In this day and age we are used to seeing computerised, remote controlled weapons in use. You know the ones, those missiles that stop at the lights, indicate then decide whether to enter a building through the window or letterbox. We have night sights, can fire artillery for further than the eye can see and have intercontinental capabilities. In the past there have been some rather strange attempts to utilise technologies of the time. Here’s a selection of some of the weird weapons that paved the way.
The Fire Lance
The Fire Lance is a pretty clever piece of kit. As the Ancient Chinese developed their use of gunpowder, they also sought to make use of it in warfare. The Fire Lance was one such method.Simply strap some bamboo to a spear; pack it with sand; add gunpowder; light it and whoosh… an Ancient flamethrower. Sounds clever until you figure out that bamboo burns… a fairly innovative but weird weapon.
Doesn’t this one look fantastic. It’s the sort of weapon you’d expect to see in Arabian Nights films. Despite it’s pretty cool appearance this was unwieldy as the design took away the type of balance that a swordsman would want to have whilst using the weapon. It’s better off being used as a tin opener!
The Chakram looks a bit like a frisby doesn’t it. Only it has sharpened edges and you really don’t want to play catch with it. Chakram’s varied in size, often up to a foot in diameter. They were usually thrown with the Chakram fling vertically (ie upright) rather horizontally (as you would throw as Frisbee). Seems a little odd that something like a Frisbee would be used in warfare but they had a number of advantages: first they could be stacked in piles that were easy to access – so you could literally be throwing one after the other; they were quite light, so transporting them was relatively easy; they’re virtually silent, so are ideal for surprise attacks. This type of weapon is more an unexpected than plain weird. Highly effective in the right hands.
The Lantern Shield
The last example for this post – there are hundreds of weird weapons so this theme will be revisited – is possibly the weirdest bit of military equipment I have come across to date.
The Lantern Shield is well, a shield that has a Lantern built into it. Oh, and spikes, and blades and a few more spikes and.. well, it varied but usually the Lantern Shield had a flap in the centre which covered a Lantern. At night a guard could lift the flap, light the lantern and quite happily patrol with the aid of some light. Many of the surviving Lantern Shields have blades attached to them. Some protrude straight out of the front of the shield, so that it could be thrust forward as a stabbing weapon, whilst others have blades coming out of the side of the shield, so that it could be swung around and used as a cutting weapon. I can’t help but thinking that this shield would have been incredibly awkward to use in combat. On the plus side, at last the guard had a light to help him see where he was going. One of the weirdest and most cumbersome weapons around.
The Roman Gladiators used a variety of weapons in combat. During the First World War weapons were improvised as a result of Trench Warfare. The Vietcong used new and quite different techniques as part of their Guerilla Warfare campaigns. During the Cold War the advances in Nuclear Weapons were accompanied with the development of tools for espionage, spy planes and missiles such as the ones placed on Cuba.