Lochaber Axe

(above) A soldier of the Edinburgh City Guard, 1785, armed with a Lochaber Axe.

The Lochaber Axe (Gaëlic: tuagh-chatha) is a type of poleaxe that was used almost exclusively in Scotland. It was usually mounted on a stout staff about five feet in length. It was in the same class of weapons as the halberd, voulge or bill, and combined different useful characteristics in an age when muskets were expensive, Scots were cheap, and the Lochaber Axe would do the job.

For comparison, a classic medieval poleaxe.


Identify the Mystery Aircraft


Sturmkampfgewehr or StKG

Break-action, shortened Karabiner 98k 26.5mm grenade launcher, first conceived in late-WW2 Nazi Germany, possibly 1943. Think of it as an upgrade to the flare gun based Sturmpistole, this smoothbore carbine was designed to fire the same Wurfkörper 326 LP and 326 LP n.A. grenades (LP stands for Leuchtpistole/flare gun) and thus fill a light anti-tank purpose in the urban warfare of 1944/45.

Some were manufactured during the Second World War, others after the war, notably in Norway from a .30-06 conversion Karabiner.

It reminds me of an “early M-79 Thumper”.

You see them around and the authenticity of many of these weapons is contestable. One thing that’s not contestable is how badass they look.


Trench Cleaners

French Trench Cleaners c.1915

Pictured –  Three French soldiers equipped for trench warfare, using metal skullcaps, body armor, an 1886 Lebel rifle, a MAS 1873 revolver, and what appears to be a vast collection of captured German impact stick grenades. Notice the use of tactical mustaches, a staple of European powers. As popular as tattoos are today.


World War 1 French Hand GrenadesContinued from last week

We discussed the French percussion design that didn’t work last week. It’s called the P1 pear or spoon grenade, P for pércutante – percussive – featured internal rather than external grooves for creating shrapnel and loaded 30g of cheddite explosive. It required cutting the safety cord around it and lifting its spoon to be armed, after which it needed to land on its butt to explode. Even with streamers to keep it fuse-forward, this was unreliable at best.

Starting in May 1915 however, France started issuing the F1 grenade – F standing for fusante, fused/as in fuse grenade – which is sometimes regarded as a father of modern fragmentation grenades. They all used 60g of cheddite. (Below) All the successive models of F1 Grenades, with the last being used up until 1940.

These may look familiar to you.

The furthest left is the F1 à mèche Mle 1915, issued in small numbers and immediately discontinued. You had to light the wick on the top of the grenade to start the fuse. Not optimal in combat, in the rain.

The first reliable fuse system was the F1 à percussion Mle 1915. It’s the second from the left and incorporates a cardboard sleeve that houses the fuse.

It was replaced in the Mle1916 because cardboard tends to lose a lot of its structural integrity when wet in trench warfare.

So we’re at the third from the left. They were operated by having a small fuse plug with an abrasive end fitted with a sleeve with a percussion cap at its bottom, the whole thing being fitted with an additional sleeve to protect it outside of combat. To ignite the fuse, the soldier had to remove the protective sleeve and strike the second one vertically as to slam the percussion cap on the fuse plug.

This led to Billant’s fuse, similar in concept to a Mills bomb and introduced in 1916 as the F1 automatique Billant Mle 1916B, the fourth from the left, and pictured below.

This model would see service for 24 more years and be adopted by the United States, Imperial Russia, Soviet Russia, Finland…Its successor included the Russian F1 and the American Mk2.

The lesser-known French grenade, the OF1 or Grenade Offensive N°1, is a concussion design used in trench warfare for offensive purposes. It loaded 250g of cheddite. Impact fused.

It might look familiar too.


Evolved German Stick Grenades – WW1

Kugelhandgranate M1913/15 Poppenberg system

Manufactured by Germany c.1915-1918 using surplus Khg M1913 fragmentation grenades. 45g explosive charge, percussive system armed by removing the pin and lifting the spoon lever on the handle, after which a sharp shock and gravity would detonate the device.


That’s what happens when you experiment with the early German ball grenade and meld it with their later 1915 stick technology. They had realized earlier with the regular M1915 percussive layout – one with a regular cylindrical head like other Stielhandgranate – you better had the heaviest head possible to make sure it landed right on its face. Impact grenades are tricky. If they landed in thick trench mud, they might not detonate no matter how hard you throw it.


  1. That’s a GREAT mystery aircraft – I had to look it up, so I won’t say. My first guess was one of the various Arados, but not even close!


  2. Definitely Finnish Air Force, post 1918 and pre-WW II; for the rest I had to go on a Google safari.
    Very well done, sir — the mystery is indeed a great one with this aircraft.

    • Jim, MartinFromGermany, Ed and Kle – that’s high praise. You guys have been very tough to stump.

      • Sir, I am honoured by your praise. Thank you very much.
        However, I am only moderately good at aircraft identification of prop planes from WW I, the inter-war period and WW II. When it comes to the modern ‘hoovers’ I am completely out of my depth.
        Kind regards from Bavaria, the better part of Germany.

  3. Grenade story, circa 1966. The Army had training grenades that used a small bag of black powder and a cork in the bottom. When they went off there was a gentle “pop” and a small cloud of white smoke.

    My partner in crime, Tom O’Connor, and I were doing a sweep with mine detectors adjacent to the East German border wire barriers near Gelnhausen. Two East German army officers and one Russian officer were about 15′ from us on the other side. They were enjoying themselves mother****ing us when Tom tossed a training grenade their way. Wearing their nicest prade walking out uniforms, they dove into the mud. Cursing, one picked up the grenade and threw it back at us leaving only a small cork on his side as evidence.

    All Tom’s doing. I didn’t know he had the training grenade.

  4. Polearms are great! When the other side is armed with swords. Against guns, well, yeah, not so much.

    Did you ever find someone to make a poleaxe for you?

    • The short answer is no. To elaborate, I found a guy, we worked out the details, I was about to make a down payment and he went silent for two months. Flaky. I didn’t know him, it was an online thing. I need to find somebody I can meet in person, even if it’s a drive.

      The Plague screwed up a lot of stuff.

      • Dammit. It shouldn’t be that hard to buy a poleaxe. It’s not friggin rocket science.


  5. I had to look it up as well. A British navy Blackburn Ripon. What I couldn’t find any where was how did the Finns use it? As a torpedo bomber or as a reconnaissance plane? Talk about enjoying your duty. He has quite the crew there and they look like sisters as well.

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