I came across the Liverpool/Calcutta connection during my research into the life and work of Stephen H Smith. During 1934 and 1944, Smith undertook around 300 rocket experiments to demonstrate the utility of a rocket to transport mail, medicines, food and living creatures. Similar experiments were being conducted in Germany, Austria, Netherlands and the USA, but in India, for over a decade it was just Smith.
The British Interplanetary Society had been founded in Liverpool in 1933. Smith conducted his first rocket experiments in September 1934 and it was published in the BIS Bulletin in November 1934. Smith in Calcutta joined the BIS around this time and established regular correspondence with the Leslie Johnson, the BIS secretary, in Liverpool. Johnson’s daughter still has a file of letters Smith sent from Calcutta to Liverpool in the late 1930s.
My book (India’s Forgotten Rocket Pioneer) will be published by the end of March 2020 and contains many pictures of Smith, his rockets and quotes from his letters. Some from the Johnson collection but other sources too.I could not include many in the book – so I am sharing some more here. Click on any of the images below to open the gallery viewer.