The Gammon Bomb

Invented by Captain R. S. Gammon of the 1st Parachute Regiment, the Gammon bomb was developed as a replacement for the temperamental and highly dangerous “sticky bomb” grenade. It consisted of an elasticized stockinet bag made of dark coloured material, a metal cap, and an “allways” fuse, the same fuse as was found in the No. 69 grenade and No. 73 grenade.

The Gammon bomb or grenade was an “improvised hand-thrown bomb used by the Home Guard, the Special Air Service and the Resistance, especially suitable for the destruction of aircraft or vehicles. An explosive charge was wrapped in fabric and sewn to an impact fuse that detonated on sharp contact”.

Unlike conventional grenades, the Gammon bomb was flexible in the amount and type of munition that could be delivered to a target. For anti-personnel use, a small amount of plastic explosive (about half a stick), along with shrapnel-like projectiles, if available, would be placed in the bag. Against armoured fighting vehicles or other armoured targets, the bag could be completely filled up with explosives, making an unusually powerful grenade which could only be thrown safely from behind cover.

Using the Gammon bomb was very simple. After filling the stockinet bag with explosive, the screw-off cap was removed and discarded. Removing the screw-off cap revealed a stout linen tape wound around the circumference of the fuse. The linen tape had a curved lead weight on the end. While holding the lead weight in place with one finger (to prevent the linen tape from unwinding prematurely) the grenade was then thrown at the target. When the Gammon grenade was thrown, the weighted linen tape automatically unwrapped in flight, pulling out a retaining pin from the fuse mechanism. Removal of the retaining pin freed a heavy ball-bearing and striker inside the fuse, which was then held back from the percussion cap only by a weak creep spring. In this manner the allways fuse became armed in flight. Impact with the target gave the heavy ball-bearing a sharp jolt – overcoming the weak resistance of the creep spring – that slammed the striker against the percussion cap. The percussion cap fired directly into the adjacent detonator, which in turn sent a violent shockwave into the main explosive filling contained inside the stockinet bag. Detonation of a Gammon grenade was instantaneous on impact with the target, i.e. there was no time-delay.

Gammon bombs were primarily issued to Special Forces such as paratroopers who were issued plastic explosive routinely. These units found the Gammon bomb to be particularly useful due to its small size and weight when unfilled, as well as its adaptability. It was even effective against armoured vehicles, and paratroopers called it their “hand artillery”. It was also popular as a small amount of the C2 fast-burning explosive could heat a mug of coffee or K-rations without giving off any smoke from the bottom of a foxhole.

Gammon bombs were declared obsolete in the early 1950s, at which point all existing stocks were destroyed. Typically, any examples encountered today are in the form of unexploded ordnance or inert examples held in museum collections.

Ben Davidson

Hello, I have been studying all aspects of history for about 25 years. I have a BA History from the University of Bedfordshire. My historical areas of interest are anything really, but I specialise in 19th - 20th century Britain, America and Ireland. I am also strongly aligned with most military history, really enjoying WW2 and the US Civil War. Chuck in the king or queen and Bob's your uncle.

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