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"Were Rockets a Serious Weapon?" Topic

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Nick Stern Supporting Member of TMP30 Jun 2017 4:41 p.m. PST

The British apparently employed rockets against at least half their colonial opponents. Was there rhyme or reason to the method that was used to choose which colonial enemies they were employed against? I am reading about the Maori Wars of the 1860's and they were used in the battle of Waireka in the First Taranaki War. Rockets would seem like an odd choice in a densely forested country. They were also employed against the Malay pirates in Borneo, again in dense jungle. I don't think I have ever read an account of rockets having much, if any, effect on indigenous people, let alone the Napoleonic French. What was up? Did one of the Royal family own a rocket factory?

nnascati Supporting Member of TMP30 Jun 2017 5:07 p.m. PST

My impression is that the effect was more on morale, especially against indigenous peoples. Rockets would be likely to start fires I'd think.

Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP30 Jun 2017 5:18 p.m. PST

Against massed infantry, with everyone in the impact area rushing to move out of the way and avoid getting burns, while the officers shouted angry commands to maintain the formation, the effect must have been intense.


Personal logo piper909 Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member30 Jun 2017 8:52 p.m. PST

I really don't know if they were a serious weapon or not, altho' the subject is fascinating to me. I just LOVE rockets!!! I never fail to include them whenever possible, and I don't even much care if they're effective or not.

Perhaps this lunatic mindset of mine explains a few things? If I have these feelings, surely others in the 19th century shared them, too!

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP30 Jun 2017 9:04 p.m. PST

They were used extensively in both the 1848-49 Hungarian Revolution and by the Austrians in 1866… and these weren't your 1815 Congreve rockets… Basically used in batteries at canister ranges of 400 to 600 yards. They had fuses and exploding warheads.

foxweasel01 Jul 2017 1:20 a.m. PST

They wouldn't have used them if they didn't think they were effective. It's hard to look at it through 21st C eyes.

ChrisBBB2 Supporting Member of TMP01 Jul 2017 3:48 a.m. PST

I suggest the value of rockets in colonial warfare lay in their portability. Compared with wheeled artillery with heavy metal gun barrels, it would have been relatively easy to stick a folded tripod and a few rocket poles on the back of a mule.

As for the effectiveness of rockets, I know of a couple of instances from the Hungarian war of independence in 1848-49 when they were useful: Pakozd and Kapolna.

At Pakozd, while they were mostly ineffective because they were outranged and driven off by conventional artillery, they did cause the 1st honved bn to fall back in some haste after it took two rocket hits.

At Kapolna, the Hungarian general Gorgey reports in his memoir that they were very effective attacking uphill against one Hungarian position, as the particular gradient evidently created grazing fire:

"The rockets, little as they used formerly to injure us on the plain, produced now a literally levelling effect
in sweeping over the rising arched ground. This rendered our position almost untenable."



Bloody Big BATTLES!

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP01 Jul 2017 4:24 a.m. PST

Oh, say! Can you see?

The Royal Navy was full of practical men. I don't think they would have special ships designed to fire on Fort McHenry if they were not useful.
In this case they weren't, because in the dawn's early light, the flag was still there.

Nobody ever sings the second verse, but…
On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream,
'Tis the star-spangled banner – O long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Rockets didn't work this time but I'm sure they were there for a reason.
Or maybe it was just that "The 24 pounders loud roar" doesn't scan as well as "Rockets' red glare".

Nick Stern Supporting Member of TMP01 Jul 2017 11:11 a.m. PST

Donald Featherstone writes in his Weapons and Equipment of the Victorian Soldier that rockets were used in the following campaigns: New Zealand 1860, Japan 1864, Abyssinia 1868, Ashanti 1874, Perak 1875/6, Kaffir War 1877, Zulu War 1879, 1st Boer War 1881, Benin 1897, Niger 1897, Sudan at Atbara 1898. He endorses the view that rocket's chief advantages were that they were inexpensive and easily transported. He also mentioned that they were used once by the Confederate army during the ACW, which was news to me! On July 3, 1862 Confederate forces under the command of Jeb Stuart fired rockets at Union troops during the Battle of Harrison's Landing.

Personal logo StoneMtnMinis Supporting Member of TMP01 Jul 2017 11:25 a.m. PST

Were rockets used be either the Union or Confederacy during the Civil War?

Nick Stern Supporting Member of TMP01 Jul 2017 11:58 a.m. PST

StoneMtnMinis, see post above yours. I believe that is the one and only time rockets were used in the ACW. I can imagine the British unloading a Whitworth cannon at the Confederate docks and saying: take some of these rockets too, they're cheap.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP01 Jul 2017 12:57 p.m. PST

Trinkets for the natives….
"Big stick go BOOM!"
"Here Verne. Hold my moonshine…"

Personal logo Ivan DBA Supporting Member of TMP04 Jul 2017 2:26 p.m. PST

The British also believed that rockets (as well as simple fireworks) could overawe colonial opponents. Probably a belief founded more in prejudice than in practice.

RogerC23 Jul 2017 3:24 p.m. PST

They were also used earlier in the Victorian era by the British Legion in the Carlist Wars and by the British agaisnt the Sikhs in the Punjab, I dont know effective they were but I cant see why the army would have stuck with something unless it worked.

Lilian24 Jul 2017 8:07 a.m. PST

The French Army raised few batteries, the rockets were used Overseas by the French Artillery in Algeria, Crimea and China.
México was the last theater where they were fired, the 8th battery of the 1st Foot Artillery Regiment having a detachement of fuséens coming from its 4th rocket battery but only around 10 rockets were fired in 4 years : in La Vintilla 2 against Mexican cavalrymen, few others in Puebla with so little success that after they stayed in their boxes except the 23rd february 1864 where 3 were fired being the last to be used in a battlefield for the French Artillery, after this campaign such weapons stayed in stock…

As MacLaddie explained, the Austrian Army of that time was maybe more enthusiastic with a whole regiment of rockets (20 batteries in wartime) in its ORBAT


Botch B Inactive Member07 Nov 2017 3:42 a.m. PST

The Golden Age of Rocketry, Frank H Winter, Smithsonian, 1990. is the best source I have found on the use of rockets around the world. And they were used all around the world, despite their inherent flaws.

FWIW, we used Party Poppers for rockets in our games. Simulates the inaccuracy well and makes a lovely big bang! THis would be impossible in some states in the US, as they are prohibited…as I found out when I wanted some for a game I was doing at Historicon.

CAPTAIN BEEFHEART07 Nov 2017 4:12 p.m. PST

I'm with the call on portability.

Lion in the Stars08 Nov 2017 5:52 p.m. PST

I agree with the portability idea. I mean, that's why modern forces have gone to AT rockets and missiles instead of guns!

mrinku22 Nov 2017 10:03 p.m. PST

They certainly appear to have had both lethal and morale effect at Magdala, 1868 (I'm re-reading Flashman on the March at the moment), although it's fairly clear that it was mainly the massed Snider fire that stopped the Abyssinian charge.

Portability was *definitely* a consideration in that campaign.

Ramming Inactive Member23 Nov 2017 6:13 a.m. PST

The Austrians used a version of the British 'Hales' rocket; it was ceramic with fins and was so constructed as to spin in the launcher before the second propulsive charge ignited. Interestingly there was a programme on SKY TV recently – made in America – testing the Hales vs an American product, both 19th century replicas; the Hales won but the range was pitiful, about 500m, they didn't specify whether they were using full charge or not. Poschacher's brigade put rockets on the Brada hill at Jicin, obviously being on an elevated position the range would be extended considerably. The Austrian rockets included schrapnel, explosive, incendiary and illuminative variants.

RudyNelson24 Nov 2017 1:39 p.m. PST

Yes, I would regard it as a serious weapon. Plenty of good stories of its use, if you do the research.

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