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Black port wing underside on RAF a/c in the 1941/42 CBI theatre


KRK4m
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IIRC there were two periods when RAF fighters featured black port wing undersides - first lasted from April 1938 until early June 1940 and the second one from the end of November 1940 till April 1941. During the 1st period the starboard wing underside had to be white, while tailplanes and fuselages (although ordered to be divided black/white along the aircraft centreline) were sometimes left in silver or natural metal. During the second (brief) period only port wing had to be black - tailplanes, fuselage and s/board wing remained in Sky Type S.

Of course the "black wing" scheme has been applied not only to the single-engined single seaters. Photos of Defiants, Blenheims and Whirlwinds with black port wing are widely known. But there are some pictures showing army co-operation types (Audax, Tomahawk) featuring black port wing. Is it possible that any Hurricanes, Blenheims or Audax with black port wing were still in frontline units during the early stage (up to May 1942) of the war against Japan?

Cheers

Michael

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In the Far East, the use of black for the port wing underside was a role-based recognition marking for fighter aircraft (along with a fuselage identification band) that were part of Far East Command based in Singapore and spanned Singapore, Malaya, the Dutch East Indies, British Borneo and Burma. These recognition markings were implemented once the Buffalos and fighter Blenheims of 27 Sqn started to arrive in March/April 1941. There's extensive photographic evidence that 27 Sqn's Blenheim MkIf aircraft complied with these theatre recognition markings and, of course, most (but not all) of the in-use Buffalos also had black port underwings.

Reinforcement aircraft arriving in Singapore after the outbreak of hostilities, like the Hurricanes from HMS Indomitable, were not painted in these markings because there simply wasn't time. Similarly, Burma was moved from Far East Command in Singapore to India Command once Japanese forces cut the umbilical cord of the airfields linking Malaya to the main RAF base in Burma at Mingaladon. That move meant that reinforcement aircraft came from India Command which had no such recognition markings for fighter aircraft.

Hope this helps...a bit.

Cheers,
Mark

Edited by mhaselden
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This generally follows the scheme I was aware of. Nevertheless there's a photo of black-and-white bottomed Audax (with contrasting ailerons) that is supposed to be taken in India.

http://www.avionslegendaires.net/avion-militaire/hawker-audax/

Uppersurfaces wear (dark) camouflage, probably TLS. But who feels able to guess which year does it depict?

Cheers

Michael

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Audaxes were used by 28 Sqn RAF in India until September 1941. The aircraft were then handed to 3 Sqn IAF and were used by them until September 1943 when the unit converted to Hurricanes. I suspect the photo was taken during the 3 Sqn IAF period.

The web page below includes a small photo showing an Audax as part of a line-up of IAF aircraft, and it clearly has black/white wing undersides:

https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwje0rCO8MbOAhXIJB4KHWleCfkQjRwIBw&url=http%3A%2F%2Findianairforce.nic.in%2Fshow_page.php%3Fpg_id%3D98&psig=AFQjCNHmMt4vFe0RZQViU53KXfycDEMmiA&ust=1471469135095135

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OK, Mark, but the contrast here is not so strong. Maybe it's Sky and Night - like on the 1941 RAF Tomahawks, Buffaloes and Whirlwinds?

Anyway No.28 wasn't the only RAF squadron using Audax in 1941. They were also flown by No.20 (HN codes) and No. 146 (NA) till the end of December and by No.5 (OQ) up to March 1942. Moreover (except for the army co-op No.20) the units listed were called fighter squadrons, the direct replacement for the Audax in both cases being Curtiss Mohawk and the Audax was usually flown there as the single-seater... So maybe the Audax pictured on this French site belonged to the fighter unit and this was the reason for the black/white undersides (the one with contrasting ailerons).

It's strange for me that there are so many photos of No.28 Squadron (BF) Audax and almost nothing concerning No.5, 20 and 146 a/c from their "camouflaged" period. There're however two known photos of the Audax from No. 20 Squadron (army co-op, replaced by Lysanders in late December 1941) that have crashed in November 1941. Coded HN@E and serialled K4859 she also features strong difference in underside wing colours - starboard upper wing is ALMOST white while port one is much darker. However IMHO it can't be black, as roundel red is darker and the film is panchromatic (fuselage A1 roundel yellow surround looks almost white). Also the wing topside B roundels at the extreme wingtips are worth of mention.

http://www.rafcommands.com/galleries/SEAC/Cpl-F-Rowland/1941-Poona-Audax-Crash-01

http://www.rafcommands.com/galleries/SEAC/Cpl-F-Rowland/1941-Poona-Audax-Crash-02

On the other hand No.67 Squadron (RD) replaced directly their black-winged Buffaloes for Hurricanes at Rangoon in February 1942, so maybe the black wings had their continuation there too.

Cheers

Michael

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You may be right about the contrast but, frankly, these were treated as second-line aircraft. The Audaxes were not used operationally against the Japanese and so recognition markings were of little relevance, indeed we may just be seeing legacy markings from prior use. There's no evidence that any front-line operational aircraft (ie those going up against the Japanese) wore black port underwings as a recognition marking after the Buffalos left the front line, nor is there any evidence that new front-line aircraft like the Hurricanes used over Burma in early 1942 had black port wing undersides.

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Thank you - Mark and Alan. Hurricanes are clear. But one question concerning Audax intrigues me still.

The Corgi model of No.28 Sq. machine features silver doped undersides while this crashed specimen from No. 20 Sq. (roughly the same time and place) has undersides painted with some matt (or at lest semi-matt) light blue or Sky Type S. Do you feel the same?

Cheers

Michael

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I'm afraid your guess is as good as mine. There are photos of India-based Audaxes with silver doped undersides and others that show black port wings with a light-toned starboard wing. Without something more definitive (eg a directive from India Command on the marking scheme), we're left to guesswork. Frankly, the photos I've seen of the "half-and-half scheme" haven't been clear enough to even determine conclusively whether it's white or a pale blue/Sky colour.

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Heh, my problem doesn't apply to the starboard wing (of the Indian example as well as No.20 Sq. crashed machine) - I'm pretty sure it's white.

The problem is what colour is port wing - it's visibly darker than starboard (with strongly contrasting border in the centre), but still lighter than A-roundel blue !

It could be any grey, any blue, Sky type S or even Yellow :)

Cheers

Michael

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The problem can be in question - how the pigments faded? Perhaps in India the black with relatively short times turned into some kind of grey due to massive exposition to light there? I do not know any example for other then black for darker colour in two colour bottoms in RAF.

Cheers

J-W

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