Dragoon Weapons

Two-Inch Mortar

The two-inch mortar was developed shortly after World War One. Its objective was to replace the rifle-launched grenade and provide the platoon with more mobile fire power. The 2″ mortar saw three main revisions during the war. The first had a 21″ barrel as pictured here, but also had a much larger and heavier base plate. This early model had a carrying handle similar to that of the Bren gun for ease of transport. As the war progressed, however, field use showed that this heavy base was more cumbersome than its value and so a smaller spade base, as pictured above, was developed. The third model was made for airborne troops. It retained the spade base but the barrel length was greatly reduced.

 A typical platoon mortar team consisted of two members. One man carried the mortar, his own rifle and one set of tubes holding six bombs. The second man carried two packs of tubes, the cleaning kit and his personal rifle. The bombs generally came in three colour-coded varieties: high explosive, parachute flare and smoke. The mortar had an iron sight affixed to the side, which also incorporated a bubble level to assist in setting the rage. Gradients were set for high or low angle-aiming at a distance of 500 yards, maximum. The firing of the mortar was unique, in that the firing pin was actuated by a lever at the base of the weapon. Most mortars of the time period had fixed firing pins which fired the bomb as soon as it hit the bottom of the tube. The manually actuated firing pin allowed the mortar man to double check his range and point of aim before discharging the weapon.

An anecdote related to me by Lt Col. Karcz during a personal interview, goes as follows: While training with this weapon in Scotland, the troops were familiarizing themselves with the various characteristics of the smoke, luminary and HE bombs. While on the range, an unfortunate family of rabbits bore the full brunt of an unexpected HE attack. The troops recovered the rabbits and were delighted to be cooking fresh meat for dinner that evening. While the men were eating their food, they commented on how much they liked the mortar until one astute observer stopped the festivities to question how it was that after a direct hit from an HE round there could be enough of a rabbit left to eat? At that shocking observation lumps formed in the throats of many a Dragoon and the fresh meat no longer tasted as sweet. From that point on the troops placed more value in the smoke laying characteristics of the weapon rather than the apparently non-destructive power of the HE bomb.

A cut away view of the HE bomb
Excerpt from 1945 British publication on proper bomb color coding