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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Searchlights within German defensive positions -Somme?


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Two very interesting contributions there Egbert. Many thanks. I shall try to dig out a couple of references to their tactical use some time today.

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They see to have survived for many decades, I recall there use in the Korean War film Pork Chop Hill. I did some checking and it seems they were used during the Korean war.


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There's some French footage of searchlights in use.



That's a terrific video, thank you.

I tried the Great War Weather link in your signature, but the URL no longer directs properly. Do you have another URL for the info?



Edited to remove video link in quote.

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Hi Mary, glad it was useful to you. The weather site has been neglected of late, but there should be something of interest. This link should take you there.



Bookmarked, thank you.

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I don't think many, if any, serious members are questioning the fact of the use of searchlights but some may legitimately question their value and "well they must have found some use if they kept deploying them" responses don't really answer the issue as I'm sure that many of us can think of examples where tactics, technology and techniques were persisted with by all sides long after when they should have been dropped.

Hi centurion,

there is a German book called "Taktik. Ein Handbuch auf Grund der Erfahrungen des Weltkriegs" by a major Rohrbeck (Berlin, 1919) it lists the following uses for searchlights (p. 139):

- illumination of known targets

- searching the defense zone for targets of opportunity (I think this use is what most of us have in mind when thinking 'searchlights')

- detection of nightly working activity

- illumination of landmarks in order to facilitate troop movements

- blinding the enemy (especially enemy searchlight units!)

- putting a cone of light forward of own units to mask them

- use in feints



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  • 1 month later...

This is from CEW Bean, "The Australian Imperial Force in France 1916":

A better illuminant was the small portable electric searchlight often employed by the Germans. These
were generally stationed, not in the front trench, but on some position near the support line from which their beam
could sweep No-Man's Land. On April 9th a party of the 7th Brigade, working on the wire in front of its trenches,
was caught by such a searchlight; its beam found one flank of the party, travelled along the line of men to the other
flank, and back again, after which a machine-gun opened upon them. Whether there were casualties on that occasion
is not recorded. When a machine-gun opened, the only course possible for the men of such a party was to throw themselves
flat at the first shot, and lie prone until fire ceased.
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