All War is Based on Deception

Dummy 18 pounder

From the annals of Beau Geste propping up dead soldiers in the ramparts to “oak guns” used during the Civil War/War of Northern Aggression, by the time World War 1 came along (“the war to end all wars”) balloons and observation aircraft required that the game be upped. This is one humble British entry.


ARL-44s on parade during Bastille Day, 1950


Crew Served Weapon

German MG crew with an MG08/15. (WW1)




Somebody screwed the pooch – A wrecked TBF-1 of VT-4 rests on the exhaust stacks of USS Ranger (CV-4) after a training accident, 2 March 1943. Any landing that you can walk away from is a good one, right?


Making Naval Weapons 100 years ago

15″ Naval Gun (UK)

A 15 inch naval gun under construction at the Coventry Ordinance Works.


Artillery is not just for Bombardment

Execution by cannon in Iran, circa 1892. Some things never really change.


Try to Stick the Landing – catch the 3 wire.

Maybe he made it out…? Or if not, straight to Davey Jones.


There is no Respect for Congreve Rockets

I remember seeing an old painting of Waterloo that included them, and discovered them that way. They were widely available during Wellington’s Spanish Campaigns, also used at Gettysburg by the Union.

Congreve Rocket

Congreve rockets were used successfully at Bayonne on the Franco-Spanish border, but Wellington was unimpressed. He had little regard for weapons that were still so inaccurate they occasionally turned on their own users, and he thought of them primarily as incendiaries. He is quoted as saying, “I do not wish to set fire to any town, and I do not know of any other use for rockets”, and before Quatre Bras ordered Whinyates , who led the Rocket Troop, to return his rockets to store and draw guns.

Told, “It will break poor Whinyates‘ heart to lose his rockets“, the Duke was adamant:

“Damn his heart, sir;  let my orders be obeyed”.

But the Duke relented and allowed Whinyates to keep his rockets. During the retreat from Quatre Bras one of  his rockets destroyed a French gun crew, but another chased Captain Mercer back towards Brussels! .

Congreve Rockets in the Field

Nonetheless, at Waterloo Whinyates‘ rockets were used to great effect at a key point in the battle. After  glorious charge of the Union Brigade had run its course and turned sour, Whinyates‘ rockets helped to cover  their retreat as they were chased back by Napoleons Polish Lancers.

Gleig summed up the value of rockets:

“The confusion created in the ranks of the enemy beggars description. You see it coming yet you know not how avoid it. It skips and starts from place to place in a strange a manner that the chances are, when you a running to the right or left to get out of the way, that you run directly against it; and hence the absolute rout which a fire often or twelve rockets can create”.

Then Came Hale — still no respect

In 1844, Hale patented a new form of rotary rocket that improved on the earlier Congreve rocket design. … These rockets could weigh up to 60 pounds and were noted for their noise and glare on ignition. Hale rockets were first used by the United States Army in the Mexican–American War of 1846–1848 later by the British Royal Artillery at Isandlwana against the Zulu.

They were a “stickless rocket” and fired from a trough, spin stabilized as they flew through vectored exhaust.


  1. That 15″ gun looks a lot smaller when mounted in the turret on a battleship. Up close and personal that barrel is YOOGE. How in hell do they move those things around in the foundry? Same way that the druids moved those giant stones into place at Stonehenge: the asked aliens to do it.

    • Really big friggin overhead cranes. That’s how.

      Occasionally, one of the big gun lathes comes up for sale. Want a lathe with a 50′ bed?

  2. The Iron Duke certainly had a way with words. On the occasion of the first Reform Parliament, “Never seen such shocking bad hats in all my life.”

    You can imagine his reaction to our present Congress.

  3. I’m always amazed that the French actually built a few ARL-44s. I guess they looked impressive in parades, if you didn’t know anything about tanks.

    Looks like the Hale rocket was an early ancestor of the bizarre M47 Dragon, which certainly had that “skipping and starting in a strange manner” thing down pat.


    • The Leclerc Tank is said to be good, but I don’t know that to be the case. It’s only combat that I’m aware of is the Yemeni Civil War (still going on). Which means it’s a tank that isn’t fighting other tanks or helicopters that want to destroy it. I’m not taking a shot at the tank, that’s the war it’s in.

  4. I knew an old UDT guy a few years back. He was an old timer and I did find a couple pictures of him from the 1950s on line. He’d be in his mid 80s now and I haven’t seen him in some time. He was a real character and I enjoyed knowing him.

    • UDT, of course, morphed into SEAL Teams and the mission widened a lot. There isn’t much hydrographic recon these days nor much call for the use of C-4 and det cord to blow beach obstacles, but it’s still taught. One of the master chiefs who served under me did beach recon for MacArthur at Inchon – real UDT guy. He was a wonderful human being, hard as iron even at his age (I thought it was ancient but he was in his late 50’s).

      • Your intro graphic looks like a scene from the Richard Widmark movie “The Frogmen”.

        Between that movie, Mike Nelson in “Sea Hunt”, and my Dad’s Boss’s swimming pool which we used often, I was a real “Mask and Flippers” kid.

        • They still train the hoop recovery.

          I suspect that it was a training evolution off Coronado.

  5. When I went through Small Arms Repair School in 1974 at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, my class was informed that we would be the last to be trained to repair the M20A1B1 3.5 inch rocket launcher, aka the bazooka. Bonus points if you know where the name “bazooka” came from.

    The propellant in the rockets could be twitchy in cold weather, launching, then sputtering erratically on and off, possibly skipping off the ground, possibly making a 180 degree course change.

    Finally got .43 Spanish ammo loaded for my Remington Rolling Block. Need to get back down to my buddies range near Hillsboro to shoot it at distance.

    • The 3.5 with a WP rocket was a good area denial weapon. Our float bridge company in Germany had to turn in ours in 1965-66. With around 100 vehicles dispersed and seldom more than 120 people area denial was something we trained for. The one shot replacements stayed in the ammo trailer. I don’t think any of us even fired one.

  6. Quaker guns, inflatable tanks and trucks, the whole nine yards were used heavily during WWII.

    The Japanese even bored out the barrel ‘ends’ of their quaker guns because they realized that the shadow cast into the gun/or lack of shadow was visible on decent camera intel. Tricky bastards.

  7. I seem to remember that there was one brand of wood that would allow a round or two to be fired from the hollowed out bore before splitting. Not as fake as appearances would lead you to believe.

    • If you iron band a large oak stump, you can use it as a black powder cannon. Mythbusters did it on one of their earlier shows, Episode 6 of Season 1.

  8. Congreve rockets used earlier than the 19th century, Where do you think the Star Spangled Banner got The Rockets Red Glare from?

    • They may have gone off prematurely as they burst in air…or was it the mortar shells with fuses cut a little too short?

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