The mortar was one of the most important infantry support weapons of the Second World War, calculated as being responsible for more casualties than any other weapon. This wide ranging book looks at the mortar as a weapon, its place within the various armies and its use in combat, covering the entire war from Poland in 1939 to the final battles of 1945, and covering just about every combatant and their mortars.
The main problem with this book is its rather odd structure. The chapters on the history and development of mortars, and the mortars used during the Second World War are scattered seemingly at random around the book, with the pre-war history of mortars in chapter 2, the description of mortars in chapter 5, mortar ammo in chapter 6, self-propelled mortar carriers in chapter 9 and the mortars themselves in chapter 10! It surely would have made more sense to have all five of these chapters at the start (I'd have gone for the order description, pre-war, mortars, ammo, self -propelled mortar carriers).
The other chapters look at particular periods of the war, combining an outline of events with a description of the structure of the related armies and the numbers and types of mortars in use, supported by first hand accounts of the use of mortars in combat. There are two problems here. The first is that we are given far too much background information - this sort of book is surely aimed at readers who don't need an outline of the main campaigns of the war. The second is that the text tends to jump between topics - one section goes from the Winter War to North Africa to the US entry into the war. There is plenty of useful information here, but it would have been easier to find if the text was more firmly structured - either country by country, or a more strictly observed campaign by campaign approach.
The result is a useful book that could have been much better with a bit of reorganisation and juggling of material. There is plenty of interesting material here, but the structure makes it a little difficult to find.
1 - The First Test
2 - An Old Weapon Re-emerges
3 - The War Moves West
4 - Other Developments
5 - A Simple Yet Effective Weapons
6 - Ammunition
7 - Barbarossa and the War on the Eastern Front
8 - More Operations and Other Theatres
9 - Self-Propelled Mortar Carriers
10 - The Weapons
Author: John Norris
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military