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Set 39

Medieval Mortar

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All figures are supplied unpainted    (Numbers of each pose in brackets)
Date Released Unknown
Contents 3 figures
Poses 3 poses
Material Plastic (Medium Consistency)
Colours Grey
Average Height 23 mm (= 1.66 m)


As gunpowder weapons were introduced and evolved in Europe, they had an increasing effect on warfare, particularly the siege. Originally bombards were large, very heavy and extremely difficult to move, so were only used in a siege to bring down or damage walls. However as technology improved, new forms of the weapon were developed, and by around the middle of the 15th century a weapon for sending balls at high trajectory into walled towns or castles had been created. This was the mortar, and one of the first recorded uses was at the siege of Constantinople in 1453. With so much of late medieval and early modern warfare being dominated by the siege, such weapons were adopted by many armies, and by the mid 16th century were a common feature of sieges.

The mortar in this set is a relatively simple affair, with a barrel hinged on a wooden base by trunnions, and with a curved rail along either side. Each rail has a number of holes, and by inserting a rod through the rails the barrel can be supported at a particular angle, thus giving some limited ability to aim. We have been quite unable to find any picture or reference to a mortar of this design during the very late medieval period or beyond. However this does not mean that such a design was not used. Early mortars were quite crude, though we are still somewhat doubtful about this particular design. The barrel is about 2 metres in length, and when supported as shown the top of it is a good deal above the height of a man, so is really enormous. Therefore it would have been a very difficult piece to use (which was often the case), and would only have been used to smash walls and fortresses. However with such a large-calibre weapon we thought the framework, and particularly the bar used to adjust trajectory, looked too flimsy.

Such a large piece of ordnance would have had a much bigger crew than three, not least simply to lift and handle the huge projectiles, but this set includes three figures just the same. These figures are really nice, well sculpted and with plenty of detail. One man carries a polearm, and another seems to be either in charge or else helping to aim the weapon. That leaves just one to be actually doing something about manning the mortar, in that he holds a ladle for moving powder, so this barely scratches the surface as a crew. No one is handling the weapon, nor any ammunition, so these three figures do not qualify as a crew at all.

This is about the best set yet produced by LW in terms of quality of production, who have a very mixed history with the quality of their products. If we could confirm the design of the mortar to be authentic then we would be happier, and ascribing it to the medieval period is something of a stretch, but despite that this is an appealing product, even though it almost entirely lacks any suitable servants for the mortar.


Historical Accuracy 6
Pose Quality 3
Pose Number 1
Sculpting 10
Mould 9

Further Reading
"Medieval Costume, Armour and Weapons" - Dover - Eduard Wagner, Zoroslava Drobna & Jan Durdik - 9780486412405
"Renaissance Armies 1480-1650" - Patrick Stephens - George Gush - 9780850596045
"The Age of Chivalry Part 3" - Ward Lock (Arms and Uniforms) - Liliane and Fred Funcken - 9780706359374
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