Wednesday, March 12, 2014

16th Century Rocket Cats – yep, really…

It’s the 16th century and you’re plotting to crush a peasant rebellion, or leading an army against the Ottoman Empire or looking to settle the score with a rival nobleman. Where do you turn to gain a tactical edge?

Why rocket cats, of course!

Illustrations from a circa-1530 manual on artillery and siege warfare show jetpacks strapped to the backs of cats and doves, with the German-language text helpfully advising military commanders to use them to "set fire to a castle or city which you can't get at otherwise."

The treatise in question was written by artillery master Franz Helm of Cologne, who was believed to have fought in several skirmishes against the Turks in south-central Europe at a time when gunpowder was changing warfare.

Circulated widely and illustrated by multiple artists, Helm's manual is filled with all sorts of strange and terrible imagery, from bombs packed with shrapnel to missile-like explosive devices studded with spikes - and those weaponized cats and birds.

According to the translation, Helm explained how animals could be used to deliver incendiary devices: "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."

In other words, capture a cat from enemy territory, attach a bomb to its back, light the fuse and then hope it runs back home and starts a raging fire.

There is no historical record that anyone actually used this harebrained idea, something I am sure makes cat lovers a little more comfortable.

One historian summed it up very well: "It seems like a really terrible idea, and very unlikely the animals would run back to where they came from. More likely they'd set your own camp on fire."

Today’s Reflection:
You can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do…

Live Long and Prosper…

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