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3 inch Stokes mortar
[1]

Sir Wilfred Stokes with example of his mortar and bombs. Typical 3-inch bombs used are 2nd and 6th from left

Type Light mortar
Place of origin United Kingdom
Service history
Used by United Kingdom

Greece Poland Portugal United States

Wars World War I

World War II Banana Wars

Production history
Designer Sir Wilfred Stokes KBE
Designed 1915
Specifications
Weight 104 lbs (47.17 kg) total[1]
Crew 2

Shell HE 10 lb 11 oz(4.84 kg)[2]
Calibre 3.2 in (81 mm)[3]
Action Trip
Elevation 45°-75°[6]
Rate of fire 25 rpm (maximum)[4]6-8 rpm (sustained)
Effective range 750 yards (686 m)
Maximum range 800 yards (731 m)[5]
Filling amatol
Filling weight 2lb 4 oz (1 kg)[7]

The Stokes mortar was a British trench mortar invented by Sir Wilfred Stokes KBE that was issued to the British, Commonwealth and U.S. armies, as well as the Portuguese Expeditionary Corps (CEP), during the latter half of the First World War. The 3 inch trench mortar is a smooth-bore, muzzle-loading weapon for high angles of fire. Although it is called a 3-inch mortar, its bore is actually 3.2 inches or 81 mm.[3] CEP soldiers loading a Stokes Mortar.

ContentsEdit

[hide] *1 Design

DesignEdit

Frederick Wilfred Scott Stokes – who later became Sir Wilfred Stokes KBE – designed the mortar in January 1915. The British Army was at the time trying to develop a weapon which would be a match for the Imperial German Army's Minenwerfer mortar which was in use on the Western Front.

Stokes's design was initially rejected in June 1915 because it was unable to use existing stocks of British mortar ammunition, and it took the intervention of David Lloyd George (at that time Minister of Munitions) and Lieutenant-Colonel J. C. Matheson of the Trench Warfare Supply Department (who reported to Lloyd George) to expedite manufacture of the Stokes mortar.

The Stokes mortar was a simple weapon, consisting of a smoothbore metal tube fixed to a base plate (to absorb recoil) with a lightweight bipod mount. When a mortar bomb was dropped into the tube, an impact sensitive primer in the base of the bomb would make contact with a firing pin at the base of the tube, and detonate, firing the bomb towards the target.

The barrel is a seamless drawn-steel tube necked down at the breech or base end. To the breech end is fitted a base cap, within which is secured a firing pin protruding into the barrel. The caps at each end of the bomb cylinder were 81 mm diameter. The bomb was fitted with a modified hand grenade fuze on the front, with a perforated tube containing a propellant charge and an impact-sensitive cap at the rear.

Range was determined by the amount of propellant charge used and the angle of the barrel. A basic propellant cartridge was used for all firing, and covered short ranges. Up to 4 additional "rings" of propellant were used for incrementally greater ranges. See range tables below. The 4 rings were supplied with the cartridge and gunners discarded the rings which were not needed.

One potential problem was the recoil which was "exceptionally severe, because the barrel is only about 3 times the weight of the projectile, instead of about one hundred times the weight as in artillery. Unless the legs are properly set up they are liable to injury".[8]

A modified version of the mortar, which fired a modern fin-stabilised streamlined projectile and had a booster charge for longer range, was developed after World War I;[9] this was in effect a new weapon.

HistoryEdit

The mortar was in no sense a new weapon, although it had fallen out of general usage since the Napoleonic era. In fact, while the British and French worked on developing new mortars, they resorted to issuing century-old mortars for use in action.

The Stokes mortar remained in service into the Second World War, when it was superseded by the Ordnance ML 3 inch mortar, and some remained in use by New Zealand forces until after the Second World War.

The upgraded 1931 version was used by the Polish Army during, amongst others, the Battle of Westerplatte in 1939.

As well as receiving a knighthood for inventing the mortar, Stokes was given several forms of monetary reward by the Ministry of Munitions for his invention including royalties of £1 per Stokes mortar shell produced.

Combat useEdit

British Empire units had 1,636 Stokes mortars in service on the Western Front at the Armistice.[10]

In World War I the Stokes Mortar could fire as many as 25 bombs per minute and had a maximum range of 800 yards firing the original cylindrical unstabilised projectile. By World War II, it could fire as many as 30 bombs per minute, and had a range of over 2500 yards with some shell types.[3]

A 4 inch version was used to fire smoke, poison gas and Thermit (incendiary) rounds but this should be considered a separate weapon to the standard 3 inch version firing high explosive rounds described in this article.

The Stokes mortar was used in the Banana Wars and helped American forces defeat Sandinista rebels during the Second Battle of Las Cruces on January 1, 1928.[11]

Range tablesEdit

(Provisional) Range Table For 3-Inch Stokes Mortar, Printed in September 1917.[12] Cartridge : 95 grains ballistite, reinforced with Charges : 5 grains, guncottonyarn Rings : 110 grains, .3 mm flake cordite Projectile : Bomb, 10 lb. 11 oz

Cartridge Only 1 Ring 2 Rings 3 Rings 4 Rings

Range

Time of Flight

Range

Time of Flight

Range

Time of Flight

Range

Time of Flight

Range

Time of Flight

degs

yds

secs

yds

secs

yds

secs

yds

secs

yds

secs

45

240

7·1

420

9·6

550

11·6

660

13·2

800

15·0

50

233

7·6

411

10·4

538

12·5

649

14·3

780

16·2

52

228

7·8

404

10·7

530

12·9

639

14·7

767

16·6

54

222

8·0

395

10·9

518

13·2

626

15·1

748

17·0

56

215

8·2

384

11·2

503

13·5

608

15·4

726

17·4

58

207

8·4

371

11·4

486

13·8

589

15·8

701

17·8

60

197

8·5

357

11·7

467

14·1

567

16·1

672

18·2

61

193

8·6

349

11·8

457

14·3

554

16·3

656

18·4

62

187

8·7

340

11·9

445

14·4

542

16·4

640

18·5

63

182

8·8

332

12·0

434

14·5

528

16·6

623

18·7

64

176

8·8

323

12·1

422

14·6

514

16·7

605

18·8

65

170

8·9

313

12·2

409

14·8

499

16·9

586

19·0

66

164

9·0

303

12·3

396

14·9

483

17·0

567

19·1

67

158

9·0

292

12·4

383

15·0

468

17·1

547

19·2

68

152

9·1

281

12·5

369

15·1

451

17·2

526

19·4

69

145

9·2

270

12·5

354

15·2

434

17·4

505

19·5

70

138

9·2

259

12·6

339

15·3

416

17·5

483

19·6

71

131

9·2

247

12·7

324

15·4

398

17·6

460

19·7

72

124

9·3

235

12·8

308

15·5

379

17·7

437

19·8

73

117

9·3

223

12·9

292

15·5

360

17·8

413

19·9

74

109

9·4

210

12·9

275

15·6

340

17·9

389

20·0

75

102

9·4

197

13·0

259

15·7

320

18·0

364

20·1

[edit] Image galleryEdit

  • [2]High Explosive bomb
  • [3]No. 145 percussion fuze
  • [4]Men of the KOYLI fusing Stokes shells near Wieltjie, October 1 1917
  • [5]Portuguese troops loading a Stokes mortar on the Western Front

See alsoEdit

Surviving examplesEdit

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. ^ "Appendix D. Details of Trench Mortars" in "Field Artillery Notes No. 7". Mortar=48 lb; Elevating Stand=28 lb; Base Plate=28 lb; Total Weight for Transport = 104 lbs
  2. ^ "Appendix E. Details of Ammunition" in "Field Artillery Notes No. 7". This figure is for the unstabilised cylindrical bomb used in World War I.
  3. ^ a b c War Dept. Technical Manual TM9-2005, Volume 3, Ordnance Materiel - General, Page 17, December 1942
  4. ^ "Appendix D. Details of Trench Mortars" in "Field Artillery Notes No. 7"
  5. ^ At 45° using 4 Rings of propellant. This figure is for the unstabilised cylindrical bomb used in World War I.
  6. ^ From Range Tables, September 1917. 45° gave maximum range with any particular propellant amount e.g. 420 yards with 1 ring. 75° gave the most vertical descent for the shell and the shortest range with any particular propellant amount e.g. 197 yards with 1 ring.
  7. ^ "Appendix E. Details of Ammunition" in "Field Artillery Notes No. 7"
  8. ^ Stokes's Trench Howitzer 3" Mark I, page 15
  9. ^ Ruffell
  10. ^ Farndale 1986, page 342
  11. ^ http://www.sandinorebellion.com/PCDocs/1928a/PC280104b-Brown.html
  12. ^ Range Tables transcribed and supplied courtesy of John Reed

BibliographyEdit

External linksEdit

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