a very different British amateur rocketry page featuring model rocketry heritage

an annex of Maurice and Steve's Virtual Firework Museum - a British site that has hundreds and hundreds of photos, drawings, labels and posters, along with downloadable content covering all things firework, from 1930`s to the present day


I am indebted to John Pitfield for much of the material on this page.

The rockets that we use today have a history in warfare. Although going back a lot further, like in this illustration by L. Hess; as far as Britain was concerned the rocket as "ammunition" of war, came into it`s own at the start of the nineteenth century. See the basic wooden time fuze sticking into the warhead from the rocket propelling body in the lower rocket. Here seen in this painting by I. Teece we see Congreve rockets being fired at ships in the Napoleonic Wars. These rockets, with their very long...up to 22ft....sticks...would have had pointed heads to impale themselves into the wooden hulls of the ships. These rockets would then explode, discharge small grape shot "shrapnel" or spurt incendiary compound over the "wooden walls." Other rockets would discharge a flare suspended on a parachute to enable activity at night. Rockets were also used at Waterloo...the British Army Rocket Brigade became skilled in rocket warfare. Hale rockets increased range and accuracy due to spin being imparted to their flight by 3 canted venturi. In these images you will have seen a warhead mounted on top of a propelling charge in a case....all very simple. Later improvements in artillery rendered them obsolete until the 1940`s and Germany`s "V" weapons. Up until then rockets in warfare were used as signal rockets discharging a parachute flare or falling star flare, a selection of these can be seen in these photos of the actual item,.. a rocket with many stars in the heading...parachute light...and signal maroon (loud bang and flash). Very often these rockets were waterproofed by being given a wax covering. When still present, this wax covering makes for a nice feel to the rocket...if you know what I mean. Also used as message carriers to fire a rocket message from forward to rear positions, often being lined up in First World War trenches....ready to go! Early "Rocket Mail." Then there was the life saving applications of the line carrying Boxer Rocket (early two stage rocket for increased range) for ships in distress. The line was to provide a link from the ship to the shore in order to help rescue the crew. It will be noted that many of these rockets resemble the firework rocket on a stick that we still see today. The system still is in use today, but in a far more developed form, this is a cutaway drawing of a typical line rocket motor with percussion cap ignition.

Many of the photos above were taken thanks to The Science Museum in London, The Imperial War Museum in London and the Royal Artillery Museum at Woolwich, London.


Do you have fired or inert rocket motors, catalouges, technical material, do you have fired, inert or toasted firework rockets (crack sticks in half), missiles or flyers? Are you an high power or model rocket flyer with fired rocket motors from very little to large? If so send one to us, surface mail, state on customs declaration as tubes, model parts with no value( $ zero or zero). We do not want any live and illegal to post material:

SEND TO - Maurice and Steve, 80a, Healy Place, Stoke, Plymouth, PL2 1BB, Devon, England, UK...........we do not seek items of value

"your rubbish is our treasure, don`t bin it, bag it and post it!."....and perhaps it will appear on this web page!


"Freedom to fly model rockets"

In Britain over the years from the 1930`s and earlier there has been a proud history of "Rocket Societies." These were in the days before model rocketry became legal in the sense that we know it now. Perhaps one of the best known is the "Paisley Rocketeers Society" located in Scotland, established in 1936, or the Leicester Rocket Society of 1952. I myself was an early member of the British Space Modelling Association. We had contact with many of these respected societies. Here is one of my membership cards from the early 1980`s, and here is the first edition of our "proper" journal, called "Skyward." Very light letters were rocket lifted from point A to point B. Perhaps over a river, gorge, or county border. These ultra light letters are called "flimsies." Lets look at some copies of these rocket mail flimsies which are very collectable in stamp collecting circles, especially when later franked and properly past through the postal system. Often individually numbered as a limited edition. It is hoped I will upset anyone by publishing these images, to keep our heritage, it is essential to broaden its base.


Haley's Comet over Paisley skyline in 1986. 50 flown. Post Office cancelled..and not.

Amelia Earheart 50th. anniversary. 100 flown. 1987 on rocket "Electra" or this large broadsheet style, or perhaps this slightly toasted "Comic Cuts"rocket mail.

BUCK ROGERS mail. 40 flown. 1987.

RATAE ROCKETEERS - Salute to the Royal Air Force.

Rocket Mail No.1 - 50 flown.

Rocket Mail flown on rocket XRC-834 of 29.10.86. 50 flown. This was the 3,333 rocket fired by the Bere Regis Sounding Rocket Association.

Rocket Mail flown on a rocket...and on the first flight of Concorde in 1968. It also has signatures of some of the planes flight crews.

Rocket Mail flown on an Aquajet rocket by the Paisley Rocketeers.



These adverts are from the mid 1980`s and were for Rocket Propulsion Systems motors. Special thanks again to John Pitfield for his archive material.


Technical data and section drawings:

a large black powder rocket case drawing such as that used in an early signal rocket, 270mm by 45mm. NOT a model motor, but for interest only.

C 5-3 Minnow

D3-6 "Tutu" .....thought that was something to do with a ballerina?!

F 36-5

F 70-0

F 72-0

G 30-0 "Comet"

G 74-0

G 156-0 "Guppy"

H 136

J 870-0

K 1280-0

Data on some popular British rocket motors: PAGE 1,....PAGE 2

5 popular British rocket motors, drawn sectioned plus data.

Photo time!!

British F 36-5, F 72-0, F72-0EC individually and in a pack of three

British F 70-0, F 72-0EC compared to ESTES D-12

British G 156-0"Guppy" and G 74-0 compared to ESTES D-12 - note how venturi is held in card case. Venturi is either clay or more recently resin. Different view.

British motors, including the "British" Spanish motor "H" (blue) compared to US Vulcan Systems "L .750-10" and "I . 160-7", also compared to ESTES D-12. These British motors have card cases, as do Estes, but the US Vulcan items are some sort of spun fibre...carbon?

Vulcan Systems L. 750-10 and I. 160-7 side by side.

Motors from the US. Seen are from left: small black Apogee Components, manufactured by Aerotech(B3), Apogee Components (1/4 A3-2T)(1/4 A2-3), Flight Systems(E60-6), Aerotech Consumer Aerospace (E,F,G), plain black unknown, Estes (D-12 and A 10-3T)

Vulcan Systems (US) H 300-0, Spanish (British) in blue H 150-5,compared side by side with ESTES D-12

Aerotech scale model in box, Astrobee-D

CZECH and YUGOLSLAV (as was) "19 decembar" model rocket motors, photo and data:

PAGE 1........PAGE 2..........PAGE 3


PAGE 1.......PAGE 2..........PAGE 3

B 3-3m


Three of the best!

These were originally large firework rocket motors. I feel that the motor in this very large "Chain of Lights" type parachute rocket is of Spanish origin. The problem with these was A/ ..a 14ft. bamboo stabilising stick, and B/ was easy to accidentally rupture the tissue paper thin paper seal over the heading that would cause the thin plastic bag type parachute to spill out. Looking at the parachute and seeing a picture of a paratrooper!!!printed on it, made me feel it was manufactured for use in the toy trade originally.


FRENCH ROCKET FLARE MOTOR......unknown manufacture. This is "only" a sketch but it goes to prove that in rocket design there is much, much more than meats the eye in this other simple technical drawing.

Flare motors are very powerful (even tho` mostly hand fired) and efficient for their size. They have to be...often their job is to save life at sea. These two INERT DUMMY motors show small size...sorry no scale, but about 55-60mm by 35mm or so. This photo shows that one type has 3 canted venturi as well as the main one for spin stability. The one without the canted venturi relies on a fin type skirt design in the rocket body shroud which can be metal or plastic in construction.Whether metal or plastic, (different photos) they both discharge a very bright flare suspended on a parachute of around 40,000 candle power at about 1,000ft.

For interest this one from Korea looks like a rocket ought to!!, a red flare from a red rocket. Actually this one is 90% accurate replica. The rocket body being made out of old medicine containers, "fins" are real!! In practice most rocket flares use a combination of skirt and spin stabilising.

However these rely 100% on spin stabilisation, the "lumpy" centre rocket is designed to be thrown into the sea where it will fire after a delay. This Russian example looks just like a bit of pipe...hard to believe it is a complex, well designed and efficient pyrotechnic, relying on spin stabilising....this misleading look can make pyrotechnics very dangerous to the inquisitive tamperer, often with lethal consequences.




IKAROS DISTRESS ROCKET: as seen above, rocket with metal shroud and red carrier tube, stabilised by sections cut out of tail skirt, sometimes with 3 small spin jets also... 241mm long, 38mm diam. and 220g weight. max thrust 13,425g.

BROCKS DISTRESS SIGNAL: relies soley on spin stabilisation as per the Hale rocket. 244mm long, 38mm diam. and 375g weight. max thrust 5,060g.

Pains-Wessex SHIPS BRIDGE DISTRESS ROCKET: (no longer made as per this design) relied on traditional wooden stick for stabilisation....not easy to manhandle on a vessel in distress. Uses same motor as tail skirt stabilised rocket.215mm long, 42.5mm diam. and 360g weight. max thrust 5,270g.

Pains SIGNAL ROCKET:(no longer in production) relied on a stick too, very small and hard to imagine use on a stricken vessel. Yet this item, and the one above were in use up until the 1970`s. 134mm long,22mm diam. and 67g weight. max thrust 1,425g.

Some types of small distress rocket parachute flares generate up to 20,491g max thrust,so as was said, they are powerful.

Once again I should like to express my thanks to John Pitfield for his expert support and knowledge.



From time to time live and potentially dangerous rockets are found on land areas around the world that have . These then have to be destroyed by explosive demolition by licensed operatives.These Hale rocket warheads were found live and still full of gunpowder. Therefore they had to be destroyed by a licensed explosive disposal company. This was a shame as they would have been a good museum exhibit as they were in good condition. A stick of plastic explosive is placed in the centre of a cluster of 3 warheads and the bundle is all taped up:

Then BANG!!

Real explosions, unlike those seen on TV and cinema are often quite dull affairs, lacking the fireball of an "Arnie" type Terminator style explosion. In fact it often sounds like a pile of metal sheet being dropped.

Old 3inch solid rocket motors from old Coastguard type line rocket -.are still in use in some parts of the world and time expired motors need to be safely disposed of. A simple and effective way is to burn them in the open, however new legislation may change this in the years ahead. This is a flare being burnt to destruction, resembling a mini-sun sitting on the ground. This is a white flare for observation and rescue, for a distress situation it would be a red light. Here we see several motors being burnt in the open on a bed of time expired artillery propellent. Because it is in the open, with no compression, exhaust gases escape from either end of the rocket grain in equal amounts. Therefore the grain cannot move. Also note how it just burns, almost like a back yard bonfire, with only the occasional flicker of a "jet" from time to time (see bottom photo) All this is due to no compression.This may only be done on a licensed explosive disposal site. This close up shows the shape of the cast grain. The same principle works on a bigger motor grain....balanced forces causing no motion. If you like this one, I have scanned it in bigger here: "Let there be light." Awesome or what!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Below are two ESTES catalouges. The one on the left is 1982-83 and the one on the right, about 1986-87. Click on them to see an example of a beautifully illustrated page. If you would like to see a different page, e-mail me and if I can I will scan it and e-mail it to you.

click on either to see a page example from each

click to enlarge

Hello, hello, hello..what`s this doing here. I found this copy of an old print while searching through material for this page. It is a view in front of Nazareth House at Stonehouse, Plymouth, England, looking to Western King point, with the Blockhouse from the reign of King Henry V in the foreground. The tall structures in the background are the buildings of The Royal William Yard. This was a "Victualling Yard" for the Royal Navy for much of the 19th. century and indeed the 20th. and in days past would have "victualled" or supplied the fleet with stores, including: