Rocket Cats

13 May 2014 by gebhard, 1 Comment »

Franz_Helm_man_loading_a_cannonAre you at the end of a long campaign? Do you long to see home and loved ones, but your King has demanded you take this one last keep before you can return? Are you expecting your siege to last until winter?

We in Landshut, conveniently located in the Duchy of Bavaria, understand your needs. Under the expert guidance of master “shooter, cannonier and fireworker” Franz Helm, we will ship an order of “Rocket Cats”. That’s right “Rocket Cats”. You’ll be sitting on your new throne in record time.

If your order before the next full moon, we’ll throw in “rocket birds” for no additional charge!

Why wait until Spring? Order your “Rocket Cats” today!


Are Rocket cats real? No, not really, but the real story behind rocket cats does not improve their position much.

Franz Helm (1500–1567) was an artillery master who lived and worked in what is now Germany in the first half of the 16th century. He has two surviving manuscripts, however they have been copied by different people at different times. In days before photocopiers, people did their best to re-create text drawings by hand. This leads to a lot of variation between copies.

Buch von den probierten Künsten (“Book of the practical arts”) outlined everything an ‘ideal’ armoury should have and how it should be constructed. I know what you’re thinking: How could the man who invented rockets have a bad idea? It is unclear if anyone followed his advice, on rocket cats or anything else.

Franz_Helm_rocket_cat_full_page_1The second manuscript is Armamentarium principale oder Kriegsmunition und Artillerie-Buch (“Principles of armament, or book of war munitions and artillery”)

The picture included in this blog is from “Buch von den probierten Künsten” (1520), however this version is a copy made in 1584 and given to Duke Albert V. It is currently located at the University of Pennsylvania.

The book’s primary goal is to cover the history of gunpowder, artillery, and explosives. It also provides instructions to artillery masters on how to construct weapons, aim guns, and manufacture various explosives.
It seems crazy a master cannoneer would want to strap a rocket to the back of a cat, and launch it a castle. However, the following passage gives us the truth of his intent. (Armamentarium principale oder Kriegsmunition und Artillerie-Buch (Frankfurt a.M., 1625), p.48)

“To set fire to a castle or city which you can’t get at otherwise (do the following)….”

“Create a small sack like a fire-arrow … if you would like to get at a town or castle, seek to obtain a cat from that place. And bind the sack to the back of the cat, ignite it, let it glow well and thereafter let the cat go, so it runs to the nearest castle or town, and out of fear it thinks to hide itself where it ends up in barn hay or straw it will be ignited.” (translated by Mitch Fraas)”

I’m sure any cat owner could attest, if your livelihood is based on herding a cat that is on fire, you are in for a bad day.

rocketcat1There is no proof this method of feline delivered incinery devices has ever been used. However, the medieval period is not alone in coming up with such crazy devices.

The US government experimented with small, timed incendiary bombs attached Mexican Free-Tailed Bats during WWII. A bomber would fly in at dawn and drop a crate of bats. A parachute would deploy mid-drop and release them. In theory, they would go to roost in the attcs of nearby buildings, and start fires at a later point. Fortunately this was never done on a large scale.

As they say, those who do not learn from the past are doomed to strap an firepot on a mammal.

 

 


Bat Bombers:
http://web.archive.org/web/20080531082803/http://www.afa.org/magazine/1990/1090bat.html

Helm, Franz, approximately 1500-1567 – Feuer Buech
http://dla.library.upenn.edu/dla/medren/detail.html?id=MEDREN_1580451

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One Comment

  1. Konrad Mailander says:

    There is a submission in progress that has a grenade on the back of a cat. I forget which kingdom.

Leave a Reply to Konrad Mailander


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