CHAPTER IX. THE AIRMAN AND ARTILLERY
Operations at night are conducted by means of coloured lights or an electrical searchlight system. In the former instance three lights are generally carried - white, red, and green - each of which has a distinctive meaning. If reliance is placed upon the electric light signalling lamp, then communications are in code. But night operations are somewhat difficult and extremely dangerous, except when the elements are propitious. There is the ground mist which blots everything from sight, rendering reconnaissance purely speculative. But on a clear night the airman is more likely to prove successful. He keeps a vigilant eye upon all ground-lights and by close observation is able to determine their significance. It is for this reason that no lights of any description are permitted in the advance trenches. The striking of a match may easily betray a position to the alert eye above.
So far as the British Army is concerned a complete code is in operation for communicating between aeroplanes and the ground at night. Very's lights are used for this purpose, it being possible to distinguish the respective colours at a distance of six miles and from an altitude of 2,000 feet. The lights are used both by the aeroplane and the battery of artillery.
The code is varied frequently, but the following conveys a rough idea of how communication is carried out by this means under cover of darkness. The aeroplane has located its objective and has returned to the pre-arranged altitude. A red light is thrown by the airman. It indicates that he is directly over the enemy's position. A similarly coloured light is shown by the artillery officer, which intimates to the airman that his signal has been observed and that the range has been taken.
In observing the effects of artillery fire a code of signals is employed between the airman and the artillery officer to indicate whether the shot is "long" or "short," to the right or to the left of the mark, while others intimate whether the fuse is correctly timed or otherwise. It is necessary to change the code fairly frequently, not only lest it should fall into the enemy's hands, but also to baffle the hostile forces; otherwise, after a little experience, the latter would be able to divine the significance of the signals, and, in anticipation of being greeted with a warm fusillade, would complete hurried arrangements to mitigate its effects, if not to vacate the position until the bombardment had ceased.
Sufficient experience has already been gathered, however, to prove the salient fact that the airman is destined to play an important part in the direction and control of artillery-fire. Already he has been responsible for a re-arrangement of strategy and tactics. The man aloft holds such a superior position as to defy subjugation; the alternative is to render his work more difficult, if not absolutely impossible.