April 06, 2015

Struth! My boomerang won't come back - it exploded!

DON'T return to sender – the bizarre Russell Boomerang
Grenade proposed for the Australian Army in World War I.
(Roderick Eime)

IN his continuing search for the more weird, wacky and wondrous in the world of travel, David Ellis says that bizarre though it sounds, a potential weapons idea for the Australian Army during the First World War was a hand grenade made in the shape of a boomerang.

But boomerang-like as it may have been, it would not have come swirling back onto its Army thrower: being made of flat galvanised iron and with an 85gm charge of blasting gelignite and a detonator at one end, its Melbourne engineer inventor Mr G.V. Russell reasoned that being heavier at that one end it would travel long distances in a forward direction only to target enemy trenches or other strongholds.

And certainly far more efficiently than the risky "hand bombs" that Australian front line troops were frighteningly then making themselves –old jam and bully beef tins packed with explosives.

At trials in Melbourne in August 1915 of the Russell Boomerang Grenade a watching newspaper reporter described it as "swooping down like a hawk on its target," but the Australian Grenade Training School was less enthusiastic and dismissed it as "erratic and uncertain… of no value for Military purposes."

Mr Russell successfully appealed for more trials to be allowed, but his Boomerang Grenade still did not pass scrutiny and only one has survived to this day.

And that is on show at the Australian Infantry Museum at Singleton in the NSW Hunter Valley, open Wednesdays to Sundays. Details (02) 6575 0257 or www.infantrymuseum.com.au

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