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"The Grenadiers"

Being a grenadier discloses two things about a military man: he was respected by his superiors and he was likely a man of a large physical stature. The hand grenade, as we men as boys remember so well, is an essential piece of ordinance found to be hanging off, of any self respecting soldier as may be found in the 20th century. It was a metal container packed with explosive powder and a fuse. It was thrown by hand at the enemy; it was a dandy way to clear a trench full of enemy soldiers. Hand grenades are not new; they existed back in the 17th century. The difficulty with its use then, as is now, is that the thrower, at the moment of the throw, was usually bearing himself to the guns of the enemy which would be at short range. Generally, the function of the grenadiers in a battle is to clear the way for the main body, the centre, which would be a number of paces behind them and coming up in force with bayonets fixed. The grenadiers were shock troops; they had to crash down or scale barriers and be ready with their hand bombs. The grenadier, for the best chances of his survival, had to be in top physical shape and be adept at moving quickly, throw his 2« lb. grenade far and accurately, and be quick at getting out of the way. Each regiment had its own grenadiers and only the best soldiers were chosen to act as the regiment's grenadiers. Sometimes -- as certainly happened with Wolfe at Louisbourg and at Quebec -- the grenadiers of each regiment would be selected out (much to the chagrin of the regimental commanders) and be formed up as a temporary fighting unit, one tough fighting unit. After the campaign the grenadiers would rejoin their regiment. (Thus, any particular group of grenadiers carried the name of the battle, as for example, the Louisbourg Grenadiers.) To be put in charge as a captain of the grenadiers, such as Mascarene was in the taking of Port Royal in 1710, was indeed quite a military compliment.


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Peter Landry
2012 (2020)