That last IWM image appears to show that Ark's superstructure (except the mast) had been repainted in the same tone as the band around the lower half of her hull. Is it conceivable that she was part way through repainting in overall medium grey? Alternatively, could these areas actually be painted Home Fleet Grey?
Hi Ian, thanks very much for posting those photos of the port side. It took some effort but I was eventually able to view them - the image of the low-contrast scheme is particularly helpful. Is there any evidence as to whether the Mediterranean Fleet would have been using ready-mixed paints by September 1940, or still mixing them onboard ship or in the dockyard from individual ingredients? If the former, then a 50/50 mix of AP507A and AP507C may well have been the simplest way to obtain large quantities of a medium grey paint quickly. If paints were still being made up when required there would have been more opportunity for variations, but the result would presumably still have been a slightly bluish grey. Peter.
I would like to return to the original question asked in this thread - the appearance of HMS Illustrious at the time of the raid on Taranto during the night of 10-11 November 1940. The nice new-tool Aoshima kit of Illustrious has been sitting in my stash for 21 months now while I have slowly accumulated references on the class, but the colour scheme worn by Illustrious at Taranto has been difficult to pin down. It is clear that when commissioned in late May 1940, HMS Illustrious was painted overall Dark Grey (Home Fleet Grey, AP507A - though it could still have been AP507B at this time). She continued to wear this scheme throughout her work-up, which took place off Bermuda following the fall of France. One unusual aspect of her appearance during the trials period was a light-coloured panel extending the full width of her forward round-down, perhaps for identification purposes. Another was a false bow wave carried during her flying trials (shown in a photo of her at Bermuda on 5 July 1940, on page 88 of Fleet Air Arm Camouflage and Markings by Stuart Lloyd). Both of these features seem to have been removed before Illustrious entered the Mediterranean on 30 August 1940. It is reasonably certain that Illustrious was given an "Alexandria" style disruptive camouflage scheme soon after joining the Mediterranean Fleet, along with the rest of the fleet. Whereas many ships adopted high-contrast schemes using 2 or 3 colours, Illustrious was painted into a fairly dark and low-contrast scheme, probably using 2 colours. The Stuart Lloyd book (page 141) gives the periods when Illustrious was repainted at Alexandria as: 20-26 September 1940, 6-9 December 1940, 14-18 February 1941. The last of these periods is after Illustrious' career had come to an abrupt end on 10 January 1941, when she was severely damaged by Luftwaffe Stukas and put out of action for over a year, leaving only 2 periods when Illustrious was repainted during her active service in the Med The discussion of Illustrious over on the Modelwarships site includes links to films of Illustrious on the Australian War Memorial website, dated 29 September and 8 October 1940, that show the low-contrast disruptive scheme, so it was most likely applied during the 20-26 September repaint. I have also found a photo of Illustrious that shows her in the similar high-contrast scheme referred to earlier in this thread, but before the damage inflicted on 10 January 1941. This high-contrast scheme was therefore probably applied over 6-9 December 1940, after Taranto. There are a couple of pieces of evidence that support the theory that Illustrious was wearing the low-contrast disruptive scheme at the time of Taranto. One is a photo of her and HMS Hero claimed to have been taken during the operation, again reproduced in the Stuart Lloyd book (page 140). Another is a short film sequence included on the DVD Know Your Own Navy that shows Illustrious being cheered by a group of servicemen on her return to Alexandria after the raid (though the commentary says that she is the Ark Royal!). If we can be reasonably confident that Illustrious wore a low-contrast disruptive sheme at the time of Taranto, probably in 2 colours, we are left with two questions: 1. What colours were used? 2. What did the disruptive pattern actually look like? The first is easier to answer. Since Illustrious entered the Med painted overall Home Fleet Grey (AP507A), it is likely that this colour was retained as the darker of the two colours. The second colour is too dark to be Mediterranean Grey (AP507C) and is probably a medium grey, formed by mixing AP507A and AP507C. In the absence of any other evidence, I will opt for a 50/50 mix of the two colours since it would have been easy to specify (and to re-mix later whenever some touching-up was needed), and is mentioned in later official documents. The flight deck colour may have been some shade of dark grey, but Bronze Grey (AP631) seems more likely during 1940. The flight deck markings could have been either white or yellow, but I have found no evidence either way. The second question is more of a problem. I have now just about found enough pictures of Illustrious in the low-contrast scheme to piece together the pattern on her starboad side, but for some reason good clear pictures of her port side are much more elusive. Are there any pictures out there that show the low-contrast disruptive pattern clearly, especially of her port side?