It seems one of my early memories, of watching planes fly over a floodlit battlefield at night returning from the day’s sortie, just got a little more plausible.
It seems spotlights saw widespread use in the war. It’s entirely possible that some of the upward beams of “artificial moonlight” illuminated the planes as they flew across, though I don’t think we were looking for them since they were ours. This was before the days of purpose-built bombers; if the plane wasn’t ours, they couldn’t do much more than strafe us or drop a small gravity bomb by hand. Not much worse than a grenade, really. If we had known that aerial bombing runs would become so important, we’d have made good note of the fact that these floodlights illuminated the planes overhead enough that we could see their insignia,
I still have yet to confirm that the RFC ever had missions that stretched past sunset. I know most of the flying during the war was in the daytime because navigation was mostly visual, following roads or rivers or railways. It could be that we used the lights so they could see the front and from there they could find another beacon at the airstrip, but if I prove this happened it will be very interesting because I’ve never once heard of that tactic in what I’ve read about first world war aviation.