Trench mortars in action

The following quotes were extracted from official histories, and posted originally on the Great War Spearhead Yahoo list by Robert Dunlop.

139th Trench Mortar Battery.

During the Battle of the Somme 1916:

'5 July - 4 guns were put in position in LEIPZIG SALIENT to assist an attack by the 1st Wiltshire Regt at 4.30 pm. The 4 guns were registered onto the enemy trench which was to be attacked, and fired rapid for half a minute while the 1st Wiltshires were going across. 60 rounds were fired during the half minute.

'7 July - At 9.30 am for 30 seconds, while the 1st Wiltshire Regt was going over, all 7 guns fire rapid. 100 rounds were fired, then all guns lifted to form a barrage and during the day about 600 rounds were fired. Extract from SPECIAL DIVISIONAL ORDER dated 17.7.16: 'The work performed... with the Trench Mortar Battery was most effective. During the 30 seconds intense bombardment preceding the assault, the guns fired no fewer than 100 rounds with great accuracy, putting out of action an enemy machine gun.'

'10th July - About 2 pm 1 gun was taken up with the 8th Loyal North Lancashire Regt to assist in a bombing attack up a communication trench opposite POZIERES. During the attack about 150 rounds were fired on several occasions. Large groups of the enemy were caught by our bombs in the open, where the effect was great.

12th July - Fired 40 rounds onto enemy trench leading to OVILLERS.

'14th July - Put one gun in position to fire into OVILLERS. About 40 rounds were fired at night.

'1st August - In the trenches immediately north of the River Ancre. On the night of the 1/2nd 40 rounds were fired onto an enemy bombing post between the railway and the river. This was the only firing done during the 6 days [in the line].

'21st August - 3 guns placed in the QUARRIES fired about 180 rounds to assist the 1st Wiltshire Regt in this attack on the line R.31.C.96.79 and immediately after the attack 1 gun with ammunition was brought up and placed at Point 90 covering the communication trench.

'24th August - 3 guns from the QUARRIES fired 150 rounds onto the trenches attacked by the 1st Wiltshire Regt from zero to zero + 5 mins and 2 guns fired about 80 rounds on to the trenches attacked by the 3rd Worcestershire Regt at the same time. 1 gun was taken forward into the trenches captured by the 1st Wiltshire Regt and placed behind a bombing post at point R.31.C.45. About 100 rounds was fired from this gun during the afternoon and night.

'25th August - 3 guns were placed to fire on the enemy trench R.31.C.46 - R.31.A.42. About 80 rounds were fired on this trench.

'26th August - 3 guns fired 60 rounds rapid to assist the 8th Loyal North Lancashire Regt in the attack on the trench R.31.C.46 - R.31.A.42 and after the attack one gun fired at intervals on to an enemy bombing post at point R.31.C.46.'

63rd Trench Mortasr Battery.

'During the Battle of the Somme:

'Most of August and early September was spent either training or building emplacements. Then on:

'14th September - The night of the 14th the Raid took place. The Battery had 8 guns in position on a front of 50 yards. Zero was 10.07 pm. Each gun fired at Zero until + 2 minutes on enemy front line at rate of 20 rounds per minute. The right half Battery (4 guns) remained in front line until + 7 minutes. The left half Battery 4 guns lifted 90 yards at + 2 minutes. All eight guns fired during this period 8 rounds per minute. At + 7 minutes the right 1/2 Battery also lifted 90 yards firing at same rate. The whole Battery remained on this spot until + 30 minutes; at + 30 minutes Battery shortened 90 yards and until + 32 remained on front line firing at the same rate. All the guns did well. Very few misfires taking place and practically all the number of shells were fired. After the first ten minutes the guns were very hot and sandbags in some cases were burnt through. The Raid was a great success and the raiding party informed us that 35 dead Germans were counted in the front line alone. No doubt many more were put out of action when guns lifted.'