Whooosh, Bang- UK's WWII Rockets

HE117

LE
The other point that I think probably needs more research is the ammunition manufacturing issue..

The rocket motor used in the Bazooka family is very different to a simple firework rocket. Firework rockets are made by ramming a gunpowder based solid propellant into a cardboard tube with a conical former to produce a cavity down the centre. The propellant has to be hard rammed to ensure that it burns on only one surface.. the conical cavity presents a large area for initial ignition which gives maximum launch thrust, but then the burning surface reduces to the diameter of the motor tube to give a sustained thrust for the remainder of the flight. This is why you get the "woosh - hiss" on launch with these types of rockets. This was the design used in most of the rockets made by the likes of Congreve and Hale as well as the large range of cordite rockets designed by Alwyn Crow for use in aircraft and anti-aircraft roles. The point of the sustained burn was to reduce the internal pressure in the motor chamber and allow for relatively lightweight construction. The rocket motor was however burning as it left the launcher...!

This was no use for shoulder launched systems as the efflux would fry the firer! A shoulder launched rocket needed to be "all burned" before reaching the end of the launch tube. This needs a significantly different approach to rocket motor design. I understand that Robert Goddard was involved in the early stages of this work in the US based on his work and experience with liquid fuelled rockets. Like liquid fuelled rockets, a short burn solid rocket motor needs a motor body capable of holding high pressures. The principle with these designs is to burn the propellant as quickly as possible, pressurising the motor body and then allow the gas to vent out after the propellant has burned, much like releasing a balloon. The bazooka design did this by using an open cage holding a spaced bundle of thin propellant sticks which burned very quickly, almost before the rocket had started to move and which was all consumed before the rocket had gone more than 2/3 the length of the launcher.

From a manufacturing perspective you need to produce a lightweight pressure vessel to act as the rocket motor body. This needs good steel and sophisticated manufacturing methods and tooling. This was really only available in the US at the time in question. The PIAT bomb was much simpler, and could be made on light engineering machines such as turret lathes and plain press brakes..

Once you have an established manufacturing base, the fast burn rocket motor has more potential.. the majority of modern missiles from the 66 to Javelin use short burn motors as better materials became available. These were simply not available in wartime Britain..
 

HE117

LE
I've literally (well June) just started working on British Rocketry of WWII...
You need the photo of the rocket cordite press at Bishopton... this was the limiting factor!
 

HE117

LE
At first glance there's some disconnect in-between what you say here and what I've read. However, I hasten to add that I'm only on very early stages of my research (unlike the Spigot stuff when I was at the other end of seven years of work).
One example is Schermuly's factory went to powered pressing as well. Before hand it had been hand stamping.
The cordite rockets developed by Crow were made from cordite rather than black powder. The propellent grain was extruded through a die which gave it its internal structure. The pressure needed to extrude cordite is a function of the cross sectional area and for diameters around 3" which was about the largest made during the war, needed a huge press.

rocketpress.jpg

Pressing cordite was not without risk, and the press had to be heavily traversed and operated remotely. The largest press in UK that I am aware of was the one above, located at ROF Bishopton, and when I was shown it, I was told it was the limiting factor in making solid rocket motors in WW2. This was never a good way to make motors; to make the Cordite extrudable, a fairly high percentage of acetone solvent had to be used which caused distortion when the core was dried..
 

HE117

LE
Yup, I think I've got a date for when the process was created somewhere.

Is that picture public domain?
Dunno.. I got it from one of those urban explorer sites where the guy had jumped the fence to take photos..

The images are heartbreaking.. Bishopton was unique and has not been replaced. We have nowhere now to make propellant..!
 

HE117

LE
I suspect the work done at the Fort was mostly assembly.. there was no cordite pilot plant there to produce sufficient "dough" to press a charge.. this would have been done either at Bishopton or more likely at Waltham Abbey where they had a full range of explosive pilot plants. The Fort was certainly NOT the first place rocket research was done in UK.,, this was done at Woolwich by Congreve and Hale"

I have seen Penney's office at the Fort.. much of the early "tube alloys" was based there and at the "Valley Works" in Wales.. (whatever the spelling of Rhydimwynne is!)

We also need to take cognicence of the work of Issac Lubbock and Geoffrey Gollin at the flame warfare research establishment at Langhurst in 1943, a subject much ignored by history.. Lubbock and Crow "did not get on" and Crow seems to have done much to cover up Lubbock and Gollins work as he was "the man at the Fort" at the time..


@Listy.. it might be worth splitting this off to a new thread mate! I think this one has a bit of a potential to grow legs if we look at things like cast double base motor technology and the history of the Black Knight!
 
Last edited:
I suspect the work done at the Fort was mostly assembly.. there was no cordite pilot plant there to produce sufficient "dough" to press a charge.. this would have been done either at Bishopton or more likely at Waltham Abbey where they had a full range of explosive pilot plants. The Fort was certainly NOT the first place rocket research was done in UK.,, this was done at Woolwich by Congreve and Hale"

I have seen Penney's office at the Fort.. much of the early "tube alloys" was based there and at the "Valley Works" in Wales.. (whatever the spelling of Rhydimwynne is!)

We also need to take cognicence of the work of Issac Lubbock and Geoffrey Gollin at the flame warfare research establishment at Langhurst in 1943, a subject much ignored by history.. Lubbock and Crow "did not get on" and Crow seems to have done much to cover up Lubbock and Gollins work as he was "the man at the Fort" at the time..


@Listy.. it might be worth splitting this off to a new thread mate! I think this one has a bit of a potential to grow legs if we look at things like cast double base motor technology and the history of the Black Knight!
I have to say that Rhydymwyn looks a very interesting site...
 

HE117

LE
I have to say that Rhydymwyn looks a very interesting site...
Oh yes... I have a copy of the full MoS film of it when in production..!

gas2.png


unfortunately I can only post "edited highlights"!

(..do I get double points for posting bare arrse on the thread?)
 
Oh yes... I have a copy of the full MoS film of it when in production..!

View attachment 498098

unfortunately I can only post "edited highlights"!

(..do I get double points for posting bare arrse on the thread?)
Blimey, WTF is all that about? Some sort of decontamination area?
 
To avoid completely derailing the PIAT thread I figured we'd need somewhere to talk about the UK's WWII rocketry. At first glance, many of you will be thinking "But the UK didn't do much with rockets?".

Oh yes they did!

Work started in 1935 on a new AA rocket weapon, designed to fire a HE round up to great heights to supplement the heavy AA weapons. The idea was to find a cheap weapon that would allow mass production and massive scaling up of AA defences faster than could be managed by using conventional cannon. The attempts at designing such a weapon are painful to read, as there's one blindly obvious mistake everyone's insisting on. The first rocket was a 2in weapon, later a 3in was developed. Pretty early on the the 2in was relegated to a development warhead, as it was judged the 3in would be able to carry the needed HE warhead. But the 2in was kept in production for some of the navy's launchers.

In the early 1940's the Navy got in the game, and produced at least five Mk's of weapon, each Mk was actually an utterly unique type of weapon, however, they're all listed as "UP Mk.???" (UP = Unrotated Projectile). This has led to a number of modern commentators completely ******* up by interpreting them as the same weapon. For example:
Unrotated Projectile - Wikipedia

All the above used extruded cordite charges (Over to you @HE117). However there was a second type of rocket, one propelled by compressed black-powder. These were typified by the Schermuly designs, and used widely in P.A.C. (Parachute and Cable) weapons. These shot a rocket to 500ft (or there abouts) dragging a cable that would loiter from a parachute. When the Jerry plane hit a second parachute was released from the ground end, the combined drag would add 1 ton of force to the effected wing, throwing the craft out of control for about five seconds, which at an altitude of 500ft was likely to be very lethal. PAC's were fitted in big barrages around airfields, and defiantly got a kill in the Battle of Britain. their main use was on merchant shipping where a small number of rockets were usually fitted on the wings of the bridge. These were used to disrupt any German aircraft attacking. The idea was to give the Germans a choice, hit the cables and die, or break off and spoil their attack run.
The Germans used a similar weapon on their merchants.

Here's a Beaufighter standing his craft on his wing to avoid a German FallschirmRakete fired from a transport at the end of the war.

Thus you won't see any huge number of kills for these weapons, but that wasn't their point. Equally, the use of rockets, Parachutes and the mention of cables, often leads to the modern commentator mixing them up with the parachute mine idea.

On land, the 3-inch projectile would enter service as an AA rocket weapon:


These were used to lob a nice throw weight of HE around the Germans. Often they'd be crewed by Home Guardsmen these appear to have served reasonably widely, and are mostly ignored by modern historians. Of course the Bethnal Green tragedy gets some mileage though.
However the Navy wasn't done with land service. When the V-1's started they set up TONSIL. This was a load of spare Rocket launchers set up to lay a massive amount of HE around the incoming V-1.


And we've yet even to cover the use of Aircraft firing rockets against ground targets. Like this one:


Now, why am I suddenly interested? Well now that I've finished my spigot book, I'm doing rockets. Mainly to set the record straight, as there seems to be a bit of a Basis in everyone's views of rocketry in WWII, "Oh the Germans were the masters of rockets!"... No they just stuck rockets to everything to see if that would make it work (See the Upkeep they couldn't get ot work, so what did they do: Add rockets. It's still not working? MORE ROCKETS!). Equally like the PIAT, its not seen as part of a cohesive development tree, but more as a stand alone oddity. But I am literally starting the research from scratch, so anything anyone wants to throw in here is likely to be of use at some point, and will help me get a good picture of what's going on.
 
Look at Rocket Projectile 3in. Carried a 60lb warhead or a 25lb solid shot. Typhoon carried at (possibly others). The 60lb occasionally pops up and has to be cleared by EOD.
 
UP's are often sighted In the loss of HMS Hood. Some were sighted in the vicinity of the large fire that broke out on the iron deck near where one possibly two hits occurred. It has been speculated that the fire made it's way down to 4" magazines and thence to 15" mats.
If the did go off wouldn't they launch rather than explode? Plus these were hits by large calibre AP shells designed to penetrate before exploding.
 

Yokel

LE
Look at Rocket Projectile 3in. Carried a 60lb warhead or a 25lb solid shot. Typhoon carried at (possibly others). The 60lb occasionally pops up and has to be cleared by EOD.
I assume the 60lb warhead type was the one used against surfaced U-boats and sometimes other vessels by RN Swordfish and other carrier types, and also by RAF Coastal Command?

UP's are often sighted In the loss of HMS Hood. Some were sighted in the vicinity of the large fire that broke out on the iron deck near where one possibly two hits occurred. It has been speculated that the fire made it's way down to 4" magazines and thence to 15" mats.
If the did go off wouldn't they launch rather than explode? Plus these were hits by large calibre AP shells designed to penetrate before exploding.
I have heard that theory too. In any case anti aircraft rocketry/missiles were of the agenda for RN ships until the last days of the War. I believe the threat of Japanese Kamikazes caused a crash project called 'Stooge'. From memory this was a rocket powered radio control aircraft and not a guided missile per se.
 
Last edited:
To avoid completely derailing the PIAT thread I figured we'd need somewhere to talk about the UK's WWII rocketry. At first glance, many of you will be thinking "But the UK didn't do much with rockets?".

Oh yes they did!

Work started in 1935 on a new AA rocket weapon, designed to fire a HE round up to great heights to supplement the heavy AA weapons. The idea was to find a cheap weapon that would allow mass production and massive scaling up of AA defences faster than could be managed by using conventional cannon. The attempts at designing such a weapon are painful to read, as there's one blindly obvious mistake everyone's insisting on. The first rocket was a 2in weapon, later a 3in was developed. Pretty early on the the 2in was relegated to a development warhead, as it was judged the 3in would be able to carry the needed HE warhead. But the 2in was kept in production for some of the navy's launchers.

In the early 1940's the Navy got in the game, and produced at least five Mk's of weapon, each Mk was actually an utterly unique type of weapon, however, they're all listed as "UP Mk.???" (UP = Unrotated Projectile). This has led to a number of modern commentators completely ******* up by interpreting them as the same weapon. For example:
Unrotated Projectile - Wikipedia

All the above used extruded cordite charges (Over to you @HE117). However there was a second type of rocket, one propelled by compressed black-powder. These were typified by the Schermuly designs, and used widely in P.A.C. (Parachute and Cable) weapons. These shot a rocket to 500ft (or there abouts) dragging a cable that would loiter from a parachute. When the Jerry plane hit a second parachute was released from the ground end, the combined drag would add 1 ton of force to the effected wing, throwing the craft out of control for about five seconds, which at an altitude of 500ft was likely to be very lethal. PAC's were fitted in big barrages around airfields, and defiantly got a kill in the Battle of Britain. their main use was on merchant shipping where a small number of rockets were usually fitted on the wings of the bridge. These were used to disrupt any German aircraft attacking. The idea was to give the Germans a choice, hit the cables and die, or break off and spoil their attack run.
The Germans used a similar weapon on their merchants.

Here's a Beaufighter standing his craft on his wing to avoid a German FallschirmRakete fired from a transport at the end of the war.

Thus you won't see any huge number of kills for these weapons, but that wasn't their point. Equally, the use of rockets, Parachutes and the mention of cables, often leads to the modern commentator mixing them up with the parachute mine idea.

On land, the 3-inch projectile would enter service as an AA rocket weapon:


These were used to lob a nice throw weight of HE around the Germans. Often they'd be crewed by Home Guardsmen these appear to have served reasonably widely, and are mostly ignored by modern historians. Of course the Bethnal Green tragedy gets some mileage though.
However the Navy wasn't done with land service. When the V-1's started they set up TONSIL. This was a load of spare Rocket launchers set up to lay a massive amount of HE around the incoming V-1.


And we've yet even to cover the use of Aircraft firing rockets against ground targets. Like this one:


Now, why am I suddenly interested? Well now that I've finished my spigot book, I'm doing rockets. Mainly to set the record straight, as there seems to be a bit of a Basis in everyone's views of rocketry in WWII, "Oh the Germans were the masters of rockets!"... No they just stuck rockets to everything to see if that would make it work (See the Upkeep they couldn't get ot work, so what did they do: Add rockets. It's still not working? MORE ROCKETS!). Equally like the PIAT, its not seen as part of a cohesive development tree, but more as a stand alone oddity. But I am literally starting the research from scratch, so anything anyone wants to throw in here is likely to be of use at some point, and will help me get a good picture of what's going on.
What’s the Bethnal Green tragedy?


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 
Excerpt from "To War With Friends" The war diary of Geoffrey Jameson KRRC. The excerpt relates to the preparations for sailing on S.S. Franconia from Liverpool to Egypt.
WhatsApp Image 2020-08-19 at 20.58.02.jpeg
 
Last edited:

Chef

LE
What’s the Bethnal Green tragedy?
From Wiki:
Wartime disaster[edit]
Construction of the Central line's eastern extension was started in the 1930s, and the tunnels were largely complete at the outbreak of the Second World War although rails were not laid. The facilities at Bethnal Green were requisitioned in 1940 at the onset of the first Blitz and administration was assigned to the local authority, the Metropolitan Borough of Bethnal Green, under the supervision of the "Regional Commissioners", the generic name for London civil defence. Heavy air raids began in October and thousands of people took shelter there, often remaining overnight. However, usage of the shelter dwindled in 1941 as the air forces of Germany and Italy were redirected away from the United Kingdom and against the Soviet Union. A relative lull occurred although the number of shelterers rose again when retaliatory bombing in response to Royal Air Force raids was expected.

This was the case on 3 March 1943, after British media reported a heavy RAF raid on Berlin on the night of 1 March. The air-raid Civil Defence siren sounded at 8:17 pm, triggering a heavy but orderly flow of people down the blacked-out staircase from the street. A middle-aged woman and a child fell over, three steps up from the base and others fell around her, tangled in an immovable mass which grew, as they struggled, to nearly 300 people. Some got free but 173, most of them women and children, were crushed and asphyxiated. Some 60 others were taken to hospital. News of the disaster was withheld for 36 hours and reporting of what had happened was censored, giving rise to allegations of a cover-up, although it was in line with existing wartime reporting restrictions. Among the reports which never ran was one filed by Eric Linden of the Daily Mail, who witnessed the disaster. Information which was provided was very sparse.[4][5] Fuller details were eventually released on 20 January 1945, the cause having been "kept a secret for 22 months because the government felt the information might have resulted in the Germans' continuing air raids with the intention of causing similar panics".[6] When Churchill saw the report on 6 April saying that the cause was public panic during an air raid, he determined that it should be suppressed until the end of hostilities as it would be an "invitation to repeat" to the enemy and also as it contradicted earlier official comments that there was no panic; although Herbert Morrison disagreed, and Clement Attlee (MP for the nearby Limehouse constituency) wanted to deny rumours swirling about that the panic was due to "Jews and/or Fascists".[7]

The results of the official investigation were not released until 1946.[8][9] At the end of the war, the Minister of Home Security, Herbert Morrison, quoted from a secret report to the effect that there had been a panic, caused by the discharge of anti-aircraft rockets, fired from nearby Victoria Park. During the war other authorities had disagreed: the Shoreditch Coroner, Mr W. R. H. Heddy,[10] said that there was "nothing to suggest any stampede or panic or anything of the kind"; Mr Justice Singleton, summarising his decision in Baker v Bethnal Green Corporation, an action for damages by a bereaved widow, said "there was nothing in the way of rushing or surging" on the staircase;[11] while the Master of the Rolls, Lord Greene, reviewing the lower court's judgment, said "it was perfectly well known .. that there had been no panic".[12] Lord Greene also rebuked the Ministry for requiring the hearing to be held in secret.

The Baker lawsuit was followed by other claims, resulting in a total payout of nearly £60,000, the last of which was made in the early 1950s. The secret official report, by a Metropolitan magistrate, Laurence Rivers Dunne, acknowledged that Bethnal Green Council had warned London Civil Defence, in 1941, that the staircase needed a crush barrier to slow down the crowds, but was told that would be a waste of money.[13]


View from southwestern entrance towards St. John's
The crush at Bethnal Green is thought to have been the largest single loss of civilian life in the UK in the Second World War and the largest loss of life in a single incident on the London Underground network. The largest number killed by a single wartime bomb was 107 at Wilkinson's Lemonade Factory in North Shields (1941),[14] though there were many more British civilians killed in single bombing raids.[15]

There you go.

Edit @CutLunchCommando got there first. (I like your avatar, Calvin)
 
Look at Rocket Projectile 3in. Carried a 60lb warhead or a 25lb solid shot. Typhoon carried at (possibly others). The 60lb occasionally pops up and has to be cleared by EOD.
The story I've heard, (although in recent year's I've begun to seriously distrust anything that starts with those words, until I've seen it in a primary document) is you had a 60lb HE warhead for use against shipping, and a Solid shot for use agaisnt tanks. It was quickly found out that they worked better the other way around.

What was the book?
Defeating the Panzer-Stuka Menace, due out May next year. Basically everything you wanted to know about spigot weapons, and a small quantity on Explosive and development of HESH

Excerpt from "To War With Friends" The war diary of Geoffrey Jameson KRRC. The excerpt relates to the prepartions for sailing on S.S. Franconia from Liverpool to Egypt.
View attachment 498232
Ding! That's exactly the sort of info I was looking for!

This I think. LINK
Aye, the story states the stampede was caused by the shriek of the Rockets being fired, which was not something that had been heard before. I first came across it as part of H&S training as a demonstration of the importance of good flows of information. In this case the argument is that if the sound of Rockets had been briefed out earlier then the the people would not have panicked at the sound.

Of course the page suggests that this story, like so many others, is bollocks.
 

HE117

LE
There were a number of developmental threads in UK Rocketry..

1. There were versions of traditional gunpowder rockets made by the fireworks companies such as Schermuly, Brocks and Paines. These were used for a number of line throwing and other applications as well as for signalling.

2. There were a number of cordite based solid propellant rockets designed by Alwyn Crow at Fort Halstead. These were used in a number of applications, not only for AA use, but also for laying down Chemical. I am not sure which application came first.. I would not be surprised if it was the chemical delivery requirement which needs a large volume of agent to be delivered quickly, and rockets are an excellent means of doing this! As they were never used in practice, it will be difficult to find which came first...!

3. As I referred to in the PIAT thread, the third, and in some ways much more interesting activity was that carried out by Issac Lubbock and Geoffrey Gollin who were Shell employees working at the Ministry of Supply research establishment at Langhurst, near Horsham in 1942. They apparently developed a liquid oxygen/petrol rocket motor for use in assisted take off. Gollin was subsequently sent on a mission to Poland to recover V2 parts from a test range at Blizna (which were swiped by the Russians). Gollin died in 1991, but I cannot find what happened to Lubbock. Lindemann, who was Churchill's scientific adviser did not like Lubbock for some reason and tried to suppress his work..

4. The Black Knight project is also worth looking at, if only to weep.. This is the programme that the test site on the Isle of Wight was built for. It was a kerosene - peroxide rocket which achieved a 100% successful flight record before being cancelled! The Black Arrow launcher derived from it had a single failure, but was used to launch the Prospero satellite after the project was cancelled. The fuels used meant that the engines produced almost no smoke or visible flame and the launch was typically British.. understated and technically brilliant!

 
Last edited:

Latest Threads

Top