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The WWII German 50mm Light Mortar - Granatwerfer 36 (leGrW 36)

A Brief History


The 5 cm leichter Granatwerfer 36 (5 cm leGrW 36) was the standard light mortar used by German armed forced during World War II. Developed by Rheinmetall-Borsig AG in 1934 and manufactured up until 1942, it served throughout WWII, with a typical assigment of eighty-four light 5 cm mortars in standard German Infantry Division at the begining of the war.

Although phased out as a front line weapon after 1942, the 50mm remained popular due to the fact that it was easily transported by two men, provided higher hitting power and range than any other squad level weapon and could be made to fire almost immediately thanks to its design - the mortar was set down, the traverse and elevation adjusted, the bomb loaded and fired.

It was intended for indirect fire beyond hand grenade range and designed for use with a two man crew, with one man carrying the base plate with traversing gear whilst the second would carry the barrel with elevation gear. It would fire a 50mm high explosive only shell, with a high angle fire of greater than 42º. The firing action was accomplished through use of a trigger as opposed to an impact firing pin common in most other light mortars.

To fire the mortar the loader would insert the bomb, tail down into the tube. The layer would lie on the left behind the mortar with the loader on the right. The layer would hold the leveling handles with his forearms pressed onto the base plate to steady the morar. After the bomb was loaded, the loader would operate the trigger, by pulling it slowly to the rear, with both crew members lowering their faces to the ground. A trained crew of two could fire between 15 and 25 projectiles per minute.

In the even of a misfire, the German training manual adviced the trigger to be repeatedly pulled again with a minute delay before attempting unloading to avoid any accidents due to delayed fire.

The weapon fired a High Explosive anti personnel type bomb with a finned tail, of 8 blades, that would carry the cartridge. The body was manufactured from 4mm thick mild steel, with a screw threaded fuze hole that would accept a quick acting aluminium or Bakelite Wgr. Z. 38 nose fuse. The body would contain a bursting charge of TNT, of approximately 4 1/2 ounces in weight. Muzzle velocity was 246 feet-per-second with a range of 55-558 yards. The bombs would be transported in a specialy designed steel transit case with capacity of 10 bombs.

The launch tube would be fixed to the baseplate while trajectory support would come from a simple monopod-type assembly, with a collection of traverse controls integrated into the baseplate itself. The trajectory could be adjusted from 42- to 90-degrees with traverse as well.

granatwerfer 36 granatwerfer 36

granatwerfer 36 granatwerfer 36

The range for the 50-mm was indicated on an arc fixed on the left side of the barrel by the rear edge of an indicator hinged on the traversing bracket. The arc was graduated from 60 to 520 meters.

granatwerfer 36 granatwerfer 36 granatwerfer 36 granatwerfer 36

A telescopic sight desinged for use with the mortar was not effective and a simple white line drawn on the barrel itself was effective enough in aiming the weapon, with production ceasing of the sight in 1938.

granatwerfer 36 granatwerfer 36 granatwerfer 36 granatwerfer 36

This mortar would be used with a Field clinometer, Model 1935 (Winkelmesser 35). This instrument would be used to measure angles to determine trajectory. It had a custom designed steel case with wooden internal fittings.

granatwerfer 36 granatwerfer 36
granatwerfer 36 granatwerfer 36

This mortar would also have a specialist steel case containing spares and tools.

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