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Killingholme

Order of RAF squadron codes

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Posted (edited)

Hi all,

 

Apologies for what is probably a really elementary question, but was there an official way that squadron codes were arranged on RAF fighters?

 

For example If on the port side it reads nose-tail as "AB[roundel]C", in what order would the code be on the starboard side?

 

I've seen photos of both (reading nose-tail) "C[roundel]BA" and "CB[roundel]A"!  If there's a sky band on the rear fuselage it's quite difficult to fit two code letters between the tail and the roundel on the starboard side of aircraft.

 

Any help appreciated!

 

Will

Edited by Killingholme

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The only requirement was that the squadron codes and individual letter were separated by the roundel. You can find examples of any combination you can think of.

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Available space often determined whether unit codes appeared ahead of or behind the roundels, usually distance from main plane trailing edge to roundel and distance from roundel to tailplane leading edge.  Serial numbers were not upposed to be obscured by codes and i/d letters but there are plenty of documented exceptions to that rule.  

 

IIRC the roundel is supposed to be 1/5 of the mainplane root chord behind the mainplane trailing edge so for mid-wing types, particularly those with short-chord wings, this could seriously restrict the amount of room available fur the unit codes. 

 

247 Squadron operated a number of night-fighter Hurricanes in overall Night wearing squadron codes and i/d letter in Red, separated by a hyphen, between roundel and wing.  Several Coastal Command Beaufighter and Mosquito units used a similar convention, but with the letter groups above the wing centre section, e.g. 235 and 236 Squadrons in the period around D-Day.

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What ever letters were assigned to a squadron ( AJ, SK etc ) would not change. So in your example  "AB[roundel]C" would be "C[roundel]AB on the opposite side.

 

Though there are probably photos out there to prove me wrong.

 

 

Chris

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19 hours ago, Killingholme said:

If there's a sky band on the rear fuselage it's quite difficult to fit two code letters between the tail and the roundel on the starboard side of aircraft.

Because of this, some aircraft seem to have been marked with squadron code and letter forward of the roundel, either in a single block or separated by a hyphen. There are some examples on this thread about RAF Mustangs:

 

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Really each Squadron had their own view on the matter and as others have said, it was possible to find any combination.

Just have a look at the many Spitfire VIII and IX shown in the webpage below and you will see a lot of different styles, with and without sky band

 

http://www.spitfireperformance.com/spit9v109g.html

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The odd grouping, all aft of the roundel, was also seen on Lancasters of 12 Squadron.  How extensively and for how long I do not know.  This site has a thumbnail and I have seen others:

 

https://www.medalsofengland.com/medals.php?id=139&medalid=1109

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Have seen examples with the unit code separated by the roundel (e.g. if unit was AB, then AoBC

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4 hours ago, Dave Fleming said:

Have seen examples with the unit code separated by the roundel (e.g. if unit was AB, then AoBC

Very much the exception to the rule, but yes: the Albemarles of 297 Sq (code P5) spring to mind.

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One set of codes was issued after Munich.  Another set was issued to be used at the start of the war.  A very few units missed this and carried on using their prewar codes, at least initially.  This did mean at least ne set of codes (QJ) was being used simultaneously by two units in the UK.  The original intention was to change the squadron codes now-and-then to help confuse the enemy, but this didn't take place.  However a few units did change their codes during the war.  As the number of units using these codes grew larger some codes were issued twice, but only to units in different theatres.  (e.g. AF continued to be used by 607 Sq when it went out to SEAC, but it was then adopted by the Air Fighting Development Unit in the UK.)

 

I second the value of Combat Codes.

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21 minutes ago, Graham Boak said:

One set of codes was issued after Munich.  Another set was issued to be used at the start of the war.  A very few units missed this and carried on using their prewar codes, at least initially.  This did mean at least ne set of codes (QJ) was being used simultaneously by two units in the UK.  The original intention was to change the squadron codes now-and-then to help confuse the enemy, but this didn't take place.  However a few units did change their codes during the war.  As the number of units using these codes grew larger some codes were issued twice, but only to units in different theatres.  (e.g. AF continued to be used by 607 Sq when it went out to SEAC, but it was then adopted by the Air Fighting Development Unit in the UK.)

 

I second the value of Combat Codes.

 

602 were interesting as they originally had LO on Gauntlets, changed to ZT when they got Spitfires then went back to LO at the outbreak of war. I don’t think the Sept 39 change list has been found yet.

 

LO was also used by a Mid East Hudson unit

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Posted (edited)
On 12/04/2018 at 10:20 AM, Graham Boak said:

One set of codes was issued after Munich.  Another set was issued to be used at the start of the war.  A very few units missed this and carried on using their prewar codes, at least initially.  This did mean at least one set of codes (QJ) was being used simultaneously by two units in the UK. [...]

 

It's interesting that you should pick that example....!

 

40563504325_1f1ea9fdf6_b.jpg

 

And yes, I do realise as an 'odd' aircraft it should be painted in a 'B' scheme...

Edited by Killingholme

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Supposedly the first aircraft in a batch was painted in A scheme, with alternatives then in B.  As to whether serial batches began and ended consistently in odd or even, I think would need checking.  Even then, I'd prefer to rely upon photos preferably of the actual aircraft but at least of "local" serials.

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13 hours ago, Graham Boak said:

Supposedly the first aircraft in a batch was painted in A scheme, with alternatives then in B.  As to whether serial batches began and ended consistently in odd or even, I think would need checking.  Even then, I'd prefer to rely upon photos preferably of the actual aircraft but at least of "local" serials.

 

Correct, you can get even no’s in B scheme

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Very much depends on Sqn and aircraft type, Boston's and Mitchell's had the Sqn code on rear fuselage with individual code letter on nose, some Sqn's had all the letters on one side of roundel AB-C @ and on opposite side @C-AB, there were the directives laid down and what Sqn's did! 

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