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Saturday, February 25, 2012


Mortars are a convenient way for an infantry unit to provide itself some indirect fire support at the local level. They are useful to help break up an enemy attack, or to attack targets out of direct line of sight, like those on a reverse slope or inside a ravine. This also allows them to be fired from a sheltered position. Light mortars can be carried by individual troops. Heavier ones were usually carried as separate pieces -base, barrel, bipod- by the members of the mortar team and quickly assembled when and wherever needed. These pieces can be quite heavy. The memoir of a Soviet soldier who was a member of a mortar crew, told the story of a man who was carrying the base of the mortar on his back, who suddenly fell to the ground while on the run and never got back up, having his skull crushed by the weight of the metal plate. As far as toy soldier manufacturers go, there has been a good variety of mortar figures made available, ranging from the very light mortars to some heavier caliber ones. Let's take a look.

21st Centruy Toys American Mortar Team - Picture 1
21 C Toys came up with this nice mortar set that includes 3 factory painted figures, the mortar and a sandbag wall for protection. This is the view from the front.

21st Centruy Toys American Mortar Team - Picture 2
Here is how it looks from the back. Note that the base is a bit too small and it comes with 'footprints' that indicate where the figures should be placed.  That makes the kneeling guy sit a bit too far from the mortar. Given the position of his hand, which seems to be reaching out, you'd think that he'd place himself closer to the mortar or he would be leaning towards it.

21st Centruy Toys American Mortar Team - Picture 3
Here is a better shot of the figures. I actually like to place them behind another sandbag wall, without the base. That allows me to set them the way I like them.

BMC American Mortar Crew - Part 1
BMC Produced a couple of mortar crewmen, but it did not give them a mortar. However there are other American mortars below that they could be attached to, particularly this guy who could just be the ammo handler.

BMC American Mortar Crew - Part 2
The second crewman. This guy is about to drop the shell into the mortar (or take a dive into the pool?), so you will need a standalone mortar like the one from 21st Century Toys for him to drop his shell into.

Britains Deetail American Recoilless Rifle Team
A Recoilless Rifle is technically similar to a bazooka, open in the back so that the recoil can escape through that opening, plus a rifled barrel. This one from Britains Deetail looks more like a heavy mortar to me so I've decided to list it here as well.

Charben American Mortar
Mortarman and mortar from Charben, made in the 50's or 60's, so that explains the odd position of the arm. Sculptures were optimized for ease of release from the mold back then.

Marx American Mortar Crewman
A nice figure from Marx. We just need to find him a mortar now.

Toy Soldiers of San Diego American Mortar
Good set of mortar and crewman. The mortar actually came as separate pieces.

BUM American Mortar
These guys are allegedly American although they don't look like it. This set also comes with the barbed wire, but I did not include it in the picture to get a better shot. Note also that the figures seem to be clones. You can tell not only because the level of detail is a bit faded, but also because the original oval bases are now encased in larger rectagular bases. 

Monogram 1/35 American Mortar
These guys are allegedly 1/35, but they are actually smaller than that in my opinion. Not sure why one of the men has the helmet painted white. Must have been the previous owner's choice.

Revell 1/40 American Mortar
This mortar team is one of my favorite ones. In fact, they are the poses that made me get these figures. I really like how one of the mortar man is lying on the ground while dropping the shell into the tube.
Airfix British Mortar
Light mortar/mortar man from Airfix. That one would be an easier one to carry.

Airfix British Support Group Mortar Crewman
This one came with the infantry support group set. He would be a good #2 for the previous guy, if you ignore the fact that the shell seems to be of a heavier caliber.

Britains Deetail Mortar Team
Nice heavy mortar from Britains Deetail. This one can be operated with a spring to fire little shells.

Crescent British Paratroopers Mortar
Good to support your lightly armed paratroopers during an airborne operation.

Lone Star British Paratroopers Mortar
Here is another mortar for those Red Devils.

Britains Swoppets British Infantry Mortar Team
This is a nice little set, very well put together. Unfortunately the man dropping the shell into the tube is missing the shell, but if you assume that he just dropped it, then it works just fine.

21st Century Toys German Mortar Team - Picture 1
21C Toys did a great job with this one. As with the Amreican mortar set, not only did they give us a factory-painted, 3 man crew and mortar, but they also set it inside a very nice mortar pit to give them extra protection.

21st Century Toys German Mortar Team - Picture 2
This is how the figures look outside the pit. Notice the well-detailed facial expression. My only criticism is that they all seem to have the same face.

21st Century Toys German Mortar Team - Picture 3
Here is how the mortar pit looks from behind. Note that it even has some steps to climb into it.

21C Toys German Afrika Korps Mortar Team
I think these guys are a mix of the artillery crew set and the mortar team. The standing guy is the same as the one for the regular infantry's mortar team, except for the uniform colors, but the two kneeling guys are different.I have seen those also in the PAK 40 crew. Now, I don't know if the mortar team included thee figures, or maybe the collector who sold them to me mixed the sets. 

BMC German Mortar Crew
Another set of crewmen without a mortar. Again, you could set them up using the one from 21C Toys, but that would mean taking out the nicely sculpted guys from 21C. Hard choice.
Britains Deetail German Mortar Team
Same as the British heavy mortar, but with German figures.

Dulcop German
Light mortar and crewman from Dulcop. He's holdng that shell a bit too close in my opinion, but those are the trade-offs sculpturs must make if they want to cast the figure in a single mold without it getting trapped in the mold.

Italeri 'Elite German Troops' Mortar
Nice heavy mortar. The bipod comes detached, so you either glue it or have to set it up everytime you deploy the figure.

Timpo Swoppets German Infantry Mortar
Not an easy one to find, particularly in a good state. All parts seem to be there, including helmets, and as you can see, it was a fairly decent set. In addition to the actual mortar and its crew, it also comes with a few extra shells and a detachable bush which can be swapped for another plant of your choice if you have any spare ones :-). A nice addition to the collection.

Atlantic 60mm Italian Mortar
The ony Italian mortar in my collection. So he'd better be effective.
Might have come factory-painted.

 Atlantic Italian Heavy Mortar Team
I believe this set is actually representing post-WWII figures, but I think they can still pass for WWII guys. As you can see, there are 4 figures. The three kneeling guys are the mortar crew. The prone guy is supposed to be manning a heavy machine gun, but it was missing from the set when I got it. As it's the case with all other Atlantic figures, they come unpainted. These were painted by their previous owner, who actually did quite a nice job. All in all a good set.

Airfix Japanese Mortar
A light mortar, reminds me of the one they made for the British Infantry set. Note how this guy also carries his shells in that bag. Not a big supply though. Hopefully the other guys in his squad are carrying a few more shells.

BMC Japanese Mortar
This time BMC did give the man a mortar, not to mention that the sculpting is much better than their usual.

Britains Deetail Japanese Recoilles Rifle Team
Just like the American one, I think this one can pass for a heavy mortar.

Hing Fat Japanese Mortar
A clone of the Airfix figure, with much less detail.

Cherilea 60mm Soviet Mortar
I mean, that the figure is 60mm scale. I don't know about the caliber of the mortar, but it could be close to 80mm.

Italeri Soviet Mortar
A very similar sculture to the German Elite Troops mortar, but this guy did come with the bipod for the heavy mortar attached to it.

Supreme Playsets Soviet Mortar
A recast of the above figure with some factory paint.

Cherilea 60mm Chinese Mortar
Another 60mm scale figure. The only mortar man in among the Chinese I have. Looks like an 80mm mortar, but the shells seem on the small side don't they?

Click here to see a post on American Artillery
Click here to see a post on the German 88s


  1. Marx did produce a mortar for their mortarman. It was sold as an accesory for the Battleground playset, and you sometimes see it sold by itself or as part of an accesories lot on eBay. But most of the time, you only get the figure of the mortar-less mortarman when you buy the Marx Battleground GIs.

    I suppose you could also suspend disbelief enough to set him up behind the Marx bazookaman, and play it as if it is a bazooka round he is handling before loading.

    1. You are right. I think he would also make a good #2 for a bazooka team. Thanks for the tip about the Battleground mortar. I'll have to run a few google/ebay searches to see what it looks like!

  2. Hi, I have some Deetail soldiers I would like to sell, but its quite a niche, so I am looking for the right buyers ;-). I live in Denmark and can sell through the Danish site Trendsales

    My profile is called Cecilie W, just write on any odd add I have in there and I'll be able to upload pictures of the soldiers.

    I am very ignorant when it comes to military, but it seems to be Brits in desert uniform, americans with a bazooka or another heavy gun, some US civil war footmen, indians, wild west characteres and knights.

  3. Now, THIS is some delightful mania! Absolutely superb collection of mortar teams! I was flabbergasted by how many you have unearthed! As usual, your pics are nothing short of excellent, your commentary crisp, and the organization - just the coolest! It's worth noting that the charm of some of the figures is in their unique poses, awkward though they may be (I'm lookin' at you, Atlantic and Dulcop!); I do love some good chunky figures, though. Bravo!

    1. Thanks a lot John. I really appreciate the generous feedback. I do try to do things right, so it is nice when readers like you notice it! :-)

  4. - Although an indirect fire weapon, MORTARS are not part of the artillery branch or arsenal. They belong to the infantry. They are, in every Army I know of, an integral part of the infantry organization. What makes them different? Well, usually it's just a tube on a stand that you drop a round in. That round lands on something little more complicated than a nail and it goes up high and then drops. They are generally employed in groups like a battery (but for mortars, it's a platoon or section in Brit parlance) are less accurate, and have less range than artillery. They can fire on close targets, but that round still needs to go way up before it comes down.Larger mortars may be breech loaded just because they are so heavy. A lanyard is yanked to make the pin pop up to ignite the propellant.

    The good things about mortars - easy to move and set up, works in urban areas and forests because of the high angle they drop from, cheap to produce, much lighter than artillery of the same caliber, can be far more quickly brought to bear on a target than calling for artillery.

    Mortars are generally found like this: 50 - 65mm (light) at company level, 75 - to 90mm (medium) at battalion level unless it's a mechanized unit, which would have heavier) and 100 to 120mm (heavy) at brigade level. There are some bigger mortars out there for odd job reasons. The Soviets, for example, made up for short falls in artillery in the late 1930's thru '42 with some huge mortars.

    Copied from MAJ Greg Liska, 5th Special Forces (Retired)

    1. Thanks a lot for your contribution. This content really enriches the site!

  5. Hello, maybe someone can help. I had a British mortar man set fro the 1960's
    Two maybe three figures, they were softer plastic seems as though packs
    came off. The tube worked, was spring loaded came with 6 shells that came in
    a small ammo box. Any ideas.

  6. Your "Monogram 1/35 American Mortar - Part II" is actually REVELL 1:40 scale, from their famous Regimental Combat Team kit: