Ever since I had modelled my French 12lb mortar, I had wanted to construct a "véritable" mortar battery. I knew from Jean-Louis Vial's website NEC PLURIBUS IMPAR (http://vial.jean.free.fr/new_npi/revues_npi/1_1998/npi_198/1_bart_mort3.htm) what the dimensions of the parapet were.
It was so high as to hide the pieces and their gunners from enemy view - and of course protect them from enemy fire. For the construction I did some research on the internet and soon found two useful sites: http://www.nwta.com/couriers/8-97/fieldfort.html and http://151ril.com/content/history/french-army/14. The first one deals with "Making Field Fortifications - A Fascine Battery", the second one - though admittedly dedicated to Great War trenches -, with "French Trench Construction Methods". There I found the information I needed to build my mortar battery.
I altered Vial's construction scheme in rounding the top and slope of the wall as I knew that sand and soil tend to flow down. Then I started my building process. The basic structure consists of plywood and styrene which were cut into their appropriate forms with a jigsaw and a very sharp knife.
The rear part of the parapet was built up using fascines that were "nailed" to the ground with stakes.
So I sculptured the surface of the fascine wall and the "claies" (wattles or hurdles) on the flanks with some modelling compound.
Then I applied the soil (with filler).
After drying, I drilled small holes into the structure, and glued in some toothpicks to represent the stakes keeping the fascines in place. The same was done with the tops of the flanking claies. And I didn't forget the aiming sticks on top of the parapet. Finally I painted the whole thing with acrylic colours, spread glue were needed and strewed these parts with my sand mixture. As I personally had the idea I would have liked to look over the parapet from time to time, I leaned a ladder against it (made of split barbecue sticks and wire).
My mortars were individually based with a crew consisting of SYW Prussian Artillerymen by Minden Miniatures. I like these figures very much. I am aware, though, that they don't really fit my period. The canteens on the baldrics are wrong, and the threecornered hats are a lot too old-fashioned. Only the Prussian cut of the uniforms is OK, I think. But I really had not other choice. And they give an idea of the busyness in the mortar battery, especially as Frank Hammond gave me two officers to supervise the work.
So here we are: Fire!
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