WW1 signal / flare pistols

No-man’s-land on the Western Front was a terrifying place. Exposed to the full force of enemy fire, the terrain between the frontline trenches was littered with barbed wire, rotting corpses, dud shells, waterlogged craters and other hazards. Unless attacking over the top, troops only ventured into this perilous place on patrol or on trench raids at night when the main enemy was the whoosh of a flare pistol — known to the British as a Very pistol, after its inventor, US naval officer Edward Wilson Very. The pistol was a one-shot brass gun that fired a coloured light — usually white at night — high in the air, illuminating the landscape and enabling snipers to pinpoint anything moving in no-man’s-land. Very pistols were also used by day for signalling with coloured flares. (DT 04Apr14)