Two-inch mortar

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Ordnance SBML two-inch mortar
2 inch mortar (AWM 094355).jpg
Australian infantrymen using a 2-inch (51 mm) mortar in New Guinea in 1945 (AWM 094355)
TypeLight mortar
Place of originUnited Kingdom
Service history
Used byBritish Commonwealth armies
other users
WarsWorld War II
Korean War[1]
Sino-Indian War[2]
Biafran War
Production history
VariantsMark 8 "airborne"
Mass10 12 pounds (4.8 kg)
Length21 inches (53 cm)

ShellHigh explosive: 2 lb 2 oz (960 g).
Smoke: 2 pounds (910 g)
Illuminating: 1 lb 5 oz (600 g)
Calibre2 inch (50.8 mm)
Rate of fire8 rounds per minute
Effective firing range500 yards (460 m)

The Ordnance SBML two-inch mortar, or more commonly, the "two-inch mortar", was a British mortar issued to the British Army and the Commonwealth armies, that saw use during the Second World War and later.

It was more portable than larger mortars, and had greater range and firepower than rifle grenades.


The two-inch mortar was one of a number of small mortars brought into service by European nations between the two World Wars.

Due to its small size, and for simplicity, the mortar had no forward strut or bipod like larger designs needed. The barrel was held at the correct angle by one soldier while the other loaded and fired the round. The original design had a large base plate and sights for aiming which used spirit levels. As the design matured, the baseplate became smaller and the sights were omitted. Aiming was by eye and relied on the firer's judgment and experience. With such a short barrel the normal firing method, where the bomb was dropped down the tube and a pin in the base of the barrel struck the detonator in the tail of the bomb, would not work, so firing was by a small trigger mechanism at the breech.

The bombs were cylindrical with a (perforated) four finned tail. For the HE projectile an impact fuze was fitted in the nose of the bomb.

Post war, the two-inch mortar was kept in service to fire smoke and illuminating rounds. It was replaced by the Royal Ordnance 51 mm infantry mortar[3] in the late 1980s.


  • Calibre: 2 inches (50.8 mm)
  • Length: 21 inches (53 cm)
  • Weight: 10 12 pounds (4.8 kg)
  • Firing mechanism: Trip (small trigger)
  • Elevation: 45-90°
  • Range: 500 yards (460 m)
  • Rate of fire: Eight rounds per minute
Free Belgian Forces fire a two-inch mortar during a training exercise in Wales, 1941


  • Mk I = squad-level mortar introduced in 1918 and declared obsolete in 1919.[4]
  • Mk II = the first model introduced in 1938 with a large baseplate.[4]
  • Mk II* = the 1938 version intended for use with the Universal Carrier[4]
  • Mk II** = a second version for use with the Universal Carrier[4]
  • Mk II*** = version for use by infantry at platoon level and fitted with a large baseplate[4]
  • Mk III = version used as a smoke launcher for tanks[4]
  • Mk IV = limited production run and did not enter service[4]
  • Mk V = not manufactured[4]
  • Mk VI = not manufactured[4]
  • Mk VII = for use on Universal Carriers[4]
  • Mk VII* = for use by airborne forces, having a shorter barrel (14 inches (360 mm) = 36 cm) and a baseplate replaced with a spade-like plate[4]
  • Mk VII** = infantry use with long barrel and spade-like baseplate[4]
  • Mk VIIA = Indian Army model[5]
  • Mk VIII = another short-barrelled version for the airborne forces[5]

Ammunition type (plus round weight and colour)[edit]

Parachute illumination round
  • High explosive (HE): 2.25 lb (1.02 kg) - olive drab body, red band[4]
  • White phosphorus smoke (WP Smk): 2.25 lb (1.02 kg) - dark green body[4]
  • Titanium tetrachloride smoke (FM Smk): 2 lb (0.91 kg) - dark green body[4]
  • Illumination (Ill): 1 lb (0.45 kg) - drab khaki (light OD) body[4]
  • Signal multi-star (Sig): 1 lb (white 2 lb) - light stone (grey) body. NB: the multi-star was available in white, red, green, and mixed red-green.[4]

Ammunition was packed one 51 mm-shell per tube, three conjoined tubes per pack (three shells), two packs (six shells) to a fibre container, and three fibre containers to a steel box (18 shells total).[6]

Modern variants[edit]

India's Ordnance Factory Board's 51mm E1 mortar is an enhanced version of the two-inch British mortar of World War II; it is still in production and service in India.[7]


  • Calibre: 51.25mm (2 in)
  • Weight: 4.88 kg
  • Range: 200-850m
  • Rate of fire:
    • normal: eight rounds per minute
    • high: 12 rounds per minute
  • Bomb weight:
    • High explosive: 950g (800m range)[8]


See also[edit]

Similar, World War 2-era weapons


  1. ^ a b "Mortar - 2 inch" (PDF). Defence unexploded ordnance website: ordnance information sheet. March 2015.
  2. ^ Mohan Guruswamy (November 20, 2012). "Don't forget the heroes of Rezang La". The Hindu. Retrieved 28 March 2015.
  3. ^ Norris 2002, p. 11.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Norris 2002, p. 12.
  5. ^ a b Norris 2002, p. 13.
  6. ^ Owen, J.I.H. (editor); Brassey's Infantry Weapons of the World (1950-1975), pg. 134, Bonanza Books, New York. (1978)
  7. ^ Kemp, Ian (October 2017). "Light mortars, heavy effect" (PDF). Asian Military Review: 21–30. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 March 2012.
  8. ^ "Mortars & Ammunitions". May 2009. Archived from the original on 27 October 2014.
  9. ^ a b Rottman, Gordon L. (20 Nov 2015). Victory 1945: Western Allied Troops in Northwest Europe. Elite 209. Osprey Publishing. p. 60. ISBN 9781472809476.
  10. ^ Gates & Roy 2014, p. 48.
  11. ^ Gates & Roy 2014, p. 77.
  12. ^ Young, Peter (1972). The Arab Legion. Men-at-Arms. Osprey Publishing. p. 24. ISBN 978-0-85045-084-2.
  13. ^ a b Norris 2002, p. 5.
  14. ^ Gates & Roy 2014, p. 70.
  15. ^ Stack, Wayne; O’Sullivan, Barry (20 Mar 2013). The New Zealand Expeditionary Force in World War II. Men-at-Arms 486. Osprey Publishing. p. 19. ISBN 9781780961118.
  16. ^ Jowett, Philip (2016). Modern African Wars (5): The Nigerian-Biafran War 1967-70. Oxford: Osprey Publishing Press. p. 23. ISBN 978-1472816092.
  17. ^ Norris 2002, p. 10.