Sauterelle “d’Imphy” Type A grenade crossbow
Designed and patented c.1915 by physician and artillery officer André Broca, son of Paul Broca of the eponymous part of our frontal lobe responsible for speech production. Manufactured c.1915~16 for the French army.
Steel and wood construction, torsion crossbow design with twisted steel limbs, rack and pignon reloading system, range of 23~125m adjusted by sliding the release mechanism back and forth.
Mle1847/1914 fragmentation grenade as a projectile, weighs 1,2kg with 110g of explosive, 5sc time fuse activated with a friction primer linked to a brooch and a leather strap, which in this case the user would attach to the crossbow before firing.
The Sauterelle -grasshopper- crossbow was a stopgap trench weapon to make up for the lack of trench mortars in the French army. What the French army had however was obsolete grenades that worked very well as projectiles, something that didn’t go unnoticed a produced a slew of various derived hand mortars and slingshots, the Sauterelle being one of them.
It was used by being propped against the trench wall at about a 45° angle, with the user sitting on the saddle-part with both feet planted against the wall. The crossbow could be operated alone, but it was usually manned by a team of two soldiers since the grenade cup would never be pulled far enough back on the weapon that a single servant could load it comfortably without standing up.
Although efficient enough, there was no denying that crossbows had been outdated since around the 16th century. The Sauterelle was only a temporary measure to provide French troops with short-range artillery until mortars and rifle grenades took its place.