Pilot Flame Coloured Signal Lamp

Rafal Zahorski
19th September 2011, 22:19
Hello to all of you,

We are looking for your help. We received last year an original Pilot Flame Coloured Signal Lamp taken away from our THPV Bembridge in 1976.

This lamp is now restored and soon will come back on our wheel house's roof on a new constructed pyramid basement - exactly the same like was on Bembridge before. As far as we know only several lamps like that was built in UK by Richards Pickersgill & Sons Company from Stockton-on-Tees. Our one is most probably the last one existing - other lamps were destroyed during breaking up of other Pilot vessels. Such a lamps were used as main pilot signal lamps on the Pilot vessels in UK till late 30'. Our vessel was built in 1938 ad as we know that lamp was almost not used. For sure not after WWII.

We are looking for its lighting characteristic. We know only that most probably it was giving 15 blasts per minute but it is not sure. We intend to make it fully operating - but really nobody remember these lamps. We were asking in many places but without special success.

Let me present our lamp:

First two drawings are coming from her original planes from 1938 and next you can see lamp on Bembridge on different pictures

Tbc ...

Rafal Zahorski
19th September 2011, 22:24
First two pictures - the best pictures of that lamp during a service of our Bembridge

Third picture - when we received our lamp as a gift from one of our friend from Leight on Sea

Forth one: after my own restoration

The last picture - first time in action from more than 50 years!!! ... but without flashing of course ...

Many thanks for your kind help

Best greeting from THPV Bembridge, Rafal

Rafal Zahorski
26th September 2011, 19:43

I found this sentence in "Ships and the Sea" by E.C.Talbot-Booth issued as Fifth Edition in 1940, in part dedicated to Trinity House concerning signals given by Pilot cutters during the night,

so among the others:

"By night, pilot cutters on their stations show, in addition to the ordinary sidelights, a bright white light at foremast and 8 feet below this, a red light visible all round the horizon; they also exhibit flares at intervals of not more than ten minutes".

But still nothing about a frequency and characteristic.

Maybe in some local harbour regulations from 20' or 30"?

Great thanks in advance Rafal

27th September 2011, 15:00

Quoting from the Admiralty Navigation Manual 1938 Edition, Chapter VI, Rule of the Road (not yet ratified 1936), quoted from the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, formulated at the International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea 1929:- " Pilot Vessels. When engaged on their station on pilotage duty, shall not show the lights required for other vessels, but shall carry a white light at the masthead, visitble all round the horizon, and shall also exhibit a flare-up light or flare up lights at short intervals, which shall never exceed 15 minutes.
On the near approach of or to other vessels they shall have their side-lights lighted, ready for use and shall flash or show them at short intervals, to indicate the direction in which they are heading, but the green light shall not be shown on the port side, nor the red light on the starboard side. Etc ........regarding the all round red light. Masthead lights to be visible 5 miles and other lights 2 miles. Endquote

However, In Nicholl's Seamanship 1959 Edition I note in the Rules for Lights and shapes that in Rule 8 for Pilot Vessels the flare-up light shall be exhibited at short intervals, but shall never exceed 10 minutes. The all round lights to be visible 3 miles.

Maybe this will help you.


27th September 2011, 15:14

Further ... this is confirmed in the Admiralty Manual of Navigation 1954 Edition quoting from the 1948 rules.



Rafal Zahorski
3rd October 2011, 23:14
Hello Chris,

Great thanks for your detailed answer. Yes I saw similar descriptions of that special pilot light. I am only not sure if it is really that light. Or better say - it could be a second function of that light after WW II.

Maybe I am expecting to much - so something with detailed description. You know for instance 20 flashes with intervals ... per minute - so like a characteristic of typical lights visible on buoys or lighthouses. As far as I know nobody remember using of that flare light after WWII. I was asking many different persons, including our friends in Trinity House London - but even the oldest persons do not remember that light working. So it was definitively a spare light after WWII and maybe it was more popular in 30'?

I am trying to find similar description in some harbour regulations in 30'. I will try to find something about that light on the end of XX century.

When you are looking at that light you can see that it is a result of certain evolution. In my opinion first it was a square steel plate with 4 chains or bars connected to its 4 corners and than all of them were meeting each other over that light in the ring - that ring was tied on the rope under a yard. Than on that plate any boy was placing a red, hot coal. So such a light was visible far, far away. I can imagine that any flashes could be made by any sheet of material kept by two seaman giving a certain signals.

I am just thinking. It is my pure imagination. Not a result of any research. Later on coal was exchanged by oil lamp closed by glass. On the end 4 bulbs given a strong light.

Why such a way of thinking? Due to its name "Flame Colored Signal Lamp". In my opinion "Flame colored" came from a time when it was real flame. On some drawings it is called "Flare up light" too.

I will try to research that light story. Anyway - this is not so easy as you see.

Best greeting Rafal

Rafal Zahorski
18th October 2011, 21:32
Hello, I have just received an info - that Pilot Flame Colored Signal lamp was lighting every 15 minutes for 30 seconds. It was working like that before WWII. It came from one retired Trinity House pilot.

Anyway I am looking for any written data to be sure. There are already three verions.

Any help very welcome.

Best greeting Rafal