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"British rockets in Sieges 2" Topic

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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP23 Jun 2018 11:19 p.m. PST

Given its characteristics … why they were not used in the most important sieges? … being able to overcome the height of the walls … they would have done enough damage to the besieged ….


IronDuke596 Supporting Member of TMP24 Jun 2018 5:34 a.m. PST

Boulogne 1806, Copenhagen 1807, Flushing 1809, Baltimore 1814 (by sea). On land a very good question.

Perhaps because there were so few rocket troops. In fact there was only one troop deployed to the Peninsula early in the war and Wellington had them converted to guns.

In January 1813 two RHA rocket detachments were formed at Woolwich. One was sent to Spain and the other was sent to joined the allied army in time for the battle of Leipzig. However, they were used a tactical weapon vice a siege weapon. Tactical rocket teams carried warheads between 3pdr shot or shell to 9pdr shot or shell, so not ideal for siege work. Tactical use of rockets was widespread in North America during the War of 1812 by the RMA; and the RHA at New Orleans.

It seems that while the navy invested in rockets as a siege weapon (converting two ships of the line into heavy rocket ships) the army did not.

For the further study of rockets, I recommend "Sir William Congreve and The Rocket's Red Glare" a pamphlet by Donald Graves.

Glengarry524 Jun 2018 6:23 a.m. PST

Wasn't there a quote from Wellington to the effect that rockets were only good for burning down cities and he had no cause to do that? It could've been because in the Peninsular War most of the cities he besieged were that of his Spanish allies that were being occupied by the French. The sack of Badajoz was a bad enough stain on the British armies reputation. He was also careful not to antagonize the French population when he crossed the border (leaving some of his more undisciplined Spanish troops behind)and burning their cities may have stiffened resistance.

Gazzola24 Jun 2018 8:06 a.m. PST


I think in most sieges the aim is to make breaches in the fortress walls in order to persuade the defenders to surrender or if they didn't, to make gaps in which the troops doing the besieging could pour through.

As pointed out by IronDuke the rockets then appeared not to have been powerful enough and probably not accurate enough for that sort of work and were used mainly for their terror effect and for helping set fire to buildings, such as when used at Copenhagen 1807.

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP24 Jun 2018 12:28 p.m. PST

Totally. Low explosive effect, no impact whatsoever. Over the wall or not at all. Why set afire the place you wish to capture (with all its value), if not the slightest contribution to effecting such?

Imagine a siege of Moscow. You finally capture the place, late Autumn, after it has been burnt out…… 1812, Not too far from why you would not do it, in the first place.

Great idea. No carriage or projector needed. All it needed was an application. Which in 1815 it lacked!

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP24 Jun 2018 3:05 p.m. PST

Many thanks!.

Even that… while the heavies made the breach… the rockets can managed to mantain the defenders far away for that place… and a terror also of course for them…

Also… after the breach a good weapon while the troops advance to it….


Lion in the Stars24 Jun 2018 6:42 p.m. PST

The rockets of the time were terribly inaccurate, more likely to be hitting the troops you need to take the city than go over their heads through the breach.

Brechtel19825 Jun 2018 7:49 p.m. PST

(converting two ships of the line into heavy rocket ships)

What were the two ships of the line?

Brechtel19825 Jun 2018 7:52 p.m. PST

For the further study of rockets, I recommend "Sir William Congreve and The Rocket's Red Glare" a pamphlet by Donald Graves.

Details of the Rocket System by William Congreve is also useful and it's a primary source.

There were two types of rockets produced: relatively small ones used by the RHA and the RMA and the larger ones, ship or boat mounted and fired from the sea.

Brechtel19825 Jun 2018 7:54 p.m. PST

Tactical use of rockets was widespread in North America during the War of 1812 by the RMA; and the RHA at New Orleans.

They were definitely employed in North America, but I doubt that the use was 'widespread' as there were not that many rocket units. The Royal Navy used them at Baltimore in 1814.

evilgong Supporting Member of TMP26 Jun 2018 1:46 a.m. PST

The governor of Albania used his (British supplied) rockets against forts.

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP26 Jun 2018 5:57 a.m. PST

If I was on a wooden ship, with canvas sails, and some lunatic arrived, wishing to fire a series of flaming rockets off my deck………..

I know what I would suggest he do with them

Brechtel19826 Jun 2018 6:55 a.m. PST

They were emplaced and fired inside the ship, not on the top deck and they seemed to have worked rather well aboard ship. At least they didn't boomerang and come back to the firer like the land rockets sometimes did.

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP26 Jun 2018 7:35 a.m. PST

That thought terrifies even more. Now they are enclosed below decks. They are highly inflammable. If one goes off it creates what we would now call a chain reaction.

I am sure you are right that they could be highly effective, but it takes guts to man such a craft. Bit like standing next to the guy with the flamethrower, in an LCVP, as you approach Iwo J or Omaha.

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