05 January 2023
Michael Heidler reveals a Nazi secret weapon project where the aim was to arm the S-Mine 35 with a rocket motor.
One of the most feared German weapons of World War II was undoubtedly the S-Mine 35, respectfully christened Bouncing Betty by the Americans. The advancing Allies had to be constantly on guard because every step towards the Reich could be their last. However, as deadly as it was, later in the war the SS thought about making it even more lethal by adding a rocket motor to this tried and tested shrapnel mine.
Left: Sectional drawing of the S-Mine 35 in an American data sheet for the troops
The Technical SS and Police Academy under its director, the SS-Brigadeführer and Generalmajor of the Police Helmuth Gerloff, constantly endeavoured to improve and develop new weapons and to provide technical training for SS members and police officers. Originally located in Berlin-Zehlendorf, the academy had to move to the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia in Spring 1943, where it was less endangered by air raids. The SS used premises of the Waffenwerke Brünn, a large armament company already under its control.
Right: The propellant charge can be seen at the bottom of the base between the outer pot and the mine body. It sent the body up into the air, where it exploded thanks to the delay fuse
At this time Gerloff was looking for a weapon to strengthen the police forces in the occupied countries. When enemy paratroopers parachuted in, they were the first available units in such an attack and would possibly be confronted with light or even medium tanks. In view of the tight supply situation and capacity utilisation of the arms industry, it wasn’t possible to equip police units with artillery in the foreseeable future. In order to be able to fight airborne troops and partisan groups effectively an easy to manufacture, yet effective, weapon had to be produced.
The S-Mine 35 had already been developed in the 1930s and was used in WWII from the beginning. It was a perfect mine for defending positions and cordoning off sections of terrain. The special feature of this mine was the delayed action. After stepping on the detonator, or touching the trip wire, the mine body was catapulted into the air to about waist or head height and exploded there. The fragmentation effect was thus fully developed. It was not restricted by soil or plants close to the ground and the shrapnel injured not only the person who set off the mine but also the comrades in the vicinity.
Left: The S-Mine with rocket motor consisted of an S-Mine 35 with ballistic cap, tail unit and a rocket motor. Drawing is from the Technical SS and Police-Academy
The design of the mine was relatively simple. The actual tin-shaped mine body rested in an approximately 5.1in (13cm) high pot made of sheet steel with a diameter of 4.7in (12cm). The double wall was filled with more than 300 steel balls and, later in the war, steel scrap of all kinds was also used. The inner cavity of the mine body was filled with 0.6lb (280g) of TNT. The propellant charge was placed between the bottom of the pot and the mine body. The ignition sent the mine upwards into the air and activated three short-delay pellets. These pellets delayed the mine’s detonation long enough for it to reach an appropriate height before exploding. The total weight of the mine was approximately 8.8lb (4kg), with the weight depending on whether it was loaded with the lighter powdered or the heavier poured TNT. By the end of the war almost two million S-Mines model 35 had been produced.
Gerloff's idea was to take the principle of the S-Mine’s action and turn it into a projectile that could be fired at a distant enemy, like an artillery shell or mortar. Unlike a traditional shell, the new projectile would explode 1m-2m above the ground. The idea was then to equip the S-Mine 35 with a rocket motor in order to fire it up to 1,640yd. It was labelled the S-mine with R-propulsion (R stands for Rakete). On hitting the ground, the mine body would then be ejected and the steel balls and fragments would hit the enemy at a height of 1m-2m.
Left: The S-Mine 35 was difficult to detect in the grass. It claimed many Allied victims
When the S-Mine was detonated in the air, the shrapnel travelled away largely horizontally at high velocity (up to 1,000m/s) radially around the detonation point. According to German documentation, deadly hits against living targets were to be expected within a radius of 65ft (20m) and at up to 330ft (100m) distance, heavy injuries were possible. The mine was to be equipped with a ballistic cap, a tail unit and a rocket motor. In order to ensure the ejection of the mine body on impact, the bottom of the mine pointed upwards and the tail unit with the rocket motor was attached to the top of the mine. For launching the mine, a frame made of metal tubes was considered. It was to be as simple as possible to manufacture.
Right: An American soldier discovered and dug up a Bouncing Betty. The combat knife used for this is stuck in the ground next to him
The head of the Ordnungspolizei, SS-Oberst-Gruppenführer Kurt Daluege, was already planning to set up a series production in Brno. According to his report titled, Own arms production facilities to equip police troops, some buildings of the local textile industry near the Brno arms factory were to be redesigned. About 250 machines were needed for the extensive production program, which was to include flamethrowers, weapon parts and various other equipment. However, at some point in the Nazi bureaucracy, someone took a dislike to the idea and the S-Mine with rocket motor never went into series production. Even the Army Ordnance Office of the Wehrmacht was not interested in it. It was last mentioned in Gerloff's report entitled, Equipment of police forces in Holland and Norway, from April 1943, but then was never heard from again.
Left: A unit of Americans with mine detectors clears S-Mines 35 on the way to Venafro in Italy
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