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1. The Rocket

Great Rocket...badly painted by me!

Why The Rocket?

Everyone has a favourite flavour, nobody likes all flavours equally, whether it’s crisps, ice cream or 18mm Napoleonic miniatures. Before launching Fizzer Johnson’s Men of Metal I too had a favourite flavour of metal men, and I’d spent my life saving for, collecting, painting, basing and playing with them, so I already knew that no matter what else we accomplished with Fizzer’s range of Napoleonic figures, we would always have one eye on complimenting the best of the existing flavours. We wanted to put all our energy into adding some spice, bringing some innovative and amusing additions to your wargaming menu…adding a bit of a fizz to your table-top while never overpowering the essence of your old favourites. Our aim was to give our wargaming community something unique, maybe something we’ve been yearning for…and number one on my hit list was The Rocket.

What Rocket?

I read far too much about rockets during my research for Fizzer product development as it was such a delightful rabbit hole to fall down; many of my mighty historical tomes are now heavily postit-note-strewn as a result, but there’s a good quick Rocket summary here: Napoleonic Wars Homepage  

“The British had first encountered rockets being used in warfare at Seringpatam in 1792. Work to produce a British weapon was unsuccessful at first until the project was taken up by Colonel Congreve at the Royal Laboratory Woolwich. By 1805 the British had introduced the first reasonably effective military rocket to European warfare. These early weapons were designed as incendiaries made up of layers of paper at first but later of sheet iron. In 1806, 200 rockets were fired from 18 boats in 30 minutes at Boulogne.

In 1807 a massive 40,000 rocket attack did tremendous damage to Copenhagen mainly from fire (some sources suggest that far fewer rockets were used at Copenhagen – only slightly more than at Boulogne). The rockets soon developed in sophistication with the fire rockets being used for sieges. A hollow iron head was developed which could be loaded with shell or rounds and the larger types with canister (musket balls with a charge behind them). Those used by the field artillery came in 4 sizes 6, 9, 12 and 18lbs. Although other nations did develop rockets after the British model only the British used them in action, with 2 rocket troops being shown as part of the Royal Horse Artillery (due to their speed) in 1813. The military use of rockets was in its infancy but the Congreve rockets, although of somewhat limited effectiveness in a field battle, paved the way for future developments which were to have a tremendous impact on modern warfare”

When?

There are lots of anecdotal instances recorded, citing Wellington’s apparent dislike for The Rocket, so many in fact that several great rule sets include a built in a risk of death when using it on your tabletop, which definitely adds to the fun during game play and spurred me on to make my own 18mm Napoleonic Rocket widely available…so that everyone can experience the fun of occasionally killing your own RBA team. 

First use of Rockets is summarised nicely here: British Battles.com 

“The Battle of Toulouse was the first major battle at which the Royal Artillery used rockets in action, being fired at Taupin’s Division in the fighting over la Sypière redoubt. The rockets were fired by the Royal Artillery’s Mounted Rocket Corps, using rockets developed by Sir William Congreve from the weapons fired at the British during the Siege of Seringapatam in India in 1799 by Tipu Sultan’s army. Wellington heartily disliked the Congreve Rocket, considering it a waste of the Royal Artillery’s limited manpower resources, preferring guns. However, the British rocket was a much-feared weapon in Europe, credited with causing the Prussian and Russian Governments to bow to British pressure in the reconstitution of Europe.

How?

There’s a vast array of incredibly detailed British Napoleonic Artillery research available, but there are always some nice little snippets of history on Age of Revolution 

“The rocket case, made of sheet iron, was filled with gunpowder, which burned to make the rocket fly forward through the air. These missiles were a terrifying weapon, but so inaccurate that they rarely exploded over the intended target. British forces fighting in India encountered rockets used by the army of the Tipu of Mysore. The capture of the Mysore iron rockets by the troops at the fall of Seringapatam (2 May 1799) influenced British rocket development and inspired the rockets of Colonel William Congreve. Although Congreve was the son of the Comptroller at the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, he still had to self-fund his experiments. He was also a friend of the Prince of Wales, however, and the Prince was an enthusiastic supporter of rocket development. The first successful tests took place in 1804. By 1806 Congreve had developed 32-pounders that would travel 3000 yards. The Navy was the first to take up the rockets, although an attack on Boulogne in 1805 under Sir Sidney Smith was not successful. When they were used against the same town a year later, however, they inflicted considerable damage. The following year they helped to reduce Copenhagen to ashes, 300 rockets being launched in the attack. The Army was initially less impressed by the new weapon, but in 1813 2nd Captain Richard Bogue was appointed commanding officer of the 1st rocket brigade which was attached to the Army of North Germany at the Battle of Leipzig (18 October 1813). In September of the same year the Duke of Wellington had reluctantly accepted rockets into the Peninsular Army, although he continued to remain doubtful about their effectiveness.

At the Battle of Waterloo Captain Whinyates commanded the rocket brigade, but as a sign of his reservations Wellington insisted that in addition to 800 rockets Whinyates should also have five 6-pounder guns. Only 52 light rockets were fired during the battle and to little effect, whereas the five light 6-pdrs expended 560 rounds in support of the defence of La Haie Sainte. As for the weapon itself, the rocket cases were made from sheet iron and filled with gunpowder as propellant. The warheads were attached to wooden sticks of differing lengths according to the size of rockets. They could be fired from frames, from specially constructed vehicles or, as at Waterloo, propelled along the ground. By 1813 the rockets were available in three classes:

    • Heavy Siege Rockets with incendiary carcass weighing over 135kg and 7.6-8.2m sticks.
    • Medium Siege Rockets had a 24-42 pdr (10.9-19.1kg) warhead of shot or shell, a 4.5-6.1m stick and a range of about 3000m.
    • Light Rockets (6-18 pdr (2.7-8.2kg) of shot, case-shot or shell) had 2.4-4.3m stick and a range of about 180″

I got over excited when the first Fizzer Johnson 18mm Napoleonic Rocket cooled enough to be painted and made the questionable decision to paint it up myself, (see above) and although it was great fun to assemble and I’d ensured there were lots of raised details to ease the amateur wargamer’s task, I’m definitely no master miniature painter these days so I’m on tenterhooks to see what younger/more talented hands make of it and hope that when it graces your wargames table that I get to see it too.

What's next on Fizzer's Napoleonic bucket list?

Well, it’s all very exciting never-before-seen stuff of course, but the cat has to stay firmly in my bag this month, at least until my new sculpts are perfect and my moulds are ready to spin; suffice to say, as a life-long avid 18mm Napoleonic table-top wargamer and insufferable historical swot, I want the same sort of stuff you want…I think we’re going to be on the same page product-development-wise, it’s just a matter of time and resources, (Fizzer Johnson’s Men of Metal is not only a brand new range of table-top miniatures, it’s also a tiny family-run business so we’ll need to count on you, the wargaming community, to support us by spreading the word so that we can grow and offer the choice we all want in our drawers!) 

If you want in at the beginning of this exciting new venture, follow along on Facebook for first peeks at new Fizzer products in development, special offers, events, and historical nonsense. If you’re an insufferable swot too and want to contribute a blog, get in touch via the contact page, comment below, or if you’ve already painted up some Fizzer Johnson Napoleonic minis, send us a photo for our Rogue’s Gallery.

Grab your 18mm Napoleonic Rocket here, just try not to blow up your own men on every roll!

Fizzer

Next week's blog: A painting guide

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