Desert warfare in the night near the Algiers during 1942.
German and Italian aircraft attacking our 2NZEF and Allied forces. Anti-aircraft tracer rounds firing make a spectacle that our Kiwi boys must have been enthralled to witness on many and numerous occasions..With the immense loud noise of these larger calibre guns firing and the booming explosions released from the attacking planes, if you were a sideline spectator..what a show indeed.
With the Swedish designed 40mm Bofor anti-aircraft guns such as those seen firing above, magazine loading and indeed in most ballistic calibers generally every fifth round (bullet) is a tracer round in which has a small coloured pyrotechnic phosphorous charge loaded within the ignitive powder. This is designed to allow the gunner firing from where ever he is to follow the trajectory of the round and make aiming adjustments relative to the target. Fighter aircraft of that era in combat were using the same principle during the daylight with specially developed explosive rounds (de Wilde bullet) exploding on target impact giving a clear indication to the pilot or gunner of accuracy. Aircraft didnt always use tracer rounds, depending on the type of activity the crew and plane type were purposed to do, such as specialist radar guided night fighters and often night bombers prefered the ability to protect themselves without being clearly seen by the colourfull tracer fire. Tracer rounds were a valuable tool for all caliber auto-matic gun operators, especially on open ground targets with little relative references.
So in this photo above which shows many tracer rounds alighting its pathway, what you see is only one fifth of the actual hitting power in the air at that photographic second.. Sadly it was photographed in monochrome and not in colour as the combined tracer fire releases a blossom of colours along the deadly trajectories.
Many 28th (Maori) Battalion and indeed many hundreds of 2NZEF soldiers were killed and wounded by aerial ground attack, mostly in North Africa but also ferociously in Greece and on the Island of Crete. Air space protection is vital for land forces to operate effectively which late in the forth coming Italian Campaign became the case, but it was always a constant and deadly threat to life and limb.