The Terror Weapon of the Age of Sail
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.Hellbound - Steve Earles
Read the full review here.
This is a fine book about a relitively little-known aspect of naval warfare, and is full of surprises.The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, 2011
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.
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.www.historyofwar.org
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.