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"2-inch mortar as a direct fire weapon" Topic

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Warspite106 Feb 2018 5:20 a.m. PST

I found this today on YouTube:

YouTube link

It is a training film for Commonwealth Universal Carrier crews but also includes firing the British 2-inch mortar. Unusually among WW2 mortars the 2-inch was NOT a gravity fire weapon (Stokes-Brandt system) but used a conventional trigger. This meant it could be used as a direct-fire weapon similar to the US 40mm grenade launchers in Vietnam. A British officer actually won the VC for using a 2-inch mortar in this way as he put it against a hard object and then fired horizontally at oncoming Germans. This film shows the 2-inch being used in just that role.

So be aware that rules such as Bolt Action, etc, which give the 2-inch mortar a long minimum range are incorrect. Its minimum range is virtually point-blank. The smoke round also makes a useful irritant gas or small incendiary for flushing troops out of buildings or setting buildings on fire.

I have come across accounts in Normandy (e.g. Caen: Anvil of Victory – Alexander McKee) where infantry describe using the 2-inch in assaults. McKee recounted that one crew were supposed to support an infantry assault on a large Normandy house. The gunner fired the first round and it was smoke instead of H.E. "They're the bloody smoke rounds" he said. His no 2 said: "Well just keep firing the bloody smoke while I break-out the bloody H.E." The assault went in under cover of the smoke and instead of 20 Germans some 80 emerged from the house. It worked!

So war gamers beware, the 2-inch has a short minimum range and could also be fired from a building in just the same way as a PIAT. It has no back-blast like a bazooka or panzerfaust.

A detailed look at the interior of the carrier is here:

YouTube link


Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP06 Feb 2018 5:31 a.m. PST

This raises an interesting question for rules designers. Do you give a weapon stats based on exceptions like these?

If in 1% of the cases it fired direct, do you allow that 100% of the time? How many times does it have to have been used this way to allow it in a game?

FABET01 Supporting Member of TMP06 Feb 2018 5:57 a.m. PST

From professional experience I know Most mortars have can be fired either by gravity or trigger. The 81mm Mortar we used in the 70's/80's had an attachment that would let us trigger fire. We never used it.

The minimum range for a mortar is not dictated by the firing system. It's determined by the minimum arming range of the round (typically 10m). This can be overcome by simply pulling the bipod back against the tube and putting a sandbag under the feet to support it.

Doctrinely the US 60mm mortar was primarily intended as a direct fire or direct lay weapon in WWII. When it was first reintroduced in the 80's it was the same. The company had no FDC for the section.

FlyXwire06 Feb 2018 6:08 a.m. PST

Perhaps why as a class, these lt. mortars were sometimes referred to as "grenade throwers" (and actually how they came about).

There's often confusion about "indirect" fire (high-angle fire ability to engage over/behind terrain features), and "indirectly sighted" firing (that being forward-observed and directed by another party).

As FABE notes, an FDC, FO was needed for indirectly-sighted fire control.

From a gaming point of view, company-level mortars could actually be "factored-out" from the TOE for many scenario or rule set designs, and reflected as firepower augmentation (increasing an infantry platoon or company's range to engage). It's the battalion and higher level mortars that have the ability to engage as indirectly-sighted batteries that allows them to perform as distinctly separate units of fire [power].

Darkest Star Games Sponsoring Member of TMP06 Feb 2018 7:34 a.m. PST

In my experience, once it is discovered that an item can be used in a different way than intended it will be used in that manner if it works for the situation more often than not.
.50 cal mgs are an example: originally designed as direct fire weapons they can also be used as indirect fire weapons to reach enemy behind the crest of hills. This was used frequently in WW2.
Tanks were also sometimes used as artillery by putting up berms for them to get higher elevation on their guns.
Socks were used to make sticky bombs, and one guy used a PIAT bomb as a club…etc.

When it comes down to rules, you can't possibly cover every situation, and really shouldn't. Most weapons in game rules are designed for their general use and application, and once you start to make exceptions you can quickly unbalance a game as well as create so many exceptions that the whole thing becomes a confusing mess.

Now, I, for one, would probably have used the 2" as direct fire as often as I could. "Hey, watch me put on through that window…"

FlyXwire06 Feb 2018 8:06 a.m. PST

And high angle fire was used by most support MGs (blindly as "interdictory fire"), and generated "beaten zones" just as artillery weapons do when firing multiple rounds and with their produced shrapnel affect (over time).

The Japanese were one of the biggest proponents of the lt. mortar in WW2, something like 3-4 in each rifle platoon (again, think of longer range grenade throwing fired with direct line of sight, or for high-angle fire over trees, hills, etc.).

These lt. mortars could also drop rounds directly on top of their positions.

Now the problem of firing directly "forward" with a triggered mortar….is aiming while be sufficiently braced. In the Pacific GIs and Marines mistook the Ni mortar for a "Knee" mortar, and a few blew out their knees when bracing the mortar against themselves – they are not recoilless weapons.

Private Matter06 Feb 2018 10:54 a.m. PST

I was initially trained as a mortarman in the Marines in the 70s and we had training on using the 60mm as a direct fire weapon if ever needed. They are not that hard to aim and with even a minimal bit of ingenuity you could find something to brace them against for direct targeting. My buddy could drop a round in a very small opening such as a window a hundred yards away on the first try. He did graduate top of our class in ITS.

Based upon this and old training materials I would differ with Extra Crispy in that I would not call a secondary design feature an exception. I think designers should allow for these type of secondary design functions. In my mind an exception would be using parachute flairs as direct fire into a building to start a fire; nos that would be a tough exception for designers to model.

FlyXwire06 Feb 2018 12:12 p.m. PST

There's almost always exceptions in warfare, but many of us are more interested in seeing rules stress demonstrated doctrine and tactics, than the possibilities for exceptional occurrences.

No doubt mishaps happened firing mortars under the stress of combat too – if some player insist they must fire their lt. mortar like bazooka in a game I judge, I'll just declare their mortar team exploded (and quote some unknown percentage of probability for it happening).

Thomas Thomas Supporting Member of TMP06 Feb 2018 12:35 p.m. PST

In Combat Command we just group the Company level morters (such as US 60mm) into the Weapons Stand that most companies have. It has greater range than the normal Rifle Stands but no specific indirect ability which is reserved for the Battalion level morters (generally 81mm). But they do not have a minimum range as such platoon level stands often had MGs (such as the US .30 cals).

Thomas J. Thomas
Fame and Glory Games

Timbo W06 Feb 2018 3:17 p.m. PST

Might it be an idea to just let veterans use them df in a war-games battle, to reflect that they know all the tricks by now?

Warspite107 Feb 2018 3:07 a.m. PST


You said: "There's almost always exceptions in warfare, but many of us are more interested in seeing rules stress demonstrated doctrine and tactics, than the possibilities for exceptional occurrences."

If you care to actually watch the first film link Iincluded then you will see this TRAINING film was actually showing off a 'demonstrated tactic and doctrine'.

My point was/is that rule writers need to be aware that the trigger-operated 2-inch worked differently to most other mortars. A long minimum range is therefore unrealistic.


Warspite107 Feb 2018 3:13 a.m. PST

And a cheerful aside on the subject of light mortars, British author Ian Hogg devoted a few paragraphs to the Italian 45mm Brixia 35:


He described it as looking like a rowing machine, he thought the crew had far too much to carry and he regarded it as the most complicated device ever invented to throw less than 2 ounces of explosive less than 600 yards! :)

It should be noted that the Brixia was also trigger-operated so my comments about the minimum range of the British 2-inch mortar and its ability to function in the direct fire role would also apply to the Brixia.


FlyXwire07 Feb 2018 6:50 a.m. PST

Barry, we agree that rule books may not quantify exacting ranges for each weapon type issued, and for all classes of weaponry either. For the sake of combining weapons into classes, and to create useable table-side charts, there's often generalizations in published rules on ranges, and of course for all sorts of game factorings (you of course know this).

Here's a cheerful aside too – how much text should be set aside in a rule set for quantifying each weapons "acceptable" ranges, and then how much explanatory text and accompanying rules would you suggest be included for firing a mortar as a "direct fire" weapon?

There's rulesets that don't include hand grenade tossing either, and because this can be assumed to occur at a "close combat range" (and can therefore become part of CC mechanics) – these are plausible choices and generalizations rule designers make. Is this where your direct-firing a mortar has gone, or actually belongs, or would a soldier be wielding that mortar tube like a club instead, as he engages in close proximity combat? Might also want to consider the impact of game scale – we've got big figures on fat bases – that figure base itself might even be the effective range of some short range weapons or their capabilities (that can be base-to-base contact on the tabletop)!

I've seen period training movies demonstrating all sorts of weapon capabilities – rapid-firing a M1903 Springfield rifle from the hip comes to mind – certainly possible, and a demonstrated capability right there before ones eyes, but was that actual battlefield practice? More importantly, should hip firing a bolt action rifle be accommodated for in our set of favorite WW2 rules for "completeness".

Actually, I believe the best rule designers have arrived at the realization [a confidence actually] of knowing what not to include in their rule sets, and how to create coherent and elegant mechanisms that do the most with the fewest procedures and steps.

In the end, anyone can change or create their own rules or modifications to an existing set, or maybe in the instance of a scenario featuring British Commandos, give them some game capability of firing lt. mortars into windows/embrasures as they storm onto their mission's target?

Shagnasty Supporting Member of TMP07 Feb 2018 7:44 a.m. PST

Very interesting little film.

goragrad07 Feb 2018 8:38 p.m. PST

Well, don't know ablout WWII and M190s, but at Gallipolli in WWI the Ausies were stopping Turkish wave attacks by rapid firing SMLES from the hip. It was apparently a done regularly.

As to the OP, at the tactical level games should show the difference between different weapons. For many countries their tactics reflected the capabilities of the weapons they had (although conversely the weapons would be designed to fit the tactical views of the army).

P.S. Definitely a nice find on the film.

FlyXwire08 Feb 2018 6:52 a.m. PST

Well, now wondering why hip-firing SMLEs isn't a special army rule in Bolt Action.

Nice film though.

Warspite108 Feb 2018 5:54 p.m. PST

I have been reviewing a lot of Pathé newsreel footage on YouTube and I found another clip where the Bren was being live-fired from the hip in a walking role. Clearly posed for the cameras but indicating it was done. The oddest film I found was a Bren operator with the rarely used AA tripod casually firing it into the air at an angle of about 45 degrees over a canal. No aircraft was shown and it appeared to be a very haphazard attempt to use the Bren in an area fire role. I am certainly not suggesting we need a rule for that!

My interest in the newsreels is that I have started building 15mm wargames terrain for Normandy and I needed to look at the buildings, especially damaged ones. I have bought some Tiger Terrain (very nice) but while I was waiting for that to arrive I also bought some black polystyrene foam board and knocked up a shell-shot cottage terrace. This has been gouged to produce shell damage, small bits of thin card have been appliquéd with thin PVA to produce random stones and the corner stone dressings. Finally the whole thing was given a thin coat of PVA, water and fine Linka plaster to soften the whole thing and give it character.

This is the Tiger Terrain I am using:


goragrad08 Feb 2018 7:14 p.m. PST

Well, if Bolt Action has Aussies at Gallipolli facing Turkish wave attacks them it should have SMLEs fired from the hip.

Of course at 55-60 rpm the Aussies will need lots of ammo and the accuracy was questionable. But it did break up the attacks.

But then as with the 2-inch direct fire allowing documented historical usage of weapons might clutter up the rules…

FlyXwire09 Feb 2018 4:47 a.m. PST

Barry, those are beautiful buildings!

They remind me of the Time Cast Landmark series I use for my 1/144th scale Western European setups.

We would love to see your custom-made damaged construction too!

Warspite109 Feb 2018 9:32 a.m. PST


Very nice! :)


Legion 411 Feb 2018 8:30 a.m. PST

As other former Mortar Crewmen noted, mortars can be fired direct, IIRC, it's called "Open Sight". old fart by using the sight to aim directly at a target in clear LOS/FOF, in range, etc.

Of course I was an 81mm PL at times a long time ago, '80-'81. But I do remember being trained to do it, and live firing mortars at a target we could see. And not using Indirect Fire … which was usually used when firing mortars.

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