from Steve Johnson of Cyberheritage....more sites here!!

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This web page consists of early and otherwise unavailable images of early British rockets which are mostly charged with mealed gunpowder,and also early pyrotechnic marine signals. Most come from the "Treatise on Ammunition" of 1887 and 1902, and various old service reference books of 1928 and 1945.
If you like them and would like further details please e-mail me at and if there is an image you like I may be able to e-mail you a better one as I hold the originals.
In return if you are in the US I would like some fired/inert examples of those unusual finned missile fireworks that you have over there as well as examples of those unusual novelties and spinners you have....which I don`t!! or any interesting items from anywhere else.
All images are in hyperlinks and range from 50k to 200k depending on complexity of subject and are in either JPEG or GIF format.
Some of the images are reproduced in black and white as they did not scan too well in colour. I believe most of them to be totally unique and you will not find them elsewhere. Enjoy!


Illustrated is the The Rocket,War,24-pr Mk VII.It has a 3 way split venturi to cause the rocket to spin and maintain it`s stability and accuracy in flight. Hale rockets were fired from a "Machine Rocket, War" also called a "Trough" or if discharged from a naval vessel a "Machine Rocket, War,Naval" would be utilised, this is an aimable tube fixed to a suitable position on the vessel. The explosive warhead would be gunpowder caused to function by a simple hollow wooden plug with a gunpowder train running through it`s core. These images are 1887.


Boxer rockets are associated with life-saving. They would be used to project a line to a stricken ship, often being fired from a cliff top to a vessel foundering on the rocks below. To increase range the rocket was given two stages. For stability and accuracy it had a long wooden stick. The "Rocket Life-Saving Boxer" was introduced in 1865. It was found that the twin stages prevented undue strain being put on the line. Illustrated here with it`s stick is is a Mk IV version with a 9 ft. 6 in wooden stick made of deal. The range of these rockets was between 300 to 470 yards The Rocket, Life-Saving Buoyant,Mark I was introduced as a means of communication from lighthouses in rough sea conditions that forbad boat contact.The head of the rocket is cork and the whole body is covered with cork also. Obviously this rocket will float to allow easy retrieval of the 1 in or 1 3/4 in line that it would carry about 100 yards. These images are1887. A more recent version of this rocket from 1945 looks like this.The small cartridge is used for firing the rocket in a pistol apparatus.


Signal rockets are used to provide a visual or audible signal that can be recognised due to a pre-arranged code.The coding can be in the colour of the stars, the combination of colours, or the number of audible detonations, or a mixture of both. Externally it resembles a firework rocket in this 1945 illustrationof a Service rocket..or of a Red Star rocket ..a 1946 illustration.
The "Rocket Light 1/2lb, Mark I" contains a magnesium star composition that burns for about 15 secs and the "Rocket, Sound, Mark I" carries aloft a 2oz disc of gun-cotton, coated with paraffin and a detonator. The detonator store is carried and stored seperately from the rocket and affixed just prior to launch , being held secure by a calico cloth bag and tie tape system.These illustrations are 1887. They have especially shortened sticks to facilitate firing from the confined spaces of lighthouses and lightships. Another type of signal associated with Trinity House would be an audible FOG SIGNAL.
The "Signal Fog, Mark I" would be detonated at regular intervals in fog to warn shipping of danger. It is not a rocket and is static. another almost static signal, in the sense that it is hand held is the "Light, Long, G.S., Mark II" and it`s cousin "Light, Short, G.S. Mark I"both of which are essentially friction ignited hand flares on a wooden handle that still see use today. These last 3 images are from 1902, for an image on this same device in 1945 and to see how it has evolved, click here.......
VERY PISTOLS are still used today for signaling and project a range of different coloured stars. This illustration is from 1945. They are similar to large shotgun cartridges.


Two are illustrated here 1928 image and 1945 image are basically signal rockets that contain 28 white stars rather than just one or a couple. They were developed to ease surface identification of enemy U-Boats on the surface during darkness, the wide spread of 28 stars making the submarine stand out in the darkness.


This 1945 illustration shows a " Rocket Target Practice 1Ib Mark II" with it`s bright red parachute for ease of spotting. A small weight would be suspended below this eye- catching parachute and as it floated to the ground, infantry, or ship`s company would use it for AAA...anti-aircraft shooting practice with small arms.For an external here.


These devices are hollow cannon balls constructed in two halves. Upon discharge from a smooth bore mortar, aimed skywards, it would split into two and an illuminating parachute suspended flare candle would function as it slowly descended. Eventually these were developed into carriers for multiple stars. The "Ball, Light, Parachute" was produced in either 10, 8, or 5 1/2 inch calibre. In the biggest size the flare burns for 3 mins, 1min 40 secs for the middle size and 1minute for the smallest size. The 10 in weighs 30 lbs, the 8 at 15 lbs and the 5 1/2 is 6 lbs. The big advantage from the tactical point of view was that being in the sky, the enemy could not put it out, as it was out of reach!!!!!! These images are 1887. Here are two photos of the real thing, they can be seen at the Royal Artillery Museum in Woolwich, London, England to whom thanks are due.PHOTO 1..... PHOTO 2


The "Shell, R.M.L., Filled Star, 8-inch, Mark IV-Spherical" is NOT a cannon ball but a shell??!! This image is from 1902. These are fired from howitzers rather than mortars. Their calibres are 8, 6.6 and 6.3 inch. No bursting charge is needed as the expanding gases from the burning stars is sufficient to break the shell open. Up to 31 stars could be carried. Having no parachute these stars would fall to ground faster and be less prone to wind drift. The "Shell R.M.L. Star 7pr. Mark VI"was a proper studded artillery projectile and shells such as this in a variety of calibres would be fired from a rifled gun for extended range and accuracy. This example would have 4 large stars in it.This is a 1902 image.

2 inch FLARE ROCKET-Naval

These are variants of the early unguided Anti-Aircraft rocket developed in World War II. Used at sea for search and rescue operations up until the 1970`s. This image is from 1945.The propellant is cordite.

4 inch PARA ILLUM Naval Gunnery Shell.

This projectile is designed to illuminate targets on the surface for naval gunnery to engage. It could also be used for search and rescue. At the desired height that is chosen by setting the time combustion fuse, the fuse functions and ignites a gunpowder expulsion charge,and the end plate is blown off the body of the shell ,and the now rapidly burning flare candle is expelled backwards from the shell and suspended on it`s parachute. The colour of the star stenciled on the body of the shell indicates the size of the parachute contained therein.This is a 1945 image.


Now these are rare, and they date from the Second World War. During an air raid a ship could be very vulnerable, particularly if a lightly armed merchantman. These rockets and their launch apparatus would be fitted in multiples to a ship. On an air raid they would be fired. At apogee the rocket would discharge a parachute with a wire on it and this could foul the attacking aircraft wing or propeller as it drifted down. Something like a mini barrage balloon. Attached to the end of these wires were small explosive devices that would ride up towards the aircraft due to it`s airspeed, until suddenly...BANG! IMAGE 1 IMAGE 2 IMAGE 3