Gunpowder & 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.
Date Published :
April 2020
Publisher :
Contributor(s) :
Lord Ashcroft KCMG
Illustration :
ca. 70 images
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Hardback
ISBN : 9781612008448
Pages : 272
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : In stock
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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.

Frank Brock only lived to be 33. Nonetheless, he did more in that short life than most men could accomplish in several. The hottest fires burn most quickly and here was a man who burned brightly, extinguished in a blaze of glory.
The scion of the world-famous Brock Fireworks was killed in action in Belgium during the most daring British raid of WWI, with a cutlass in one hand and a revolver in the other.
Picture a daredevil combatant, elite athlete, secret agent and brilliant inventor all rolled into a precocious boy raised in a fireworks family that allowed him to become a pyrotechnical genius. There you have Frank Brock - remarkable combination of James Bond, Thomas Edison, Indiana Jones, and MacGyver. Gunpowder and Glory is the first-ever biography of Brock, an unheralded hero of WWI whose contribution to the war effort saved tens of thousands of lives and helped to end The Great War.
Frank could easily have been the template for 007. He was:
· A heavyweight boxer and powerhouse rugby player
· An expert marksman and oarsman
· A first-rate pilot
· Commissioned in all three branches of the armed services – army, navy, and air force – in WWI
· An inventor who ended Germany’s dream of air supremacy with his pioneering Brock Bullet.
· Ingenious and he helped prevent German domination of the English Channel by inventing Dover Flares which lit up the sea at night and forced U-boats into deep mine fields.
Still, his exploits did not end there. As a secret agent Brock dashed to France on his wedding day, snuck into Switzerland, rowed across Lake Constance into enemy territory, and orchestrated the world’s first strategic bombing raid – ordered by Winston Churchill himself – at the zeppelin factory in Friedrichshafen, Germany. Lastly, on the day of his untimely death, he led the charge in a surprise naval attack only made possible by the artificial fog he invented to mask their daring approach.

Co-authored by his grandson, Gunpowder and Glory tells more than Brock’s amazing life of invention and heroism. Woven into the narrative is the dazzling history of C.T. Brock & Company Fireworks, the world-famous firm started by Frank’s five-times great-grandfather.

About The Author

Harry Smee is the grandson of Frank Brock. He was a director of Brock's Fireworks.

Henry Macrory was deputy editor and acting editor of the Sunday Express. He moved from newspapers into political communications and worked in 10 Downing Street for the Coalition Government.


Chapter 1: Come on, you Boys
Chapter 2: A Whiff of Black Powder
Chapter 3: Fireworks in their Blood
Chapter 4: Taking the Palace by Storm
Chapter 5: The Shakespeare of Pyrotechnics
Chapter 6: Whatever you are, be Brave Boys!
Chapter 7: Pomp and Circumstance
Chapter 8: A Carpet of Violets
Chapter 9: Monsters of the Sky
Chapter 10: Seeking the Holy Grail
Chapter 11: The Magic Bullet
Chapter 12: Father of Invention
Chapter 13: Striking the Viper’s Nest
Chapter 14: Brock of the Mole
Chapter 15: The Finest Feat
Chapter 16: Brock’s Benefit


“The real life Q and Bond all rolled into one...Authors Harry Smee, Brock’s grandson and former acting editor of the Sunday Express Henry Macrory don’t disappoint in Gunpowder & Glory, the first biography of a man whose initials appropriately spelt FAB.”

- RAF News

"For readers wanting to learn about one of the more significant military innovators of World War I, this expertly researched and well-written book is highly recommended."

- Over the Front

"Smee and Macrory present a well-written book that illuminates the actions on the British home front during the Great War and what it means for a soldier to sacrifice all. Highly recommended for Anglophiles and those interested in World War I history."

- Library Journal

"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 channeled, his spirit carefully and surgically broken."

- The Spectator

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

- Warships International

‘ Gunpowder and Glory is the inspirational and humbling tale of Frank Brock. Soldier, aviator, spy and scientist Brock was D’Artagnan and Buchan woven into one glorious romantic being. With a bit of Von Richthofen thrown in for good measure! This beautifully crafted story describes a man who lived his life on an heroic scale, finally succumbing in 1918 to the cutlass of a German sailor whom he is now buried beside in peace. I cannot commend this book enough. It will bring tears of disbelief and pride to your eyes.’

- General Lord Richards of Herstmonceux GCB CBE DSO, former Chief of the Defence Staff

‘The life story of Wing Commander Frank Brock so vividly and compellingly portrayed in Gunpowder and Glory is a must read. A daredevil adventurer who was prepared to take risks and to push the boundaries, “Fireworks” Brock’s life was lived to the full. At the outbreak of WW1 he was an early recruit into the emerging Royal Naval Air Service where his pyrotechnics expertise was instrumental in the conquest of the Zeppelin bomber scourge. His smokescreen exploits in the St George’s Day Zeebrugge raid were equally critical to the success of that operation. As the story unfolds of this charismatic character, which is so well illustrated by numerous quotes of praise for his contribution and heroism, one is forced to recognise the importance of this story being told.'

- Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope GCB OBE DL, former First Sea Lord

‘Frank Brock is a hero whose story needs to be told. While his inventiveness touched many operational and tactical challenges faced by Britain during the First World War, it is for his contribution to the Raid on Zeebrugge that he will be remembered. Without doubt, Brock’s smokescreen and other specifically designed pyrotechnics ensured that the flotilla and assault force could get alongside the Mole almost undetected, and withdraw on completion of the raid, but his personal courage determination, leadership and inspiration to others came to the fore as he stormed ashore. … On a night when eight VCs were won, there are many who believed Brock deserved one too. He died, facing unbeatable odds, but undeterred and displaying the patriotism and moral compass that had been imbued in him from his formative schooldays. A colleague summed up his contribution by stating simply “he played the game to the end.” There were many that night who owed their lives to Brock; this book demonstrates why.'

- Major General Garry Robison CB, former Commandant General of the Royal Marine

‘’...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.’’

- Durbar

‘’ Frank Brock […] an heroic figure of WW I.  An endless series of adventures, inventions and innovations. An interesting read.’’

- The Armourer

‘’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

‘ excellent book, well illustrated throughout and a good read. It flows well and has obviously been well researched. I would suspect it would appeal to anybody with an interest in the First World War and to those who like things that go bang!’’

- Army Rumour Service

‘’...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

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

- Despatches

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

- Warships International Fleet Review

‘’Frank Brock is a hero whose story needs to be told.’’

- The Globe

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

- Baird Maritime

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

- Sutton Voice

‘’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

“This book has all the ingredients for an explosive yarn. It doesn’t disappoint. A fascinating and well-researched read, not just for military enthusiasts but for anybody.“

- Love Reading

‘’My Book of the the larger-than-life tale of the scion of a famous fireworks company who invented the explosive bullet that brought down Zeppelins and was killed on the daring Zeebrugge Raid in 1918. Smee, the grandson of Brock, uses access to the family archive to tell for the first time the extraordinary life and death of this daredevil combatant, secret agent and brilliant inventor.’’

- Aspects on History

"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

"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

"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."

- NavyBooks

"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

"...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

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