The full history and exploits of one of the borough’s greatest World War One heroes Frank Brock has been written and the author his grandson is now looking for support to get the amazing story published.
The Brock family were central to the borough and to the war effort during the 1914-18 conflict. The Brocks firework factory in Cheam located on a site of 200 acres near the place now marked by Brocks Drive, was converted into a munitions factory for the period of the war and Frank, the son of owner Arthur Brock aka “the Firework King” , had a glittering war career.
Perhaps the only man to be commissioned as an officer in all three services, Frank undertook vital work which helped to secure victory.
“The borough should be immensely proud of Frank,” said Harry Smee the author of the book.
“In WW I my great grandfather Arthur Brock employed 2,000 – for example they made 30 million Mills Bomb fuses and many other military stores
“Working in key locations which included Brock’s in Sutton he invented and developed – entirely with his own funds – his explosive bullet which eventually destroyed the Zeppelins. The Brock bullet was deployed in early September 1916. That night, virtually the whole of London could see the huge burning ‘cigar’ as it rained down from the heavens .
He produced coloured glass filters to clarify images in cameras and binoculas and signalling systems using prisms. Towards the end of his time he was working in conjunction with the Malta RNAS Experimental Station to find ways to spot German U Boats beneath the surface of the clear Mediterranean waters.
He invented the E Smoke Float for merchant ships to hide themselves from German U Boats. The smoke float was brilliant – very simple and did give good cover particularly if the ship was correctly positioned apropos the wind and the submarine. The merchant seaman just threw it into the sea and it did the rest.
Frank invented a huge flare named a Dover or Deck Flare and these were positioned on boats across the Channel to produce a curtain of light, each flare a million candela strength. As soon as it was switched on, German submarines began to dive straight into the deep mine fields.
Brock’s in Sutton was a world expert in the production of many of the ingredients used in these inventions and Frank would have had great confidence in his father’s workforce.
Sadly but gloriously, on St George’s Day 1918 Frank died in a sword fight in the Raid on Zeebrugge, a one hour battle so intense it could be heard in four different counties. A raid that produced more VCs than any other single engagement other than Rorke’s Drift (Zulu) and a raid that Winston Churchill dubbed “the finest feat of arms”. It would not have been possible without Frank Brock’s invention of the smoke screen.
If you are interested in supporting this project with a first edition, please go to Unbound’s website. The book is called Gunpowder and Glory. It is the first biography of Frank Brock and tells the story of the centuries of his family firework enterprise history, from which Frank emerged. If for any reason the publication does not take place, the money will have been kept in a ring-fenced account and will be returned to supporters.