Larkhill, January 6, 1917

Saturday      Fired again today Weather a little cold

Percy says nothing today about whether they had aerial observation or wireless direction as they had two days earlier. It had been a first for his battery, and he believed it a first in the Canadian Field Artillery.

Aerial observation had been part of the original Field Artillery Training, but wireless was not envisioned when that manual was written. Instead, the system outlined relied on Very’s lights (or, “when available,” a klaxon horn) to communicate from the aeroplane’s observers to the battery. Different combinations of red, green, and white lights were used to convey a host of messages, most importantly, how accurate the firing was in terms of line (how directly toward the target the shells fell), range (by how much the shells over- or undershot the target), and fuze (at what point in the air or on grazing the ground the fuze caused the shell to explode.)

The FAT chart (page 328) sets out the required signals.chart-of-very-lights-for-observation-page-328

Two men from the battery were set to watch the aeroplane, one with his field glasses to see the signals themselves, the other following the plane with his

naked eye, “to make certain that no mistake is made as to the actual machine, since, when there are several aircraft out in observation, confusion between them is very likely to arise.”

Perhaps you recall Bruce Bairnsfather’s cartoon on the interpretation of Very lights.

Information drawn from Field Artillery Training. 1914. 325-328

Copyright 2017. See “More about this project.”



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