My thanks go to Andy Dixon for fixing me up with tonight’s object, an RAF flare tin to go with the 1” flare pistol we looked at here. This little tin held three red 1” flares:The front of the tin has details of the contents “3 CARTRIDGES SIGNAL RED Mk. XIIT”. The top of the tin gives further information warning the user not to break the seal until they are ready to use the flares:These tins were issued with one man and multi person dinghies as part of the survival kit to enable pilots to signal rescuing aircraft or ships in the case they were shot down. As the flare cartridges were made of cardboard they were susceptible to moisture and would then fail to ignite as in the case of a bomber crew shot down in 1941:
Engine trouble caused the bomber to turn back from a raid on Germany. The pilot hoped to reach the English Coast, but was forced to come down in the sea. He said: When the bomber hit the water the dinghy was automatically released and the crew got out on to the wing and clambered into it. The bomber sank. We thought that we were only about 12 or 20 miles out from the English coast. Actually we were much farther out, and in a minefield! If we had known that, I don’t think we should have been quite as happy as we were. We arranged ourselves in the dinghy as comfortably as possible and just sat there waiting for something to turn up. The wireless operator had sent out an SOS, but it was not received. All we had in the way of signalling equipment were two distress flares. We had no compass. We had a few boiled sweets, a tin of food tablets, a few ounces of concentrated chocolate, about a pint of water and a small bottle of rum. We thought it would be only a few hours before we were picked up. About half an hour later a bomber passed overhead on its way back to England. We tried to attract attention but the distress flare failed to work.Luckily these men were eventually rescued, eight days after being shot down. When they worked the red flares would arch high into the sky and the bright light would be visible for miles. The tins were issued in waterproof packets of nine tins with a matching flare pistol:These tins were also produced for the army to use with their flare pistols, but these were black rather than red. This tin makes a very nice accompaniment to my flare pistol:I am now on the lookout for three deactivated 1” flares to fill it with, but these seem far harder to find than the tins.