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Why is the famious patent on manufacturing smokless powder by H S Maxim US number 0430212 not mentioned? I thought it was the first to add Acitone to Powder B? here is the link to the US version of the patent Windshadow 02:51, 4 June 2006 (UTC)

Thanks for the link, I could not get it open, I'll try again later. The answer is simple, Cordite is not Poudre B. They are both smokeless powders, but Cordite was used and developed in Britain as a double-base propellant; whereas Poudre B is a single-base propellant. The USA did not use Cordite (and probably still does not); that was one of the problems in World War II, the USA's propellants were totally different to the UK's, the USA did not want to use double-base propellant, they used single-base propellants. Maxim's was a US patent and is not valid in the UK; he would need to take out a UK Patent. I suspect he did not, as the legal action in the UK was between Abel/Dewar and Nobel; if Maxim had a valid UK Patent why did he not seek to enforce it? Pyrotec 09:32, 4 June 2006 (UTC)

What types of explosives use cordite? I'd like to see a list of missiles, bombs, ammunition, and other explosives that use cordite. Fresheneesz 23:48, 8 May 2006 (UTC)

Re your comment on Cordite.

My first thought was that you had misinterpreted the article, my second thought was perhaps the article needed clarifying.

Assuming that you had misinterpreted the article I would say that Cordite is properly classed as an Explosive for legal and transport reasons, but we don't wish to use it as an explosive, i.e. we don't wish it to go bang.

It is used as a propellant. In guns (fire arms, to battle tanks, to naval guns) a charge of cordite (bagged, brass cartridge case, cardboard case, or combustible charge case, depending on the weapon and the date it was designed) is used to propel a bullet or shell (depending on size of gun) up the barrel. In rockets (cordite was first used in WW II for Anti-Aircraft use) the cordite propels the rocket. The Space shuttle, for example, is lifted on a combination of liquid propellants and solid booster rockets - but its not Cordite.

This is why the various editors of Cordite and Smokeless powders (but not some much in Cordite) talk about grains, grain geometry, burning rates, regular burning characteristics, etc. For Cordite (not in article) burning rates are in the range of several inches per second down to several seconds per inch (centimetres can be used if you prefer). A high explosive detonates about 7 to 8 kilometres per second, only in the movies can people out-run it.

Welcome your comments. Without being unkind, an article on petrol (gasolene) would not be expected to list all the cars and vans it could be used in, thus I'm not sure it would be a good ideal to list every gun or rocket that used cordite. Welcome comments on the way to proceed.

Regards Pyrotec 08:42, 9 May 2006 (UTC)

I understand where you're comming from, and perhaps this page isn't a good place for such a list. However, I personally would be interested in perhaps seeing a link to such a list in the See also section.
So cordite isn't usually used as an explosive, but rather as a propellant? The fact that it is never used as a detonation explosive could be mentioned more boldly (if thats right?). Also it would be nice if the specifications of cordite could be tabulated for this page. Comments? Fresheneesz 10:13, 9 May 2006 (UTC)
There is some scope for Copyedit / expansion, which I might start today. I'm intrigued by the picture - looks like scrap ammunition dumped at sea, could be very dangerous. Stenciled information on the side, if it exists could link cordite back to filling factory and explosive ROF. Pyrotec 11:32, 9 May 2006 (UTC)

medicial/biosafety aspects of cordite?

cordite can reportedly be deliberately eaten (in small quantities) with no permanent ill effects. This supposedly has made it useful in the past as a field-expedient emetic and a superfically appearance-altering agent, almost immediately producing a strong grayish pallor, intense nausea, and a general appearance of ill health that may be useful in making someone appear older than they really are, (cf. end portion of The Day of the Jackal by Fredrick Forsyth, assassin eats cordite to help disguise self). The cramps, nausea and other symptoms caused by administration of cordite have repordedly be used as part of torture and dehumanization efforts used on soldiers, possibly eaten in unethical attempts to toughen them and inure them to pain and suffering. (see reference to eating cordite in computer came Metal Gear Solid 2 If this true, more than one coutry may have used the technique.

I have no knowledge about its use for torture. The rest of your comments about ill-heath are probably accurate; so the first point about no permanent ill effects is probably incorrect. Deliberately eating of cordite, and other explosives, is unwise. Pyrotec 17:26, 29 June 2006 (UTC)

Nearly Incoherent[edit]

How do you put one of those "really needs to be cleaned up" flags at the top of an article? This needs one. --Skidoo 20:44, 26 December 2006 (UTC)

Done. I fixed the really weird sentence in the first paragraph, but there's a lot more stuff going on that's ambiguous (factually, grammatically and syntactically), and the article is just really messy in general. I didn't know whether to tag it as unclear or in need of copy-editing or what, so I just put a general cleanup tag on. Dextrose 04:33, 10 April 2007 (UTC)

Not in use any more[edit]

"Cordite is now obsolete." It's a bit stupid to say this without mentioning (and providing a link) to what replaced it. Anyone know? ANTIcarrot 11:19, 4 May 2007 (UTC)

Well yes I do. The statement is factual, Cordite has not been made in the UK, to my knowledge, in the 21st century. However, as youre question is rudely worded I will not be providing you with an answer. Pyrotec 13:10, 4 May 2007 (UTC)
It's also a bit stupid to get pissy and whiny about a question not directed at you. Cordite was replaced with traditional smokeless powder, either stick or ball type depending on the application.<un-signed comment by Special:Contributions/>

Lot of nonsense. Cordite (ie double base propellant) in UK service lasted until WW2 ammo stocks were expended. Triple based propellant started being used in WW2 and after that war were used in all new ammo desings (presumably not smallarms). Triple based propellants remain in UK service, although the current manufacturing contracts are with a German company. Future large calibre propellants in UK service are likely to be the newer types of propelant that have appeard in the last decade or so, they use an RDX type explosive instead of nitroglycerine (this is probably connected with the regulations for insensitive munitions).Nfe (talk) 06:54, 10 January 2012 (UTC)

Fiction references[edit]

I was looking at the fiction references, and I have a hard time seeing that most of them have any actual relevance to Cordite. I think they'd be more appropriate on the corresponding articles than here. Arthurrh 01:04, 31 July 2007 (UTC)

Agree. Killed it. Thernlund (Talk | Contribs) 21:27, 20 August 2007 (UTC)

The Day of the Jackal reference refers to the following meaning of fatigues, and i have adjusted the wording to match this. menial non-military tasks performed by a soldier, sometimes as a punishment. "we're on cookhouse fatigues, sir" synonyms: menial work, drudgery, chores, donkey work; More a group of soldiers ordered to do menial tasks. noun: fatigue party; plural noun: fatigue parties — Preceding unsigned comment added by 2001:8003:F029:801:6129:A92E:509F:18DD (talk) 10:59, 17 October 2018 (UTC)

Health affects[edit]

I, for one, was hoping this article would include the health effects. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:07, 24 October 2013 (UTC)


The article makes no comment about how safe the explosives were against accidental detonation. This was a claimed issue in the sinking of various warships following fires and I came here to find out. Can you set it off with a cigaarette, or not, or what is required? Sandpiper (talk) 08:18, 4 July 2008 (UTC)

By the way, I just read the discussion at the top of this page explaining that cordite is a propellant, not an explosive and what the difference is. This is absolutely not clear from the article. Rather, the article talks about the explosives committee looking at foreign developments in explosives and then developing its own version, obviously an explosive itself. It is not clear that the whole idea is something slow burning is wanted.
However, It must also be the case that the material is an explosive. I am not sure what the burning rate of old fashioned gunpowder is, also I think used as a propellant in rockets at least historically, but there was a lovely recent demonstration on TV re-enacting blowing up the houses of parliament (except actually doing it to their mockup), where their tame experts were themselves rather surprised how effective the gunpowder was. The secret, apparently, was to contain the burning explosive for as long as possible so that it got going nicely before the explosion dispersed it. Sandpiper (talk) 11:25, 4 July 2008 (UTC)
Cordite is legally and chemically an explosive but it is not used as a detonating explosive; neither was (old fashioned) gunpowder. Detonation involves burning rates with a preceding shock wave of (typically) 1 to 9 kilometres per second; and neither cordite nor gunpowder can accidentally be made to detonate, with e.g. a cigarette; but both can be made to ignite, which is why cigarettes, matches, etc, are banned in explosives factories and ammunition depots, and during transportation. I will look at your comments and see what can be done to clarify the article; however, I can find no claims or statements in the article that cordite is not an explosive. I saw the programme too, there was two, one I think by the BBC and one by Channel 4 (?).Pyrotec (talk) 11:57, 4 July 2008 (UTC)
Unfortunately a modicum of intelligence is required on the part of the reader. Gun/rifle/rocket, etc, propellants are designed to propel bullets or shells out of rifles, guns, etc, propel rockets, etc. Propellants are designed not to detonate under normal use, otherwise they could shatter and destroy the weapon being fired and kill the person(s) using it. Propellants, such as cordite, gunpowder, ballistite, smokeless powder are (low) explosives; but not all explosives are designed to detonate. I'm not necessary convinced that specifying this level of detail between high and low explosives is needed in Cordite; some of the problems are due to sloppy use of technical terms by the general public, e.g. detonation instead of "explode" or "ignite". Also, it would be self-defeating to use detonating explosives (i.e. high explosives) to quarry marble or other building stones, even coal, if the end product was a high velocity cloud of dust and shattered rock; and it is only in the movies that people can outrun a detonating building. The point about the blowing up of the House of Parliament recreation is that the walls moved / building demolished - and that can be done with a few psi (pounds per square inch) pressure difference across the two faces of the brick wall; and roofs can be stripped at lower pressures (6 to 11 psi is quoted by Peter Laurie (1979). Beneath the city Street to move/demolish building walls). The weakest point was the wooden floor of the chamber above. Provided the floor held long enough, the pressure could build up sufficiently to push the walls outwards.Pyrotec (talk) 12:58, 4 July 2008 (UTC)
Well, I'm not thick and I did not understand that when the article starts off using the word 'propellant' it is therefore implying this is a particular kind of explosive, as you now say a low explosive as compared to a high explosive. You can't write an encyclopedia article and argue it is the fault of the public being thick that they do not understand it. That somewhat makes a nonsense of having one at all. To be technical, I would say the article contravenes one of the wikirules on forming articles, that if a technical word is used which must be understood by the reader, particularly in an introduction, then it isn't good enough just to link it, it does need to be explained. I quite understand that when writing an article it is very easy, because you understand what's in it, to imagine readers will too. Hell, I have a physics degree. Admittedly not a chemistry one, but I didn't get the point. I discovered something about cordite and the meaning of what a propellant is from reading the talk page. I would regard this as relevant information. It was something relevant to my enquiry in coming here. My initial question/comment was posted after reading the article but before reading the chat page. I don't recall the article mentioning high or low explosives, or really where cordite fits on that scale.
Are we reading the same article - The first sentence starts off Smokeless propellant, its the sixth word and it is wikilinked? The sentence also states that cordite was used as a replacement for gunpowder as a military propellant. The second paragraph in gunpowder states

"Gunpowder is classified as a low explosive because of its slow decomposition rate and consequently low brisance. Low explosives produce a subsonic deflagration wave rather than the supersonic detonation wave produced by brisants, or high explosives. The gases produced by burning gunpowder generate enough pressure to propel a bullet, but not enough to destroy the barrel of a firearm. This makes gunpowder less suitable for shattering rock or fortifications, where high explosives such as TNT are preferred."

The cordite article is all about explosives and it talks about the Explosives Committee. Follow the link to Explosive, read Chemical explosives and it states that there are two kinds of explosions: Deflagration and Detonation - that is what dictionaries/encyclopedias are for, they explain words! Cordite does not mention detonation, you seem to made a link between cordite and detonations.Pyrotec (talk) 23:15, 5 July 2008 (UTC)
No, you are missing the point. People do not follow links if they think they understand something, or at least understand it well enough to know what is meant. I understand what propellant means. It means something which propels. What I did not understand is that there is a technical implication of the use of this word which distinguishes it from an explosive. I naively assume a propellant is just an explosive being used to propel instead of burst open, which gross generalisation I still think is correct. An article must not assume that people will flick to a new page every time they cross a link, just on the off chance they misuderstand exactly what a word means in context. Articles can't be written assuming people will behave in such a non-human way. We all have better things to do than read every single cross referenced wiki article explaining every single word before we get to the end of the article we wanted to read. If it is possible for a reader not experienced in that field to read an article and end up with the wrong impression, then there is a problem with that article. someone has boobytrapped it. Sandpiper (talk) 21:04, 6 July 2008 (UTC)
Now done.Pyrotec (talk) 20:28, 7 July 2008 (UTC)
In the context of sinking ships, the difficulty seems to have been cordite (or the german equivalent) being ignited inside a turret Specifically the fire then travelling to the ammunition stores. The explosive shells might have contained a different higher explosive, I don't know. In any event quits a lot of cordite would then be burning in a solid steel box with a relatively small opening in it. This sounds reasonably akin to the kegs of gunpowder used in the demo demolition. The comment I read said that after ww1 the powers that be examined the german shell propellant, which was more difficult to ignite (can't remember, possibly cigarette proof?) and introduced an amended cordite. This would seem to imply that different variants of cordite would have different safety margins. Sandpiper (talk) 21:11, 5 July 2008 (UTC)
Germany started using Poudre B in 1888 and two French battleships blew up, the latest being in 1911. So accidents to WWI German ships don't imply that different variants of cordite have different safety margins - the German's did not use Cordite in WW I or WW II. The explosive charge in the shell, in contrast to the propellant charge that fires the shell up the barrel, is a high explosive. Cooking high explosives, contained in a shell, in a fire, can cause detonation of the shell's high explosive charge. The firing pressures in the breech of large naval gun can be of the order of 20 ton/sq in with cordite; and "cooking" sealed cordite charges in boxes can cause ignition. As a physicist you should be able to appreciate that closed steel box containing burning cordite (typically producing over 1,000 Calories/gramme of energy), whose burning rate increases with temperature, and is capable of producing 20 tons/sq in pressure under ambient temperature conditions is rather nasty. It may not detonate, but the box is certainly going to burst and produce shrapnel, noise, fire and heat. If you look at HMS Vanguard (1909), for instance, the ship was lost in 1917 due to the effects of heat, through a bulkhead, cooking off cordite. So in short, a ship could be lost due to the damage caused by burning cordite; but it could also be caused by the high explosives in the shells detonating. Chemical stability is mentioned in Smokeless propellant, but its not yet in Cordite; but your question was not about chemical stability, it was about accident detonation with a cigarette. The answer is cordite will not accidentally detonate with a cigarette, but it can be ignited; gunpowder is spark sensitive so that could cause a loss of the ship.Pyrotec (talk) 23:15, 5 July 2008 (UTC)
I will quote an extract from a history of the battle of jutland (which is being argued about elsewhere from a slightly different standpoint), which was itself based upon the report of hte commanding admiral jellicoe: It was conjectured that the fire had spread from the gun-house to the working chamber via the electric cables as they were the only things burnt as opposed to blistered or blackened. All that is certain, however, is that a smouldering fire in the gun-house spread in some manner to the working chamber and ignited the charges there. The effect of the ignition of the eight charges that were between the handing room and 4ft above the working chamber, was very violent, although vented by the absence of part of the turret roof, and by the handing room hatch being open. The flame went as high as the mastheads, and 'Q' magazine bulkheads were considerably buckled and bulged inwards although supported by the water in the magazine which had probably by then been completely flooded. from the way this continues, they are talking about cordite charges, not shells. Whether or not cordite is technically an explosive, it seems quite acceptable as an effective one. Sandpiper (talk) 09:55, 7 July 2008 (UTC)
Cordite is indisputably a powerful propellant. When initiated, it rapidly generates a large volume of high-pressure gas. This propels shells through a cannon, it equally well buckles and bulges strong bulkheads. To be a "high explosive" it would have to generate a supersonic shock wave. The Jutland evidence can equally well be used to demonstrate that the cordite did not undergo a high-order explosion. The damage showed clear signs of blast overpressure, but didn't show the shockwave induced shearing that would have unabiguously indicated high order detonation. As to being a low explosive (i.e. a subsonic shockwave), then it's even vaguer and you have to define your terms before using them. Whether it is or isn't such an explosive depends on how close you're standing to it and how adamantine your pedantry is. It's an "explosive" (as is black powder) for all commonplace and practical meanings of the term. Claiming that it wasn't strictly one is likely true, but of interest only to the most narrow and specialised of terminolgy. I don't see that as wiki's main audience (and is quite capable of having its own more sophisticated sources anyway). Andy Dingley (talk) 11:38, 7 July 2008 (UTC)

As I've pointed out elsewhere in relation the Lion "Q" turret incident mentioned in the quote from Campbell above, eight full charges were found not to have exploded when eight did, which is as Andy Dingley says another example which "can equally well be used to demonstrate that the cordite did not undergo a high-order explosion". --Harlsbottom (talk | library) 08:36, 9 July 2008 (UTC)


Anyone know if cordite/Cordite is actually a proper noun? The section describing its development indicates that it's not a trade name, or named after a person, so I think it should be cordite. Unless there's a qualified objection, I'll sort it out soon. Cheers, Freestyle-69 (talk) 21:57, 7 January 2009 (UTC)

Usage from the technical articles I have is for it to not be capitalised, unless it's the name of a type, such as Cordite Mark I, Cordite SC and so on. The OED doesn't capitalise it. --Harlsbottom (talk | library | book reviews) 22:13, 7 January 2009 (UTC)
Cheers. It seems that although it started off as some sort of formal name/trade name, it has progressed into a generic name. I've de-capitalised all except for the "type" names, such as Cordite SC etc. Freestyle-69 (talk) 22:11, 25 March 2009 (UTC)

Vasoline vs petrolium jelly[edit]

Why use the trade name "Vasoline" and not the generic "petroleum jelly"? Victor.Sac (talk) 20:47, 18 March 2012 (UTC)

What is cordite?[edit]

I get the idea that it is some kind of smokeless powder that isn't used anymore. OK, but why is one kind of smokeless powder cordite and another kind of smokeless powder isn't. Is it because cordite is manufactured in strings? Does everything in the cordite family have the same chemical composition? The lede mentions double and triple based cordite. What does that mean? I realize that this is defined a bit further down but if an obscure term is worth mentioning in the lede it is worth mentioning what it is in the lede also.

Why was cordite manufactured in strings if it was? The article is a tad ambiguous on whether it was used in WWII. It says "term cordite generally disappeared from official publications between the wars." Does this mean that people just didn't talk about it anymore but that they still used it under a different name? The article goes on to say, "However, during World War II double based propellants were very widely used and there was some use of triple based propellants by artillery." Does this mean that all double based propellants and triple based propellants were kinds of cordite or that double and triple based cordite was used during WWII or that something like double and triple based cordite was used in WWII but it wasn't exactly cordite?

Overall, with respect, this article has some good information but it is loaded with ambiguity and esoteric terminology that isn't adequately explained. --Davefoc (talk) 08:13, 13 December 2012 (UTC)

Some good points, well made. The main problem is that information has been added to the Lede that does not appear in the body of the article with the result that the lede is bloated and non-compliant with WP:Lead. Most, but not all of your questions can be answered by stating that cordite was a "family" of proprietary specifications and the (UK) government both bought it from "trade suppliers", and made it for itself, to those specifications. Ballistite, for example, was a proprietary set of specifications for similar but not identical materials that was owned by Nobel Industries. Both can be described as smokeless powders. You've possibly heard of Foster's Lager and Heineken brands, they are both beers/lagers, but would you seriously argue that all lagers are Foster's. I will copy edit the article, but its likely to be early in 2013. Pyrotec (talk) 16:49, 13 December 2012 (UTC)


I uploaded a video of burning cordite, but it has some obnoxious noises in the background. Would be great if someone could make it silent. Thanks! — Preceding unsigned comment added by Fhbarfield (talkcontribs) 18:31, 26 June 2014 (UTC)

Worldwide perspective tag[edit]

I'm of the opinion the worldwide perspective tag may be removed from this article. In the realm of nitrocellulose propellants, the term cordite may be uniquely applied to the cord-like form in which it was manufactured. In British English, the term has been more widely applied to all nitrocellulose propellants. I question the implication that British English usage should cause this article to encompass the entire technology of nitrocellulose propellants, although present mention of parallel historical developments is entirely appropriate to an understanding of international perspectives. Thewellman (talk) 21:56, 9 January 2017 (UTC)

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