The ups and downs of the Dutch Mortars
By Cpl. Diego Bunuel
First published in
SFOR Informer #97, September 27, 2000
- Eased into the gaping mouth of the 120 mm mortar, the two-foot long
grenade slid into the threaded cannon. Lance Cpl. Remco Hoekstra had felt
the thundering detonation penetrate his body through and through hundreds
of times before, but there's no getting used to it, the body reacts, and
each time the blast shatters the air, even if anticipated, it comes as
grenade surged three kilometres into the spotless sky, pushed up by a
column of fire. There's no way of seeing it go. At 800 km/h, almost the
speed of a bullet, the 30 kg shell can sometimes be spotted by squinting
straight up at the sky as a slight puff of smoke is left behind when the
grenade rips through the atmosphere.
Company cannot see the explosions shaking the ground at five kilometres,
they rarely do.
the first week of September, the Dutch 2nd Mortar Platoon of the 42nd
Mechanised Infantry Battalion landed in Bosnia from their German base
of Seedorf. As the exercise carried on, the battery of four mortars were
now letting all hell break loose. Firing five grenades as fast as they
could load them. Each mortar group, made up of five soldiers, rained explosions
along the hillside.
each firing, the enormous pressure pushes the mortar's steel ground plate
deeper into the earth. And Fridsma warns that: "if a soldier were
to stand on the plate during the firing it would break both his ankles."
wartime, platoons have to haul their mortars with armoured personnel carriers,
set them up in five minutes and start firing.