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"German Trench Mortars in 1914...." Topic

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Uesugi Kenshin Supporting Member of TMP22 Oct 2021 3:15 p.m. PST

I've previously seen a post here at TMP that stated emphatically that there were no trench mortars used by any nations in 1914.

I found two online blogs however that the Germans had 150 them in service in August of 1914. They further stated that they intended to use them against French Fortresses.

Does anyone have anything further to shed light on this topic? Thanks!

rmaker22 Oct 2021 3:32 p.m. PST

I suspect that these were not trench mortars. Heavy howitzers with short barrels were also termed "mortars" (Moerser) by te German artillery,

Martin Rapier22 Oct 2021 10:21 p.m. PST

Yes, I suspect they were 210mm Moersers. A bit hard to lug around a trench.

Wargamorium23 Oct 2021 2:53 a.m. PST

Are you thnking of minenwerfer?

They did have a number of these intended for tackling strongpoints. The only reference to them I have seen to their use in 1914 was against the Belgians during the siege of Antwerp.

Martin Rapier23 Oct 2021 4:46 a.m. PST

I'm struggling to find refences to 1914 German trench mortars in any of my reference books. You can have all the Minenwerfers, Granatenwerfers etc you want from 1915.

The only things I can find even remotely like 'mortars' in 1914 are 21cm and 30.5cm artillery pieces. I suppose some of the pioneer battalions may have had some of the large calibre smoothbore mortars for siege warfare, but I can't see them listed on any org charts or equipment tables. Certainly not for normal infantry and cavalry divisions or Corps.

Wargamorium23 Oct 2021 10:03 a.m. PST

The heavy minenwerfer was a 25cm (10") high angle weapon and 44 were issued before the war started. They were a secret at the time and were used against the Belgian fortress of Liege and Namur as well as the French fortress of Maubege. They were also used at Hartmannsweilerkopf against the French.

The middle minenwerfer had a calibre 17cm (6.8cm). The engineers had 116 of them and they were used against the Antwerp fortifications.

The light minenwerfer was not issued by 1914.

My source is 'German Artillery of World War One' by Herbert Jaeger published by Crowood Press in the UK in 2001.

Uesugi Kenshin Supporting Member of TMP23 Oct 2021 11:54 p.m. PST

Thanks all. I think Martin summed it up pretty well. Nothing for 1914. 1915 = wide use on all sides. Is that fair?

Martin Rapier24 Oct 2021 4:32 a.m. PST

Thanks Wargamorium, that is very helpful. I only came across vague references to mortars in specialist pioneer units in 1914.

Blutarski26 Oct 2021 5:45 p.m. PST

Dunno if this will help or confuse the issue further …..

Notes on German Ordnance 1841-1918 by Major James E Hicks, starting from page 44, and slightly edited for brevity -

General Characteristics of Minenwerfer

Balkan War, 1912.
2. It is said that the German officers who served with the Turkish Army against the Bulgarians in 1912-13 recognized the possibilities of such weapons at Adrianople and Chataldja, and it may have been on account of their reports that, before 1914, the Germans had already laid in a stock of them, and obtained considerable advantage by their use when trench fighting began.

Comparison with French Trench Mortar Material.
3. In general, the German Minenwerfer are lighter than French pieces of corresponding calibers, have shorter ranges, and are furnished with recoil and counter-recoil systems. The Fluegelminenwerfer has been said to be a copy of the English 9.2 inch trench mortar.

Hicks goes on to describe three trench mortars in the 'alter Art' (old Model) category -
> leichte Minenwerfer, alter Art (76 mm)
> mittlerer Minenwerfer, alter Art (170 mm)
> schwerer Minenwerfer, alter Art (24.5 cm)

Neuer Art (new model) trench mortars as well as the leicht Granatenwerfer (essentially a small spigot mortar) seem to have been introduced starting in 1916 or so.

This is a rather simplified account, as the topic is quite complicated. Jaeger's book mentions that the French high command had become aware of the existence of German minenwerfers as early as 1913, and that they were employed both in the attack upon Antwerp and in the defense of Hartmannweilerskopf. However, Germany had very few available at the outset of the war and those that they have were, at least initially, employed as specialist weapons by the Engineer branch of the army.



Uesugi Kenshin Supporting Member of TMP29 Oct 2021 6:57 p.m. PST

Very interesting Blutarski. Thanks for posting.

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