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Fireship (Hardback)

The Terror Weapon of the Age of Sail

Colour Books Maritime > Seaforth Publishing > Seaforth: Wooden Walls

By Peter Kirsch
Seaforth Publishing
Pages: 256
ISBN: 9781848320253
Published: 16th April 2009
Last Released: 17th June 2009



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The fireship was the guided missile of the sailing era. Packed with incendiary (and sometimes explosive) material, it was aimed at its highly inflammable wooden target by volunteers who bailed out into a boat at the last moment. It often missed, but the panic it invariably caused among crews who generally could not swim and had no method of safely abandoning ship did the job for it - the most famous example being the attack off Gravelines in 1588 which led to the rout of the Spanish Armada.

Although it was a tactic used in antiquity, its successful revival in the Armada campaign led to the adoption of the fireship as an integral part of the fleet. During the seventeenth century increasingly sophisticated 'fireworks' were designed into purpose-built ships, and an advance doctrine was worked out for their employment. Fireship reveals the full impact of the weapon on naval history, looks at the technology and analyses the reasons for its decline.

This is the first history of a potent, much used but little understood weapon.

It would be hard for anyone to write a better book on fireships than this one.

Read the full review here.

Hellbound - Steve Earles

This is a fine book about a relitively little-known aspect of naval warfare, and is full of surprises.

Fascinating detailed information on the internal conversions of fireships, and the disposition of the combustibles and fuses of fireships.

The book is well produced and well illustrated. A most interesting piece of research.

The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, 2011

Some achievement for only his second book! Highly recommended.

The Nautical Magazine

The book is lavishly illustrated, with some very impressive double-page spreads. Hardly any page is without a picture or diagram of some sort, each well chosen to illustrate the text.

This is a very impressive piece of work – a high quality monograph that does full justice to its subject. Kirsch has produced an essential read for anyone interested in naval warfare in the age of sail.

 Peter Kirsch

About Peter Kirsch

Peter Kirsch is a German ship enthusiast and modelmaker. Educated at Heidelberg University Peter is a practicing dentist and freelances as a historian. His previous book The Galleon was published both here and in the US and Germany. He has contributed to many periodicals and publications and is an active member of a number of maritime associations.

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