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Remembered Today:

trench mortars


PhilB
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Thanks GP. Does it cover organization? I believe the British TMs went up to Battery strength, while the US had TM battalions.

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Saunders is really more concerned with the technical side of weapons, however, I am sure there has been plenty of discussion in the forum on the 'men' who armed them.

Phil - if you have even a borderline interest in the technology (and I know you have more than that!) Saunders is essential.

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Thanks, Robert, I saw the reference. (I tend to find WW1 books written by men of the cloth a little bland).

So far as TM organization is concerned, would I be right in thinking that the TM battery was the largest British unit and that it would be attached to a division? Did it differ for the various sizes of mortar?

I know that Haig stipulated early on (Dec 1914) that TM men should be specialists or gunners. Would the specialists be existing members of infantry battalion TM sections? Phil B

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Phil, my knowledge of trench mortar units is too patchy for an adequate response. This note may be of interest. It is a quote from Lt Scott, who was a recon officer for X & W TM batteries of 32nd Division:

'July 22nd [1916] - We departed from Doullens by rail, and, passing through St Pol and Bethune, we arrived at Lillers. Here we got in touch with RA Headquarters of our Division and we were all posted to a unit which we had heard little of back home, and what little we had heard was bad - the Trench Mortars. On hearing our fate our spirits fell considerably as on the way up to the line we had been advised to steer clear of a trench mortar battery. However, we could only make the best of it.'

Also this note from Sgt Prince:

'As each party of men marched into the grounds of the Chateau (HQ 32nd Division DAC)... one wondered what thoughts were running riot through the mind of each man there, for to each man that day was the opening of a new life, for as yet "Tock-Emmas" was but a name to each one which, when interpreted, read "Suicide Club".

"Standing easy", we had time to look round at those who were to be our companions in our new life, and we saw strange faces. True, there was a sprinkling of old DAC pals, but there was a good number of reinforcements just up from base..."

Robert

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  • 4 months later...

British divisional histories, which tend to emphasize the last two years of the war, often have a lot of information about trench mortar batteries.

By the way, by 1917 a British division had a 'battalion's worth' of trench mortar batteries - one light battery for each brigade, two medium batteries for the division and, in some cases, a heavy battery as well.

In some cases, the divisional trench mortar officer styled the batteries under his control as a 'trench mortar brigade.' (This is why you can find the occassional war diary for such a unit.)

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Capt. A.A. Dickson of the Sherwood Forester's commanded a Trench Mortar Battery and wrote his experiences in an unpublished novel called "Four men in Flanders". His family had a number of copies privately published. I have one such copy which I am in the course of reading. I have promised to lend it to another forum member but feel pretty sure it can also be lent to you - in due course. Below is a photograph of Capt Dickson. I have another photgraph of him with the other officers of the battery including the padre (who features in the novel) and the battery's french interpreter. I shall post it when I get to my other computer.

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hi, one or two books re trench mortars, there is a new zealand book concerning their service, i have an american book giving details of a trench mortar battery, a memorial volume to Bernard Pitt concerns trench mortars and of course the 32nd division history is called trench mortar memories Hope this helps best regards John

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