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kildaremark

21cm & 15cm howitzer

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kildaremark   
kildaremark

484 Siege Battery handed 2 x 21cm and 2 x 15cm howitzers over to 103 Siege battery in September 1918 for a few weeks before 103 S.B. handing them over to V4 Trench Mortar battery.

I don't know much about German artillery but are they classed as Trench mortars? Does anyone know does V4 mean the TM battery was with the 4 Division or 4 Corps?

Thanks

Mark

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centurion   
centurion

German Trench mortars or minewerfers ranged from 76 mm right up to 250mm which is not too different from the British range (75 mm to 240 mm) The largest French trench mortar was 310mm. (I've excluded stick and spigot mortars from these figures)

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Cnock   
Cnock

Hello,

The German 15 cm howitzer ( 15 cm Haubitze) and the 21 cm mortars (Mörser 21 cm) were not classified als Trench mortars, but were artillery weapons.

Regards,

Cnock

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Cnock   
Cnock

15cm howitzer

21 cm howitzer ( Mörser)

Regards,

Cnock

post-7723-1205094363.jpg

post-7723-1205094419.jpg

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Cnock   
Cnock

...and there was no German 15cm trench mortar.

Regards,

Cnock

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kildaremark   
kildaremark

Thanks Centurion and for clarifying Cnock,

Just wondering why it was handed over to a TM battery - must have had spare capacity or just wanted to try them out.

Mark

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bob lembke   
bob lembke

A lot of the problem is semantics. Confusingly, the Germans called both heavy howitzers and heavy mortars "Moerser" (I can't do a proper "o" Umlaut; as in modern German usage I am using "oe" for the Umlaut version.) Try to create a table. Might be one or two spelling errors in my wobbly German.

76 mm mortar = Minenwerfer (two types, spigot and tubed, also called lichte Minenwerfer

105 mm howitzer = 10.5 cm lichte Haubitz

150 mm howitzer = 15 cm schwere Haubitz

170 mm mortar = 17 cm mittle Minenwerfer

210 mm howitzer = 21 cm Moerser (Any German howitzer at or over 21 cm was called a Moerser, not a Haubitz.)

245 mm mortar = 24.5 cm schwere Minenwerfer

280 mm howitzer = 28 cm Moerser

305 mm mortar = 30.5 cm Moerser (Germans had them as well as the Austrians)

420 mm howitzer (Big Bertha) = 42 cm Moerser ( dicke Berta)

I have not included "cannon", long-barrelled guns, only the high-angle weapons. There also was, I think, a light-caliber mountain howitzer. The Germans also used captured guns, especially long-barrelled guns, many Russian.

Hope that helps.

The French built at least two 400 mm mortars for the re-capture of Forts Vaux and Douaumont, and in fact supposedly delayed their attack for two months till October 1916 in order for these guns to be ready. In any case the forts were not really defended, in the case of Fort Douaumont partially because a 400 mm hit (I think) ignited a magazine of thousands of grenades, which burned for days and threatened to explode, causing the bulk of the garrison to evacuate. Both of these forts were a wreck due to months of intermittant pounding with German 30.5 and 42 cm Moersern and then French 400 mm mortars.

Bob Lembke

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Paul Hederer   
Paul Hederer

...210 mm howitzer = 21 cm Moerser (Any German howitzer at or over 21 cm was called a Moerser, not a Haubitz...

That's not exactly correct. The Krupp 28cm Howitzer L/12 and L/14 were referred to as exactly that, howitzers. I spent about a week digging out the "lost batteries," of the heaviest German artillery that were incorrectly listed as 30,5cm batteries in the German OH, that's how I learned!

Source:

"Das Ehrenbuch der Deutschen Schweren Artillerie. Band 2, pages 411 and 475.

"Artillerie im 20. Jahrhundert," Franz Kosar, pages 3, 87, 88.

Paul

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Old Tom   
Old Tom

Hello,

As was said, an exercise in semantics perhaps. But, is it reasonable to suggest a sort of general non-national classification?

a. I would suggest that mortars and howitzers are both intended to fire at elevations greater than 45 degrees (questionable)

b. Both may be on wheeled carriages or base plates

c. Mortars do not have breech blocks, howitzers do. or Mortars are muzzle loading, howitzers and breech loading.

d. Mortars do not have recoil systems, howitzers do.

Old Tom

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kildaremark   
kildaremark

Thanks for your expertise gentlemen.

So why give them to a British TM battery? Did the British class them as TMs or did it just happen that it was convenient at the time to man them with a TM battery.

Wasn't the British 9.45 inch mortar larger than these so presumably as long as there was enough German ammunition, I presume they would continue to use it.

Mark

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centurion   
centurion

In fact it would seem that the German pioneers did have a 21 cm minenwerfer (trench mortar) at the begining of WW1.

"In 1914 the pioneers had three types of minenwerfer at their disposal: the 7.6 cm that threw a 4.7kg bomb out to 1,050 m; the medium 17 cm mortar that fired a 49.5 kg bomb 900m and the heavy 21 cm mortar that delivered a 100kg bomb up to 550 m. The latter was originally intended for the defence of fortresses and was the deadliest weapon on the Western Front. Its very high trajectory and heavy charges could bring about the collapse of whole sections of trench."

German Stormtrooper, 1914-18 By Ian Drury

The 21 cm refered to here is clerly not the morser that Cnocks photo shows (which had a much longer range) The weapons referd to by Dury do not appear to have been howitzers as the British would understand it.

He goes on to state that these models had been superceded by 1916.

Whether there was also a 15cm minenwerfer is not clear. However the German armies started off with a plethora of equipment and then dradually attempted to standardise.

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Cnock   
Cnock

Centurion,

I don't know what You want to prove, but I hold to my first reply.

Cnock

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bob lembke   
bob lembke
Hello,

As was said, an exercise in semantics perhaps. But, is it reasonable to suggest a sort of general non-national classification?

c. Mortars do not have breech blocks, howitzers do. or Mortars are muzzle loading, howitzers and breech loading.

d. Mortars do not have recoil systems, howitzers do.

Old Tom

The Austrian and German 30.5 cm mortars were breech loading and had recoil systems, as I would assume that the French 400 mm mortar did also. A mortar so large without either would have been a bit of a beast.

Bob Lembke

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BatterySergeantMajor   
BatterySergeantMajor

a. I would suggest that mortars and howitzers are both intended to fire at elevations greater than 45 degrees (questionable)

Very questionable indeed. I agree for mortars, not for howitzers. A cannon has a more flat trajectory and a mortar a more elevated one (+ 800 mills/ 45 degrees). An howitzer is something between the two. I think it has something to do with the ratio between caliber and length of the gun.

Erwin

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bob lembke   
bob lembke
In fact it would seem that the German pioneers did have a 21 cm minenwerfer (trench mortar) at the begining of WW1.

"In 1914 the pioneers had three types of minenwerfer at their disposal: the 7.6 cm that threw a 4.7kg bomb out to 1,050 m; the medium 17 cm mortar that fired a 49.5 kg bomb 900m and the heavy 21 cm mortar that delivered a 100kg bomb up to 550 m. The latter was originally intended for the defence of fortresses and was the deadliest weapon on the Western Front. Its very high trajectory and heavy charges could bring about the collapse of whole sections of trench."

German Stormtrooper, 1914-18 By Ian Drury

He goes on to state that these models had been superceded by 1916.

Whether there was also a 15cm minenwerfer is not clear. However the German armies started off with a plethora of equipment and then dradually attempted to standardise.

I do not wish to cross gladii (gladi ?, my Latin is miserable) with the esteemed centurion, but I am 99% sure that there was neither a 15 cm or a 21 cm Minenwerfer. I read German sources on WW I on average two hours a day for 6-7 years, and have never heard of either (that is the sort of thing that sticks in my mind for years, unlike where I put my keys or wallet two hours ago). (Additionally, I have looked at thousands of PCs on sale on the Internet, including many of German Minenwerfer and of arrays of German Minenwerfer shells.)I think Drury might be referring to the 24.5 cm mortar, a caliber that on the face of it sounds odd to someone coming from the English side, while a 210 mm howitzer or mortar might sound quite "normal".

Additional data suggesting this is the shell weight; Drury has the 17 cm throwing a 49.5 kg shell, the "21 cm" mortar a 100 kg shell. The larger German and Austrian muzzle-loading mortars tended to have lighter shells than one would expect from the caliber. Handling shells of 100 kg or more in the trenches would be murder, and I suspect that the larger shells were simply proportionally shorter than those of the smaller calibers. Ian Hogg, in his Twentieth-Century Artillery, unfortunately neither includes the 17 cm or 24.5 cm German mortars, but does include the Austrian 22.5 cm and the Austrian 24.5 cm trench mortars. The former, an old design, he lists at throwing a 48 kg. HE or gas shell, while the latter 24.5 cm mortar, which he describes as "generally resembling" the German 17 cm mortar (and hence the 24.5 cm Minenwerfer; the two seem to have been very similar in design and appearance) is listed as firing a 61 kg HE or gas shell. Drury's "21 cm mortar" firing a 100 kg. shell does not seem to fit into this picture. Ian Hogg is a noted artillery expert.

However, it is correct that the Germans had all sorts of assorted guns and calibers at the beginning of the war; the multiplicity of flat-firing calibers is head-spinning, and they might have possibly have had a 15 cm fortress mortar, but if they did I am reasonably sure that it was not introduced to trench warfare or new production in any numbers. It is hard to prove a negative.

Mortars and howitzers are certainly designed to be fired at high elevations; howitzers certainly can also be employed in fairly flat fire, while later in the war German Minenwerfer were sometimes also supplied with a carriage system that allowed flat fire, for, I think, an anti-tank role, although such a weapon would hardly be ideal in that role. Were I in a Mark IV I would be off my breakfast if someone was firing 17 cm or 24.5 cm shells at me at short range, however awkwardly. Ity is correct that the best distinction between mortar and howitzer would be in "caliber" in the naval sense, the ratio between barrel length and the shell diameter. Also, any gun firing off a base-plate should be considered a mortar, I would think.

Bob Lembke

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Old Tom   
Old Tom

Hello,

My attempt seems to have failed. But, I wonder, why did the Germans use the terms mortar and howitzer in what appears to be an inconsistent way.

Historically mortars were siege weapons with short barrels in relation to the diameter of the projectile and were used to throw a heavy bomb a short distance, more or less, over the wall. Can Bob give a little more detail of the big German 'mortars' ? i.e. barrel length.

Erwin has a point about elevation of course. But then he introduced the term cannon. Does this mean that the differences in terminology are indeed national. Writers dealing with more modern conflicts refer to tubes. Perhaps they have a point.

Old Tom

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centurion   
centurion
I think, an anti-tank role, although such a weapon would hardly be ideal in that role.

These were mainly the light minenwerfers. A German document defining the organisation of anti tank defence produced in 1918 specifically assigns them to an anti tank role as their "permanent mission"

"The light trench mortars, echeloned in depth and engaged in groups of at least two will be distributed in the infantry zone according to the principles applied to machine guns. Anti tank combat will be their permanent mission. When they are assigned barrage missions it will be necessary to reconcile this mission with the anti tank defence. The light trench mortars placed at points favourable to tank penetration will be called 'anti tank trench mortars'

The medium and heavy trench mortars may also frequently intervene effectively in anti tank combat." (in the light of this thread it would be interesting to know what is defined as a heavy trench mortar)

Separate instructions assign aiming points on a tank for trench mortars as being the petrol tank, the drivers cab and the tracks.

Another German document captured in Sept 1918 bemoans the fact that some divisions are still not deploying their trench mortars properly for anti tank , concentrating them on tanks before they break the line. It states that it is important that at least half the division's tms be used as a mobile reserve to tackle tanks that have broken through

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bob lembke   
bob lembke
The medium and heavy trench mortars may also frequently intervene effectively in anti tank combat." (in the light of this thread it would be interesting to know what is defined as a heavy trench mortar)

Interesting. So the use of mortars in the anti-tank role was more prevalent than I thought. Of course, if tanks were breaking thru there would be no more important job that to bedevil them as much as possible.

It is clear that the use of the term of "light" Minenwerfer for 76 mm, "middle" Minenwerfer for the 17 cm mortar, and "heavy" Minenwerfer for the 24.5 cm mortar was very consistant. I have never noticed any variation from this, when an adjective was applied to one of these.

The 30.5 cm mortars and 42 cm howitzers were made in very small batches, with a number of varients. Hogg describes the common Skoda Austrian 30.5 cm as having a 426 cm long barrel, giving a 14 caliber (barrel length / bore diametrer = caliber) gun. The German 30.5 cm gun was very similar, but they were very secretive about them, so they are little known, while the Austrians publicized their weapon very heavily. (About 1916 the Austrians also came out with a 42 cm howitzer, which they used on the Italians in the mountains. Don't know much about them.)

The 42 cm howitzer (a common varient) had a barrel length of 588 cm and, of course, a 42 cm bore, giving a caliber of 14 also. This gun, according to Hogg, could elevate to 75 degrees (some sources say 70 degrees, but there were several models), while the Austrian mortar would elevate to only 70 degrees. But, they pass the "duck test"; "if it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it is a duck!" The Austrian gun sits on a base-plate, and looks very mortarish, while the 42 cm looks like a howitzer, with large wheels and a trail. I have a photo of a long-barrelled 42 cm, but I know nothing about the varient; I do not think that it saw combat.

Bob Lembke

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Paul Hederer   
Paul Hederer

Wow, I'm starting to get a headache. First we start with anything 21 cm and over is a mortar, now we have 42 cm howitzers. The 42cm mortar came in two varieties one on wheels, the other was fired from a platform, so the "it looks like a duck," theory doesn't seem to hold up.

Here is a list:

211 mm Mörser

283 mm L/12 and L/14 Haubitzen

305 mm Mörser, M09

305 mm L/17 Haubitze

420 mm M12 Mörser

420 mm M14 Mörser

Franz Kosar, artillery expert, referring to the difference between a mortar and a howitzer writes, "Amongst the heavist calibers it is hard to find any technical difference between the two types. The differences only being distinguished within individual caliber groups. "

I'd say learn the individual types, make sure you reference them by their official designations and go on your merry way...

Paul

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bierast   
bierast

A couple of observations in passing based on a fairly recent read of the Schiffer Publishing book German Trench Mortars and Infantry Mortars 1914-1945 by Wolfgang Schneider:

The above book has a clear photo of a flat-trajectory AT mounting for the 7.6cm Minenwerfer, an ungainly contraption apparently made of small girders.

Re. the size of projectiles for the 24.5cm Minenwerfer - the rounds came in full size, half size and quarter size. The full-size ones were clearly highly ungainly (I must check the book for stats) to the point where it was worth making smaller and handier types additionally - but not exclusively - available. The book supplies photos of the different types together (also with their transport baskets) - all the same shape, just with a progressively shorter cylindrical body behind the nose.

Edit: I should point out that, because of the much lower pressures (and resulting velocity) exerted on the projectile in a Minenwerfer as opposed to a traditional artillery piece, Minenwerfer rounds could be and were made with less strategic metal and thinner walls (and more volatile explosive filling), delivering even more 'bang' than the calibre and projectile weight would suggest. This unfortunately and inevitably increased the likelihood of catastrophic misfires (i.e. the round detonating inside the barrel).

IIRC the 17cm Minenwerfer also had reduced size projectiles produced for it.

There are some excellent articles on the various models in the 'German Artillery' section at Landships, including some of the various stop-gap Minenwerfer designs that were also used, such as the compressed air 'Luftminenwerfer' types. The book, incidentally, also includes the large and crude 'Flugelminenwerfer' used for delivering aerial torpedoes and brief coverage of 'mechanical mortars' - i.e. spring catapults!

Do also check out the extensive information on the site for 12. Minenwerfer Kompagnie, a re-enactment group with a lovingly restored 7.6cm Minenwerfer and plenty of material on other types.

The Minenwerfer were designed for - and originally issued exclusively to - the Pioniere, as siege equipment (NB the lighter Minenwerfer were progressively turned over to the infantry in 1917-18). The intention was to enable the Pioniere to deliver a demolition charge (a 'mine' in the traditional sense, part of the established siege role of the Pioniere) from a safe distance - a requirement identified based on study of the Russo-Japanese War.

The Mörser, on the other hand, was a long-established sub-category of heavy wheeled gun (what used to be called a 'mortar' in English) operated by the Fussartillerie (heavy artillery) in much the same manner as a Haubitze (howitzer), only with a different type of trajectory. Obviously the difference between a Haubitze and a Mörser was a very blurry one.

Here is my great-grandfather, a Saxon Feldartillerie gunner (on the right, in glasses), visiting a 24.5cm Minenwerfer team circa 1915:

1915_morser.gif

Edit: Going by the cockades, I believe the man on the far left and my GGF are from the Saxon Feldartillerie unit (regiment Nr.48), while the other men are non-Saxon Pioniere from the Minenwerfer's crew - proudly showing off their weapon for the camera.

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Cnock   
Cnock

28 cm Küsten Haubitze ( and not named Mörser)

Cnock

post-7723-1205265828.jpg

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Cnock   
Cnock

Same coastal howitzer seen from another angle, with projectiles;

cnock

post-7723-1205266365.jpg

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bierast   
bierast

A quick addendum on the Minenwerfer range:

All three primary models (7.7cm, 17cm, 24.5cm) were rifled, while the various stop-gap models were mostly (or entirely, not sure) smoothbores.

Also re. the different sizes of projectile for the 24.5cm - the smaller ones achieved a progressively greater range as well as a higher rate of fire. IIRC the full-size was 95kg, the half-size 60kg and the quarter-size 50kg.

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RodB   
RodB

Could our problem with differentiating between mortars and howitzers be because at the time of WWI the two words were in fact interchangeable i.e. meant pretty much the same thing - high-angle projectile thrower ? E.g. the British in manuals referred to "trench howitzer" for what we now call trench mortar, and they ripped off the 24 cm Mörser M 98 as the 9.2 inch Howitzer. Perhaps it became a Howitzer purely because it looked something like the 6 inch 30 cwt on its siege platform - naming by analogy. The British at the time (prewar & early WWI) appear determined to avoid the M-word, perhaps for ideological or doctrinal issues ? Was this connected to the fact they did not originally equip infantry with anything like a mortar ? A thought that follows from this is that in the German & Austrian tradition, and the English language in general use, a Mörser/Mortar meant a heavy siege gun, whereas the British military associated Mortar with someting else, and used Howitzer for any heavy high-trajectory siege gun. The US Army had many 12 inch high-angle guns for coast defence that looked like the 9.2 on steroids, but called them mortars, in the German tradition.

This was a phase of innovation and transition, with everything being tried. The light weapon design that prevailed was the Stokes mortar, the Minenwerfer disappeared. Perhaps this is why we now assume that mortars should have the Stokes properties. After the sucess of the Stokes, it appears that most countries modified their usage of Mortar to match the Stokes type, with anything else being now a Howitzer. If it had been called the Stokes infantry gun, would the linguistic outcome be different ?

Another line of thought : could it be that mortar or Mörser or Howitzer was used pretty much arbitralily. based on the peculiarities and tradition of the particular country ? E.g. the origin and lineage of the weapon concerned and/or relation to existing ordnance ? If the weapon was a descendant of a mortar or howitzer, despite many changes, I can see the name being retained. Or even internal budgetary or political fights ? E.g. if the beancounters won't allow a new howitzer, I can imagine a new Mörser or Mortar appearing to fill the gap, which somehow looks like a howitzer. I don't think the designers agonized much over whether Haubitze or Mörser was the correct name.

Rod

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McTodd   
McTodd
I have a photo of a long-barrelled 42 cm, but I know nothing about the varient; I do not think that it saw combat.

What you have a photo of is probably a Schwere Kartaune, or Beta-M-Gerät. It was a 30-calibre 30.5cm barrel fitted to a 42cm M-Gerät (Dicke Berta) cradle and carriage. It looks like a long-barrelled Dicke Berta. It's called the Beta-M-Gerät because Beta denoted a calibre of 30.5cm, while M-Gerät was part of the official designation for the Dicke Berta.

And it certainly saw action. Here are a couple of photos:

Schwere-Kartaune-305mm-b.jpg

kopievansk0069gp.jpg

I've also seen photos (in either Justrow's or Schindler's book) of at least one with a burst barrel.

Paul Hederer is right that the 'if it looks like a duck' argument fails, because mortar and howitzer were used for otherwise similar types of weapons, whether coastal defence (küstenmörser) 'bedding guns' (Bettungsgeschütz) or wheeled.

The 21cm was always referred to as a mortar.

The 28cm wheeled weapons (L/12 and L/14) were generally referred to as howitzers, but Jaeger also calls them mortars.

The 30.5cm wheeled weapon (L/16) is referred to by Jaeger and Kusar as a howitzer, but by Turra as a mortar. This is one in action:

30_5cmBetaGeraetinraderlafette-b.jpg

Frankly, I don't think there is a technical reason for the differing designations, though perhaps some element at concealing the true nature of the weapons was intended (the 'M' in 42cm M-Gerät 14 stood for Minenwerfer, an attempt at downplaying the true nature of what was a pretty tasty piece of kit).

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