Between 1890 and 1914 Defence Electric Lights were all under the control of the Royal Engineers. Responsibility for these Electric Lights subsequently passed to the Coastal Artillery after World War I, who renamed then as Coastal Artillery Search Lights (CASL).
Electric Lights had been used in warfare from 1853 but by the early 1970s the technology was beginning to develop sufficiently for effective deployment. The British Defence Electric Light was introduced in the late 1880s and the Manual of Electric Search-Lighting published in 1890 by the School of Military Engineering, Chatham. This is primarily a technical book but there is a brief chapter on the “Tactical Use of the Electric Light”. It is suggested that the electric light can be used not only to locate the enemy but also to prevent the enemy seeing you by obscuring his vision. The use of electric lights to locate an enemy is identified as:
- A moving light to sweep an area. Search or sweep light.
- A fixed beam across an area that the enemy must traverse. Fixed Beam.
- By illuminating a distance rock or shoreline so that the enemy can be seen when they cross the light beam. Sentry Beam.
The light could of course be used both to cover sea approaches or a land front.
A copy of this 1890 Manual of Electric Search-Lighting can be seen here.
In 1902, the “Manual of Military Electric Lighting ” was published and this in turn was replaced by a new manual in 1909, “Military Electric Lighting ”. A copy of the 1909 manual on Military Electric Lighting can be seen here.
Between 1870 and 1880 a total of five Royal Engineer Submarine Mining Companies were established with mining establishments at:
Overseas Submarine Mining Establishments were established at Bermuda, Halifax and Malta.
By 1900 the Defence Electric Light has become a standard fixture to support coastal defence batteries, submarine warfare defences and on land fronts such as the Victoria Lines in Malta.