HILL 80 FINDS EXPLAINED: I. GERMAN 7,92×57 RIFLE CARTRIDGES
During the test excavations in 2015 a number of objects were found. In the ‘finds explained’ series we will take a closer look at a number of those objects and at their history.
In one of the test trenches the archaeologist unearthed a number of rifle cartridges. In this case they are all of the 7,92×57 Patrone S type, the standard rifle cartridge of the German Army. This type of cartridge was introduced in April 1903 for use in the Gewehr 98 rifle which was gradually issued to German Army units from 1901 to replace the older Gewehr 88 model. The Patrone S (S = Spitz, engl. pointed) had superior ballistic qualities, a projectile weight of 10 grams and with a charge of 3,2 grams S-Pulver (more powerful, smokeless double-base powder based on nitrocellulose and nitroglycerin) developed a velocity (Vo) of 890 meters per second.
Every German infantryman carried 90 rifle cartridges (on loading stripes of 5 cartridges each) in his ammunition pouches and a reserve of 30 cartridges (two boxes of 15 rounds each) in his tornister/rucksack. The rucksack was not usually worn during static service, but if heavy fighting was expected German soldiers were sometimes issued with a Patronenbandulier, a cloth bandolier which was hung across the neck and which held 100 rifle cartridges on loading stripes and was discarded after use.
A total of 27 S-Patronen were found, a number of them on loading stripes. Most were manufactured by the Deutsche Munitionsfabriken in Karlsruhe while a few were made by the Königliche Munitionsfabrik in Spandau.
What is unusual about them is that all were made in 1914 and earlier. This in turn helps us to narrow down the possible date on which they were dropped and buried. At the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914, the German Empire had over 800 million rifle and pistol bullets (incl. older types) in storage. At first glance a tremendous number, yet by the end of October 1914 all existing stocks of ammunition available for frontline usage had been used up and the German Army was already dependent on new production. This makes it very probable that these cartridges were lost, dropped or buried in the area of the German burial pit during the early stages of the war, most probably during/after the fighting for the possession of Wijtschate in November 1914.