snapshot from Tipu Sultan to Abdul Kalam
Sultan of Mysore (now Karnataka) in southwestern India (from the
death of his father, Hyder Ali, 1782.) He died of wounds when
his capital, Seringapatam, was captured by the British. His
rocket brigade led Sir William Congreve (1772-1828) to develop
the weapon for use in the Napoleonic Wars and in the war of 1812
against the USA.
Sultan-Ed.) contribution to Rocket Technology byDr. Abdul Kalam
technology engulfed me for two decades since my visit to
Srirangapatna in 1960. The question continued to haunt me - "How
Tipu Sultan would have led to the world's first war rocket?"
"What environment was responsible for the birth, of such a
technological innovation in our country".
In August 1974 I
received a paper presented by Frank H. Winter of National Air
and Space Museum Washington USA, titled "The Rocket in India
from ancient times to the 19th century". This highly researched
paper presented the 'Agni Astra' from Vedik hymns to Tipu's war
rocket with eighteen classic references. Winter's conclusion is
startling for the Indian Scientific Community. He says, "Thus,
it is fair to suggest that the venerable rocket from the
subcontinent of India may well have had its technological impact
upon the West. If so, in retrospect, it was an important, if
subtle, a technological transfer of recent history."
researchers have to spring up in our Universities as well. Soon,
I learnt that two of the war rockets captured by British at
Srirangapatana have been displayed in the Museum of Artillery at
Woolwich in London. One of my missions during my visit to Europe
in 1980 was to study this rocket. Dr.VR.Gowarkar and I visited
the museum. It was a great thrill especially for Rocket
technologists like us, to see an Indian innovation in a foreign
soil well preserved and with facts not distorted.
heading "India's War Rocket", the following details are recorded
in the Woolwhich museum London. The motor casing of this rocket
is made of steel with multi nozzle holes with the sword blade as
the warhead. The propellant used was packed gunpowder. Weight of
the rocket is about 2kg. With about 1kg of propellant. 50mm in
dia about 250mm length, the range performance is reported 900mts
to 1.5 km. Our designers analyzed and confirmed their
performance. What a simple and elegant design effectively used
The text above
is an sourced from the homage paid to Tipu Sultan by, Dr. Abdul
Kalam during the Hazrath Tipu Sultan Shaheed Memorial Lecture
organized by the Al-Ameen Educational Society Bangalore on 30th
Dr Kalam is
currently the President of India
The History of
30th Nov 1991
By Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, Director Defence Research & Development
Laboratory Hydaerabad, India
The story of
Indian Rockets From Shrirangapattana to Shriharikota
consider the Duke of Wellington, Colonel Arthur Wellesley
(1769-1852), who defeated Napoleon at the famous battle of
Waterloo (1815), one of their greatest national heroes. However,
not many people know that this hero of Waterloo had to run away
from the battlefield when attacked by the rockets and
musket-fire of Tipu Sultan's army.
It happened at
the time of the Fourth Anglo-Mysore war (April 1799). General
Harris led the British forces on the siege of Shrirangapattana,
the capital of Tipu. The British forces had reached quite close
to the fort of Shrirangapattana, but there was a formidable
obstruction. To the south-west of the fort, near the village of
Sultanpet, there was a large tope, where Tipu had stationed his
rocketmen. Obviously, they had to be cleared out before the
siege could be pressed closer to Shrirangapattana island. The
commander chosen for this operation was Col. Wellesley.
was not an ordinary Englishman. He was the younger brother of
Lord Wellesley, the then Governor-General of India (1798-1805).
Col.Wellesley, advancing towards the tope after dark on the 5th
April, was attacked by a tremendous fire of musketry and
rockets. The men gave way and retreated in disorder. In the
midst of chaos that followed, Col. Wellesley lost his way, hid
himself somewhere in the night and could report to Harris late
only on the next day.
incident' had a profound and traumatic effect on Arthur
Wellesley. His biographer Guedalla tells us that, even late in
his life, after Waterloo, the unpleasing night lived vividly in
After some days
Gen. Harris planned another attack on Shringapattana. Help also
came from Mumbai in the form of Gen. Stuart's forces. On the
afternoon of 4th May when the final attack on the fort was led
by Baird, he was again met by "furious musket and rocket fire".
But this did not help much; the fort was taken. Tipu still
refused to beg for peace on humiliating terms. He met a hero's
end on 4th May while defending his capital. The taking over of
Shrirangapattana was described by Arthur Wellesley, the future
Duke of Wellington, in the following words:
therefore can have exceeded what was done on the night of the
4th. Scarcely a house in the town was left unplundered, and I
understand that in camp jewels of the greatest value, bars of
gold, etc., etc., have been offered for sale in the bazars of
the army by our soldiers, sepoys, and followers....
Along with the
enormous loot another precious gift from India arrived in
England. It was the Mysorean rocket, two specimens of which can
still be seen in the Royal Artillery Museum, Woolwich Arsenal,
of the time had combustion chambers made of wood or some kind of
paste board. The metal cylinder (casing) used for the Indian
rocket was hammered soft iron; it represented an advance over
earlier technology. At that time iron made in India was of a
high quality, even though Indian furnaces were small and
inefficient compared with those of Europe. Indian iron was sent
to Sheffield, because it was 'excellently adapted to for the
purpose of fine cutlery'.
The use of iron
cylinder for the Mysore rockets increased bursting pressures,
which allowed the propellant (gunpowder) to be packed to greater
densities. This gave the Mysore rocket greater thrust and range.
The metal cylinder was tied to a long bamboo pole or sword to
provide stability to the rocket missile.
accounts we come to know that the Mysore rocket weighed from 2.2
to 5.5 kgs. The metal casing was 4 cms in diameter and 10 cms
long. The range is often quoted as about 1.5 kms. In exceptional
cases it was upto 2.5 kms.
There was a
regular Rocket Corps of about 1200 men in Hyder Ali's army.
Hyder's son Tipu raised it to about 5000 men. Furthermore, three
or more rockets could be fired rapidly using a wheeled cart as a
launch-pad. Though not very accurate, their flash and noise had
much moral effect on men and beast when mass-fired.
Rockets were in
use in Karnataka long before the Anglo-Mysore wars. Hyder Ali's
father was already commanding 50 rocketmen for the Nawab of
Arcot. In the Second Anglo-Mysore war, at the Battle of Pollilur
(10 September 1780), Hyder and Tipu achieved a grand victory,
the contributory cause being that one of the British ammunition
tambrils was set on fire by Mysorean rockets. The scene is
depicted in a famous mural at the Darya Daulat Bagh in
An innovator in
many ways, Tipu was greatly interested in rocket development. He
showed great interest in such European inventions as barometers
and thermometers and several other novel devices. Tipu had sent
some of his rockets to the Sultan of Constantinople as presents.
known in India much before the Anglo-Mysore wars. Their early
references are mostly from south India. The Mysore rulers might
have got information about gunpowder and rockets from Malabar,
where the Chinese used to come for trading. For fire-crackers
words like 'china-bedi' and 'china-padakkam' are still in use in
the Malayalam language.* Gunpowder was discovered in China in
the ninth century A.D., when the first reference to the mixing
of charcoal, saltpetre and sulphur is found. About the early
eleventh century the Chinese developed a kind of incendiary
arrow, in fact the rocket. We have descriptions of their use
against the Mongols at the siege of Kai-Feng-Fue in 1232 A.D. It
was through the Mongols or the Arabs that the know-how of
gunpowder and rockets reached Europe in the thirteenth century.
acquired the know-how of gunpowder about the same time, either
through Chinese alchemists or through Chinese traders coming to
Indian ports. Anyway, it is certain that by about 1400 A.D. the
Chinese fireworks techniques were well-known in India. There is
a treatise on fireworks in Persian written about 1450 A.D. by
Zain-ul-Abidin, the Muslim ruler of Kashmir. In the fifteenth
century A.D. various kinds of fireworks were displayed at
Vijayanagar during festivals. Ain-e-Akbari gives a list of 77
weapons in the arsenal of Akbar, bana (rocket) being mentioned
at the end. In fact, the word bana or agnibana in the sense of a
rocket finds a place in several Sanskrit works of the mediaeval
period. In China the tube of a rocket was made of bamboo. The
use of iron tube for rocket is probably an Indian innovation.
The British were
greatly impressed by the Mysorean rockets using iron tubes.
Several of them were sent to England, and from 1801, William
Congreve (1772-1828), son of the Comptroller of the Royal
Woolwich Arsenal, London, after thoroughly examining the Indian
specimens, set on a vigorous research and development programme
at the Arsenal's laboratory. Congreve prepared a new propellant
mixture, and developed a rocket motor with a strong iron tube
with conical nose, weighing about 14.5 kg. He also published
three books on rocketry.
It is important
to note that Congreve, on the basis of Newton' third law,
recognised one of the chief advantages of the rocket -- the
absence of recoil force, making it suitable for sea-borne
assault. In the first quarter of the nineteenth century the
British used Congreve's rockets in several sea-wars, e.g., in a
trial attack on Boulogne in 1806, in the siege of Copenhagen in
1807, etc. The rockets that Congreve ultimately developed
weighed 20 kg with a range up to 2.7 km.
Thus, from the
above description it is amply clear that better rockets came to
be developed in England only after experiencing and examining
the Indian rockets. It was a time when in England the first wave
of the Industrial Revolution and technical innovations had
begun. Till the end of 18th century several products of Indian
technology were much superior to that of the British, but there
was no proper environment for their scientific development in
our country. However, we should not forget that the plunder of
Shrirangapattana and Tipu's rockets had also made a small but
significant contribution to the Industrial Revolution that took
place in England. - Gunakar Muley
Milestones in Rocket
Development (in this essay to early 19thC - Ed.)
Chinese work Wu-ching tsung-yao gives the
earliest gunpowder formula in any civilization
were used by the Chinese against the Mongols at the
seige of Kai-Feng-fue
became known in Europe
work refers to gunpowder and 'arrows from China'
became known in India. After that we find many
references to agnichurna (gunpowder), agnibana
(rocket) and agnikrida fireworks) in several
and his son Tipu Sultan used rockets against British
William Congreve examined Indian rockets
used rockets developed by Congreve in several sea
Sir William, 2nd Baronet (1772-1828)
b. May 20, 1772,
London, Eng. d. May 16, 1828, Toulouse, France
artillery officer and inventor, best known for his military
rocket, which was a great advance in black-powder rockets. It
provided the impetus for an early wave of enthusiastic
utilization of rockets for military purposes in Europe. Congreve
based his rockets on those used by the Indian prince Hyder Ali
against the British in 1792 and 1799 at Seringapatam. In 1805 he
built a rocket 40.5 inches (103 cm) long, with a stabilizing
stick 16 feet (4.9 m) long and a range of 2,000 yards (1.8 km).
rockets were used to bombard Boulogne, Copenhagen, and Danzig in
the Napoleonic Wars and in the British attack on Fort McHenry,
near Baltimore, in 1814, which inspired Francis Scott Key to
write in the "Star Spangled Banner" (now the U.S. national
anthem): ". . . the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in
air." Congreve continued to improve his rockets' range and
accuracy, leading many European countries to form rocket corps,
usually attached to artillery units.
The Congreve rockets were made obsolete by improved artillery
and ordnance, but they continued to find uses for flares and
Congreve is also
usually considered the first modern inventor to propose plating
warships with armour (1805) to protect against artillery fire.
Upon the death of his father in 1814 (whose baronetcy he
inherited), he became comptroller of the Royal Laboratory of
Woolwich Arsenal. From 1818 until his death, Congreve was a
member of Parliament for Plymouth, Devon.
These were the
first major use of rockets for the British army. 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, two hundred rockets were [launched] from 18
boats in 30 mins at Boulogne.
In 1807 a
massive 40,000 rocket attack did tremendous damage to Copenhagen
mainly from fire. 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
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)
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.
TDP, 2 August
What is a Congreve Rocket?
June 1854 :
Congreve 32-pounder Rocket
used with permission from the
Copyright © 2000 NASMSI National Air and Space
Museum Smithsonian Institution
32-pounder war rocket was the most widely used of the
gunpowder-propelled war rockets of the early 19th century
devised by the Englishman William Congreve (1772-1828). The
32-pounder could be fitted with either explosive warheads for
use against fortresses or incendiary warheads for use against
wooden sailing ships of the period.
incendiary warheads were called "carcass" rockets. Those with
explosive warheads had round or ogival warheads. Those with
incendiary warheads had conical heads, which was also used to
stick into the targets and then burn....more
TOP | RPAV
used with permission from the
Copyright © 2000 NASMSI National Air and Space
Museum Smithsonian Institution
gunpowder war rocket of the last century was invented by the
Englishman William Hale (1797-1870) in 1844 as a way to
eliminate the cumbersome wooden guidestick of the Congreve
rocket. The Hale rocket was therefore called the stickless, or
rotary rocket, since it obtained its stability in flight by part
of the exhaust gases causing the rocket to rotate or spin on its
Hale's Patent is announced in Scientific American, Apr 21, 1866
Page 1 | Page
2 | Page
Exploration from Talisman of the Past to Gateway for the Future
PART III. History of Space, Ch., 7, The Beginning
threatened to invade England in 1804, William Congreve, a
British artillery Officer, decided to develop a rocket weapon to
destroy the French fleet across the English Channel. Inaccurate
rockets had been used in great numbers as weapons in India from
the 16th through the 18th Centuries, but they were used to
frighten infantry troops and war elephants. These crude weapons
were not very lethal, and Congreve learned about them because
they were used by Indian Princes against British troops in the
1770s; the British military returned some of these weapons to
Britain where they were displayed in an arms museum.
It was here that
Congreve studied, experimented, and developed his rocket system.
This system consisted of 15 rockets carrying warheads of
incendiaries, explosives, and great quantities of musketballs
called case shot. The sizes varied from 3 pound rockets to 300
pound weapons propelled by an eight inch diameter missile.
rockets were much like the skyrockets of that time, except that
his were larger and encased in sheet iron. A long stick on the
side of the rocket stabilized it. In 1815, Congreve moved the
guide stick from the side to the center of the rocket which, he
found, gave the rocket far more stability and greater accuracy.
Congreve's fuel of choice; this powder propelled the rockets
from 900 - 3000 yards. In 1806, Congreve's rockets were used
successfully against the French fleet, destroying several French
ships; these rockets also helped to almost destroy the city of
Copenhagen during the Napoleonic Wars.
success of Congreve's rockets nearly every army in Europe had
its own rocket brigade. The Royal Artillery rocket troops
successfully used their weapons during the War of 1812 against
Fort McHenry near Baltimore, when Francis Scott Key described
"the rockets' red glare" in the new American national anthem
"The Star Spangled Banner." Additionally, these rocket troops
employed their skills in Napoleon's downfall at Waterloo as well
as in the Crimea in the 1850s. At this time another rocket was
invented and used - the Hale Rocket.
The main purpose
of the Hale rocket was to eliminate the cumbersome guide sticks
used by the Congreve rocket. The rocket achieved stabilization
by rotating around its axis as it flew toward its target. The
rocket accomplished rotation by having holes drilled in its
rear, thus causing the escaping gas to flow in a circular motion
naturally rotating the entire rocket. The drawback to this idea
was that too much gas escaped thus reducing the range. Hale
moved the holes to the center of gravity and found that too much
gas was still escaping. Finally, frustrated with holes, Hale
went back to Congreve's approach of using a guide, but instead
of using a huge stick in the middle of the rocket he placed
three guide vanes at the rocket's base which "guided" the flow
of the exhaust and ballistically rotated the rocket.
introduced a safer way to load powder rather than pounding it in
by a hammer which had its dangerous moments. Hale's rockets were
used by both sides during the U.S. Civil War and by the end of
the 19th century were made obsolete by quick firing, rifled
artillery guns. By this time many people were inspired by the
possibilities which rockets and artillery pieces provided for
exploring the final unknown frontier.
Rocketry as listed by Amazon.com
H.: The First Golden Age of Rocketry; Washington, D.C.:
Smithsonian Institute Press, 1990.
Details of the
Colonel Sir William Congreve The various applications of this
weapon, both for sea and land service, and its different uses in
the field and in sieges. SC, 37pp, illus., Royal Artillery.
System. With additional material by Captain E. M. Boxer and
William Congreve, London, 1814. In 1804-1805, Congreve perfected
a system of rocket artillery that was to be used by the British
at Boulogne, Copenhagen and Baltimore. The original of the first
part of the book was printed in 1814 as the promotional text
book for the rocket brigade that was formed to service the new
To this has been
added a retrospective appraisal by Captain E. M. Boxer who was
in charge of British ammunition production in the 1850s, and a
series of photographs of a contemporary model of the rocket car
and limber, the rocket tube and rockets that were in use during
the 19th Century. 85 pages, 35 illustrations
were mounted in most coastal towns in Britain and hence
Australia (and presumably elsewhere) to assist vessels in
distress usually those that had run aground on rocks, reefs etc.
The rockets would both act as signals that help was at hand and
also carry life lines to which larger tow ropes could be
www.manorhouse.clara.net comes the following...
clearly wearing a Gansey (Guernsey - Ed.) which, upon closer
inspection, is almost certainly that of the "Cullercoats Rocket
Brigade" is shown running through the streets of a small
northern fishing village shouting "All hands man the Life-Boat!"
is dated 26 November 1887.
Over a century
later, the same pattern can be knitted, and in the same method,
all-in-one piece, on five needles, in the finest quality 5-ply
worsted wool. If the fisherman returned today, he would find a
few things still familiar in Flamborough, and much that was
alien. The fishing boats (known locally as "cobles") would still
be instantly recognizable, as would Flamborough lighthouse and,
if he walked into the premises of Flamborough Marine, upon my
soul, he would find a match for his own Gansey.
and for the final word, 'Larsen'