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Spitfire camouflage -again!


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I've been reading the "rubber-mats" thread, amongst others to try and get a greater understanding of the painting processes used in WW2 generally. It's something I'd only ever taken for granted, aircraft were painted; I needed to paint my model, my only real concern would be the colours I used.

Some fascinating insight on these threads as to the how's and whys...that of course brings up some new questions...

One I have relates to colours being reversed, particularly on Spitfires. Now I don't mean alternating between 'A' & 'B' schemes, I understand how that happened, if not why! I'm thinking about aircraft where Dark Green was applied where Dark Earth ( or Ocean Grey) should have been, according to the instructions, and vice-versa.

Where there that many instances of this happening? Was this done at factory or MU or Squadron level?

I'd have thought it unlikely that it was at the factory.......particularly as the wings were painted as a separate component to the fuselage. The process appears to have been, prime,paint lower surfaces, apply Dark Earth on upper surfaces, apply mats/mask, paint Dark Green. This process would need to be changed, paint Dark Green, apply mats paint Dark Earth.....

So was it done at MU level, and again why? By human error or by design? If by design on who's authority, given the strict instructions laid down at the time.

Cheers

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There are examples of Spitfires in what may be called "reversed schemes", particularly in the MTO.

Personally I believe these were the result of errors during repainting at MU level. The errors were likely induced by the use of the camouflage diagrams that used shaded and unshaded areas regardless of how dark the colour was ! There was one diagram and for the desert scheme the shaded area was actually the one for the lighter colour, something that could lead to confusion.

Speaking of aircrafts in the mediterranean, some aircrafts photographed in Italy that are said to be in a reversed scheme could at the same time just be in day fighter scheme ! This is an error that has been perpetuated for years in Italian modelling magazines: aircrafts that had the darker colour through the cockpit were said to be in a reversed desert scheme, however we now know that many of those were painted in DFS, hence the correct presence of a darker colour through the cockpit (dark green).

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There are examples of Spitfires in what may be called "reversed schemes", particularly in the MTO.

Personally I believe these were the result of errors during repainting at MU level. The errors were likely induced by the use of the camouflage diagrams that used shaded and unshaded areas regardless of how dark the colour was ! There was one diagram and for the desert scheme the shaded area was actually the one for the lighter colour, something that could lead to confusion.

I think so too. The diagrams were counter-intuitive in showing the darker colour as plain and the lighter colour cross-hatched/shaded.

Nick

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The original intention was to use these "reversed schemes", or "exchanged colours", or C and D schemes, but they were not generally adopted. However there are clear examples here and there even on UK-based aircraft - Wing Cdr. Milden Blake's Spitfire Mk.Vb being one of them that sticks in my mind. Whether this was a deliberate "throw in an odd one now and again" or some mistake, I can't say. I have a feeling they are always C scheme or reversed A rather than D, so there's a hostage to fortune for a diligent researcher. Perhaps they are examples of misunderstanding after the use of the alternating B scheme was dropped?

I agree with the comments about the Desert scheme, although it is interesting that photos of early Spitfires being delivered to Malta on Eagle do show examples of reversed and standard Desert schemes. Perhaps from different MUs? Such differences can also be seen on early Desert Scheme Hurricanes, although this is confused by the likely presence of the "Tropical Land" scheme, which although unintended was official for several months. But let's not go there...

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The original intention was to use these "reversed schemes", or "exchanged colours", or C and D schemes, but they were not generally adopted. However there are clear examples here and there even on UK-based aircraft - Wing Cdr. Milden Blake's Spitfire Mk.Vb being one of them that sticks in my mind. Whether this was a deliberate "throw in an odd one now and again" or some mistake, I can't say. I have a feeling they are always C scheme or reversed A rather than D, so there's a hostage to fortune for a diligent researcher. Perhaps they are examples of misunderstanding after the use of the alternating B scheme was dropped?

I agree with the comments about the Desert scheme, although it is interesting that photos of early Spitfires being delivered to Malta on Eagle do show examples of reversed and standard Desert schemes. Perhaps from different MUs? Such differences can also be seen on early Desert Scheme Hurricanes, although this is confused by the likely presence of the "Tropical Land" scheme, which although unintended was official for several months. But let's not go there...

I've never heard of schemes 'C' & 'D', so thanks for that Graham. I'm not aware of Wing Cdr Milden Blake's Vb, any details or links please?

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IIRC, "MB" is in MMP's Spitfire Mk.V book. Bog standard Fighter Command Mk.V except the colours are the "wrong" way around.

The terminology "C and D" is in Paul Lucas's works, from his researches into the origins of the camouflage scheme. I've a feeling you'll also find it in older works too, but I can't point to them. They aren't often referred to because they were not (apparently) officially adopted.

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Well it's easy to make the mistake - a few years ago I built the Airfix 1/48 Spitfire MkIX. Built it, painted it, decalled it etc., put it on the shelf and began to wonder why over the next few days it looked odd - then it struck me. I had for some reason had a complete brain failure and had painted the DG where the OG should go and the OG where the DG should go. Mutter, mutter, grhhh....... A year later I finally summoned up the energy to refinish it. :blush:

However there was A,B, C and D schemes but the latter two appear rarely used and like the A and B schemes eventually got forgotten while A and B just gave way to one pattern because the fiddling about was slowing the war effort.

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It's easy to make a mistake when modelling, but rather less so on a production line with major sub-assemblies painted separately. That's what makes M.B stand out (at least in the absence of any other examples). I'm pretty sure that you can find other examples if you look hard enough. It might be interesting to find photos of W3560 and W35662. But then serials were not necessarily produced in simple sequence.

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It's easy to make a mistake when modelling, but rather less so on a production line with major sub-assemblies painted separately. That's what makes M.B stand out (at least in the absence of any other examples). I'm pretty sure that you can find other examples if you look hard enough. It might be interesting to find photos of W3560 and W35662. But then serials were not necessarily produced in simple sequence.

....to see if a batch of aircraft were painted "incorrectly"? If that were so I would imagine that it would have had to be set up deliberately, given wings and fuselages being painted separately?

I can see there being some confusion with new desert schemes with painters not so familiar with it, especially when first introduced but not with the Day Fighter Scheme nor the Temparate Land Scheme when applied at MU or squadron level. They would be fairly au fait with the scheme and would (maybe) only be painting over existing colours?

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Hi

When i had the chance to talk to groundcrew etc, many years ago

they always used to remember visiting the 'local watering hole' yet somehow managing to return to base in time

I often wonder if the morning after made 'interpretation' a little difficult.

The pilots told me they only had to have a whiff of the oxygen to clear the brain before any flight

cheers

jerry

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I notice that (if I'm remembering timing correctly) Blake's aircraft was built just before the change in camo. This might, then, be an opportunity for the "reversal"?

bob

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Paddy Finucanes Spitfire Vb was painted with the colours transposed as well, adding to the 'batch' theory.

UD-W, AB852

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If it happened on the production line, then it must have been deliberate, yes. A mistake might be more understandable at an MU, but even then it seems unlikely. As for the change to Day Fighter, there'd be no need to change the Dark Green so again it has to be deliberate. I feel that some kind of policy decision is more likely than simple mistakes, but there really isn't enough evidence to justify such a strong word as "theory" - just ideas to explain anomalies, so far.

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It's easy to make a mistake when modelling, but rather less so on a production line with major sub-assemblies painted separately. That's what makes M.B stand out (at least in the absence of any other examples). I'm pretty sure that you can find other examples if you look hard enough. It might be interesting to find photos of W3560 and W35662. But then serials were not necessarily produced in simple sequence.

Graham I was having a quiet joke - of course I am aware of the process of painting the real things.

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Sure, but it was a good intro to advance the theme a little further. I was hoping someone else could remember/find another example, or preferably a few more. I used to think there were a good few BoB Hurricanes, but when I deliberately set out to find any they melted away like the morning dew.

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Paddy Finucanes Spitfire Vb was painted with the colours transposed as well, adding to the 'batch' theory.

UD-W, AB852

Both built in July '41, but this one by Castle Bromwich, the other by Supermarine. Went to different MUs, but this one to a squadron (452) in early August, so probably not repainted until already in the hands of the squadron?

bob

p.s. Graham, the Hurri example that leaps to mind is a IID or IV.

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A quick scrabble through Mason only brought out a couple of Torch Sea Hurricanes, both Canadian-built, appearing to have the colours exchanged. Another one didn't. The Mk.IV is in the background to the familiar 164 Sq's KX413/H in UK service. (In Mason's book for Macdonald, and often elsewhere.)

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This is an excerpt from the (8-page) "Aircraft Design Memorandum," instruction of 1939, which includes references to the appropriate Air Diagram. note that it only refers to two "variations," not four, and the surviving transparencies, of the Air Diagrams, are only in pairs, not fours:-
PICT0074_zpseb193de8.jpg
So far, I've seen references to "A" & "B" schemes, on an original Supermarine drawing, but I have yet to see any mention of a "C" & "D."
One other instruction, in that memorandum, orders that spares are to be supplied primed and undercoated, only, with unit personnel required to do the finishing coats, so that they merge with the original airframe. As they were unlikely to have had any mats on an operational station, it's doubtful they would have been capable of 100% hard-edged demarcation, and that was likely to have carried over to the arrival of the Aircraft Finisher, hence that training film.
Edgar
P.S. I'm assuming that "minor," in that excerpt above, is a mistype for "mirror."

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By the time the instructions were passed down to the manufacturers, only two schemes had been authorised, but the "exchanged colour" schemes can be found in the RAE's Register of Aeroplane Camouflage Schemes, in the RAE files in the PRO (sorry, National Archives). There the Ministry's Air Diagram numbers are set against the original RAE terminology. So Air Diagram 1158 Camouflage Scheme for Single Engine Monoplanes Medium Bombers that was applied to the Fairey Battle has four RAE designations L1A, L1B, L1C and L1D. L1 refers to the Temperate Land scheme Dark Green/Dark Earth. L1A is the same as the Air Ministry's A pattern, L1B the same as the B pattern. Thus the shorthand (if unofficial) use of the C and D schemes to refer to the A and B with transposed colours. There was at least one Battle seen in France with transposed colours

This is described, with much more detail, in Lucas's Camouflage & Markings No2:The Battle of Britain.

It is more correct to refer to "the A pattern with transposed colours" rather than just the C pattern.

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I can't think that it would have been done deliberately at the factory, why would they just slip in a rogue paint job every so often, doesn't make any sense.

I reckon that when the order came through to repaint into the temperate scheme, a few individuals told the squadron painters to do something a little different for them, maybe having seen such a variety of paint schemes on the German planes.

All IMHO of course.

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I did wonder if that might apply to Blake's aircraft, and possibly to Finucane's as well, but it was a repaint from the Temperate Land Scheme into the Day Fighter scheme, and at that stage the Germans simply didn't have a great variety of paint schemes, as we sometimes assume. Be that as it may, that is not a reason that can apply to a Battle of France Battle or a 2 TAF Hurricane.

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Such differences can also be seen on early Desert Scheme Hurricanes, although this is confused by the likely presence of the "Tropical Land" scheme, which although unintended was official for several months. But let's not go there...

Graham,

You are trying to infer that an error published in an AMO of July 41 is responsible for the paint scheme of Hurricanes in February 41. That is illogical. Furthermore you are quoting a correction date of several months. The AMO of July 41 was corrected in several weeks not several months. The term "Tropical Land Scheme" in the corrected AMO refers to the camouflage scheme of Dark earth and Midstone. This is the terminology that I have known for as long as I can remember and is published way back in the early years just after WWII. Whilst I do not dispute that a Dark Green and Midstone scheme may have existed, it does not correlate with the AMO of July 41. I do not understand why you still keep insisting otherwise.

Cheers,

Mark

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Mark

AMO 513 of 10.7.41 superceded AMO A.926/40 and amendments A.30/41 and A.157/41. Para 3 (ii) refers to operational aircraft for service abroad and states Temperate land scheme or "dark green and mid-stone, according to the nature of the country in which they are to operate".

The table in Appendix I to that order refers to "Tropical land scheme" for the upper surfaces of operational aircraft for service abroad (without citing colours) and "Duck-egg blue (Sky Type "S"), Special Night (matt black)" for under surfaces. This can only refer to the previous Para 3 (ii) and must be a catch all for Temperate land or Dark Green with Mid-stone where those colours were considered appropriate to the environment.

AMO A/664 of 2.7.42 clarifies at Para 3 (iv) that the desert scheme consists of dark earth and middle stone and the table at Appendix I cites Day fighter scheme or desert scheme for day fighters abroad with Sky or Azure under surfaces. There is no mention of Tropical land scheme but A.513 was cancelled.

IIRC you posted a copy of a memo or instruction correcting the July 1941 error (? could you please post it again) but as the AMO was not amended for almost a year there was still potential for confusion from the paperwork held by MUs. Furthermore A.687 of August 28.8.41 conveyed amendments to A.513 and makes no mention of correcting the error.

Regards

Nick

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