2-inch Mortar Ammunition

Discussion in '1940' started by Bohemond, Dec 6, 2015.

  1. Bohemond

    Bohemond New Member

    While reading "Thirty Days to Dunkirk" by Guy Gough it states that there was a "complete lack of H.E. shells for 2 inch mortars" within the Royal Irish Fusiliers.

    Just looking to know if there was a overall lack of H.E ammunition for the 2 inch mortars within the B.E.F.
  2. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    I will have to check but I do know that the same situation prevailed in 2nd Essex, which was also in the same brigade (25th) as the 1st R Ir Fus.
  3. LondonNik

    LondonNik Senior Member

    Last edited: Sep 16, 2017
  4. DavidW

    DavidW Well-Known Member

    Was the same true of H.E Rounds available to troops in North Africa during 1940?
  5. Bohemond

    Bohemond New Member

    Gough also mentions that " one of the two 3 inch mortars was unusable owing to a broken base plate for which a replacement was unobtainable, although it had been on demand and actively sought for several weeks."

    So with the lack of H.E. for the 2" mortars and only one 3" mortar serviceable the battalion seems to have been badly lacking in close fire support, not a great position to be in when you are under constant pressure from the enemy and having to withdraw while also in contact with the enemy.
  6. Knouterer

    Knouterer Member

    According to the War Establishment in force in May 1940, an infantry battalion should have had 288 H.E. and 864 smoke bombs for its twelve 2in mortars, plus some signal/flare bombs if required and available. In reality, production of both 2in and 3in mortar ammunition lagged behind requirements all through 1940.
    For example, at a meeting of the Chiefs of Staff on 14.10.1940 (CAB 79/7/23) it was reported that the army held 108,324 2in mortar rounds as “first and second line ammunition”, only about 35% of the approved scale. The total number of rounds in existence, including “Free Stock Under Issue” and “War Office Reserve”, was given as 276,769.

    The total number of 2in mortars in the hands of troops (at home) at that time must have been about 4,000, perhaps a few more so that would make only about 25 rpg at unit/formation level.
  7. Knouterer

    Knouterer Member

    A report to the War Cabinet about the situation just after Dunkirk (in file CAB 70/1) stated that there were 1,800 2in mortars in the U.K., with 27,500 rounds, and 216 2in mortars still in France, with 77,700 rounds. It may be assumed that not many of the latter were brought back.

    The Ministry of Supply, according to the same report, hoped that 160,000 rounds would be delivered in June, but that was too optimistic. Actual output was reported as about 140,000 per month by August.

    In fact, 77,700 is quite a large number; if all of those had been issued directly, there should have been no shortage (in the short run). But it seems as if the British army was often more concerned with building up huge stockpiles in the rear than with getting ammunition to the fighting troops.
    dbf likes this.
  8. Knouterer

    Knouterer Member

    As the W/E referred to above suggests, the 2in mortar was primarily intended as a smoke thrower, to cover an attack or a withdrawal, with firing H.E. as a secondary task.
    However, one source gives production as 1,257,721 H.E. and 388,422 smoke in the course of 1940.
  9. Blanket Stacker

    Blanket Stacker Junior Member

    Although firing H.E. may only have beem a secondary task for the men at the ministry, it was sorely missed by the infantry, especially as the provision of the 2" mortar meant that rifle launched grenades were discontinued. The British Army had to wait untill the under-slung grenade launcher for the SA80 was introduced to regain this very valuable facility. I'm not counting RGGS, few troops ever saw them and those that did never liked them.
  10. redtop

    redtop Well-Known Member

    Another war I know but Lessons learnt?

    Below is an excerpt from the Director of Infantry's de-brief of Operation Corporate ( Falklands.)

    8 . 51 mm Mortar .The proposed scale of 51mm Mortar rounds appears too heavily weighted with illuminating rounds HQ.Inf. is to examine these scales.
  11. DavidW

    DavidW Well-Known Member

    Was the shortage of 2" HE in 1940 exclusive to BEF, or did it extend to North Africa too?
  12. Knouterer

    Knouterer Member

    Just looking at the War Diary of the 18th Royal Fusiliers for Feb. 1941 (when they were at home). This battalion had just 12 rounds HE and 5 rounds smoke per 2" mortar, and 21 rounds HE per 3" mortar at that time, so apparently there still was a shortage.
  13. Dafydd

    Dafydd Member

    Would you know the number of 2" mortars (smoke or HE) would be allotted to a training unit (OCTU Battle Camp Wing) per month in 1945? I read a newspaper report that '1300' were used every month.

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