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Old 01 April 2014, 11:56 PM
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snopes snopes is offline
Join Date: 18 February 2000
Location: California
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Blow Your Top Chewing cordite

Comment: I've heard it said that during World War II, American and British
soldiers took up the practice of chewing cordite for its particular
intoxicating effects. While this is a widely recorded phenomena, the rumor
that I'm curious about is whether or not this practice could lead to
spontaneous explosions, cordite being the volatile substance that it is.

So I suppose my question is: did any WWII soldier really have his head
explode while chewing cordite?
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Old 02 April 2014, 12:29 AM
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UEL UEL is offline
Join Date: 01 August 2004
Location: Fredericton, Canada
Posts: 9,366

Well, having had a sizable chunk of my career working around and with cordite, I can say that unless they were smoking while chewing cordite (and I doubt the intoxicating effects) and a spark hit the cordite, it would not burn.

And cordite burns. Burns fast. It does not explode. In fact, it takes a primer of other burning material to get it to burn when firing any artillery round.

We used to drop cartons of it off the side of trucks about 1.7 metres from the ground and not one explosion.
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Old 03 April 2014, 09:41 AM
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E. Q. Taft E. Q. Taft is offline
Join Date: 30 July 2003
Location: San Diego, CA
Posts: 14,384

In Frederick Forsyth's novel Day of the Jackal a character advises the Jackal to chew two or three small pieces of cordite to simulate illness, saying it produces a kind of gray pallor and (IIRC) mild fever symptoms, and that it was used by soldiers to fake being sick to get out of route marches. I don't know if there's any substance to that theory, but I suppose there could be a connection between that and the intoxication rumor.
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Old 03 April 2014, 01:45 PM
Nick Theodorakis Nick Theodorakis is offline
Join Date: 05 November 2005
Location: Fishers, IN
Posts: 6,657

It looks like many formulations of cordite contained nitroglycerin and other organic nitrates, so chewing it may well cause a vasodilatory effect (like medical nitroglycerin) so a chewer may well suffer from headaches, dizziness, and appear flushed.

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