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Le Prieur rockets attached to a Nieuport aircraftLe Prieur Rockets
Updated - Saturday, 17 August, 2002

The Le Prieur rocket comprised an incendiary rocket for use by fighter aircraft as a means of bringing down enemy airships and observation balloons.

Invented by Frenchman Lieutenant Yves Le Prieur the solid-fuel stick-guided rocket was first deployed during the Battle of Verdun in April 1916 when four rockets were attached to each strut of a Nieuport fighter aircraft and fired through steel tubes.

The Belgian Willy Coppens (a noted 'Balloon Buster') and Englishman Albert Ball made use of La Prieur rockets until the advent of incendiary Pomeroy bullets the following year made bringing down enemy balloons easier.

Le Prieur rockets were fired electrically, although their inaccuracy was such that pilots were generally required to fly within some 125 yards of their target before firing the rockets, which necessitated steep manoeuvres in order for the pilot to avoid colliding with the enemy balloon during the attack.

Although successful in its aim of destroying enemy observation balloons no Zeppelin airship was ever brought down by a Le Prieur rocket despite the best efforts of the British home defence service.  The rockets were eventually withdrawn from service in 1918 once incendiary bullets had established themselves.

In slang a "beetle" was a landing craft for 200 men.


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© Michael Duffy 2000-06, SafeSurf Rated