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German Ordinance

Bombs dropped by Luftwaffe aircraft largely comprised either High Explosive (HE) or Incendiary, although there was also a range of specialist bombs. The former were designed to deliver a blast effect, shattering or demolishing buildings and structures, the latter setting fire to flammable materials.  Very often the 2 weapons were used together, often as composite loads in the same aircraft, the Incendiaries being used to exploit the opening-up effect of the HE, exposing otherwise protected materials.  Early in the war, German HE bombs (known as Sprengbombe) were often of low weight, 50kg being the most common type. Another widely used type was the 250kg, but heavier weight bombs were also used.  The type was identified by a prefix, either SC, SD or PC, according to function. The number would specify the weight in kg, so an SC50 would be a 50kg Sprengbombe Cylindrich.

In addition to type and weight designations, HE bombs sometimes carried a suffix to indicate the type of fuse or zünder employed, i.e,. mV = mit Verzögerung (with short delay action) and LZZ = LangZeitZünder (long time delay). Thus, for example, the designation SC250 LZZ identified a general purpose, high explosive bomb, weighing
250kg and fitted with a long delay fuse.  The thin-cased general purpose was called the sprengbombe cylindrich (SC. Used for blast effect, they had a relatively high charge ratio of 55%.  Used primarily for general demolition, something like 80% of German high explosive bombs dropped on the UK were of the SC type. 

This picture gives the relative sizes of the bombs. From front to back are the 50kg, the 250kg, the 500kg (in the wooden frame), the 1000kg (nicknamed by the Germans "Hermann") and the 1800Kg (nicknamed by the Germans "Satan"). The bomb right at the back appears to be a 50kg variant.   The picture at the top has 250kg bombs being "decorated" by Luftwaffe personnel, giving some clues at to the size. The bomb is actually 64.5 in. Its filling is either 60/40 Amatol/TNT, or TNT with a variety of additives including wax, woodmeal, aluminium powder, naphthalene and ammonium nitrate. The weight of the filling is 287lbs, making 52% of the total weight of 548lbs.

This Image shows a pair of 1,000kg "Hermann" bombs, in front of a wrecked Heinkel He 111.

The 2 represent the maximum bomb load for this aircraft type.  Specialist bombs used included the thick cased semi-armour piercing type, known as the Sprengbombe dickwandig (SD). These were medium cased steel weapons and, being either anti-personnel or semi-armour piercing, had a load factor of 35% explosive. Because of their penetration qualities they were used primarily against ships and fortifications. These also came in a range of weights, ranging from 50, 250, 500 to 1,700kg.

There was also the armour piercing bomb, known as the panzerbombe cylindrich (PC). With a thicker, armoured steel casing, as little as 20% of the total weight was explosive. It was used against shipping - and especially warships - and fortifications. The heaviest used was the 1,400kg "Fritz" version.

Incendiary Bombs
Although the available HEs possessed great destructive power, perhaps the most potent bombs remained the incendiaries which, dropped in profusion in 1940/41, caused £Ms worth of fire damage and virtually burnt out whole Districts of British cities. However, since they were so often used in combination with blast bombs, their combination could be regarded as a composite weapons system.

In an attempt to make these weapons even more effective, and to defeat the fire-fighters efforts, the Germans introduced explosive charges into the nose or tail of some incendiary bombs.  The charge was initiated either by the heat of combustion, or by a more complicated device that incorporated a delay of about 7 minutes. The various versions of this bomb included the letter Z in their designation, indicating explosive charge. Thus the standard B1El incendiary bomb fitted with an explosive charge detonated by heat was designated B1EL ZA, and that detonated by a delay B1El ZB.

The type used in the Battle of Britain was the tiny B1El, a 1kg bomblet known as the brandbombe, 1kg Elektron, hence B1El. The consisted of a cylinder of Magnesium Alloy (Elektron), with an incendiary filling of Thermite. These weapons, which burnt with a heat sufficient to melt steel, were ignited by a small percussion charge in the nose which fired on impact.The type used in the Battle of Britain was the tiny B1El, a 1kg bomblet known as the brandbombe, 1kg Elektron, hence B1El. The consisted of a cylinder of Magnesium Alloy (Elektron), with an Incendiary Filling of Thermite. These weapons, which burnt with a heat sufficient to melt steel, were ignited by a small percussion charge in the nose which fired on impact. 

The Luftwaffe used various types of containers to carry and drop small incendiary bombs and in the early part of the war these were usually expendable, aimable types, designated AB (Abwurf Behalter) or BSK (BombenSchaltKasten), holding some 36 B1Els.  Dropping was enabled by an ESAC 250/IX cartridge. The ESAC 250 is an abreviation for (in German) Elektrische-Senkrecht-Aufhangung fur Cylinderbomben 250/IX. In English, this is "an electric activated vertical bomb rack system mark lX for cylindrical bombs up to 250kg. "An He 111 bomber was equipped with 8 ESAC 250s in its internal bomb bay, giving it a carrying capacity of 2,000kg.   It was possible to load into the cartridge one 250kg bomb or 4 x 50kg bombs, using an adaptor. This would permit loading 4 BSK-36 incendiary containers. With each containing 36 incendiary devices, theoretically, an He 111 could carry 1,152 of them. In practice, it would carry a mixed load.  The original large incendiary device, the so called Oil Bomb which was known to the Germans as the flam or flammenbombe. It contained an oil mixture and a high explosive bursting charge. 

These weapons, based on the 250kg and 500kg high explosive bomb case, were thus designated Flam 250 and Flam 500. They were fitted with an impact fuse which often failed to detonate. This resulted in the case splitting open to disgorge its contents without igniting, and as a result of their reliability they were withdrawn from widespread use by January 1941.

Cluster Bombs
A Butterfly Bomb, or (Sprengbombe Dickwandig 2 kg or SD2) was a German 2 kilogram anti-personnel submunition used by the Luftwaffe during the 2nd World War. It was so named because the thin cylindrical metal outer shell which hinged open when the inner bomblets deployed gave it the superficial appearance of a large butterfly. The design was very distinctive and easy to recognise. SD2 bomblets were not dropped individually, but were packed into containers containing between 6 and 108 submunitions e.g. the AB 23 SD-2 and AB 250-3 submunitions dispensers. The SD2 submunitions were scattered after the container was released from the aircraft and had burst open when clear. This bomb type was one of the 1st cluster bombs ever used in combat and it proved to be a highly effective weapon. -

41 fuse – triggered detonation on impact with the ground
67 fuse - clockwork time delay adjustable between 5 and 30 minutes after impact
70 fuse - anti-handling device (i.e. boobytrap), triggering detonation if the bomb was moved after impact with the ground -

Butterfly bombs in a submunitions container could have the full range of fuses fitted to increase disruption to the target. Fuse variants such as the 41A, 41B, 70B1, 70B2, etc., also existed. These variants were inserted into the fuse pocket via a bayonet fitting but were otherwise identical.  On October 28, 1940 some butterfly bombs that had failed to arm themselves and were examined in Ipswich by British  Ordnance  Technicians Sergeant Cann and 2nd Lieutenant Taylor. By screwing the arming rods back into the Fuses (i.e. the unarmed position) the 2 men were able to recover safe examples for scientific examination, in order to discover how the bombs functioned. As with more modern cluster bombs, it was not considered practical to defuse butterfly bombs which had fully armed themselves but failed to detonate (particularly those fitted with the type 70 fuse), due to the extreme risks involved. The standard render safe procedure for any unexploded butterfly bomb was to evacuate the area for at least 30 minutes (in case the bomblet was fitted with a type 67 time delay fuse), then destroy it in situ by detonating a small explosive charge next to it. Other solutions were to attach a long string to the bomb and tug on it after taking cover, or for bombs in open countryside, shooting at them with a rifle from a safe distance. -

The 1st cluster bomb ordinance used by military were in WW2 on the German side, the “explosive bomb Vase 1 kg” short SD 1, the “explosive bomb Vase 2 kg” short SD 2, as well as the shaped charge anti-tank bomb SD 4 HL. These were differently sized disposal containers (e.g. AB70 with 23 SD 2 or 50 SD 1 to AB1000 B1,3 e or 1000 SD 1 with 610 incendiary bombs) packed, which in turn was dropped like a big bomb, after a short time the  case opened over a time fuse and the bomblets were released. The camouflage was usually dark green or dirty yellow coloured bombs were allocated over the surface and exploded depending on the fuse used on impact, after the lapse of a predetermined time or at subsequent disruption of the bomb.

Many ‘containers’ – of incendiary or anti personnel bombs – were shaped in a bomb form, presumably to fit into the existing bomb racks. The ‘Butterfly Bomb’ was originally contained in an A.B. 23, which was, more or less, the same shape as a 50kg bomb and contained 23 bombs, hence its title. It had an air burst fuse so that the container opened up soon enough for the bombs to arm themselves before reaching the ground.

The range of bombs which the Germans had at that time were in 3 types:-

50 kg (112 lb) S.C. or S.D.
250 kg (550 lb) S.C. or S.D.
500 kg (1,000 lb) S.C. or S.D.
1,000 kg (2,400 lb) S.C. (Herman)
1,000 kg (2,400 lb) S.D. (Esau)
1,400 kg (3,200 lb)

S.D. (Fritz)

1,800 kg (4,000 lb) S.C. (Satan)
S.C. stood for Spreng Cylindrisch, a thin walled, general purpose bomb.
P.C. stood for Panzerdurchsclags Cylindrisch and was a heavy armour piercing bomb.
The latter used almost entirely against shipping and heavily shielded targets.
The weight ratio of the 2 most used types were S.C. 55% explosive, whilst the S.D. had 35%.

Later in the war they introduced the Flam 250 and Flam 500. These were the same size as their equivalent in S.C. but were filled with a flammable oil mixture which was spread over a wide area when the 3 pound burster charge exploded. They were designed to start a fire over a wide area, but frequently just covered it with its disgustingly smelly contents. They also similarly filled S.C. bomb cases with the same results. All of these had simple impact fuses.

Sea & Land Mines
At times the Luftwaffe also purposely dropped its standard
sea mines, fitted with a suitable detonator, on land targets.  By their intended recipients, these were referred to as "Land Mines", often with some awe, reflecting the amount of damage they could do.  With a high charge ratio of 60-70% and parachute-retarded descent,  they created considerable blast damage in built-up areas.  The 1000kg Luft Mine B was normally employed, and as such was designated Bomben B when used against land targets

The parallel sided body of the SB1000 is made of steel plate and is roughly elliptical in end section. It is formed by two halves which are welded together externally. The bomb body is strengthened by a longitudinal bulkhead and 2 perforated diaphragms all welded into position. The base plate is welded into the body 2.5 inches from the end. The recess so formed is used to house the parachute container. The fuse pocket is welded into a slot in the longitudinal bulkhead. Nose plate is welded into position and has in it filling holes. There is a nose extension in the centre of the nose plate which houses the impact switch 55A/M fuse. The fuse pocket is connected to the impact switch by 2 wires which are housed in a metal tube. The parachute container, a thin metal box, is positioned between 2 ribs riveted to the base plate. It is secured to the base of the bomb by bolts. Inside the outer box an inner container is welded to the base of the outer box. Four extension springs are secured to the base of the inner container and are also attached to a plywood platform which is the base for the parachute. The parachute is folded on the plywood, the platform depressed, compressing the spring then held in place by canvas flaps secured over the top. The under flap carries a loop of cord which is threaded through eyelets of the other 3 flaps, a quick release pin is passed through the loop, thus retaining assembly against action of the spring.

Mine Disposal - Magnetic Mines

We don’t kid ourselves we’re heroes
cos we sometimes get the blues,
especially when we get a bomb
that’s got an awkward fuse.

And if we get it out alright,
We do a little grin
But if we don’t - that’s just too bad
They inform our next of kin.

Mysterious underwater explosions in 'H' Channel off Aberdeen started a panic.  Lt Commander Leon Verdi was flown up in weather unfit for flying.  On arrival at the airport at Aberdeen it was a mad rush to the dock.  An Armed Trawler immediately put to sea, but when the Skipper was asked for his chart, he replied he didn't have one but knew the spot. In mid afternoon the Trawler slowed, the Skipper sniffed the breeze and said 'She's there.' A few feet beneath the surface was the mast of a sunken Ship. An underwater inspection revealed the vessel sitting on her side but there was nothing to indicate whether a torpedo, snagline mine, explosive motor boat, drifting mine or a submarine laid influence mine had caused the damage. 

Beneath the wreck was an aircraft which had evidently been lying on the seabed when the ship was sunk.  While the search for clues to the 'mysterious explosion' continued, tragedy struck elsewhere. The Captain of an ML located a sub-laid mine and manhandled it delicately ashore at Great YarmouthCommander Edwards, the local RMSO, a legendary character who had rendered safe vast numbers of enemy moored mines and conical floats, obtained permission from DTM to have a go at it. In the process of stripping the mine, it detonated, killing Edwards and his American observer.  (It is possible the aircraft was a ditched German Bomber and contained 2 Magnetic Mines which both triggered when the ship inadvertently passed over it.)

Shortly after the tragedy a similar mine was washed ashore on the same strip of beach. Mouldy was ordered to use all scientific aids in fathoming the mine's secrets. The Leon Verdi with his mobile dark room and Waldron, a civilian scientist who did the lab X-ray, joined Mouldy Waldron also brought a sensitive trepanner. Sensitive listening devices were used to detect a possible clockwork. At one stage it was feared a gamma ray anti-stripping device might be fitted. Both fears proved negative.  Mouldy decided to proceed with a step by step strip. Shadow pictures showed in addition to the normal bits and pieces a canister about midway on the long axis. A very thin wire could be discerned stretched from the canister to the mechanism plate and aft to the main charge.

Was it a booby trip or a self destruction device? If either, how did it work? Was removal of the whole mechanism the trigger?  Could the main charge be parted from the body of the mine without risk?  Sooner or later the RMSO arrived at the moment of truth. He must touch or move something. The mine was of the magnetic type but there was no certainty that it was dead magnetically. As a start the mine was gimballed and although very sensitive, the many fingered moving parts were very sluggish.  Eventually, after weighing all the probabilities, Mouldy, step by step, unveiled the ingenuity exercised by the German armourers and the mine that claimed the life of Edwards and his observer was rendered safe.

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Last modified: 01/09/2013