type gun chambered in 13.2x92mmSR for use against Allied tanks, but it was introduced very late in the war and I'm not sure that any mver made it into service in the air.
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Last edited by Mike Irwin; July 18, 2014 at 08:07 AM.
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Old July 18, 2014, 08:44 AM   #6
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I'm fairly certain the Germans also complained that the use of shotguns in the trenches was illegal as well. Seems I read that somewhere, but am not sure.

As a bit of an off topic side note. Yesterday my wife and I spent about an hour exploring our towns historic cemetery. Lots of military history dating back to the Civil War section. We came across a huge brass statue over a military grave. The plaque stated "World War veteran". My wife looked at me and said which war? Looking closer we discovered he died in 1939.

After thinking about it I was a little embarrassed. I have lived my whole life with WW-1, or WW-2. I had a grandfather who was a WW-1 vet and my father was a WW-2 vet. It had simply never crossed my mind that prior to 1940 that WW-1 was simply known as "The World War".

Kinda ironic they would complain about bullets while using gas. My grandfather suffered his entire life after being exposed and probably died younger than he should have because of it.
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Old July 18, 2014, 09:06 AM   #7
mete
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I remember reading the report of a British pilot with the first use of an incendiary round .He was trying to get a German blimp but the blimp has higher max altitude than a plane . So he put his plane up on it's tail and took down the blimp.
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Old July 18, 2014, 11:17 AM   #8
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jmr40, I read the same thing in American Rifleman, the NRA monthly, a few years ago. I think it was in an article about the Winchester Model 1897 shotgun which they said got the nickname "trench broom" - and the author mentioned an anecdote about someone reportedly using one to "shoot down" an incoming grenade, like shooting skeet. Not sure how much of that I buy, also not sure my memory of the article is accurate.

In the same article it said something about how uncivilized the Americans were to use such an uncouth weapon as a shotgun, and that the next thing you know we would be using "tommy-hawks" - now I wish I'd kept all those old issues.
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Old July 18, 2014, 11:33 AM   #9
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When the shotgun was introduced into trench warfare, the Germans lodged a formal protest and threatened to execute any American captured with one.

Around the same time the Germans were issuing the Mauser Sawback bayonet, which was to be used in cutting down barbed wire supports.

The Americans lodged a formal protest (both protests lodged with the Swiss, I believe), and threatened to execute any German captured with one.

No one was executed.

The Americans continued to issue shotguns, and the Germans withdrew the sawback.

"All Quiet On the Western Front" has a passage about this. As new recruits come into the squad, the protagonist talks about how their sawback bayonets were either ground down or replaced (can't remember) because the enemy kills anyone found with one.

I've read that the French and British would often summarily kill (or torture and kill) Germans caught with these bayonets, but I don't know if that's true or not.
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Old July 18, 2014, 12:19 PM   #10
kilimanjaro
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Mike, I've read numerous accounts stating Germans captured with the sawback bayonet were shot out of hand, or killed with their own bayonet, see how you like it, Fritz, that kind of thing, but only one or two actual witnesses.

Don't exclude the US troops from the list of those who would shoot the enemy out of hand.

The US trench knives also were changed during the war. The spike knives had guarded hilts with deeply serrated edges, the Germans complained and the knives were withdrawn. The serrated edges caused unnecessary disfigurement and scarring when Fritz got hit in the face. The famous 'knuckleduster' knife of 1918 was permitted, though. It was withdrawn officially in 1943 for humanitarian reasons, times change, but remained widely used.
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Old July 18, 2014, 12:37 PM   #11
mete
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The sawback bayonet was a tool used by the engineering units . My Glock shovel has a saw inside the handle !!
The shotgun was a favorite in Viet Nam by many for fighting in the jungle.
The 1903 MK I had a device to switch to a semi auto with what was really a pistol cartridge !
For police and military it might be better to spend their money in shooting training !! What a bizarre thought !
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Old July 19, 2014, 08:46 PM   #12
Mike Irwin
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The German army issued the sawback to more than just engineer units as there was a need for soldiers to deal with the wooden stakes that held the barbed wire fronting Allied trenches.

Initially they were issued to engineer and pioneer units, primarily for brush clearing, but they were also issued to machine gun teams who might have to clear brush in siting their guns.
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Old July 19, 2014, 09:30 PM   #13
Buzzcook
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Quote:
"All Quiet On the Western Front" has a passage about this. As new recruits come into the squad, the protagonist talks about how their sawback bayonets were either ground down or replaced (can't remember) because the enemy kills anyone found with one.

I've read that the French and British would often summarily kill (or torture and kill) Germans caught with these bayonets, but I don't know if that's true or not.
It was ground down, that passage has stuck with me all these years after I read the book.

Later in the book one of the Germans uses a sharpened shovel as an assault weapon, decapitating allied soldiers. Not sure if the author intended that as an ironic juxtaposition with the sawback.

I also haven't read of any executions from carrying proscribed weapons. I also have never seen a German imperial bayonet that looks like the saw teeth were ground off of.
The sawback does command a premium compared to other period German bayonets. Some of that might be because of the story more than rarity.
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