So it's like a hollow steel pipe and imagine a nail being stuck in the end that's blanked off. There is a tripod on the front of it so you can move the barrel up and down to alter its angle. You don't just hold it, you wind a handle and it lowers or raises the barrel. Then the mortar man, drops his mortar bomb in from the top end of the barrel. The mortar bomb rattles down the barrel because it's a pretty loose fit. It not like a rifle barrel where the bullet is a very tight fit. It hits the nail at the bottom. Well the detonator is in the bottom of the bomb, so that strikes the nail, and it fires the bomb out like a rocket straight out of the barrel. Well those things don't travel like a rifle bullet in a straight line, or like an artillery shell. They go up in the air and then they turn and come down. They can calculate where that bomb is going to land. So these things are fired by the enemy's infantry, the foot soldier, the fools in the front line trenches, those that I was telling you about who do all the marching and digging, and they always have the highest casualties in wartime.
The mortar men are attached to the infantry and so they know from their training roughly where the bombs are going to land. So you have that to put up with. That as well because it's ten to one that when you get pretty close the mortar men, you see it's too risky to use artillery at that range, because when you're that close to the enemy they wouldn't know if they were hitting you or the enemy. So they use these trench mortars. They go up and they turn down. It reminds me of the Mc Donald's signs here, the Mc Donald's beef burgers. They go up in that sort of fashion, like that curve on the 'M' and they come down again.
Its nerve wracking, I'll tell you, because all you hear is a plop, and the 'plop' is when the mortar man has fired the thing, when he has dropped the bomb in and it hits the firing pin at the bottom. The detonator goes with a plop. Then you wait for the damn thing coming. There might be half a dozen mortars in action at the same time. So you can imagine how jangling it is on your nerves. You have all that to put up with. It's bleedin' terrifying at times. Then of course the screams, a lot of fellows scream when they're wounded. You get all the screams of the wounded. The shouts of 'stretcher-bearer' constantly. In the end you just want no more to do with it all. You just want to get out of it, but you can't. That's the predicament, you can't.
Another thing are there is a hell of a lot of blokes in the services in wartime, but very few of them meet the enemy. When I used to go into a pub when I was on leave before I went abroad, fellows would buy me a pint. They would say, "Hello there, home on leave?"
"Here I'll buy you that," they'd say.
They'd buy me a beer, but it didn't matter who you were, they'd buy you a beer if you were in uniform, because most civilians think that a soldiers a soldier. They think they're all fighting, but they're not.
PAGE 13 OF 15 NEXT PAGE