When was gunpowder first used?

It was the Chinese again who first started using gunpowder in warfare. By the year 1232, the Chinese had discovered black powder (gunpowder) and had learned to use it to make explosive bombs as well as propelling forces for rockets. Drawings made in military documents later show powder rockets tied to arrows and spears.

When the Mongols laid siege to the city of K’ai-feng, the capital of Honan province, the Chinese defenders used weapons that were described as ‘arrows of flying fire’. In the same battle, it is reported, the defenders dropped from the walls of the city a kind of bomb described as ‘heaven-shaking thunder’.

In the same century rockets appeared in Europe. There is indication that their first use was by the Mongols in the Battle of Legnica in 1241. The Arabs are also reported to have used rockets in 1249.

Fact File

Guy Fawkes is best known for his efforts to blow up the Parliament building in England in England, in 1605. This became known as the ‘Gunpowder Plot’. His plan, however, was foiled and he was consequently arrested on 4 November, 1605.


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