Report on a trench raid which involved the use of mortars,
1st Corps, 3rd January 1915:
First Corps No. 112(G) to Headquarters 2nd Division
The following report from O.C. 1st Bn. Irish Guards on a bomb attack which took place yesterday afternoon is forwarded. The mortar employed was the GAS PIPE pattern.
A small bomb raid was made at 3.00 pm this afternoon on the nearest German trench which runs down towards our trenches.
All our sharpshooters were warned to be on the look-out.
Lieut. Keating directed the gun which was fired by men of the R.G.A. and Lieut Straker observed the fire and communicated the result of each shot to Lieut. Keating from the house from which he was observing.
The first shot was well directed and caused 4 of the enemy to run back down to their trench. These were fired at by all our sharpshooters. The enemy wore what are described as ‘postmen’s caps’. The second shot burst high but over the place to which these men had retired. These men were soon going round the next bend, still fired at by our sharpshooters. The third was directed in the direction in which they were going. This shot broke in the trench where it crossed the road just below the farm in Q.11.A to the north of this farm, and the men turned back from this point. Much timber was seen to fly in the air; this trench is 250 yards from where the gun was fired. The fourth shot also fell in one of the enemy’s trenches and broke in the sides.
The effect of these bombs is very great; they make very little noise going off, but have a terrific explosion when they burst and do great damage to anything they hit.
The sharpshooters played their part well. D, the past 3 days, since my sharpshooters have been regularly told off for their particular duty, we have each day been less bothered by the enemy’s snipers, and today they have hardly fired a shot, wheras ours are continually on the look-out, and every time a target appears a shot is fired at it. The steel loophole seems to give the men great confidence.
Signed, Brigadier-General, Commdg 4th (Guards) Brigade
H.Q. 4th Guards Brigade.
The following report was also received from the 4th (Guards) Brigade, dated January 4th.
“The German trench mortar is most inaccurate. One fired at Section A.1 extreme right of 2nd Division for many hours yesterday and never scored a hit on the trench. It can be heard coming for 4 seconds before arrival and appears like a great cricket ball in the air falling very nearly perpendicularly, and there is ample time to move away.”
The Issue of Trench Mortars to 1st Corps, April 1915
1st Army No.137, 1st Corps No. 290 (G)
6th April 1915
1. Nos. 1 and 2 Trench Mortar Batteries (1 1/2” mortars) and No.3 Trench Battery (4” mortars) have been issued to Corps, and it is hoped that more batteries will shortly be formed and issued as soon as the mortars and personnel become available at the Mortar School, St. Venant.
2. Corps Commander will take steps to have their batteries thoroughly trained, not only in actual trench warfare, but also in offensives in co-operation with infantry in attack.
3. The mortar offers an efficient means of attacking houses and defended localities, and if properly handled in an advance will materially assist the infantry, more especially when the latter are unable to obtain effective artillery support.
4. At the present moment there is a shortage of ammunition for the mortars, but it is hoped that this will shortly be rectified. In the meantime, the opportunity exists for systematic training of these batteries in co-operation with infantry.
5. The question of the mobility of the batteries arises. It would seem that as long as the mortars and sufficient ammunition can be carried forward rapidly with the infantry for a mile or so, that is probably all that will be required. The mobility of these batteries with a view to a sustained advance involving considerable marches need not be considered.
6. No means of transport has been provided, but it is a comparatively simple matter to extemporize such transport as would be necessary for the purpose indicated above. For instance, hand carts could be obtained locally for the carriage of the mortars, or wooden stretchers suitably constructed to carry the ammunition.
7. Please report in due course what steps are being taken in training the batteries and providing them with the requisite facilities to enable them to accompany the infantry in an advance.
Forwarded for your information and early report please.