Shrapnel is intended to kill soldiers, and it did so effectively and horribly. Properly set, the fuse blew the powder as the shell reached its target, ideally sixteen or twenty feet (5 -6 m) above the ground, sending hundreds (1) of metal balls and splinters of shell in a deadly shotgun blast which “shredded flesh, bone, and even steel barbed wire.” (2)
“It rips, tears, lacerates, and penetrates the tissues in a horrible manner. The doctor tries to repair and make good the best he can, but our best is often of little avail.” So wrote Nurse Sophie Hoerner in July 1915. (3)
The metal helmet, Percy’s tin lid, offered some protection against head wounds.
(1) Depending on the shell, there were between 349 (Mark V) and 375 (Mark III) mixed metal bullets in the canister. Handbook of the 18PR QF Gun. London: HMSO, 1915.44-45.
(2) Cook, Tim. At the Sharp End. Canadians Fighting the Great War Vol. 1 1914-1916. 2007. 46
(3) Qtd in Cook. 202.
(4) Bairnsfather, Bruce. Still More Fragments from France. Vol 3. nd. 30.
Copyright 2016. See “More about this project.”