Blockbuster bomb

Blockbuster bomb
A Lancaster drops a “cookie” (left), incendiary bombs and bundles of incendiary bombs (right) on Duisburg on 15 October 1944

Blockbuster or "cookie" was the name given to several of the largest conventional bombs used in World War II by the Royal Air Force (RAF). The term Blockbuster was originally a name coined by the press and referred to a bomb which had enough explosive power to destroy an entire city block.



The bombs then called Blockbusters were the RAF's 4,000 lb — also known as a cookie — 8,000 and 12,000 lb (1,800, 3,600 and 5,400 kg) HC (High Capacity) bombs. These bombs had especially thin casings that allowed them to contain approximately three-quarters of their weight in explosive, with the 4,000 pounder containing over 3,000 lb (1,360 kg) of Amatol. Most "normal" bombs (termed Medium Capacity — or MC — by the RAF) contained 50% explosive by weight, the rest being made up of the fragmentation bomb casing. Typically, three separate impact fuzes were fitted to a blockbuster in order to guarantee detonation.

In 1947 Alfred Brooks of Stourbridge was awarded the Order of the British Empire, for creating the Blockbuster. The local newspaper referred to him as "Blockbuster Brooks".

Blockbusters got larger as the war progressed from the original 4,000 lb version, up to 12,000 lb (1,800 to 5,400 kg). The initial 4,000 lb version was 30 in (76 cm) diameter.[1] The larger 8,000 lb version was constructed from two 4,000 lb sections, however these sections were of a larger 38 in (97 cm) diameter.[2] A 12,000 lb version was created by adding a third 4,000 lb section.[3][4]

The High Capacity design was little more than a cylinder full of explosives — it was unaerodynamic and did not have fins. Accuracy was not important, however, as these bombs were designed for their blast effect, to cause damage to buildings so that the smaller 4 lb (1.8 kg) incendiary bombs could reach the building interiors. These "High Capacity" bombs were only used by the RAF, being too big to fit in the bomb bays of other countries' aircraft.


The first type of aircraft to carry cookies operationally was the Wellington, but they later became part of the standard bomb load of the RAF's heavy night bombers, as well as that of the Mosquitoes of the Light Night Strike Force, whose aircraft would sometimes visit Berlin twice in one night carrying "cookies", flown by two different crews. The 8,000 lb (3,600 kg) bomb, because of its large size, could only be carried by the Handley Page Halifax and Avro Lancaster and the 12,000 lb (5,400 kg) variant only by the Lancaster.

First use of the 8,000 lb was by 15 Squadron Lancasters against Berlin on 2 December 1943. Bad weather and other factors meant their effectiveness was not noted.[5]

The 4,000 lb (1,800 kg) cookie was regarded as a particularly dangerous load to carry. Due to the airflow over the detonating pistols fitted in the nose, it would often explode even if dropped, i.e., jettisoned, in a supposedly "safe" unarmed state. Safety height for dropping the 4,000 lb "cookie" was 5,000 ft; any lower and the dropping aircraft risked being damaged by the explosion.


  • 4000 lb HC
    • Mark I - first production design
    • Mark II - three nose pistols
    • Mark III - no side pistol pockets
    • Mark IV - no stiffening beam
    • Mark V - U.S. production
    • Mark VI - U.S. production

In 1943, 25,000 of these were used, this rose to 38,000 in 1944. In 1945 up to the end of the war a further 25,000 were used.

Other uses

Air mines

During The Blitz the Germans used naval mines dropped on parachutes as improvised blockbusters. They exploded on contact with a hard surface; as the bomb was not in a crater, the force of the blast would laterally disperse, causing extensive damage.[6][7] The large raid on Coventry on November 14/November 15, 1940 included the use of 50 parachute naval mines, which caused extensive blast damage. The British called these devices air-mines.[8] These types were used also during air raids on Malta, especially on its harbour areas.

Bunker busters

"Blockbuster" may also refer to a bomb designed to destroy a blockhouse. Bombs which can penetrate reinforced concrete of a blockhouse are also referred to as bunker busters. The two World War II bombs which best fit the description of bunker busters are the Tallboy bomb 12,000 lb (5,400 kg) MC and the Grand Slam bomb 22,000 lb (10,000 kg) MC both designed by Barnes Wallis for the RAF. The Tallboy and Grand Slam bombs had a thick skin to withstand the initial impact of hitting hardened targets.

In popular culture

  • The slangy nature of the term "blockbuster" made it a frequent popular culture reference during World War II, for example the Bugs Bunny cartoon Falling Hare, about a gremlin trying to detonate a blockbuster bomb with a mallet.
  • The term "blockbuster", as applied to film or theatre, denotes a very popular and/or successful production, perhaps derived from the term's use meaning simply "biggest".[9] The entertainment industry use was originally theatrical slang referring to a particularly successful play but is now used primarily by the film industry.
  • "Block Buster!" was a 1973 chart-topping song by British rock band Sweet, featuring the wailing sound of air raid sirens.
  • In the pharmaceutical industry, blockbuster drug refers to a drug generating more than $1 billion of revenue for its owner each year.
  • In the Tom and Jerry cartoon Mouse Trouble, Tom uses a "Block Buster" Bomb and many others to try to get rid of Jerry, but miserably fails and ends up killing himself.

See also


  1. ^ Boyd, David. "4,000lb High Capacity Bomb". WWII Equipment. 
  2. ^ Boyd, David. "8,000lb High Capacity Bomb". WWII Equipment. 
  3. ^ Boyd, David. "12,000lb High Capacity Bomb". WWII Equipment. 
  4. ^ Air Publication AP1661B Vol I
  5. ^ Maynard, John Bennett and the Pathfinders 1956 Arms and Amrour Press. p148
  6. ^ The Luftwaffe over the Bristol area - Luftwaffe weapons
  7. ^ Montague Trout comment in a Collaborative Article: The Blitz by Mark E
  8. ^ Taylor, Fredrick; Dresden Tuesday 13 February 1945, Pub Bloomsbury (First Pub 2004, Paper Back 2005). ISBN 0-7475-7084-1. Page 120
  9. ^ "1957 G. SMITH Friends vi a. 114 One day I had what seemed to me like a block~buster of an idea for a musical play." Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition, 1989


External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

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  • blockbuster — [bläk′bus΄tər] n. Informal 1. a large, aerial bomb that can demolish a large area ☆ 2. a particularly powerful, forceful, or effective person or thing; specif., an expensive or pretentious film, novel, etc. intended to have wide popular appeal ☆… …   English World dictionary

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  • blockbuster — /blok bus teuhr/, n. 1. an aerial bomb containing high explosives and weighing from four to eight tons, used as a large scale demolition bomb. 2. a motion picture, novel, etc., esp. one lavishly produced, that has or is expected to have wide… …   Universalium

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