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Whooosh, Bang- UK's WWII Rockets

Hammer223

Swinger
Re Bethnal Green my Nan who was there but got out alive always said it was the noise of the AA fire/ rockets as it had not been heard before and for some reason people believed it to a gas attack by the Luftwaffe
 
Re Bethnal Green my Nan who was there but got out alive always said it was the noise of the AA fire/ rockets as it had not been heard before and for some reason people believed it to a gas attack by the Luftwaffe

Interesting. Thanks!

I forgot to mention that it was in 1941.

Then it might have been electronic ignition (which wasp resent on the first few launchers) but was later changed to percussion cap for naval use. I'd have to check my notes.
 
What would have been the Fire Control and Prediction arrangements for the various AA rockets? I assume they were sufficiently dissimilar to guns to require their own arrangements?
 
Re Bethnal Green my Nan who was there but got out alive always said it was the noise of the AA fire/ rockets as it had not been heard before and for some reason people believed it to a gas attack by the Luftwaffe

Having heard the sound of Iron Dome I could very well believe that. It would have been all the more startling if people didn't know what the sudden noises were,

 
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HE117

LE
What would have been the Fire Control and Prediction arrangements for the various AA rockets? I assume they were sufficiently dissimilar to guns to require their own arrangements?

Rockets are ballistically very different to guns for a load of reasons and have to be aimed differently.. for example rockets are very sensitive to cross winds on launch, which make them turn into wind! As they don't spin, the fuze arming has to be done differently.

Fun Fact.. one of the early attempts at producing a proximity fuze for the 3"UP AA rocket was to use a photocell to spot the shadow of the aircraft crossing the rocket. It didn't work in practice, and the fuze was abandoned. However the special photocell developed for the fuze was subsequently used for the tape reader in the Colossus computer!
 
Fun Fact.. one of the early attempts at producing a proximity fuze for the 3"UP AA rocket was to use a photocell to spot the shadow of the aircraft crossing the rocket. It didn't work in practice, and the fuze was abandoned. However the special photocell developed for the fuze was subsequently used for the tape reader in the Colossus computer!

That's interesting. When I was in the IDF in the nineties the upgrade to our US made shoulder fired heat seeking Stinger missiles was the addition of "UV shadow" detection sensors.
 
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Tyk

LE
What were the similarities between the air dropped (launched a better term?) rockets for anti ground and shipping and the ground launched ones for anti air? In terms of the actual rocket not the warhead.
Did the UK use rocket artillery or was that largely the Russians and Germans?

I assume there are some differences between what the UK developed and other peoples developments, are there many fundamental differences?

Sorry for the questions, I really don't know enough to contribute to the thread other than to ask bone questions.
 
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)

Thanks!

I was born just up the road. I knew about the crush but I didn’t know the linkage to AA rockets.
 
I assume the 60lb warhead type was the one used again surfaced U-boats and sometimes other vessels by RN Swordfish and other carrier types, and also by RAF Coastal Command?

I believe so, it was ubiquitous.
 
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.
The new After the Battle book about the V weapons campaign contains the text of the declassified RAF report on the campaign (Volume 6 of accounts by the RAF Air Historical Branch, published 1948.
It is worth purchasing (or obtaining the RAF report from the national archives) as there is specific details about the rocket component of the gun belts. Example:

(In August '44)'In the coastal gun belt there were 562 heavy and 922 light guns, and over 600 rocket barrels. In the gun' box' there were 208 heavy and 178 light guns, 400 guns of 20mm and 108 rocket barrels'.

In reporting k/o'd V1, the 'guns' tally includes missiles knocked down by rockets.
 
What were the similarities between the air dropped (launched a better term?) rockets for anti ground and shipping and the ground launched ones for anti air? In terms of the actual rocket not the warhead.
Did the UK use rocket artillery or was that largely the Russians and Germans?

I assume there are some differences between what the UK developed and other peoples developments, are there many fundamental differences?

Sorry for the questions, I really don't know enough to contribute to the thread other than to ask bone questions.
 

offog

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 ware 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!

I'm sure I have seen the bottom of Black Arrow in an private aircraft museum, the silver bit. I remember as the casing was very thin and you could push it in ;but when full became rigid.

As to rope throwers the RNLI used them and I seem to remember that the GPO also used them up in Scotland to deliver mail. What about land mine clearing.
 
@Listy

I don't know whether you intend to cover the history of rockets by the British but I have a book somewhere called something like Rockets 1800-1900 covering their early history.

Any interest?
 
The huge, draggy, and heavy launch rails the RAF insisted on hanging under its planes were totally superfluous. Rockets worked just as well on zero length stub rails



ETA: is see the technical facts of aerodynamics trigger the small minded.
 
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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.
Correct. Reasons as follows:
RPs were damned inaccurate - about 0.5% probability of a hit per round vs a tank from a fighter bomber under combat conditions. The solid shot AP round needed to get a direct hit to kill. So much better to lob 60lb HE rounds that might not get direct hits, but would scare the life out of tankers, perhaps do some blast damage, and also had considerable utility against any soft targets in the area. (And if a 60lb HE did hit a tank, it was going to seriously screw it as much as a 25lb AP.) This is why tank kills were massively overclaimed by Typhoons - it was hard to believe that a Panzer had survived the explosions that a salvo of eight 60lb warheads had just thrown up around the target area. Similarly, the sight of such a barrage often did wonders for the morale of the friendlies sat in the front line.

Ships and surfaced submarines presented a much bigger and more obvious target than a Panzer in the treeline, so much higher odds of a direct hit. It was found that the AP rockets, if they hit the water just short of the target, often then travelled almost horizontally just below the surface of the water, still at a considerable speed, thanks to oddities of hydrodynamics. So the aim point was soon adapted to just short of the ship.

Result was that you had AP shot smacking into the hull below the waterline and making holes which let the 'oggin in, something that really distresses matelots. Worked even against u-boat pressure hulls. So, compared to admittedly a lot of above water damage from HE, often a much better chance of an actual outright sinking.
 

Yokel

LE
Correct. Reasons as follows:
RPs were damned inaccurate - about 0.5% probability of a hit per round vs a tank from a fighter bomber under combat conditions. The solid shot AP round needed to get a direct hit to kill. So much better to lob 60lb HE rounds that might not get direct hits, but would scare the life out of tankers, perhaps do some blast damage, and also had considerable utility against any soft targets in the area. (And if a 60lb HE did hit a tank, it was going to seriously screw it as much as a 25lb AP.) This is why tank kills were massively overclaimed by Typhoons - it was hard to believe that a Panzer had survived the explosions that a salvo of eight 60lb warheads had just thrown up around the target area. Similarly, the sight of such a barrage often did wonders for the morale of the friendlies sat in the front line.

Ships and surfaced submarines presented a much bigger and more obvious target than a Panzer in the treeline, so much higher odds of a direct hit. It was found that the AP rockets, if they hit the water just short of the target, often then travelled almost horizontally just below the surface of the water, still at a considerable speed, thanks to oddities of hydrodynamics. So the aim point was soon adapted to just short of the ship.

Result was that you had AP shot smacking into the hull below the waterline and making holes which let the 'oggin in, something that really distresses matelots. Worked even against u-boat pressure hulls. So, compared to admittedly a lot of above water damage from HE, often a much better chance of an actual outright sinking.

Later versions of the Fairey Swordfish had their fabric lower wings replaced with metal ones, so they could fire RPs. I wonder if this why the aircraft was produced as late as 1944, and still in service on VE Day?

I have no idea what other naval aircraft carried it.

These bad boys too

What sort of rockets were fired from Landing Craft (Rocket)?
 

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