Artillery in Canadian service: 3-inch Land Mattress Multiple Rocket Launcher (MRL)

Land Mattress MRL

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3524801)

Land Service Mattress, a rocket-type projectile and projector combination examined by Captain E.V. Burnett and Lieutenant L.W. Lewis, 112 Light AA Battery of 6th RCA in the Netherlands, 1 Nov 1944.

The first prototype of what would evolve into the Projector, Rocket, Three Inch, Number 8, Mark I, better known as the Land Mattress was originally the brainchild of a British officer, LCol Micheal Wardell.  The Land Mattress multi-barreled rocket launcher was part of Canada's weaponry during the Second World War under the direction of Canadian artillery officer LCol Eric Harris. Harris had been interested in rocket projectors for some time and in fact had attended a demonstration in 1943 which led to Canadian officers officially being assigned to the British Rocket Research Establishment.  Harris invited Wardell, with the blessing of the War Office, to develop a Canadian prototype.

It was based on the 3-inch-diameter (76 mm) tube of the RP-3 or "60lb" rocket used as an air-to-ground weapon with naval 5-inch shells as warheads, and consisted of a 16- or 30-tube launching system mounted on a towed carriage.  The land version had an operational range of 8,000 yards (7.3 km).  Rounds were fired at a rate of 4 per second.  At the crossing of the Scheldt, over a thousand rockets were fired in six hours.  Knight, Doug.  The Land Mattress in Canadian Service (Service Pulbications, Ottawa, Ontario, 2003)

* If you would like more detail on the 3-inch Land Mattress MRL, have a look at Doug Knight's page: https://archive.org/details/1-cdn-rocket-battery-1944-1945.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3204964)

Land Mattress MRL being loaded by Gunners of the 1st Rocket Battery, RCA, Helchteren, Belgium, 29 Oct 1944.

The first successful combat trial involving the Land Mattress took place in the Netherlands on 31 Oct 1944.  The second trial, also in the Netherlands, took place in November, when the Canadian rocket battery supported the 1st Polish Armored Division in an attack against German positions in Breda.  With both trials declared successful, the Land Mattress was shifted to fully operational status and entered full production, with two further rocket batteries ordered.  Land Mattresses proceeded to aid Allied troops in such battles as during the crossing of the river Scheldt in which 1,146 rockets were fired in only six hours.  In all, some 400 Land Mattresses were produced during the Second World War.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3601142)

Land Mattress MRL, 1st Rocket Battery, RCA, Helchtgeren, Belgium, 29 Oct 1944.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3601147)

Sergeant V.D. Miller of the 1st Rocket Battery, RCA, holds three different sizes of spoilers used to regulate the speed of rockets fired from the Landmattress rocket launcher during firing trials near Helchteren, Belgium, 29 October 1944.

(Mzajac Photo)

Land Mattress MRL in the Canadian War Museum and a German 21-cm Nebelwerfer 42 MRL.

The German Nebelwerfer 41 (fog-launcher in English) fired six 150mm rockets, which each carried an explosive charge comparable to the projectiles of the 105mm howitzers of the time.  The six rockets were fired in quick succession by the 4 man crew, which had to take cover from the rocket back blast in a small trench further away.  Although a very potent weapon, the Nebelwerfer had a big drawback - the rockets it fired left a large smoke trail in the air, which could be visible from miles away. This meant that the Nebelwerfer batteries could only stay in the same place for a short time after firing, before the enemy artillery would have zeroed in on their position.  When the rockets were fired they made a howling pipe-organ sound, which led the allied soldiers to nickname them 'screaming meemees'.

(IWM Photo)

Land Mattress MRL being loaded, ca 1944-45.


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