The Honest John in Canadian Service
by John Davidson.
Canada’s Weapons of War Series, WOW030
A5 size softback, 24 pages
Review by Peter Brown
“The American Honest John was developed in the early 1950s and entered US Army service in 1954. Compared to later artillery rockets and current cruise missiles, it was unsophisticated. Basically it was a tube filled with solid propellant which burned for a few seconds to lift the complete rocket and warhead from an elevating ramp, this then travelled to the target in the same way as an artillery round. Although it could be affected by cross-winds it was accurate enough and it had the advantages of being simple, in addition unlike radio-controlled missiles it was impossible to jam. It could be fitted with a variety of warheads including high explosive and chemical types as well as nuclear weapons with yields between 10 and 40 kilotons.
Canada adopted the improved version with MGR-1B rocket and used it to equip its 1 Surface-to-Surface Missile Battery based in Germany with 2 SSM Bty in Canada providing training and reinforcements. These units were formed in September 1960 and served until disbanded in mid-1970. During that time 1 SSM maintained a high level of readiness, able to deploy quickly to hidden locations ready to fire had Warsaw Pact forces attacked. Given their effectiveness especially with nuclear warheads, they were priority targets for special forces units which meant that dispersal and camouflage needed to be very good. 1 SSM Bty were never found on exercise by British SAS units searching for them which shows how good they were.
The author of this account served with both Batteries so is well qualified to describe their use. He covers the background to their introduction into service, the various components of the system including the launcher and supporting vehicles based mostly on M39-series 6×6 trucks and their deployment. Nuclear warheads were stored by American forces and the measures needed to obtain them are described. Backing up the main story are facts and figures for the missiles and accounts of some unusual incidents during live firing including one missile which barely fired and the final firing when the missile landed just five metres from its target.
Several black and white photos show the missile and launcher in training and on exercise. Centre page spread is a three-view half-tone scale plan in 1:35th scale, given the size of the original it only just fits the space available.
Either as an account of the system itself or its Canadian service, this is a useful addition to the series. Honest John was also used by several other armies which increases the book’s value for modellers.
Thanks to Clive Law at Service Publications for the review book.”