Flares could also be used at night to illuminate no man’s land and make a wiring party visible to enemy patrols or snipers. The lyrics of a soldiers’ song, given below, associate the Very lights with an assault, with the full panoply of Maxims (machine guns), trench mortars (stubby, portable tubes firing small bombshells at high angle straight out of a trench), five-nines (German artillery shells of a 5.9 inch diameter), and gas.
When Very lights are shining,
Sure they’re like the morning light
And when the guns begin to thunder
You can hear the angels shite.
Then the maxims start to chatter
And trench mortars send a few,
And when Very lights are shining
‘Tis time for a rum issue.
When Very lights are shining
Sure ’tis like the morning dew,
And when shells begin a bursting
It makes you think your time’s come too.
And when you start advancing
Five nines and gas comes through,
Sure when Very lights are shining
‘Tis rum or lead for you.
It is, of course, to be sung to the tune of “When Irish eyes are smiling.”