These were the first major use of rockets in 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, 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.
How to cite this article: Dugdale-Pointon, TDP. (2 August 2000), Congreve Rockets, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_congreve.html