120mm Mortars

German weapons, vehicles and equipment 1919-1945.

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John W. Howard
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120mm Mortars

Post by John W. Howard » Mon Feb 14, 2011 11:14 pm

Can someone tell me when 120mm mortars started being used with German forces and why they were added to their weapons inventory?? Was there a weakness in the German TO and E, or did the Germans find a good weapons system and add it as an addition?? I know the Germans were much impressed with the 120mm mortars used by the Russians and captured many of them. Also at what level of organization were they assigned: rgt.,bn,kompanie?? Best wishes.
John W. Howard

laurence strong
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Re: 120mm Mortars

Post by laurence strong » Wed Feb 16, 2011 2:41 am

The German version was a copy of the Soviet PM 38 120 mm mortar, which in it's self was a copy of the French mortier Brandt de 120 mm modèle 1935.

They were used to give the infantry a close support weapon with more punch than the 81mm could deliver. Check out the youtube US Army war film and look at the difference in rounds between the 81mm and the 120mm

A couple of links

http://www.lonesentry.com/ordnance/tag/grw-42

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kue34wFn5iI

Sincerely
Larry

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John W. Howard
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Re: 120mm Mortars

Post by John W. Howard » Wed Feb 16, 2011 11:16 pm

Thanks Laurence. The shell comparison is illuminating. A very serious weapon. Best wishes.
John W. Howard

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Re: 120mm Mortars

Post by Alanmccoubrey » Thu Feb 17, 2011 4:30 am

John, The Romanians also produced their own copy of the 120mm during the war, the 120mm Resita mortar model 1942.
Alan

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John W. Howard
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Re: 120mm Mortars

Post by John W. Howard » Sun Feb 20, 2011 1:34 pm

Hello Alan:
Thanks for the additional info. It appears armies found the 120mm mortar filled a niche in their to&e's; it looks like many modern armies use them too. Best wishes.
John W. Howard

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pak
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Re: 120mm Mortars

Post by pak » Sun Feb 20, 2011 3:00 pm

I have done some searching on the Net on this weapon. I found a little on how it was used and some other interesting info.
I have quoted the most interesting things I have found below.

From the German Wikipedia: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Granatwerfer_42
(itemised and translated by me)
  • Copy of russian 120 PM-38
    "Beute" weapons used named "12-cm-Granatwerfer 378(r)"
    Partially replaced "Schwere infanteriegeschütz 33
    - cheaper
    - fewer soldiers to operate
    - not beeing able to shoot "flat trajectory" considered an disadvantage of the weapon but deemed acceptable
    Max range 6050 m (6,616 yds)
    From -44 there was special "Granatwerferbatallione" equiped only with this weapon
From Lonesentry: http://www.lonesentry.com/manuals/tme30/ch7sec3.html
d. 120-MM MORTAR (12 cm Granatenwerfer 42). (1) General description. This is a virtually exact German copy of a standard Russian weapon. The mortar itself is of conventional construction and consists of a tube, a circular baseplate, and a bipod. It has the advantage of being highly mobile, however, since it is equipped with a two-wheeled, quickly attached axle, and the bipod is carried clamped to the mortar ready for action. The weapon can be quickly towed or manhandled into a new firing position. The heavy shell and long range of this weapon provide a type of fire support comparable with that from the 105-mm field howitzer.
(2) Characteristics.

Caliber  . . . . .  120 mm (4.7 inches).
Total weight  . . . . .  616 pounds.
Maximum traverse  . . . . .  16°.
Elevation  . . . . .  45° to 85°.
Maximum range  . . . . .  6,600 yards.
Weight of shell  . . . . .  35 pounds.
(3) Ammunition. This mortar fires four types of HE projectiles.
From Mortars in Miniature http://www.mortarsinminiature.com/Ger12cm42.htm
Initially issued to mortar battalions with infantry units receiving theirs later. A (motorized) heavy mortar battalion was issued thirty-six Granatwerfer 42's, divided between three companies. An almost exact copy of the Soviet regimental mortar, M1938/43. This weapon could use both Soviet and German ammunition. A powerful and a very popular weapon with German front-line units, and in some cases, this weapon replaced standard infantry field guns.
And finaly from Battlefront.com http://www.battlefront.com/community/sh ... p?t=27280>
A lot of production figures etc.
The Germans copied the 120mm from the Russians, and made around 8500 of them themselves. They also captured a number of them and used them, but how many I don't know. The Germans used captured ammunition and also produce 5.4 million 120mm mortar rounds themselves. The German produced 120mm mortar was called the 12 cm Granatwerfer 42. Captured Russian ones in German service were designated the 12 cm Granatwerfer 378(r).

The numbers can be compared with 79,000 81mm mortars and 26,000 50mm ones in the early war, with 74 million 81mm rounds made and 22 million 50mm rounds. The 81mm mortar was by far the most common type in German service from mid-war on. It was used at company and battalion levels. The 120mm mortar was used at the regimental level in place of infantry guns. It seems to have been especially common in SS units in the late war, probably because they were more likely to be at full TOE in all weapons.

The timing of German mortar ammo production is also interesting. Large numbers of 50mm rounds were made in 1940. Far lower numbers of mortar rounds of all types were made in 1941 and 1942. In 1943 and 1944, large numbers of 81mm mortar rounds were produced.

This probably reflect large stocks of captured ammo available in 1941 and 1942, as well as phasing out the 50mm mortar, and a continued reliance on infantry guns. In the later defensive period of the war, 81mm mortars were more heavily used and ammo for them had to be made in Germany, rather than captured.

The Russians made around 47,000 120mm mortars over the course of the entire war. Most were produced in 1942 and 1943. They made 152,000 82mm mortars, and in the early war 145,000 50mm ones. Russian practice in the early war was to use 50mm mortars at the company level, 82mm at battalion level, and 120mm mortars at regimental level. They soon found the 50mm lacked sufficient punch and replaced those with 82mm mortars as well.

The much higher portion of 120mm mortars made by the Russians, compared to the Germans, primarily reflects the fact that Germans continued to use infantry guns for additional infantry firepower - 75mm and 150mm SiG. Similarly, the U.S. used cannon companies of 105mm pack howitzers at the regimental level. Essentially the same role was fufilled in the Russian army by abundant 120mm mortars.

The Russians produced enourmous numbers of mortar rounds during the war, though the breakdown by type I haven't found yet. All told, they made 251 million mortar rounds, ramping in 1942 and leveling off at ~75 million rounds per year in 1943-44. By then they had phased out the 50mm mortar, so those were heavier 82mm and 120mm shells.

How many 120mm mortars did the Germans capture? I haven't seen a figure so it is hard to say anything definite, but some reasoning can be supplied. The Russians had relatively few 120mm mortars in 1941. Their common use increased over the course of the war, and most of the weapons used were made in 1942 and 1943. Nearly the whole 1941 production was probably subject to capture, though many were probably destroyed instead. Only a portion of the 1942 production can have been captured, as the Germans advanced a long way only in the south, did most of that advancing before many of them would have been made, etc.

This sort of reasoning suggests the number captured was probably in the thousands, somewhere between half the German-built number and equal to it (i.e. 4250-8500). So the total 120mm mortars available to the Germans may have been around 15,000, plus or minus 2000 or so, with 1/3 to 1/2 of them a Russian-made weapon. The lower end of that range may be more likely.

Deducting their early losses, the Russians may have had ~35000 available, roughly half of them by the begining of 1943 and the other half by the begining of 1944. Mortar tube production in the last year and a half was low, replacement rate or less. Mortar ammo production remained very high. They probably had all the tubes they could feed by the begining of 1944. Mortar tubes are very cheap to produce, and they can fire off ammo rapidly, making the ammo production the real constraint.
By the way according to one Alanmccoubrey :wink: at missing-lynx.com:
A sigle protype of a 120mm mortar carrier was built on the 38(t) chassis as part of the late war APC range
/pak

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Re: 120mm Mortars

Post by laurence strong » Sun Feb 20, 2011 5:12 pm

Very interesting post. Thanks for taking the time :up:

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John Hilly
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Re: 120mm Mortars

Post by John Hilly » Wed Feb 23, 2011 2:42 am

Also Finland developed their own 120 mm mortar by Tampella, the 120 Krh/40 (120 mm mortar model 1940). :!:

Introduce and comparation with the Soviet 120-HM 38 (stongly recommended :up: ) here:
http://www.jaegerplatoon.net/MORTARS6.htm

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Johnny B. Goode :[]
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Re: 120mm Mortars

Post by John W. Howard » Thu Feb 24, 2011 12:18 am

Great additional posts folks; I am very impressed and much better informed about these weapons. Many thanks. Best wishes.
John W. Howard

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