5cm leichte Granatwerfer 36 (leGrW 36)
50mm Light Infantry Field Mortar
Though heavy for a light mortar, the leGrW 36 could be carried by a single soldier, his ammunition supply following behind.
Authored By: Dan Alex | Last Edited:
The 5-cm Granatwerfer 36 (abbreviated as "leGrW 36") was the standard light mortar utilized by the German Army in the early years of World War 2. Engineers tried to make a useful portable 50mm system that could benefit squad-level operations but instead created an overly complex and heavy system with limited range that proved to be a detriment to a resource-strapped Germany by the middle and end years of the war. In the end, the leGrW 36 had a limited existence and was ultimately passed down to second-line units as more favorable weapons replaced it. The leGrW 36 was utilized by Nazi Germany, Bulgaria and Slovakia.
Germany held something of an advantage during the inter-war years following World War 1. While other national armies were being downsized and the world, as a whole, was war-weary, thoughts of rearmament played through the heads of German authorities. The standing German Army had essentially been dismantled down to the rivet following the cessation of hostilities, but the rise of a new Germany meant that the nation held little reservation in resurrecting a new modern army from scratch. Attempts by the Free World to curtail such growth eventually fell to naught, for Hitler and his underlings were quick to bypass any international restrictions at their leisure, assuring that a Second World War was at hand. As such, general thinking in terms of weapons development during this time often combined necessity with novel concepts, often times producing sophisticated and complex systems beyond the scope of a wartime economy.
With rearmament there came the need for a light 50mm infantry mortar system to complement squad actions. The German firm Rheinmetall-Borsig AG went about designing their new leGrW 36 (leichte Granatwerfer 36) along a different set of ideas beginning in 1934. The launch tube would be fixed to the baseplate while trajectory support would come from a simple monopod-type assembly. In contrast, most mortar systems utilized a separate baseplate attached to the firing tube with an accompanying bipod assembly for support. A collection of traverse controls were integrated into the baseplate itself and an telescopic sight was added to promote accuracy at range. The leGrW 36 was also made somewhat portable by a single infantryman thanks to an integrated handle though the overall weight of the little system left something to be desired (just over 30lbs). The firing action was accomplished through use of a trigger as opposed to an impact firing pin common in other light mortar designs. The leGrW 36 had the added benefit of being made ready to fire almost immediately thanks to its design - the operator needed only to set the system down, adjust traverse and elevation and introduce a 1.98lb projectile into the firing tube. Interestingly, the leGrW 36 was designed to fire only HE (High-Explosive) projectiles and nothing more. Conversely, most other mortar-type weapons made use of smoke, illumination and incendiary rounds to make the most of such a frontline weapon. The projectile itself was of a teardrop shape with a tapered base, adorned by eight smallish stabilization fins.