Gunpowder and Glory

The Explosive Life of Frank Brock OBE

Harry Smee, Henry Macrory

The previously untold story of Frank Brock - a remarkable forerunner of James Bond and ‘Q' combined - and his extraordinary contribution to the British war effort between 1914 and 1918 as an inventor, secret agent and combatant.
Publication date:
March 2020
Publisher :
Casemate Publishers
Illustration :
Ca. 70 images
Format Available     Quantity Price
ISBN : 9781612008448

Dimensions : 229 X 152 mm
In Stock

Regular Price: £25.00

Special price £20.00

Also available digitally:
Buy From Amazon Amazon
Buy From Apple Apple
Buy From Barnes and Noble Barnes & Noble
Buy From Kobo Kobo

Casemate will earn a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking a link here


• Frank Brock was the epitome of Boy's Own heroism, a daring intelligence agent and a skilled inventor
• The first German airship shot down was destroyed by the 'Brock Bullet'
• Brock's artificial fog was a crucial aspect to the attack on Zeebrugge in 1918
• During that battle he died in hand-to-hand combat and is buried in Zeebrugge

Picture a daredevil combatant, secret agent and brilliant inventor all rolled into one. Such a man was pyrotechnical genius Frank Brock, a scion of the famous firework family and one of Britain's great, unsung heroes. A remarkable combination of James Bond and ‘Q', Frank was killed in action one hundred years ago. His story has never been told before, yet he made an extraordinary contribution to the British war effort between 1914 and 1918, saving thousands of lives. Frank could easily have been the template for 007. A heavyweight boxer, rugby player and brilliant shot, he uniquely held commissions in all three branches of the armed services - army, navy and air force - during the First World War. As an inventor he ended Germany's dream of air supremacy with his pioneering Brock Bullet. A year later he helped prevent German domination of the Channel by inventing giant flares which lit up the sea at night and forced U-boats into deep mine fields. It did not end there. As a secret agent he dashed to France on his wedding day, rowed across a lake into enemy territory, and prepared the ground for the world's first strategic bombing raid - ordered by Winston Churchill - on a Zeppelin base in southern Germany. Later, as a combatant, he played a leading role in one of the war's most daring naval raids - a raid only made possible because of the artificial fog heinvented to mask the attacking vessels.

Gunpowder and Glory tells more than Frank's remarkable story of invention and derring-do. Woven into the narrative is the dazzling history of Brock's Fireworks, the world-famous firm started by Frank's five-times great-grandfather, and which he was being groomed to run.


...highly recommended. It is hard to imagine what a display with 50,000 sq feet of set pieces would be like. It brings home what an amazing cultural history we have in the UK with fireworks.
Fireworks Discussion Forum

In places, Brock's own life reads so fantastical you might think Rudyard Kipling had invented it, but all was true. […] This is a story well told.
Muster Magazine

Brock was both an ingenious inventor and man of action - a man who well deserves this well written and illustrated biography authored by his grandson and a journalist.
Garrison Library

The style of his death during the Zeebrugge raid in April 1918 is something which reflects the way his lived his life and can be summed up in one word ‘extraordinary'

Accessibly and attractively written . . . a fascinating story of one of the most amazing figures in the history of the Royal Navy and a recommended read.
Navy News

...a very well-written and gripping book partly on a global fireworks company and partly on apparently one of the most critical persons on the British side in WWI.
International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence

Gunpowder & Glory is an excellent addition . . a beautifully crafted book . . which conveys the huge Brock enterprise . . . and quite rightly includes many of the old photographs, particularly the incredibly convincing heads of famous people. . . . The modern firework displays are fast moving with a larger net explosive content . . . . but more limited in style. As we read about the famous displays at the Crystal Palace and the pleasure that they obviously gave, we must not forget them.
Fireworks Magazine

There is something of the ripping yarn about it, and with the descriptions of Frank Brock as a "…daredevil combatant, secret agent and brilliant inventor…. pyrotechnical genius, one of Britain's great, unsung heroes….” plus the lurid cover, I felt that I was in for an enjoyable read. I wasn't wrong.
Naval Review

Gunpowder & Glory is a glorious book to read, told at a racing pace and well-illustrated. This is a must read book.
Warships International

A book that reads like fascinating dinner conversation... Frank lived at a time when it was possible — and men, at any rate, were encouraged — to be more than one thing... He should have been in a lab somewhere, cooking up another bullet, another light ... Today, he surely would be suitably contained, his efforts efficiently channelled, his spirit carefully and surgically broken.
The Spectator

Admiral Keyes, in trying to dissuade him from taking part in the raid, had told Brock beforehand that his genius for inventions was just too valuable. Unfortunately, it was not in the nature of this unique individual to listen.

"The real life Q and Bond all rolled into one... the first biography of a man whose initials appropriately spelt FAB.”
RAF News

A fascinating and engaging biography that will add depth and colour to any Great War Guide's knowledge.

A fascinating combination of military and corporate history. This fascinating book does a good job of telling their story.
Baird Maritime

Frank Brock is a hero whose story needs to be told.
The Globe and Laurel

Written in a very readable rollicking style of Wing Commander Frank Brock OBE, a quite extraordinary character who made a unique and special contribution in World War I… It provides a fascinating and at times a gripping read and is certainly well recommended.

This very readable book has many connections with the subcontinent, and the story of fireworks and their role as entertainment and spectacle over the centuries is a bonus.

It is a fascinating story in its own right! This is a great book, easy to read and with much background information useful for wargamers. Brock himself is larger than life and an astonishing figure; strongly recommended.
Miniature Wargames

The first biography of Frank Brock, one of Sutton's most famous residents, has just been published.
Sutton Voice

..its fascinating dust cover is based on a Brock's poster for the Crystal Palace summer display season of 1909, the fireworks for which were made in the factory on Gander Green Lane.
Past on Glass blog