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Old 07-07-2009, 01:32 PM
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Default 7.58cm leichter Minenwerfer

Of all the members in the Minenwerfer family, the light 7.58cm version was the least spectacular but at the same time the most important. It was used everywhere, and was the weapon that supported the German Infantry in all situations, especially during trench fighting, when traditional flat trajectory weapons often were at an disadvantage.
When the war started, the light Minenwerfer existed only in prototype form. (The whole concept of the grenade thrower had long been deemed as obsolete, but had made a return in the Russo-Japanese War.) When the lMW was introduced, it was in the form of the lMW a/A (alter Art, old type), and had a square bedding. As the other types of Minenwerfers, this one too was given to special Engineer units. In the autumn of 1915 each Infantry Division had one Minenwerfer Company, equipped with 2 Heavy, 4 Medium and 6 Light Minenwerfers. Already in the Spring of 1916, the number of Minenwerfer Companies was doubled, while at the same time, special Minenwerfer Batallions was formed. By this time, trials and battle experience had resulted in the construction of a new type of Light Minenwerfer, the LMW n.A. (neuer Art, new type). This had a bedding that was circular at the front and square at the back, and had also a traverse plate, making it possible to move the piece 360 degrees around. Like the earlier type, it could be fitted with wheels, and be carried by special poles or simply dragged by men equipped with a special harness.
The new lMW n.A. had it's baptism of fire during the Battle of the Somme, and immediately proved it's worth as a versatile and useful close support weapon. This led to more and more Minenwerfers being issued to the troops, and it soon became apparent that the Engineers were unable to cope with this numerous weapon, so in the winter of 1916-17, it was organization-wise allocated to the Infantry. The plan was to give each Infantry Batallion 8 lMW:s each, but soon it became obvious that because of all the new Machine Guns and other special weapons being issued to the troops, a shortage of manpower loomed, so in May 1917 it was decided to halt the expansion at 4 lMW:s per Batallion. The personell used to serve these 4 lMW:s were 2 officers and 40 men.
Work on improving the piece still continued, resulting in 1917 in a new variant of the n.A.: this had a tail, very much like a standard artillery piece, only smaller, and a modified carriage, which made it possible to fire it in flat trajectory mode, for example against tanks. It was a good improvement, but it led to a increase in weight: a gun with wheels had a weight of some 258 kilos. (The maximum flat trajectory range was some 1.200 meters, given an elevation of 27 degrees.)
At the time of the big German Spring offensive in 1918, the new guns and a new organization was in place: for purposes of training and administration all the lMW:s of the Regiment had been drawn together into a single company, equipped with 12 pieces. (In combat, they were still under the control of the individual Batallions.) During the fluid battles of 1918, the problems of supplying these lMW:s with ammo became so great, that it was seldom that the full number of guns could be used effectively. Therefore it was decided to reduce the number of lMW:s from 12 to 6.
It was a successful weapon, and at the end of the hostilities, more than 10.000 lMW:s were in service. Still, it had one big and obvious drawback, namely the weight, making it a very cumbersome weapon in it's class. The future belonged to the British solution, the so called Stokes mortar.

Click on the thumbnails to see the photos, most of which are courtesy of
Philippe Massin (taken in the Army Museum in Brussels, who have an amzing collection of WW1 hardware, perhaps the best in the world) and Mike Casale, NJ, USA. (The silver painted lMW is loacted in his homwtown West Paterson, NJ.) The green coloured lMW have been photographed by Stephen Brezinski, who found it in a town common in Oxford, Maine, USA.

The Cookstown "Minnie"
The photos belwo show a Minenwerfer of this type, currently on display in Cookstown, USA - it could do with some tender loving care... (The photos have very generously been sent by someone who is now alas anonymous, as I lost the pertinent email. If you see this please get in touch, so you can get the full credits!)



Technical Data lMW n.A. (type of 1916)
Calibre
7.58cm
Weight of Gun
(without wheels)

163 kilos
Weight of Gun
(with wheels)

195 kilos
Maximum Range
1.300 meters
Minimum Range
300 meters
Weight of Shell
4.5 kilos
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