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DateOriginal Topic
16th April 2005Distress Flares'
By Derek C
Does anyone know when (roughly) distress flares' we used in the British Army? Were they available during the AZW?
16th April 2005Bill Cainan
Derek C

Yes, there certainly were illuminating devices available at this time.

1. Life-buoy portfire: used by the navy, gives light for some twenty minutes. Used in conjunction with rescues at sea.

2. Slow or Blue Portfire: an improvised illumination. Burns for two to three hours. Obsolete by 1877.

3. Cost Guard Light: Used by coastguard. The light has a spike at one end for it to be stuck in the ground. It burns for about five minutes.

4. Light, Long, GS: Used for signalling and illuminating. Burns for about five minutes.

5. Light,Signal Magnesium: Used for signaling and illumination. Burns for one minute with a very bright white flame.

6. Lights for Illuminating Wrecks Mark I and Mark II: Burn for about 30 minutes

7. Signal Rockets – 1lb and ½ lb, being available with white, red, green and blue stars

The artillery had illuminating rounds, mainly fired by mortars:

8. Ground light balls: fired from mortars only. Used to discover enemy working parties etc. Time of burning varies from 9 to 16 minutes (it carried on burning after hitting the ground).

9. Parachute Light Balls: fired from mortars. Burns for between 1 and 3 minutes

10. 7pdr Star Shell: Introduced for use with 7pdr RML batteries. The shell was made with a thin iron case containing 13 paper cylinders known as stars containing illuminating chemicals. On bursting it would give a brilliant light for between 13 and 18 seconds.. 4 Star shells were allocated per gun, but in practice, they tended to be replaced by case shot.

I can find no reference to Star Shells being manufactured for the 9pdr RML

Were Star Shells available in the AZW ? In theory, yes. Were they used in the AZW ? I don't thnk so. I can find no evidence that they were. They are shown in “Zulu Dawn” when Chelmsford retakes the Camp at Isandhlwana - but that's Hollywood ! All the references I’ve read on this action indicate that the guns only fired shell at the neck prior to the advance on the camp.