Fougasse (weapon)
A fougasse is an improvised mine constructed by making a hollow in the ground or rock and filling it with explosives (originally, black powder) and projectiles. Fougasse was well known to military engineer
Military engineer
In military science, engineering refers to the practice of designing, building, maintaining and dismantling military works, including offensive, defensive and logistical structures, to shape the physical operating environment in war...

s by the mid-eighteenth century but was also referred to by Vauban
Sébastien Le Prestre, Seigneur de Vauban and later Marquis de Vauban , commonly referred to as Vauban, was a Marshal of France and the foremost military engineer of his age, famed for his skill in both designing fortifications and breaking through them...

 in the seventeenth century and was used by Zimmerman at Augsburg
Augsburg is a city in the south-west of Bavaria, Germany. It is a university town and home of the Regierungsbezirk Schwaben and the Bezirk Schwaben. Augsburg is an urban district and home to the institutions of the Landkreis Augsburg. It is, as of 2008, the third-largest city in Bavaria with a...

 in the sixteenth century. This technique was used in several European wars, the American Revolution
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

, and the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

. The term is still used to describe such devices.


The normal method of firing was to use a burning torch
A torch is a fire source, usually a rod-shaped piece of wood with a rag soaked in pitch and/or some other flammable material wrapped around one end. Torches were often supported in sconces by brackets high up on walls, to throw light over corridors in stone structures such as castles or crypts...

 or slow match
Slow match
Slow match or match cord is the very slow burning cord or twine fuse used by early gunpowder musketeers, artillerymen, and soldiers to ignite matchlock muskets, cannons, and petards...

 to ignite a saucisson
In early military engineering, a saucisson was a primitive type of fuse, consisting of a long tube or hose of cloth or leather, typically about an inch and half in diameter , damp-proofed with pitch and filled with black powder. It was normally laid in a protective wooden trough, and ignited by...

French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

 for "big sausage
A sausage is a food usually made from ground meat , mixed with salt, herbs, and other spices, although vegetarian sausages are available. The word sausage is derived from Old French saussiche, from the Latin word salsus, meaning salted.Typically, a sausage is formed in a casing traditionally made...

", a cloth or leather tube water-proofed with pitch
Pitch (resin)
Pitch is the name for any of a number of viscoelastic, solid polymers. Pitch can be made from petroleum products or plants. Petroleum-derived pitch is also called bitumen. Pitch produced from plants is also known as resin. Products made from plant resin are also known as rosin.Pitch was...

 and filled with black powder) leading to the main charge. This had numerous disadvantages; the firer was obvious to the attacking enemy, and had to race to get clear after lighting the fuse. The black powder was also very susceptible to moisture, and might not work at all. In 1573 Samuel Zimmermann devised an improved method which incorporated a snaphance
A Snaphance or Snaphaunce is a particular type of mechanism for firing a gun . The name is Dutch in origin but the mechanism can not be attributed to the Netherlands with certainty. It is the mechanical progression of the wheel-lock firing mechanism and the predecessor of the flintlock firing...

 (or later, flintlock mechanism
Flintlock mechanism
The flintlock mechanism was a firing mechanism used on muskets and rifles in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. It is commonly referred to as a "flintlock" , though that term is also commonly used for the weapons themselves as a whole, and not just the lock mechanism.The flintlock was developed in...

) into the charge and connected its trigger to the surface with a wire. This was more resistant to moisture, better concealed, and enabled the firer to be further away. It also enabled the fougasse to be tripwire
A tripwire is a passive triggering mechanism. Typically, a wire or cord is attached to some device for detecting or reacting to physical movement...

 activated, turning it into an anti-personnel fragmentation mine.

In a letter to his sister, Colonel Hugh Robert Hibbert described such a weapon employed during the Crimean War
Crimean War
The Crimean War was a conflict fought between the Russian Empire and an alliance of the French Empire, the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Sardinia. The war was part of a long-running contest between the major European powers for influence over territories of the declining...

These wretched Russians have discovered a new system of annoyance which would be well worthy of invention by Franky [their brother] and which consists of a series of small mines or barrels of gunpowder let into the ground between our works and theirs, and a little tin tube running along the ground a few inches above it, two or three feet long, which tube is filled with some composition which explodes immediately on being touched, so that any unfortunate meandering along the grass without knowing why, suddenly finds himself going up in the air like a squib with his legs and arms flying in different directions. We have had many men blown up by these things and the grass being so long one cannot see the tube at all. The technical name is "Fougasse". Franky will know what they are I daresay. The ground between our old trenches, and the Russian ones that we took the other day is full of them. At night you hear a sudden explosion and you know that some wretched fellow has been crossing from one trench to another, on private speculation to see what he could get, has trod on the tube and been blown up. I often think how the Russians must laugh when they hear these things going up at night in all directions, they must know well what it is.


The most common type in early use was the stone fougasse, which was simply filled with large rocks, bricks, etc. When fired, it would scatter a hail of fast-moving stones across the area to its front. Large stone fougasses might hold several tons of rubble and as much as a hundredweight
The hundredweight or centum weight is a unit of mass defined in terms of the pound . The definition used in Britain differs from that used in North America. The two are distinguished by the terms long hundredweight and short hundredweight:* The long hundredweight is defined as 112 lb, which...

 of powder.


The shell fougasse was loaded with early black powder mortar
Mortar (weapon)
A mortar is an indirect fire weapon that fires explosive projectiles known as bombs at low velocities, short ranges, and high-arcing ballistic trajectories. It is typically muzzle-loading and has a barrel length less than 15 times its caliber....

 shells (essentially a large version of an early black powder hand grenade
Hand grenade
A hand grenade is any small bomb that can be thrown by hand. Hand grenades are classified into three categories, explosive grenades, chemical and gas grenades. Explosive grenades are the most commonly used in modern warfare, and are designed to detonate after impact or after a set amount of time...

) or incendiary
Incendiary device
Incendiary weapons, incendiary devices or incendiary bombs are bombs designed to start fires or destroy sensitive equipment using materials such as napalm, thermite, chlorine trifluoride, or white phosphorus....

Carcass (projectile)
A carcass was an early form of incendiary bomb or shell, intended to set targets on fire. It comprised an external casing, usually of cast iron, filled with a highly flammable mixture, and having three to five holes through which the burning filling could blaze outward...

es". When fired, the powder charge would throw out the shells and ignite their fuses, so the projectiles would be scattered across the target area and then begin exploding, filling the area with fragmentation or flame from all directions in an effect similar to a cluster bomb
Cluster bomb
A cluster munition is a form of air-dropped or ground-launched explosive weapon that releases or ejects smaller sub-munitions. Commonly, this is a cluster bomb that ejects explosive bomblets that are designed to kill enemy personnel and destroy vehicles...



A flame fougasse was a similar weapon in which the projectile was a flammable liquid
Flammable liquid
Generally, a flammable liquid is a liquid that can catch fire.In the USA, there is a precise definition of flammable liquid as one with a flash point below 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Less-flammable liquids are defined as combustible liquids...

, typically a mixture of petrol (gasoline) and oil. The flame fougasse was developed by the British Petroleum Warfare Department in response to the threat of German invasion
British anti-invasion preparations of World War II
British anti-invasion preparations of the Second World War entailed a large-scale division of military and civilian mobilisation in response to the threat of invasion by German armed forces in 1940 and 1941. The British army needed to recover from the defeat of the British Expeditionary Force in...

 during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...


In Britain, during WWII, the flame fougasse was usually constructed from a 40-gallon drum dug into the roadside and camouflaged. It would be placed at a location such as a corner, steep incline or roadblock where vehicles would be obliged to slow down. Ammonal
Ammonal is an explosive made up of ammonium nitrate, trinitrotoluene , and aluminium powder.The ammonium nitrate functions as an oxidizer and aluminium as a power enhancer. To some extent the aluminium makes it more sensitive to detonation...

 provided the propellant charge which, when triggered, caused the weapon to shoot a flame 10 feet (3 m) wide and 30 yards (27.4 m) long. Initially a mixture of 40% petrol and 60% gas oil was used; this was later replaced by an adhesive gel of tar, lime and petrol known as 5B.

The November 1944 issue of the US War Department Intelligence Bulletin refers to 'Fougasse flame throwers' used in the Russian defence at Stalingrad being the basis of a German version found in Italy that were buried with a fixed direction discharge tube and integrated with conventional landmines and barbed wire in defense works. The German weapon, the Abwehrflammenwerfer 42
Abwehrflammenwerfer 42
The Abwehrflammenwerfer 42 was a German static defensive flamethrower, flame fougasse or flame mine used during the Second World War. The design was copied from Russian FOG-1 mines that were encountered in 1941 during Operation Barbarossa. These were usually buried at intervals of covering road...

 had an 8 gallon fuel tank and the seven in the installation were wired back to a control point and could be fired individually or together.

The flame fougasse has remained in army field manuals as a battlefield expedient. Such expedients are constructed from available fuel containers combined with standard explosive charges or hand grenades triggered electrically or by lengths of detonating cord
Detonating cord
Detonating cord is a thin, flexible plastic tube filled with PETN . With the PETN exploding at a rate of approximately 4 miles per second, any common length of det cord appears to explode instantaneously...

. Some designs use lengths of detonating cord or blasting caps to rupture the fuel container as well as detonate the main charge. Weapons of this sort were widely used in the Korean
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

 and Vietnam
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

wars as well as other conflicts.

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