Plum pudding


In the movie “The Battle of the Somme” (1916) there is a weapon called plum pudding which appears like a primitive RPG-mortar hybrid. How did it work and why is it called plum pudding?


Doing a Google search for “WWI plum pudding launcher” reveals this: (2 inch medium mortar)

The name comes from the fact that the mortar warhead with its shaft resembled either a toffee apple (caramel apple in U.S.) or that the warhead resembled the domed shape of plum pudding.


Plum pudding was traditionally made in a large ball wrapped in a cheese cloth and boiled hanging from a stick. The ball was cut into 2 hemispheres and served.

The large ball on a stick reminded many of the plum pudding. Later versions of the plum pudding ,and currently, were made in a hemisphere shaped pan.

This type of “overcaliber” shell and trench gun were good for this type of warfare as it threw a large explosive charge for a short distance and was thrown by a light weight easily transportable weapon.


I guess the principle was somewhat like the WWII-era Spigot Mortar? Video at

A really unusual trench construction.


Yes, that is correct. There are a couple of devices refered to in that way. The definition is not exact. The Plum Pudding is more of a traditional mortar tube with an overcaliber shell. In more traditional spigot mortars the shell slips over a large projection like a firing pin.

The German granatenwerfer could be considered this type.

The PIAT is in large part a horizontal spigot mortar.

There were many types of these in use in WW1 on all sides. Not many carried over into WW2 because the nature of the action changed.

The Japanese had one early in WW2 but it died out. Note the title although this is a typical overcaliber projectile fired from a tube mortar.

The spigot mortar term was generalized to include various designs which shared a large and usually thin walled projectile.

The action in WW2 required a mortar with more range and accurate fire. Most of these overcaliber projetiles were not very accurate but they didn’t have to be in trench war. Landing in a trench conveyed the explosion in both directions. The trenches became more zig zag as the war went on to deter this. An explosion will turn a corner but it loses some of the energy and mass hitting the wall to do it.


Whilst early trench Lines in 1914-15 were " parallel" to the German Lines, the idea of the zigzag trench was not of WW I origin.

The Saps ( dug to approach a castle wall for siege purposes) back in the 15th century were done Zig-Zag to prevent Enfilade fire and to cover the approaches, by presenting different angles of trenches to the Primitive Cannon and Arquebus Fire from the ramparts.

Old Ideas, New War.

“Sappers” Fr. Saupeurs, It. Zappatori…those using “la Zappa” ( a broad hoe or (Mod) “Intrenching” Tool.)
Tradition has it that Sappers have several bearded men, who were the Axemen…for providing the Logs for the roof and shoring of the Sap’s walls. Hence the Ceremonial Dress of Leather Apron and Broad Axe carried by the Sergeant of Pioneers ( Sergeant-Chef des Saupeurs) who also is privileged (In both British and French Armies) to wear a Full bushy beard. ( at least some time ago…I don’t know if the British Army has abandoned this relic of Napoleonic and previous eras.)

Doc AV

Saps were also covered over with logs etc, to prevent observation from above…and offer some more protection from balls, boiling oil, arrows etc


Good and interesting anachronistic history .

Enfilade fire was not a major concern in WW1 as storming castles was minimal.

Re-inventing the wheel has been a constant fixture in the history of weapons and warfare.

We have special forces units who use crossbows. The crossbows are MORE effective than those of the previous design

Form follows function.


I like the bearded sapper info and would like to pursue that more. However, we risk the wrath of the volunteer thought police; " not ammunition related ".


DocAv – The Canadian Forces carried on this tradition at least into the early 2000’s. The caption of the picture reads “Canadian Pioneers in Bosnia 2005 - public domain”

I wonder what type ammunition they carried in their jacket pouches (legal qualifier!?)

and another all dressed up (Ian Tindall, Pioneer Sergeant, 1st Battalion, Coldstream Guards).

I hope this isn’t considered to far off-topic!


Hi Docav

The French name is SAPEUR (from the word SAPE meaning a digging under the ground surface.

The most well-known Sapeurs in our Army are those from the Foreign Legion…

By the way, SAUPEUR = the word does not exist in French, and if any, it should be a rather funny grammatical barbarism (!), its closest approximation being “SAUPE” which is the name of a small (and almost strictly unedible) fish from the Mediterranean sea !!!

Well, please do not argue with my english…




The Regimental March Past through my home town a few weeks ago included a bearded pioneer sergeant with his axe at the slope. So the tradition continues in the UK.



The rank of sapper still exists in the British army for a private soldier in the Royal Engineers. as in Sapper Smith.

Coming back to the OP Plum pudding would have been a familiar food to soldiers in WW1, not least because it lent itself to mass catering. Also known as plum duff. Why only plum I don’t know. The jam issued to troops was usually plum jam and I suspect plum pudding was more often what I would call jam roll. I think it was steamed rather than boiled.


The plum was the best fruit for use in England. It grows well and is easily dried for storage. A large crop will grow on a small lot , the trees are robust and long lived AND survive the weather. It can be stored for years in its dried state. It is both tasty and promotes good health . Think of England without today’s technology and transport systems. Hard to imagine not being able to get fresh fruit year round, NOW. Not so not so long ago ! We have already used plum dried for 5 years and I am sure that they will last much longer and still be usefull.

We are testing the patience of the thought police !

Remember Jack Horner at Christmas ? What did he get in the middle of Winter ?



Great beard info !