Ethnographic Arms & Armour

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-   -   Incendiary quarrels/arrows/crossbow bolts (http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=7085)

Matchlock 18th September 2008 09:57 PM

Incendiary quarrels/arrows/crossbow bolts
 
7 Attachment(s)
I posted these as a preply to Stekemest's comment on the 1485 Bavarian arsenal inventory, but really wish to share them in a separate thread now.

So here they are, of 15th to early 16th century date.

The watercolor illustration is from an illuminated fireworks book dated 1442, showing just how they were actually made.
Mass production 460 years ago - under the critical eyes of a supervisor! Isn't that cute?

Matchlock

fernando 19th September 2008 02:35 PM

Undoubtfully precious items.
...And the illustrations are rather cute, indeed.
Are you familiar with the process ? What part of the material are those two guys 'cooking' ?
Fernando

Matchlock 19th September 2008 04:05 PM

Their chemical substances
 
3 Attachment(s)
The Schweizerisches Landesmuseum Zürich had them analyzed, so here they are:

1. Outer incendiary layer:
88 % sulfur
10.4 % saltpeter/potassium nitrate
1.6 % carbon

2. Inner burning mass:
13.7 % sulfur
83.5 % saltpeter/potassium nitrate
2.8 % carbon

Matchlock - well, as some of the members here have been so very nice and provided me with information by private messages, I feel that I should give my real name:

Michael

M ELEY 11th October 2008 06:24 AM

These are truly amazing items. In Gilkerson's "Boarders Away II", he shows some of these in a Swedish? museum and remarks that they were one of the earliest incendiary weapons used against the rigging of ships in naval combat, circa 16th/17th century. These are extremely rare items! Are the ones pictured yours, Michael, or are they museum pics. If they are yours, I am sick with envy!!! :mad:

Matchlock 19th October 2008 11:09 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by M ELEY
These are truly amazing items. In Gilkerson's "Boarders Away II", he shows some of these in a Swedish? museum and remarks that they were one of the earliest incendiary weapons used against the rigging of ships in naval combat, circa 16th/17th century. These are extremely rare items! Are the ones pictured yours, Michael, or are they museum pics. If they are yours, I am sick with envy!!! :mad:



Hi, M ELEY,

Thanks for your nice lines.

The two incendiary quarrels on top used to be in my collection until about 15 years ago when I passed them to a friend of mine who had concentrated on earliest crossbows and stuff. My field is earliest firearms.

The ones below I photographed in the Swiss National Museum Zurich, togehter with the 'recipe'.

These earliest accouterments sure range among the greatest rarissimae on earth.

Michael

M ELEY 20th October 2008 06:22 AM

Amazing,indeed. Thanks for posting them, Michael. Would have loved to have had one for my collection, but just a little out of my price range, I suspect! ;)

fearn 20th October 2008 03:38 PM

Hi Matchlock,

Thanks for posting these. I've got to admit that I'm interested in these for intellectual reasons only, not collecting them. I have this gut-negative reaction to collecting old incendiaries and bombs, especially if they still have their original chemicals in them.

To me, the most interesting thing is that these highly reactive materials lasted as long as they did.

F

Ed 20th October 2008 06:48 PM

Unless they were stored really, really well, I doubt that there is much to fear.

stekemest 20th October 2008 07:18 PM

Great pictures, thank you very much.
I'd like to present pictures of mine, but I have no chance of taking photos at the moment (my collection is not where I am ;) ). I'll show them as soon as possible.
They are only the heads, though.
Peter

Matchlock 20th October 2008 10:09 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by stekemest
Great pictures, thank you very much.
I'd like to present pictures of mine, but I have no chance of taking photos at the moment (my collection is not where I am ;) ). I'll show them as soon as possible.
They are only the heads, though.
Peter


Peter, I would love to see your quarrel heads some time. The iron hafts should be very thin and threaded in order to enable the incendiary mass to glue. I used to have some, too.
Owning such heads is as good as anyone could normally and possibly do, anyway.
Michael

M ELEY 21st October 2008 03:11 AM

Fearn, for the most part, I agree with Ed in that they are probably inert. That being said, I won't go putting a lit fuse down my Rev War grenado powder hole any time soon. Just read a terrible story about another collector killed trying to saw a Dahlgren shell in half. Probably inactive...but why take chances! :eek:

Peter, I would also love to see your items whenever you get the chance to post them. Thanks!

-Mark

Jim McDougall 21st October 2008 05:44 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by M ELEY
Fearn, for the most part, I agree with Ed in that they are probably inert. That being said, I won't go putting a lit fuse down my Rev War grenado powder hole any time soon. Just read a terrible story about another collector killed trying to saw a Dahlgren shell in half. Probably inactive...but why take chances! :eek:

Peter, I would also love to see your items whenever you get the chance to post them. Thanks!

-Mark


This whole topic is really interesting! and the discussion on old ordnance being inert or not reminds me that they are still finding unexploded bombs from WWII in Europe! In childhood our family lived near an old air base, and on one adventure, my brother and I found in a field, an old WWII bomb, which was apparantly a 500 lb. practice bomb...it was empty so not heavy, and we carried it home through town. You should have seen the looks out of windows!!!! My dad grumbled and eventually put the thing in the attic. When we moved years later, he apparantly 'forgot' and left it in the attic:) oops!

Really looking forward to more on these old incendiaries!!! Thanks!

Bill M 21st October 2008 01:05 PM

This post on incendiaries led me to a description of a gun, The Swamp Angel, (it may have been a 32 pdr) that was used with "Greek Fire" incendiary projectiles during the shelling of the city of Charleston during the American Civil War.

http://www.awod.com/gallery/probono/cwchas/swamp.html

I am particularly amused by the passage,

"Gillmore instructed Colonel Serrell to explore the possibilities of constructing a battery in the marsh between James and Morris islands. By one account, Serrell gave the duty to a young engineer lieutenant who, after examining the salt marsh, declared the project could not be done.

Serrell informed the doubting engineer that nothing was impossible and to requisition any necessary materials. A short time later, Serrell received a request for twenty men eighteen feet tall for work in the marsh. At the same time another request was sent to the department's surgeon asking him to splice three six-foot men together to make the needed eighteen-footers."


Unfortunately, though predictably Col Serrell was not amused. He replaced the young engineer and went on to build the battery.

Matchlock 21st October 2008 07:24 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Marsh
This post on incendiaries led me to a description of a gun, The Swamp Angel, (it may have been a 32 pdr) that was used with "Greek Fire" incendiary projectiles during the shelling of the city of Charleston during the American Civil War.

http://www.awod.com/gallery/probono/cwchas/swamp.html

I am particularly amused by the passage,

"Gillmore instructed Colonel Serrell to explore the possibilities of constructing a battery in the marsh between James and Morris islands. By one account, Serrell gave the duty to a young engineer lieutenant who, after examining the salt marsh, declared the project could not be done.

Serrell informed the doubting engineer that nothing was impossible and to requisition any necessary materials. A short time later, Serrell received a request for twenty men eighteen feet tall for work in the marsh. At the same time another request was sent to the department's surgeon asking him to splice three six-foot men together to make the needed eighteen-footers."


Unfortunately, though predictably Col Serrell was not amused. He replaced the young engineer and went on to build the battery.


Unlike Col Serrell, I am amused!
Thank you for this nice contribution, Bill Marsh!

Michael

Jim McDougall 21st October 2008 08:07 PM

Me too Bill! :)
I'll have to remember that approach, well done!

Matchlock 21st October 2008 08:09 PM

Incendiaries, 400 - 500 year old
 
10 Attachment(s)
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
This whole topic is really interesting! and the discussion on old ordnance being inert or not reminds me that they are still finding unexploded bombs from WWII in Europe! In childhood our family lived near an old air base, and on one adventure, my brother and I found in a field, an old WWII bomb, which was apparantly a 500 lb. practice bomb...it was empty so not heavy, and we carried it home through town. You should have seen the looks out of windows!!!! My dad grumbled and eventually put the thing in the attic. When we moved years later, he apparantly 'forgot' and left it in the attic:) oops!

Really looking forward to more on these old incendiaries!!! Thanks!



Hi Jim,

I hope nobody has stumbled across your left back attic bomb meanwhile ... (sarcastic rolleyes, but I do not know how to add that icon).


You asked for more incendiaries, so here they are:

- incendiary quoites (Pechkraenze); there have been several of them in big auction houses over the last years, e.g. Sotheby's, London, 15 Dec 2004

- two heavy clay grenades (Tongranaten) retaining their original black powder filling and even their original wooden fuses containing a small amount of glued powder. One of the fuses is cut in half to make the powder column visible

- a small Thirty Years War iron hand grenade also retaining its original filling and wooden fuse. Note the details of the fuse!


Enjoy those extremely rare pieces!

Best, Michael

Matchlock 21st October 2008 08:15 PM

Mind that the scale is in centimeters!

Michael

Matchlock 21st October 2008 09:20 PM

Are 500 year old incendiaries inert?
 
I tested small quantities of powder etc. from each of my incendiary objects, as well as powder taken out of 550 year old barrels that were still loaded (!).

My experience has shown that the old black fine powder will just sizzle and sparkle a bit but will not flash up like new black powder does.

Humidity does rarely account for it as that powder had been kept under cover and away from the air for centuries. So my theory is that the respective substances (coal, sulfur and saltpeter/nitrate), all constisting only of fine powder particles, have become de-mingled over that long period of time.

As far as I know, the first experiments with thick grained powder were made no earlier than the mid 16th century.

I would like to hear your theories on that, Gentlemen; I am not a chemist.

Michael

M ELEY 22nd October 2008 03:44 AM

Holy cow, Michael! :eek: You really do have some of the rarest things I've ever seen! I wasn't even aware of incendiary quoits! My favorite piece is the 30 Years War grenado with original fuse! Incredible! I've known that the later 18th century bombs had a flattened dimple on the side to keep them from rolling away in combat or in the "fighting top" of a ship, but I never realized that these earlier models had the dimple as well. Thanks so much for posting them. I'll leave your chemistry question alone (not my area).

Matchlock 22nd October 2008 04:13 AM

Incendiary quoites
 
1 Attachment(s)
This is the description from Sotheby's sales catalog of 15 Dec 2004:

Matchlock 22nd October 2008 04:16 AM

Don't they remind one a bit of donuts?! :D

Michael

Jim McDougall 22nd October 2008 06:14 AM

Hi Michael,
Thank you for these fantastic rare items of ordnance! (sorry about the dumb bomb story :) .
Like Mark, I'd never heard of incendiary quoits either, and these items really put perspective into the warfare of the times. Whats really amazing is that these have survived, I've never even seen them in catalogs.
Outstanding material!

All the best,
Jim

M ELEY 22nd October 2008 07:05 AM

Yes, donuts...the kind James Bond would be served! Don't dip in coffee!

Actually, Jim, I enjoyed your story and it's too bad you don't still have that dummy bomb. Sounds very cool. Getting back to incendiaries, I just read an interesting story from a book on Ft Macon (a Civil War fort near Atlantic Beach,NC) called "The last Shot of the Civil War". It seems that during WWII, with all the submarine activity off our coast, the U.S. Army sent down some soldiers from New York to stay at the well-preserved bunker in case of a shore invasion. A large camp was set up, with many of the soldiers staying in the walls of the fort. One cold night, the 'yankee soldiers' decided to start a fire and used an old cannon ball as an andiron.(Not being rude here. I'm a yank myself from Ohio, but have lived in NC for 20 years) The resulting explosion flung men across the room and injured one soldier. Moral of the story- don't use ordinance in a fireplace. Moral #2- Don't anger any old Confederate ghosts! :eek:

Jim McDougall 22nd October 2008 07:24 AM

Thanks Mark! and great story on the cannonball in the fire!!! :)

This is a pretty interesting topic and recalls some of the items you brought up in the pirate discussions, and Gilkerson.

How were these quoits used anyway Michael ?, ignited and launched off a pole or something? I've heard of the grenades but not these.

All the best,
Jim

Matchlock 23rd October 2008 01:22 AM

Hi Jim,

Sotheby's catalog description calls them QUOITES - is QUOITS American or just a modern version?

I have been told that they were set on fire and just thrown down from the town walls to welcome the enemy. As the sulfur and tar are said to splatter all around and make the flesh burn, the result must have been gruesome.

I also heard that they were stuck on poles to shed their light on fests in times of peace.

The are quite common in old German, Austrian and Swiss armories/museums and, as I wrote, sometimes could be purchased at auctions. The prices vary but are approximately 1,500 USD a piece.

I have four quoit(e)s, all of them different. I love them as they smell extremely old and dangerous giving my arms room the singular smell of an old armory. If you have ever been to the Landeszeughaus Graz, Austria, with more than 30,000 16th-17th century weapons you will know what I mean.

A friend of mine has a more quoit(e)s than I and would probably deaccession of one or two. Only the shipping will not be easy as they are rather fragile.
Anyone interested?

All the best to you,
Michael

Jim McDougall 23rd October 2008 04:19 AM

Hi Michael,
Thank you for the explanation on the use of these. The reason the term quoit is so interesting is because it is the term used for the razor sharp discs with open centers typically associated with Sikh warriors who were deadly accurate at launching them . The Hindu term Chakra usually was used until the Sikh application became quoit.

It does sound gruesome with the magma like sulfur and tar, splattering and attaching its molten presence to flesh, reminding me of the instances in less warlike circumstances of roasting marshmallows and accidentally splashed scalding liquid.

I know exactly what you mean with that semi acrid, dank smell which propels a room as you describe into battlement times of long ago.....there is nothing else that can duplicate that wonderful smell....much like that of a room full of really old books!

I have never been to the Landeszeughaus in Graz, but I do have the book about its fantastic collections, and imagine it as a sort of arms paradise.

Thank you for sharing these Michael,

All the best,
Jim

Matchlock 23rd October 2008 05:07 AM

Good mornig, Jim,

It's 6 a.m. in Bavaria and I must find some sleep.

Thank you so much for explaining the semantic derivation of "quoit" - I would never have thought that.

Such highly specified knowledge, together with the high standard of formulating your pointed sentences and using elite structure shows me to things: your wide-range and at the same time manifold top level education (certainly partly self-taught) and your extreme personal energy to accomplish the rest.

Gosh, I wish I had more of your gifts. My arms hobby has made my life too one-dimensional.

Send me some lines again, if you like.

Best wishes,
Michael

Jim McDougall 23rd October 2008 04:24 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Matchlock
Good mornig, Jim,

It's 6 a.m. in Bavaria and I must find some sleep.

Thank you so much for explaining the semantic derivation of "quoit" - I would never have thought that.

Such highly specified knowledge, together with the high standard of formulating your pointed sentences and using elite structure shows me to things: your wide-range and at the same time manifold top level education (certainly partly self-taught) and your extreme personal energy to accomplish the rest.

Gosh, I wish I had more of your gifts. My arms hobby has made my life too one-dimensional.

Send me some lines again, if you like.

Best wishes,
Michael




Michael, I am very deeply honored by these very kind compliments! Thank you! If I may, just say that my only true education has been here, on these forums, and my teachers have been the members here, who like you have openly shared thier weapons, interests and observations.

Actually, the weapons themselves truly teach us, as we seek to find the answers they hold using the often subtle clues they carry. The only knowledge I have has been from following these clues, along with the others in research into nearly every conceivable avenue of history to follow the trail.
I cannot possibly imagine the collecting and studying weapons as being in any way one dimensional, especially those of the stature of those you have shared with us here! You are much too modest Michael, and I believe I speak for everyone in saying we are fortunate to have you with us.

Thank you again! :)

All very best regards,
Jim

fearn 23rd October 2008 06:55 PM

Slightly off-topic, but apropo for this thread:

Last night (10/22/08), Mythbusters, the US TV program, built and fired a korean hwacha, which is basically a mobile platform for launching 200 fire arrows (powered by blackpowder rocket motors, and exploding on impact). It was worth watching, and it looks like it will be broadcast again tonight (10/23) and 11/2 in the US.

Just FYI. It's fun to see these weapons in action.
F

Matchlock 23rd October 2008 11:07 PM

Incediary arrows in Southern Germany, 1442 and 1485
 
4 Attachment(s)
The watercolors are from the 1485 Landshut/Bavaria armory inventory of which I posted some firearms illustrations in another thread.

Note that the arrows have only one point - as Stekemest wrote, a feature preferably characteristic of South German and Austrian quarrel heads. Thank you again, Peter.

The line drawings were done in the 19th century after the famous South German Hauslab manuscript dated 1442, now preserved in The Royal Armories, Leeds. The watercolors illustrating the making of incendiary arrows posted here earlier are from the same ms. Luckily, those two pages of that book were open on display when I took the photos in the Tower in 1990.

Note that the burning mass on two of the arrows is lit, with smoke curling up. The ankle that both crossbow men and harquebusiers are aiming denotes that the projectiles are planned to cross a town wall and set the wooden tiles of the houses on fire - together with ship sails the main purpose of incendiary projectiles.

Michael

Matchlock 26th October 2008 04:25 PM

Clay Grenades of the Thirty Years War
 
4 Attachment(s)
Instead of attaching these, I twice enclosed the picture of the cut open fuse.

Next to the two big gray clay grenades there is the small cast iron hand grenade that I posted above.

There is an interesting story to the clay grenades. Hundreds of them were discovered in the Bavarian city of Ingolstadt in May 1983 when a subterraneous garage was built. The grenades were found alongside the old town wall stored on boards covered with straw, all perfectly preserved in the clay ground - see b/w photos.

As they weigh about 4 kilos each I would not refer to them as hand grenades. Being kept ready and primed along the town wall rather indicates that they were lit and just dropped to explode among the besiegers.

Michael

Matchlock 2nd November 2008 01:13 AM

12 Attachment(s)
More clay grenades of the Thirty Years War, all dug up in Ingolstadt.

I found these pictures on Ebay in November 2007; one image even shows the actual weight of a (comparatively small) grenade: 2,873 kilograms. Some of them were heavily damaged, probably due to the crude teeth of the dredgers.
The fuses are all gone and I doubt whether they had retained their 'fillings' ...

Michael

Matchlock 3rd November 2008 03:21 PM

Incendiary arrows in the Nuremberg castle
 
6 Attachment(s)
Mid 15th century.

They were analyzed and X-rayed a few years ago. The substances of the incendiary mass were found to be almost the same as in the Swiss arrows in the Schweizerisches Landesmuseum Zurich (see my earlier post), with the exception that the outer layer of the Nuremberg arrows is made of tissue.

Mchael

Matchlock 13th November 2008 12:40 PM

Another quoit
 
3 Attachment(s)
Offered by an Italian auction house in June 2008.
Although the estimate was relatively low I think it failed to sell.

Michael

Matchlock 15th November 2008 02:20 PM

Clay grenades in the Veste (castle) Oberhaus, Passau, Eastern Bavaria
 
3 Attachment(s)
17th century, smaller and of much lighter weight than the ones dug up in Ingolstadt.


A huge iron throwing ball for a catapult above and a pair of mid 16th century miniature cannon below.

Michael

Matchlock 4th January 2012 06:35 PM

2 Attachment(s)
Back to incediary arrows:

Their making, from an Alamannic ow Swiss manuscript, ca. 1430.

m

junker 7th January 2012 01:57 PM

Pechkränze
 
3 Attachment(s)
Hi,
in this year there was a great market at the Feste Coburg (Bavaria) and there a couple of people showed military fireworks in late medieval times. Also Pechkränze an lighting bags. I put here some photos of manuscript copies, which i tokk there. Remarkable were the shooting parts which were inserted in these light balls, so that anyone who will put out the Fire is in danger to be shot. They are fabricated out of a simple tube with powder and one (maybe two lead Balls) on top and will fire when the fire inside the Pechkranz will reach them.

The guy made also a book about this topic and it is german and english.
It called "Die Macht des Feuers" ISBN 978-3-87472-089-2

M ELEY 15th January 2012 11:12 AM

Awesome pics of these extremely rare combustibles. It's amazing that even in those days, weapons were designed to do the most damage, even to those trying to put them out. Dare I say 'terrorist tactics'? Would love to have one of them in my maritime collection. Perhaps someday...

Matchlock 15th January 2012 06:40 PM

Hi Marc,

A friend of mine, situated not very far from Coburg, rebuilds these Coburg 'fire bales' (Leuchtballen) as working replicas!!!

Best,
Michael

M ELEY 16th January 2012 01:31 AM

I will definately keep that in mind, Michael. Thank you! I, of course, prefer the real deals, but if I ever get time to teach local workshops at libraries,schools, etc, on maritime weapons, a replica would be great for this.


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