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Boulton Paul Defiant May 1940 colour scheme


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Graham, as an abstract I might be tempted to agree with you about an office not guaranteeing access... but... if you could see the whole book it has a mass of information on which mark of Merlin (etc) is used, how many hp, the specific wing loadings and a load of other information that you might expect to be kept secret, and it seems to match other later sources. I think it's quite hard from this distance to understand how blasé we were about some things whilst being very secretive about others. Let's not forget that only a few months before war broke out we were selling 'excess' production' of Hurricanes to any country we thought might be an ally! There  is also similar information about key enemy aircraft and some of their more obscure creations too. The fact remains that in autumn 1940 you wouldn't have to stand outside for long, particularly in areas in the south, to see whole squadrons of spitfires and hurricanes, not to mention those that limped home from French excursions only to crash in England. 

I agree with you about the difference in markings between the AC and AASF and that lack of continuity is part of my point that contrary to clear assertions, the reality was anything but consistent. The four sqns of AC Hurricanes carried quite radically different markings to those 4 sqns of the AASF.  I go back to my opening comment that having baled out during the retreat to Dunkirk, a Hurricane pilot was astonished find, having made his way to the British GHQ in France, they didn't even know that the light/dark (b/w!) split was the standard British marking in place for at least a year before.

I agree there is evidence that the specified colour was white but remain intrigued by how something so fundamental could be mistated for so long if that is the is the case! Your argument that there was no 'but they were grey' outcry in 1966 also works in reverse and 'but they were white' would surely have come first and not taken from 1941 to 1966 to be challenged on such a basic fact? 

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There were only 2 squadrons of Hurricanes in the AASF, and I can't agree that the rudder markings and inconsistent lack of squadron codes really adds up to being "quite radically different" markings.  At least the rudder markings were different enough to be noteworthy - or at least worth bothering about!  Arguably at least.


Given the near total lack of communication between the British services at this time, the comment about the GHQ does not surprise me in the slightest - although it might have been different had he asked some other officer.  Looking in the opposite direction, I rather doubt that many if any RAF senior officers (or Hurricane pilots) knew the colours of British tanks, or their identity markings.  The left hand knoweth not...  The purpose of the black/white was to assist the Observer Corps in the UK and no such organisation was set up in France.  It may simply not have occurred to anyone in the AM that the Army had any need to know.  It's not as though they had any effective AA to worry about. 


I have seen Aircraft of the Fighting Powers, although not for many years now, but would point out that much of the information provided would have been out-of-date and hence well known to any enemy.  The Whirlwind was kept secret for a long time, even after being published in German recognition manuals, and the operation debut of the Mosquito was kept secret for a year.  I believe that the story of the Spitfire Mk.XII is similar.   As another indication of the difficulties faced by enthusiasts in those days, the very popular Paul Richey's Fighter Pilot included a photo of Squadron Leader Prosser Hanks landing his 1 Sq. Hurricane at Villancourt(?).  This was long kept in continuous publication, but we know now that the photo came from a set taken of 73 Sq.  (Memory says the pilot was actually Peter Ayers - I can check if you're really really interested.  Or tell you to get Peter Cornwell's After The Battle on The Battle of France.)


in Autumn 1940 the white wing was long gone.  Yes, in part of the south lots of people could see lots of things, things that were not always consistent and not always noted consistently.  And certainly not always repeated beyond a small circle.   As examples of the problems just see the many published quotations from RAF Intelligence officers on the camouflage of shot-down German aircraft.  But most views were fleeting, and distinguishing between a dirty white and a light grey is perhaps too much to expect from anyone.  After all, in this same period the RAF saw a lot of Bf109s but also a fair number of non-existent He113s.  Given that the main recognition feature of the Heinkel was its central ventral radiator, I have my own theory about what was being seen in the heat of combat and shot at!


I'm not convinced that the light grey story was fully accepted before 1966, because we do have to ask where any alternative opinion would have been expressed publicly and distributed widely.  Discussions such as this one were just not possible in the 50s.  The answer surely is in specialist aeromodelling magazines, and without the ability to search those I prefer to leave it an open question.  After all, someone knew that Ocean Grey wasn't Dark Sea Grey, but that lingered in print for some years because of the lack of any other publication.  (There was a much smaller Harleyford publication in the late 40s, but although I've seen that once I don't have it so can't say what was or wasn't said there.)


Yes, in peacetime some attention was paid to allowing for exports, and let's face it some of our putative Allies needed some boosting.  But the same was also true about other manufacturing nations.  The Germans sold Bf109s to Yugoslavia and Romania (both also Hurricane buyers - not really surprising if you think about the politics concerned).  The Do215 was specifically intended for export only, although as war approached there was some understandable dragging of heels.  France sold Moranes, Potez and Blochs.  Poland sold PZL 24s to Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania.  The RN found itself with a flotilla of destroyers being built for Brazil.  We mustn't judge our predecessors with complete hindsight: we know when war was to come but they didn't.  In 1938 the prime worry of British aircraft manufacturers was that they had invested heavily in increased plant and were concerned about military orders drying up, leaving them with considerable debt and an over-expanded workforce.  Foreign orders were commercially and politically desirable - but it must be noted that not all foreign requests were satisfied, particularly for the Spitfire.  Production of this was lagging anyway...but that is another story.

Edited by Graham Boak
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One of the reasons that exports were encouraged, at least for the Spitfire, and probably also the Hurricane, was that the Air Ministry was already looking ahead to the next type (though exactly who was to build what next wasn't quite so easy to decide!)  It made some sense, before the war got "hot" (or started at all) to keep Supermarine building Spitfires, even if they had to sell some abroad (and, of course, being the world's best fighter in the eyes of the Air Ministry, that would be a feather in the cap of the British air industry, and at least those other chaps would be buying British, instead of buying German). 


Keep in mind that you can't just pick up the phone and say, "Yes, Supermarine, I know we were going to have you switch over to Beaufighters, but change of plans- build as many Spitfires as you can this month."  Unless, of course, you're Lord Beaverbrook.  Orders were placed something like 1 1/2 to 2 years ahead, and think about how much changed in a year and a half around then.

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  • 10 months later...
On 17/06/2018 at 12:51, 48-Alone-Is-Great said:

Did the Defiant have the black wing and/or Sky fuselage band in May 1940? It seems not.


Despite RAF fighters needing the bottom half black plus the Sky Type S fuselage band, and despite several colour profiles that show them with either, I haven't found a single photo, not from 1939, not from 1940.


I did find photos of crashed Defiants that can definitively be placed in May 1940, and these don't show a fuselage band and don't show a black underside of the fuselage, but no details of the underside of the wing is visible.


Should we agree that in May 1940 the Defiant used neither fuselage band nor black undersides? Or does someone here perhaps have that rare photo we've all been looking for, showing both?


The next question would be: why didn't the Defiant carry the regulation scheme?




Some thread necromancy, but here's an answer concerning the undersides of Defiants at that time. Wings were black - port /white - stbd, no roundels, so just as per the regulations of that timeframe.
This photo is of L6977, the 'first' PS*U (the Airfix kit, L7013, is the second);

In the center left of the pic black soot can be seen on the white wing underside, which coincides with P/O. Patrick Greenhous' report; "After we had been hit the starboard fuel tank caught fire. I succeeded in extinguishing the fire by carrying out a sideways dive" (..) The black port wing is just being hoisted up with a crane.
Fuselage and tail undersurfaces were most likely aluminium dope.


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