War seems to bring out some of the strangest inventions known to man. In this case the Granatenwerfer which translates to “grenade thrower.” The device was developed for the Austro-Hungarian military by a priest and was used by the German army during WWI. It could throw a grenade further than a person, but did not have the range that mortars would have. It served as a middle ground solution that was a product of its time.
The Granatenwerfer itself weighed about 31lbs and came with a solid base plate that weighed in at 48lbs. Those weights meant that it could be easily carried by one or two people and assembled in place. It was capable of throwing a 14oz grenade to a maximum of 330 yards. With practice it could fire 4 to 5 projectiles a minute!
The grenade itself was designed to slip onto the launch tube and contained a “blank” rifle cartridge ( a normal round with the bullet removed) which it used as the propellant. A pull of a lanyard fired the unit. When the projectile exploded it could spread shrapnel over about a 30 meter radius. It could be fired effectively directly at a target, or indirectly (lobbed into trenches and such).
To the French, the Granatenwerfer round made a very distinctive warbling sound when the round was in the air. Because of this the French referred to the grenades as pigeons. That distinctive sound came into play for the Germans later in the war. Due to the short-range of the weapons it was hard to use them during full on assaults. By the time the grenades launched, the advancing Germans would have caught up to them. This put them in danger of getting into the blast range.
Knowing the enemy would likely go to ground when they fired with their distinctive sound, they would remove the explosives from the grenades. This gave them the advantage of advancing without worry of their own bombs, but also knowing the enemy would have their head down!