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Remembered Today:

German flares 'better than British?'


Khaki

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On one of my audio tapes a British veteran recalled that German flares were " much better than ours", what was the cause of that? was it ever rectified?

khaki

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Tank tops & flares, talk about 1970's retro. The only German tank top I admired was on a 'Tiger" panzerkampfwagon

khaki :w00t:

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I also think German buttons were better than ours?

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On one of my audio tapes a British veteran recalled that German flares were " much better than ours", what was the cause of that? was it ever rectified?

khaki

Hi

I doubt generally there was much difference overall, but what did the veteran mean by 'Flares'?

There were 'Ground Flares', these would be lit on the ground in trenches or shell holes usually red, white or green, in any nationality. Red British Flares would look just like Red German flares, at Messines the British used Green Flares because the Germans were known to be using Red. The British Ground Flare got smaller and had a reduced burning time by the end of the war.

Signal 'Flares' or 'Lights', as in Very lights fired from a signal pistol from the ground or the air. Again used by all sides and burst in a variety of colours/patterns, again much the same on all sides. The only people that appears to have a major problem with these are the USAS, where they complained about the quality and misfires. These were supplied by the French, however, the problems may have been because they had been stored in damp conditions, possibly by the Americans as the French appear to have less of a problem with the same items.

Or did he mean Illumination Flares which could be fired from the ground and air or dropped from bomb racks from aeroplanes. The armed forces had a variety of these, again I doubt if there was much real difference between them. Of course if you were illuminated by one at night in no-mans land then you might think the enemy's are better than yours, whatever side you are on.

Mike

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Hello Mike,

The veteran was talking about the evening 'hate' (my word not his) where machine gun and rifle fire would travel down the line at about 15 mph, and there is reference to the green German lights and as he says 'much better than ours' whether he was meaning the intensity of the glow or the slow rate of descent I am not now sure, I still have the disc but I don't have anything to play it on. I used to listen to them regularly but the CD player in my Jeep accepts the disc but wont give it back. Maybe other members are familiar with it.

khaki

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"flares" tends to be a generic term for both signal flares and illumination rounds. The function and nature of each is actually very different.

Considering only signal flares the Germans appear to have had a wider variety of flares- colours, spirals and multiple stars, than British examples, allowing them to give a variety of signals with less risk of enemy flares being interpreted as a German signal. Remember that for British use, signal rockets were widely used as well as flare pistols. IWM used to have a "trench display" back in the 1980s with a rocket firing point with what appeared to be 3 original signal rockets. There was no real british equivalent to the German signalwerfer flare launcher, which by all accounts was popular and successful.

Regards the various mortar and artillery fired illumination rounds of WW1 (British, French or German), I have seen next to nothing in print about these. If some one has some good references I would be very appreciative.

Cheers

Ross

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Hi

There were a wide variety of pyrotechnics available on all sides during WW1, here is a French list (translated by the US Army) for those in use about 1917-18.

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I hope that is of interest.

Mike

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Hi

A 'Royal Laboratories' document in TNA, WO142/249, gives details of pyrotechnic stores designed/developed by them during WW1. The list of types has the following:

A. Rockets.

B. Cartridges, Very 1".

C. Cartridges, Very 1 1/2".

D. Lights, long.

E. Flares, Ground, Daylight.

F. Signals, Candle, Roman.

G. Signals, Mortar, 3".

H. Grenade, Signal, Parachute.

I. Flare, Ground, 1/2 hour, Mark I, Red.

J. Smoke Bombs and grenades.

I hope that is of interest, the document itself is quite big as it goes into great detail.

Mike

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Hi

Looking through my files, in the previous mentioned document is a 'Memorandum on German Very Light 1"', this compares the various German cartridges available with the equivalent British (and French in some cases). On the Illuminating cartridge it includes the following:

"The range obtained was slightly greater than British average about 150 yards, but the most noteworthy point was the hanging effect shown by the star during the course of its fall from the apex of its flight. This doubtless was due to the aluminium case being dispensed with.

The brilliance of the light was very good and compared favourably with that given by Pain's star....

....Both these stars are vastly superior to stars manufactured by Brock, who still uses the old type of composition containing nitro-shellac, and a high percentage of sulphur."

This shows the German type 'fell' slower than the British types as it was of lighter construction. It was nearly as bright as the British Pain's type but much better than the Brock produced type.

I hope that is of interest.

Mike

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Excellent research, supports the veterans comments,

khaki

Hi

Yes it does in part but not as a general statement. It depended on the British 'type' being used as the German 'flare' was not always 'better'.

Mike

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Ersatz-Reservist Hans Brückner of RIR 242 (53.RD / XXVII.RK) mentions the relative quality of German and enemy flares in his first letter home from Flanders on 29th January 1915:

At my post by night I had a really good view of the French flares going up, and could clearly see that they are equipped with parachutes, so that they hang in the air for a particularly long time. So far as I know, our own flares are unfortunately not fitted with this device.

Admittedly the XXVII.RK had been formed hastily in September 1914 with a great deal of obsolescent or missing kit (e.g. no proper mobile field kitchens, only one MG platoon per infantry regiment in most cases etc.). In January 1915 it still fell far short of the active and first-wave reserve formations in its standard of equipment.

NB: Herr Brückner (a teacher from Zwickau in Saxony, where my GGF was also born) is one of our featured diarists in Fighting the Kaiser's War: The Saxons in Flanders 1914-1918.

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Ersatz-Reservist Hans Brückner of RIR 242 (53.RD / XXVII.RK) mentions the relative quality of German and enemy flares in his first letter home from Flanders on 29th January 1915:

At my post by night I had a really good view of the French flares going up, and could clearly see that they are equipped with parachutes, so that they hang in the air for a particularly long time. So far as I know, our own flares are unfortunately not fitted with this device.

Admittedly the XXVII.RK had been formed hastily in September 1914 with a great deal of obsolescent or missing kit (e.g. no proper mobile field kitchens, only one MG platoon per infantry regiment in most cases etc.). In January 1915 it still fell far short of the active and first-wave reserve formations in its standard of equipment.

NB: Herr Brückner (a teacher from Zwickau in Saxony, where my GGF was also born) is one of our featured diarists in Fighting the Kaiser's War: The Saxons in Flanders 1914-1918.

Hi

We should all realize that a lot of work, by all sides, was put into developing various pyrotechnic devices during WW1. This was not only to make them better for their purpose but also widened the range of purposes they were used for, including, for example (in the British case), target indicating and marking 'flares' to be dropped from aeroplanes. This development was not easy as it could mean developing 'new' chemical mixtures to improve devices, they did not always work as the scientists expected.

Mike

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Hi

An example of my previous post is below, it is a reply to a letter, dated 13.09.18., from Brig.-Gen. P R C Groves as to the progress of devices for use in Air Co-operation with Tanks. The previous information received had been:

"Not much success has been attained so far with light or smoke signals. The need of a really efficient percussion smoke bomb to indicate ground targets is much felt and the production of this bomb, which was asked for some months ago, is still awaited."

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I hope that is of interest.

Mike

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Hi

Yes it does in part but not as a general statement. It depended on the British 'type' being used as the German 'flare' was not always 'better'.

Mike

You are quite right of course, his comments are relevant to his personal experience and observations.

khaki

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You are quite right of course, his comments are relevant to his personal experience and observations.

khaki

Likewise it should be borne in mind that Hans Brückner had only been at the front (north of Broodseinde) for a matter of days when he wrote the letter I quoted above.

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