fire ship

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fire ship

a vessel loaded with explosives and used, esp formerly, as a bomb by igniting it and directing it to drift among an enemy's warships
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Fire Ship


(in Russian, brander, from German, brander), a ship laden with combustibles and explosives and used to burn enemy ships. Fire ships had attachments for hooking up with enemy ships. They were first used in warfare in the 17th century. Fire ships were set on fire and released to be floated by the wind or the current toward the enemy fleet; upon collision they set the enemy ships on fire. An example of the use of fire ships is the burning of the Turkish fleet by the Russians in 1770 during the naval battle at Çeşme Bay. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the term “fire ships” was applied to old ships that were to be sunk at the entrances of ports, bays, or canals in order to bar ingress and egress. This method was tried by the Japanese at Port Arthur in 1904; but the Russian artillerymen sank the fire ships before they reached their target.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.