British L Series Grenades



by Norman Bonney

 In the half of the 20th Century dominated by two world wars it is hardly surprising that about a hundred1 British grenades were developed and received the distinction of a Service nomenclature – the grenades of the ‘Numerical Series’. Perhaps what is surprising is that the last half of the 20th Century produced just as many grenades – the grenades of the ‘L Series’.

The adoption of the ‘L Series’ notation is worthy of some brief explanation. On the 31st January 1952 the Organization and Weapons Policy Committee approved in principle the adoption of the US system of nomenclature “modified as necessary” for all future land service weapons and ammunition and the Chief Inspector of Armaments was requested to draw up a scheme of nomenclature. The essential ingredients of the system that was adopted are:

a. The use of ‘L’ numbers to be the equivalent of the American ‘M’ but the ‘L’ would indicate that the store is of British design. This would prevent confusion where stores of US manufacture were in service with British forces and vice versa. Changes to a design that were of operational significance would necessitate a change of ‘L’ number.

b. All stores to be allotted ‘A’ numbers to indicate chronological modifications that are not of operational significance. Original models to be marked A1 (unlike the US system which uses A1 to indicate the first modification).

c. Stores under development to be given ‘X’ numbers and an ‘E’ modification number following the procedures for ‘L’ notation (e.g. Grenade Hand X13E1). The series had no numerical relationship to the store that matured to Service status.

d. ‘B’ number may be further appended to the designation to indicate the use of alternative materials or method of manufacture (e.g. Fuze L208A1B1).

e. All empty ammunition components would be designated by their part number and not by an ‘L’number (e.g. Grenade, TW12GE).

Stores that already existed under the ‘Numerical Series’ retained their designation and non-operational modifications continued to change the Mark. For this reason grenades designations No 80 and No 83 remained in service until the 1990’s.

Ammunition is described by a “basic name” (e.g. Grenade) and its “modifier” (e.g. Rifle). To confuse later students of grenade development the system introduced different ‘L’ number series based on the “modifier” so there exists L1A1 notations for Grenades Rifle, Grenades Discharger and Grenades Hand.

In 1964 the Master General of the Ordnance formed a panel to compile a glossary of names and definitions in accordance with NATO principles. It was at this stage that “basic names” such as Drill Grenade (rather than Grenade, Drill) were introduced. Following on from this work, in 1965, came a review of the ‘L’ model numbering system, which produced a straight forward numbering scheme for grenades. From 1965 grenade numbers would be allocated from one series. Experimental stores would be given a number which would be carried through into service, the experimental development being indicated by an ‘X’ preceding the ‘L’ and an ‘E’ modification number. On maturing to Service status the ‘X’ would be dropped and an ‘A1’ would replace the ‘E’ number (e.g. Grenade, Hand, Smoke Screening, XL50E2, the final development model would become Grenade, Hand, Smoke Screening, L50A1 in production).


1 Many more experimental and emergency types were produced and in some cases used by troops.

2 A brief explanation is all that is possible. The complexities of the complete cataloguing system or ‘system of nomenclature’ would (and did) consume a volume in itself.

3 It should be noted that in about 1948 a system of designating fuzes with an L or N identifiers (for Land Service and Navy respectively) was introduced but this is not same system referred to in this chapter although the Land Service ‘Number L’ fuzes were assimilated into the scheme, the Fuze Percussion No L.9 Mk 2 for the Energa grenade becoming the Fuze Percussion DA L9A2.

4 One reason for the difference was that the British held the view that demands could be made for obsolete stores if the A number was accidently left off of the designation (e.g. Grenade L9 would be flagged as incorrect in the British system whereas Grenade M9 was perfectly valid in the US system).

Grenade developments continued unaffected by the deliberations of ‘nomenclature committees’. At the time of changeover in 1952 the avenues of research and development which would produce the first ‘L series’ grenades were primarily those concerned with screening and irritant smokes, and an anti-personnel fragmentation grenade.


Wire windings on munitions to give anti-personnel fragmentation featured on some foreign grenades in the 1930s but the first recorded British experimental wire wound grenades were the subject of trials during World War 2 and the No 85 Mk 3 was a beneficiary of this work. Although the No 85 did not use the technique one objective in the experimentation was to produce ‘controlled fragmentation’, that is to produce fragments of known size and velocity. Trials in Britain of the American T15, T32 and T33 grenades, which had magnesium based alloy bodies, were another approach to the goal. By 1946 samples of grenades using aluminium wire and steel wire had been ordered for trials. American developments ran in parallel with British work and in 1947 their designs began to mature into the M26 grenade. Perhaps because of the usual post-war defence industry recession British development of the wire wound hand grenade appears to have been frozen between 1946 and 1952.

In 1952, at the American, British and Canadian (ABC) Tripartite Infantry Conference, agreements were made which stimulated British interest in M26 grenade and its projection adapter. The Chief Engineer Armament Design (CEAD) observed to the Director General of Artillery in December 1953 that the UK requirement is similar to the US, and that the US had carried out considerable research to determine the optimum grenade. Interestingly CEAD also said “If we accept the M26, subject to OB trials, the UK version could be in service within one year”. Comparative trials of the M26, No 36 and a Belgian PRB model took place in 1955 and really just confirmed that fragmentation patterns from cast-iron grenades would not meet the War Office specification for a ‘modern’ grenade. In 1959 the first trial orders for the British version of the M26 were underway; the grenade being allotted the experimental nomenclature ‘Grenade anti-personnel X5E1’. Numerous experiments and minor modifications followed until, in 1965, limited approval was given for production and introduction into service of the Grenade Hand/Rifle Anti-personnel L2A1 – so much for the “in service within one year” theory. The grenade and its L2A2 successor has had a chequered performance history but nevertheless remains on the Army’s inventory at the time of writing (2002).  (A press release by the Swiss Munitions Enterprise Corporation indicates that the L2A2 is being replaced by their HG85. The announcement gives contract figures of 363,000 HE, 46,000 Practice and 2,000 Drill grenades to be delivered over a six year period.)

 Irritant Smoke

There were three anti-riot lachrymatory grenades filled CN in service as the new nomenclature system took hold. The No 91 emission type grenade, based on the No83 coloured smoke design, had entered service in 1948. The No 92 bursting type grenade had been in service since the end of the war and the No 95 grenade had just entered service. The No 95 was produced as a replacement for the hand role version of the No 92 which exhibited potentially lethal characteristics(In 1951 the British Army in Germany were so concerned about the lethality of the No 92 that they approached the US authorities for a ‘sale or return’ deal for the American Grenade Hand Riot M25A1 (the contract was not concluded).  . The No 95 grenade was of the emission type but additionally had a bursting charge to deter rioters from picking it up. Only 5000 No 95 grenades were manufactured.

A new Mark 2 model of the No 91 with improved emission performance was introduced in 1955 to be the main anti-riot grenade and it was this grenade that would be the basis of the first ‘L series’ anti-riot grenades. The No 91, being a hand grenade, had limited range and the first development was to convert the grenade for rifle use by replacing the striker mechanism with a tail tube assembly. The experimental grenade was assigned the nomenclature Grenade Riot Rifle X3E1(Changed to Grenade, Rifle, Anti-Riot, Lachrymatory, X3E1 in 1957) but it did not become a service store.

In 1958 experiments began with No 91 Mark 2 grenades filled with a powerful lachrymator codenamed T792. A redesign incorporating side venting created the experimental Grenade Hand Anti-Riot X7E1 and, at about the same time, T792 was called CS(Following the US Chemical Warfare Service designator for this powerful irritant. CS is named after its American inventors Corson and Stoughton and dates back to about 1928).  In about March 1960 the X7 matured to service status as the Grenade Hand Anti-Riot L1A1 and deliveries commenced later in the year.

Screening Smoke

The No 80 and No 81 grenades had both been employed in armoured vehicles as discharger smoke screening grenades. Comprising of two smoke units with differing ‘build up’ rates the No 81 had showed promise but the problems of ignition of the HCE component caused the design to be dropped in 1948. With both grenades the process of loading and unloading the discharger was laborious and some work was done to ease the process. A version of the No 80 was developed (called the ‘life saver’) in which the striker mechanism was replaced by a propelling and initiating cartridge. The use of White Phosphorus to generate the screening smoke caused two problems for the users. Firstly the smoke screen was of short duration and secondly the inflammable nature of WP was hazardous to the armoured vehicle, particularly when under small arms fire. Development interest returned to the use of HCE (the second component of the No 81 grenade) as the screen producing agent and in 1955 a grenade filled HCE with the designation Grenade Smoke X1E1 was the result. The grenade was referred to as the ‘Jack Grenade’ because it employed a very simple electrical ‘jack’ connector which plugged into a propelling cartridge fixed to the grenade. Trials with this grenade were not entirely successful because, designed to fit into the existing discharger, the grenade had a relatively small payload and the screen was consequently of limited duration. The Royal Armoured Corps 1958 report on the X1E1 recommended continued development employing HCE, the ‘jack’ principle and an enlarged discharger if found necessary. The report paved the way for a substantial redesign of the X1E1 which resulted in the larger capacity Grenade Smoke X6E1. By 1962 this tactical screening smoke grenade was in pre-production. The grenade was introduced into service in 1965 as the Grenade Discharger Smoke Screening L5A1 fitting the improved discharger design which was subsequently employed on the ‘A’ vehicle fleet. The design of the X6 was essentially that of a ‘carrier’ grenade and able to be adapted to other fillings; Grenades Discharger L6 (CS) and L7 (Smoke) are such examples.

Grenade, Hand, Anti-riot, Irritant L1A1 Grenade, Rifle, Practice Marker L1A1 Grenade, Hand, Anti-riot, Irritant L1A2 Drill Grenade, Discharger, Smoke L1A2
Grenade, Hand, Anti-riot, Irritant L1A3 Grenade, Hand-Rifle, Anti personnel, L2A1 Grenade, Hand, Anti-riot, Irritant L2A1 Grenade, Hand-Rifle, Anti personnel, L2A2
Grenade, Hand-Rifle, Practice L3A1 Grenade, Hand-Rifle, Practice L3A2 Grenade, Hand-Rifle, Practice L3A3 Grenade, Hand-Rifle, Drill L4A1
Grenade, Hand-Rifle, Drill L4A2 Grenade, Discharger, Smoke Screening L5A1 Grenade, Discharger, Smoke Screening L5A2 Grenade, Discharger, Smoke Screening L5A3
Grenade, Discharger, Smoke Screening L5A4 Grenade, discharger, Anti-riot, Irritant L6A1 Grenade, Discharger, Smoke Screening, Green L7A1 Grenade, Discharger, Smoke Screening L8A1
Grenade, Discharger, Smoke Screening L8A2 Grenade, Discharger, Smoke Screening L8A3 Grenade, Discharger, Smoke Screening L8A4 Grenade, discharger, Anti-riot, Irritant L9A1
Grenade, discharger, Anti-riot, Irritant (long range) L11A1 Grenade, discharger, Anti-riot, Irritant (Medium range) L12A1 Grenade, Anti Riot, Irritant L13A1 Grenade, Anti Riot, Irritant L13A2
Grenade, Discharger, Practice, anti Riot (Long Range) L14A1 Grenade, Discharger, Practice, Anti-Riot, (Medium Range) L15A1 Grenade, Hand, Practice, Anti-Riot L16A1 Grenade, Hand, Practice, Anti-Riot L16A2
Grenade, Discharger, Proof L17A1 Grenade, Hand-Rifle, Smoke, Screening, RP XL21E1 Grenade, Discharger, smoke Screening, Green, Short Range L27A1 Grenade, Hand Drill, L28A1
Grenade, Hand, Smoke Screening L34A1 Grenade, Hand, Signal Smoke, Blue L35A1 Grenade, Hand, Signal Smoke, Blue L35A2 Grenade, Hand, Signal Smoke, Green L36A1
Grenade, Hand, Signal Smoke, Green L36A2 Grenade, Hand, Signal Smoke, Red L37A1 Grenade, Hand, Signal Smoke, Red L37A2 Grenade, Hand, Signal Smoke, Yellow L38A1
Grenade, Hand, Signal Smoke, Yellow L38A2 Grenade, Hand-Rifle, Smoke, Screening, RP XL40 Grenade, Hand, Coloured Smoke, Blue L46A1 Grenade, Hand, Coloured Smoke, Green L47A1
Grenade, Hand, Coloured Smoke, Red L48A1 Grenade, Hand, Coloured Smoke, Orange L49A1 Grenade, Hand, Smoke Screening L50A1 Grenade, Hand, Signal Smoke, Blue L52A1
Grenade, Hand, Signal Smoke, Blue L52A2 Grenade, Hand, Signal Smoke, Green L53A1 Grenade, Hand, Signal Smoke, Green L53A2 Grenade, Hand, Signal Smoke, Red L54A1
Grenade, Hand, Signal Smoke, Red L54A2 Grenade, Hand, Signal Smoke, Orange L55A1 Grenade, Hand, Signal Smoke, Orange L55A2 Grenade, Hand, Practice, CY-1
Grenade, Hand, Practice, L59A1 Early version Grenade, Hand, Practice, L56A1 Later version Grenade, Hand, Stun L60A1 Grenade, Hand, Signal Smoke, Green L64A1
Grenade, Hand, Signal Smoke, Orange L65A1 Grenade, Hand, Signal Smoke, Red L66A1 Grenade, Hand, Signal Smoke, Blue L67A1 Grenade, Hand, Signal Smoke, Green L68A1
Grenade, Hand, Signal Smoke, Orange L69A1 Grenade, Hand, Signal Smoke, Red L70A1 Grenade, Hand, Signal Smoke, Blue L71A1 Grenade, Hand, Smoke Screening, Training L72A1
Grenade, Hand, Smoke Screening, Training L73A1 Grenade, 40mm, Heat L74A1 Grenade, 40mm, HEAT-APERS L75A1 Grenade, Hand, Assault, Practice XL79E1
Grenade, Hand, Assault, Practice XL79E2 Grenade, Hand, Screening Smoke, Training L83A1 Grenade, Hand, Screening Smoke, Training L83A2 Grenade, Hand, Smoke Screening, RP L84A1
Grenade,Rifle, HE, Anti Personnel, L85A1 Grenade, Rifle, Practice with booster L86A1 Grenade, Rifle Launched, Practice, Inert L87A1 Arctic Grenade Hand Smoke Xl93E1
Grenade, Discharger, anti Riot, CS L96A1 Grenade, Discharger, Anti Riot, Practice L97A1 Grenade, Hand, Signal Smoke, Yellow L100A1 Grenade, Hand, Signal Smoke, Purple L101A1
Grenade, Hand, Distraction, L106A1 Grenade, Hand, Assault, Sound, 6 bang L107A1 Grenade, Hand, Assault, Practice, 6 bang L108A1 Grenade, Hand, Assault, Practice, 6 bang L108A2
Grenade, Hand, Anti Personnel, L109A1 Grenade, Hand, Anti Personnel, L109A2 Grenade, Hand, Anti-personnel, Drill L110A1 Grenade, Hand, Anti Personnel, Practice L111A1
Grenade, Hand, Anti Personnel, Practice L111A1B1 Grenade, Discharger, Visual and Infrared L114A1 Grenade, Hand, Distraction, Practice, 1 Bang L115A1 Grenade, Hand, Smoke Screening  L132A1
Grenade, Hand, Signal Smoke, Green L152A1 Grenade, Hand, Signal Smoke, Orange L153A1 Grenade, Hand, Signal Smoke, Red L154A1 Grenade, Hand, Signal Smoke, Yellow L155A1
Grenade, Hand, Signal Smoke, Purple L157A1 Grenade, Hand, Signal Smoke, Turquoise L158A1