Mortar and Bazooka Relics

After the Christmas break, it’s time to start posting again!

I have previously posted about the 2 inch mortar finds made at one particular WW2 era range. However, there are plenty more old ranges out there, all of which contain different bits of ordnance and kit that indicate their original use. Of course, 2 inch mortar parts are relatively common to find, as are 3 inch and PIAT, but the American mortars are a little bit more difficult to track down. Even harder still are bits of American bazooka. And if you want anything from the Russian or German army, it means a trip abroad.

With a bit of research though you can increase your chances of finding some of the rarer items.

Let’s start off with the standard British 2 inch mortar. One such range is jammed with relics from this widely used weapon of the British army, and, as I have pointed out in another blog, can be a very lucrative site for recovering such relics.

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Finds from one quick visit to the old range. The two mortars at the top are perfectly safe, one being half a spent smoke mortar, and the other an empty para illum.

Two inch mortar fins are usually marked on one of the fins, but can corrode quickly, especially in acidic ground. 3 inch mortar fins are invariably made of steel so will rust away completely if left long enough in the ground

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3 inch and 2 inch mortar fins

Where-ever you find the fins, you should be able to find other items as well, such as spent fuzes (No 151 or 161 for 2 inch, No 152 for 3 inch), as well as the safety caps that go with them.

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Safety caps for 2 and 3 inch mortar fuzes
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No 151 fuze from a 2 inch mortar, spent and completely safe

On some ranges you can sometimes turn up bits of PIAT as well. Mostly it is the launcher cartridges, fuzes and fuze holders. The body of a PIAT and the tail are usually made of steel, so these tend to rust away quite quickly as the metal is thin. However, they can still be found and, with the right care and treatment, saved from corroding away to nothing.

One site has also lead to the discovery of some much rarer PIAT parts, such as the rubber shoulder pad, rear sights and even triggers.

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PIAT tail
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PIAT rubber shoulder pad, triggers and rear sights
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PIAT launcher cartridges, fuze holder clip, fuze containers and practice fuzes (No 425 and 426)

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Finding American mortar or bazooka parts takes a fair amount of research, to identify the locations used by the US army for practising here in the UK. However, it isn’t impossible and once found, these sites can result in some excellent finds.

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US 81mm and 60mm mortar fins
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US Bazooka chunk and motor

Of course, as I’ve already mentioned above, Russian and German mortar parts are impossible to find in the UK. I used to go to Europe once or twice a year, but I haven’t been out there for many years now, as the laws covering detecting and relic recovery are very tight. Given the amount of relics that can be found in the UK, it just isn’t worth the trouble, (getting all the right permissions and documents can take months), but these came from a trip I made to eastern Europe more than 10 years ago now.

The Russians loved their mortars, and had a particularly impressive 120mm version, along with an 82mm weapon. The German standard issue was the 8cm and 5cm mortars.

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Russian 120mm and 82mm mortar fins (two variants of 82mm tail)
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German 8cm fin and 5cm fin and body (completely empty of course)

One find was particularly interesting but badly corroded. This was treated with an anti-corrosion paint, a method I no longer employ as it can ruin a decent relic. Still, once applied it will ruin the relic even more taking it off, so it will have to stay on.

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Rocket motor from a Panzerschrek

They make a nice addition to the collection but they are the last I’ll recover myself!

PIAT PROJECTILE

This PIAT inert practice bomb, (the manufacturer has very kindly stencilled ‘INERT’ on the body), was recovered from a range by a colleague and purchased by myself for the princely sum of £30. It was in a pretty bad state…..rusty as heck, dents all over the nose cone, missing fuze…..it looked beyond repair to most.

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PIAT practice bomb as it looked when it first arrived
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Inside of the head showing the interior has a cone of concrete to give the bomb the correct weight for practising with

Following a good clean, the top portion of the bomb was tackled to remove the dents in the cone. The fuze opening was temporarily filled with putty and the whole thing filled to the brim with water, and then the bottom hole sealed as well. The whole thing was then put in the freezer. The action of the ice expanding pushed the dents out, (although it took three cycles of this to get them out fully), and one of the practice fuzes I had recovered from another site was then fitted in the fuze ‘well’.

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The PIAT practice bomb after cleaning and treatment of the rust
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Close up of the tail
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Close up of the head, showing where the dents have been pushed out by the ice. You can also see the inert practice fuze inserted in the fuze well
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Picture showing the word ‘INERT’ stencilled on the body of the bomb. Cleaning had made the lettering fainter than it was originally, but it is there!

Many people would have turned their nose up at this PIAT practice bomb given its original condition. But you have to look past the rust and see what it could look like with a little bit of TLC.

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