RAF camouflage colours during WWII

ISTR the memoir of one pilot, in which it was noted that an over-enthusiastic SENGO (or it may just have been one crew chief) instructed that aircraft be polished to a high sheen as this would help with a modest increase in speed.
later, US aircraft with no paint were polished for the 'go faster' effect.

My race car always went quicker when it had just been washed and polished.
 

HE117

LE
Many years ago, I was tasked to recover a gazelle which went down near the border. The cab was green and black and in a field of waist high wheat, we knew where it was but flew round it several times before we spotted it. The pilot was standing there watching us but didn’t pop smoke because he “didn’t want to attract attention”. Surprising really, as the cabs always seemed to stand out like a dog’s when disguised as haystacks.
Early Army a/c were painted gloss green and brown (the accommodation blocks in Middle Wallop still show traces of this) to match the terrain, and possibly to make them easier to wipe off the oil spill. This remained standard through campaigns in sandy places until replaced with matt green and black in the 70s, probably to match the forestry blocks of BAOR. Grey and green arrived in the 80’s possibly as a more universal scheme as BAOR wound down.
As for the crabs, brown and green to match the English countryside in the early days, (less important as we gain air superiority) grey and green as operations move over the channel and into urban areas is my guess. Bombers per above.
The main change in the late 70s was a shift towards IR spectrum paints in response to improved low light and image intensification sights and sensors..
 
The main change in the late 70s was a shift towards IR spectrum paints in response to improved low light and image intensification sights and sensors..
Indeed. The 5555 brown and green was shiny epoxy and very durable. The 5580 two pack polyurethane black / green had an IRR component which probably lasted until it got it’s first coat of oil and grease. IIRC vehicles also had a paint plan, so no black on the corners, and black stripes from the wheel arches?
 
" examples below from the extensive colour gallery by Ettiene Du Plessis on Flikr.

Lancaster consruction 1943

1620117413289.png


There are slight variations in the pattern, even whilst still in the factory.

Gathering of Hudsons 1941

1620117483548.png

The patterns on these Hudsons look to be identicle. Have they just arrived from the factory?

I think that there was a certain amount of free license given to painters and obviously individual aircraft would change over time and use depending on damage repairs and what was available in theatre.
 
Indeed. The 5555 brown and green was shiny epoxy and very durable. The 5580 two pack polyurethane black / green had an IRR component which probably lasted until it got it’s first coat of oil and grease.
Wasn't that a problem for Harriers during Falklands?
All the navy WD forty made them more radar visible?
 

Daz

LE
" examples below from the extensive colour gallery by Ettiene Du Plessis on Flikr.

Lancaster consruction 1943

View attachment 570453

There are slight variations in the pattern, even whilst still in the factory.

Gathering of Hudsons 1941

View attachment 570455
The patterns on these Hudsons look to be identicle. Have they just arrived from the factory?

I think that there was a certain amount of free license given to painters and obviously individual aircraft would change over time and use depending on damage repairs and what was available in theatre.
Laid down standards per aircraft including the use of painting masks while assembling, therefore the painting needed to conform to the standard and be within the agreed tolerances - going back to the A & B schemes, B was the mirror of the A scheme on spitfires for instance.
 
later, US aircraft with no paint were polished for the 'go faster' effect.

The polishing is (primarily) to preserve the aluminium and prevent it oxidising -

There was a trend in commercial aviation to polish not paint as there were significant weight savings (and thus fuel and cost) it more or less died out when the cost of regular waxing and polishing exceeded the savings in paint and fuel.
 

Chef

LE
Remember, camo doesn't just work when parked on the ground.
Low flying aircraft are also more difficult to see from above if they blend in to the surroundings.
Coastal command changed their camouflage scheme after boffins did experiments in visibility from ships at sea and other aircraft
Wrong side, but an excellent example:


Imagine trying to spot that at several hundred mph and keeping an eye out in all other directions.

Throw in low viz markings and it becomes even harder.
 
The polishing is (primarily) to preserve the aluminium and prevent it oxidising -

There was a trend in commercial aviation to polish not paint as there were significant weight savings (and thus fuel and cost) it more or less died out when the cost of regular waxing and polishing exceeded the savings in paint and fuel.
Off topic...
Qantas give their 380s a full-on outside scrub after every Sydney/ London/ Sydney trip, as the plane gathers so much gunk, it is noticeable in the drag.
 
Regarding actual camouflage patterns, there is a degree of acceptable latitude as long as it generally conforms to the scheme drawing requirements. It's virtually impossible to perfectly replicate each aircraft. Wet-on-wetting a C130 with two guns is bloody knackering. Viewed at distance they do look the same though. Single colour schemes are a doddle.
 
later, US aircraft with no paint were polished for the 'go faster' effect.

My race car always went quicker when it had just been washed and polished.

In his history of 602 Squadron (I think it's there), Dugald Cameron tells of how Robert Findlay Boyd, when Wg Cdr (Flying) at Kenley in early 1942 had his Spitfire V stripped of the outer .303 machine guns, the paint removed and the aircraft polished so as to improve performance for when taking on the Fw190.

It was pointed out to him that this would mean more Germans would seek to engage him because they could see him. Boyd, who wasn't particularly keen on Germans simply growled 'Good!' (He later owned the Ferry Inn at Uig and is reputed to have made Basil Fawlty look like the exemplar for how to treat German tourists with respect and tact...)
 
Gen question, I know it's going to sound bone and obvious once it's been answered but sod it, why did we leave the Chinooks green in Helmand? Asking for my wife as I haven't a clue.
 
I've often been baffled by scheme changes. I can understand spec alterations with paint tech advances, but colours and patterns? Take SH for example. Throughout the 60s, 70s, 80s and early 90s RAF support helicopters were grey/green camouflage, with the underside light aircraft grey giving way to black in the early 70s. Why then were Wessexes and Pumas two-tone green from the mid-90s, but not Chinooks or Merlins? By then it was long established that plain dark green was just as tactically effective, as the CHF kites had been such since the late 70s. Likewise the Army's choppers. Black and green blobbed out at even close distance, so why bother? The use of hemp (one of the most effective schemes ever devised), desert pink ARTF and overall grey schemes have proved that disruptive patterns only have limited application, so... just what is the point of painting Wildcat Lynxes in ridiculous two-tone camouflage? Medium Sea Grey overall should be more than sufficient for everything in all environments. Don't even start me off on training schemes.
 
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Many years ago, I was tasked to recover a gazelle which went down near the border. The cab was green and black and in a field of waist high wheat, we knew where it was but flew round it several times before we spotted it. The pilot was standing there watching us but didn’t pop smoke because he “didn’t want to attract attention”. Surprising really, as the cabs always seemed to stand out like a dog’s when disguised as haystacks.
Early Army a/c were painted gloss green and brown (the accommodation blocks in Middle Wallop still show traces of this) to match the terrain, and possibly to make them easier to wipe off the oil spill. This remained standard through campaigns in sandy places until replaced with matt green and black in the 70s, probably to match the forestry blocks of BAOR. Grey and green arrived in the 80’s possibly as a more universal scheme as BAOR wound down.
As for the crabs, brown and green to match the English countryside in the early days, (less important as we gain air superiority) grey and green as operations move over the channel and into urban areas is my guess. Bombers per above.
The grey/light green paint-job on Gazelles was particularly effective. Rather pointless on Lynx as the Sun would always reflect off the oil, and sitting in a cab with a thermal-signature and RADAR return of a burning 747 while waiting for the other team to close within range of your TOW was for mugs.
 

Bubbles_Barker

LE
Book Reviewer
Indeed. The 5555 brown and green was shiny epoxy and very durable. The 5580 two pack polyurethane black / green had an IRR component which probably lasted until it got it’s first coat of oil and grease. IIRC vehicles also had a paint plan, so no black on the corners, and black stripes from the wheel arches?
My bold - black from the wheel arches to accentuate natural shadow. There was a whole Mat Regs chapter on it:

Bedford 14 Tonne 001 (2).jpg
 
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