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Ordnance ML 2-inch Mortar

Light Infantry Mortar

The Ordnance ML 2-inch Mortar proved a God-send to the British Army, just in time for World War 2.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Edited: 8/15/2018
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Year: 1938
Manufacturer(s): Royal Ordnance - UK
Roles: In-Direct Fire/Siege/Area Effect;
Action: Muzzle-Fed; Trigger Actuated
Caliber(s): 50mm
Sights: Integrated
Overall Length: 665 mm (26.18 in)
Barrel Length: 665 mm (26.18 in)
Weight (Unloaded): 9.04 lb (4.10 kg)
Rate-of-Fire: 10 rounds-per-minute
Effective Range: 1,500 ft (457 m; 500 yd)
Operators: Australia; Canada; India; United Kingdom
The Ordnance ML 2-inch Mortar Mk II was an infantry-based, squad-level mortar weapon system standardized throughout the British Army beginning in 1938 - prior to the nation's formal involvement in World War 2. The type was portable and highly reliable, able to contend with the rigors of the battlefield while also supplying a breath of ammunition options. The ML served the British Army well throughout the Cold War years that followed before it was formally replaced, its long-standing history becoming a testament to its well-executed design.

While the British utilized a 2-inch squad-level mortar system in the latter stages of World War 1, the type was labeled as obsolete following the end of the war and little thought was given to introducing a new, more modern portable light mortar system until unfolding events in Europe brought about the requirement. British authorities looked outside of their war industry to find a foreign product worthy of the Army and selected a 2-in mortar design from ECIA of Spain. After a period of evaluation and testing, the British Army unveiled the new "Ordnance ML (Muzzle Loading) 2-inch Mortar" into inventory with serial production beginning in 1938 under the Mk II designation.

At its core, the Ordnance ML 2-inch Mortar was of a conventional design and arrangement. The design was naturally characterized by its launch tube of near-20 inch length which also held the applicable sighting and control facilities. The system lacked a true bipod stand and was supported instead by the operator through use of a small monopod leg fitted at the base of the design as well as a baseplate assembly to help handle recoil of the exiting projectile. As a muzzle-loading weapon, the mortar was fed active 50mm projectiles down the open muzzle end by the loader. Unique to the ML's design was its trigger lever which allowed the firer the ability to launch the projectile inside the tube at his discretion. Conventional mortars of the time automatically actuated the projectile by the projectile contacting an awaiting firing pin located at the bottom of the launch tube. In all, the mortar system weighed in at just 9lbs.

The ML was cleared to fire the standard 50mm High-Explosive projectile, suitable for dislodging or killing enemy troop concentrations, and illumination and smoke rounds also did their part when called upon. Each projectile generally weighed in at 2.25lbs each. The ML crew could set up smoke screens to cover the movement of allied personnel or illuminate the night sky to expose advancing enemy troops. In either case, the mortar crew was an integral part of any infantry action. Ammunition was supplied in three conjoined transport tubes each containing three 50mm projectiles. This ensured a healthy initial ammunition supply for the mortar team with resupply handled from outside sources as available. Range of the weapon was out to 500 yards.

A typical ML mortar team arrangement consisted of two specially trained personnel made up of the firer and the loader. The firer was responsible for the transportation of the mortar system while the loader saw to the care and maintenance of the ammunition supply. In combat, the loader also assisted in the spotting of falling shells to direct the firer as needed and could take over the firer's role should he become incapacitated. The mortar system's light nature made it highly portable and easy to conceal for rapid relocation and ambush. Needless to say, a well-trained and combat experienced mortar crew was a rather lethal tactical component to the actions of allied infantry personnel they supported.

Two main forms of the ML 2-inch mortar were delivered to the British Army. These were differentiated by their baseplates - small and large in general size. The smaller version was utilized by standard infantry-level mortar team personnel while the larger, heavier version was suitable for firing from vehicles (though these could be set along the ground as well). The Bren Universal Carrier tracked vehicle proved suitable as a gunnery platform for such usage.

The Ordnance ML 2-inch Mortar was utilized by the British Army as well as Commonwealth forces throughout World War 2 and beyond. Despite its 1930s origins, it can still be found in developing parts of the world even today.

Variants / Models

• Ordnance ML 2-inch Mortar - Formal Designation
• Ordnance ML 2-inch Mortar Mk II - Initial Production Designation; appearing with both small and large baseplate, the former for infantry-level use and the latter for vehicle firing.
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