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Coastal Command Flame Float Mk II colour and markings


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Hi fellow Britmodeller members,

 

I am an amateur 3D modeller and a new member of your community.  Due to my interest for WWII-related topics, in the past I have often dug this forum looking for information on British WWII weapons, but this is my first post here. As the title says, I am looking for information relative to the Flame Float Mk II, an ammo piece that was commonly used aboard CC patrol aircraft (and probably on FAA scout planes) to help locating and marking targets at night. Unfortunately I couldn't find any picture of the real thing, and all the information I currently have is from OP1665 (http://michaelhiske.de/Allierte/USA/OrdnancePamphlets/OP1665/Part01/Chapter20/Figure091.htm) and other unclassified documents now available online. My unanswered questions are two:

 

  • In the 'colour and markings' section of the said documents is written: "Body, strut supports, strut, and protecting cap painted red; tail cone painted yellow". Nothing is said about the cylindrical inner container that gets released on water impact together with the tail cone , nor about the nose, though I suspect that they might have left them unpainted.
  • All the ordnance pamphlets that I have consulted have b/w drawings with markings painted on them, but being in most cases digitalized photocopies, their quality is too poor for making those markings intelligible.

 

Has anyone here better informations than I do on the above topics?

By the way, this is a quick preview of what my model looks so far. I hope it is okay posting it here:

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Edited by Gabriele Profeta
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1 hour ago, fubar57 said:

Thank you for your reply fubar57!

 

The document you have linked is among the ones already in my archive. Somehow it got clearer illustrations than other similar pamphlets but, other than a few letters and digits, I still can't make head or tails of the markings it portrays:

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I would be grateful if someone more knowledgeable than me would be so kind to decipher them. 

Edited by Gabriele Profeta
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3 hours ago, Gabriele Profeta said:

Hi fellow Britmodeller members,

 

I am an amateur 3D modeller and a new member of your community.  Due to my interest for WWII-related topics, in the past I have often dug this forum looking for information on British WWII weapons, but this is my first post here. As the title says, I am looking for information relative to the Flame Float Mk II, an ammo piece that was commonly used aboard CC patrol aircraft (and probably on FAA scout planes) to help locating and marking targets at night. Unfortunately I couldn't find any picture of the real thing, and all the information I currently have is from OP1665 (http://michaelhiske.de/Allierte/USA/OrdnancePamphlets/OP1665/Part01/Chapter20/Figure091.htm) and other unclassified documents now available online. My unanswered questions are two:

 

  • In the 'colour and markings' section of the said documents is written: "Body, strut supports, strut, and protecting cap painted red; tail cone painted yellow". Nothing is said about the cylindrical inner container that gets released on water impact together with the tail cone , nor about the nose, though I suspect that they might have left them unpainted.
  • All the ordnance pamphlets that I have consulted have b/w drawings with markings painted on them, but being in most cases digitalized photocopies, their quality is too poor for making those markings intelligible.

 

Has anyone here better informations than I do on the above topics?

By the way, this is a quick preview of what my model looks so far. I hope it is okay posting it here:

spacer.png

 

 

 

 

 

1.Your colour scheme is correct for the flame float.

2. You wont find any colours related to the cylindrical inner container that gets released on water impact,  the colours shown are for warning the user when handling the store, the inner will probably be unpainted metal,  as when the store functions you wont see it as its floating under the  sea surface anyway. 

The  stencilled identification Markings  Will be  the Item name- "Navigation Flame Float Mk II, " the Date of Manufacture, Lot Number, and Section and reference number..and fill details.  If you look at the stencilled on  markings on any bomb of the period will give you the format , as this was standardised throughout the three services.

What the Section and reference number was I don't know.   The diagram shown above shows the handling warning labels in  boxes to the right of the central diagram.

 

Selwyn

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1 hour ago, Selwyn said:

1.Your colour scheme is correct for the flame float.

2. You wont find any colours related to the cylindrical inner container that gets released on water impact,  the colours shown are for warning the user when handling the store, the inner will probably be unpainted metal,  as when the store functions you wont see it as its floating under the  sea surface anyway. 

The  stencilled identification Markings  Will be  the Item name- "Navigation Flame Float Mk II, " the Date of Manufacture, Lot Number, and Section and reference number..and fill details.  If you look at the stencilled on  markings on any bomb of the period will give you the format , as this was standardised throughout the three services.

What the Section and reference number was I don't know.   The diagram shown above shows the handling warning labels in  boxes to the right of the central diagram.

 

Selwyn

Thank you for your answers Selwyn,

your remarks make perfect sense to me.

 

Can you confirm that the nose would have been painted in red as well as the body? I ask because that part was normally covered by the protecting cap (not portrayed in my model) and likely uncovered just before dropping the flame float itself.

What do you think that my decision to keep the punch sleeve (on the top of the tail cone) unpainted?
Talking about markings, have you noticed that arrow pointing to the side opening (to the side of the tail cone in one) on one the above drawings? It had to connect the opening with an handling warning, but in the drawing the lettering is not visible. 

 

 

45 minutes ago, dogsbody said:

That pamphlet is on my HD and it has already been mentioned in this thread, but thank you anyway Chris!

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1 hour ago, Gabriele Profeta said:

Thank you for your answers Selwyn,

your remarks make perfect sense to me.

 

Can you confirm that the nose would have been painted in red as well as the body? I ask because that part was normally covered by the protecting cap (not portrayed in my model) and likely uncovered just before dropping the flame float itself.

What do you think that my decision to keep the punch sleeve (on the top of the tail cone) unpainted?
Talking about markings, have you noticed that arrow pointing to the side opening (to the side of the tail cone in one) on one the above drawings? It had to connect the opening with an handling warning, but in the drawing the lettering is not visible. 

 

 

That pamphlet is on my HD and it has already been mentioned in this thread, but thank you anyway Chris!

The nose would have been red the protective cap would have been removed  either immediately after loading or just before flight. its a handling safety device not an in air safety device..

 

Selwyn

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3 minutes ago, Selwyn said:

The nose would have been red the protective cap would have been removed  either immediately after loading or just before flight. its a handling safety device not an in air safety device..

 

Selwyn

Okay, so those floats were loaded on racks as regular bombs? Call me silly, but having not seen any suspension lug, I was under the impression that they were dropped manually.

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1 hour ago, Gabriele Profeta said:

That pamphlet is on my HD and it has already been mentioned in this thread, but thank you anyway Chris!

 

As it is just a long string of code letters and numbers and not highlighted in any way, I didn't notice it in your original posting. My bad, I guess.

 

 

 

Chris

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@Selwyn is (as he has already shown) the guru on this stuff, but if this is the type of float I think it is, then they were dropped manually (e.g. through the chute built into the TAG cockpit of a Barracuda) but also sometimes suspended from Light Series Bomb Carriers under the wings of just about anything that flew over water.  They were extremely important for oversea navigation; looking at my Dad’s logbook, a good 50% of the navigation phase of his FAA Observer training was spent on the various methods of wind finding - of which dropping a smoke float by day / flame float at night was by far the most common.  
 

Even in my era with infinitely better radar, inertial nav & accurate Doppler, knowing the wind as accurately as possible when out of sight of land and ‘Mother’ was drummed into us.  Otherwise you risked not finding the ship and/or running out of fuel when you returned from your 3-4 hours away

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5 hours ago, Ex-FAAWAFU said:

@Selwyn is (as he has already shown) the guru on this stuff, but if this is the type of float I think it is, then they were dropped manually (e.g. through the chute built into the TAG cockpit of a Barracuda) but also sometimes suspended from Light Series Bomb Carriers under the wings of just about anything that flew over water.  They were extremely important for oversea navigation; looking at my Dad’s logbook, a good 50% of the navigation phase of his FAA Observer training was spent on the various methods of wind finding - of which dropping a smoke float by day / flame float at night was by far the most common.  
 

Even in my era with infinitely better radar, inertial nav & accurate Doppler, knowing the wind as accurately as possible when out of sight of land and ‘Mother’ was drummed into us.  Otherwise you risked not finding the ship and/or running out of fuel when you returned from your 3-4 hours away

FAAWAFU

The Flame Float Mk II weighed  just under 12 lb  and burned for 6 minutes, at  2 foot long  and 5.9" dia  I think a little too big for in the cockpit,  so was probably deployed from a light series carrier. 

 However the  No 3 Mk 1 Flame Float   that weighed 2.5 lb  burned for 5 mins, and at 18.5" long ,2.9" dia was much more suitable to be cockpit deployed from a chute., so this is probably what your Dad commonly used. Another clue is that it has a tear off seal  that has to be removed before dropping.

 

Selwyn

 

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7 hours ago, Ex-FAAWAFU said:

@Selwyn is (as he has already shown) the guru on this stuff, but if this is the type of float I think it is, then they were dropped manually (e.g. through the chute built into the TAG cockpit of a Barracuda) but also sometimes suspended from Light Series Bomb Carriers under the wings of just about anything that flew over water.  They were extremely important for oversea navigation; looking at my Dad’s logbook, a good 50% of the navigation phase of his FAA Observer training was spent on the various methods of wind finding - of which dropping a smoke float by day / flame float at night was by far the most common.  
 

Even in my era with infinitely better radar, inertial nav & accurate Doppler, knowing the wind as accurately as possible when out of sight of land and ‘Mother’ was drummed into us.  Otherwise you risked not finding the ship and/or running out of fuel when you returned from your 3-4 hours away

Yes as far as I could understand from the few sources I found online, flame floats were  used in numbers both by FAA  and CC, so I am a bit surprised that there is so little information and pictorial documentation about them.

The following confidential information on Leigh Lights, documents flame float's usage against German U-boats on RAF patrol craft :

 

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I have also found three Wikipedia articles mentioning flame floats:

 

"[Aboard Short S.26 flying boats] there was internal stowage for 20 reconnaissance flares, 28 flame floats and 8 smoke floats. Air to Surface Vessel (ASV) radar was fitted, plus armour plating for the internal fuel tanks and the crew stations".

 

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Short_S.26#Design_and_development)

 

"[Westland Wasp] Armament

  • Naval: 2 x Mk 44 or 1 x Mk 46 torpedo or 2 x Mk 44 depth charges or WE.177 600lb Nuclear Depth Bomb.[28][29][30]
  • Attack: 4 x SS.11 replaced by 2 x AS.12 missiles.
  • General: GPMG, 4.5 Flares, Smoke/flame floats".

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westland_Wasp#Specifications_(Wasp_HAS.1))

 

"Behind [Short Stirling's] rest area, the uninterrupted deck ran across the full length of the bomb cells to the location in which the retractable ventral turret was installed upon early production aircraft; the internal area aft of this position were used to store flame floats and reconnaissance flares, as well as an escape hatch, lavatory, rear turret position, and the crew entry door on the port side."

 

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Short_Stirling#Crew_accommodation)

 

So, apparently, on 

1 hour ago, Selwyn said:

FAAWAFU

The Flame Float Mk II weighed  just under 12 lb  and burned for 6 minutes, at  2 foot long  and 5.9" dia  I think a little too big for in the cockpit...

 

Selwyn

 

Yes, indeed you are right; right after posting my question I thought the same!

 

Anyway, since the last time we talked, I updated a bit my model. Changes include a remodelled nose, better paint work and, addition of markings on the main body. The model should represent a Flame Float Mk II ready for dropping. What do you guys think about it?

 

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Not just the Wasp, Gabriele; all RN helicopters (I flew Lynx and Sea King) routinely carried smoke & flame floats, used to visually mark a datum [where you’ve just dropped a weapon on a submarine].  In an exercise you’d drop a SFF and a “cracker” (underwater sound signal; it just made a harmless bang which was audible in the submarine) to mark a practice attack; when the boat heard the cracker she’d launch a “candle” (a coloured floating marker flare) to mark her position - that way you could measure how accurate your attack was and whether it would have worked in real life.

 

These red beasts were for more serious things in wartime, but the principle is the same.

Edited by Ex-FAAWAFU
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2 minutes ago, Ex-FAAWAFU said:

Not just the Wasp, Gabriele; all RN helicopters (I flew Lynx and Sea King) routinely carried smoke & flame floats, used to visually mark a datum [where you’ve just dropped a weapon on a submarine].  In an exercise you’d drop a SFF and a “cracker” (underwater sound signal; it just made a harmless bang which was audible in the submarine) to mark a practice attack; when the boat heard the cracker she’d launch a “candle” (a coloured floating marker flare) to mark her position - that eay you could measure how accurate your attack was and whether it would have worked in real life.

 

These red beasts were for more serious things in wartime, but the principle is the same.

Interesting topic! If I get you correctly, flame float's main use was marking a position. Could they be used as well for illuminating an area at night (in WWII's early ASV radar era), or should I conclude that for that task flares were preferred? 

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10 minutes ago, Gabriele Profeta said:

Interesting topic! If I get you correctly, flame float's main use was marking a position. Could they be used as well for illuminating an area at night (in WWII's early ASV radar era), or should I conclude that for that task flares were preferred? 

It would not be any use for illumination. For WW2 ASV attacks you would  use a Leigh light mounted on the aircraft to illuminate the target. on smaller aircraft  I would assume a parachute flare may have been used.

 

Selwyn

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4 minutes ago, Selwyn said:

It would not be any use for illumination. For WW2 ASV attacks you would  use a Leigh light mounted on the aircraft to illuminate the target. on smaller aircraft  I would assume a parachute flare may have been used.

 

Selwyn

Good to know, thanks.

 

Do you have any remark on the (speculative) marking I adopted for my model?

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These floats would have been used (as the name suggests) for navigation; it was critical to know what the wind was doing , often many miles from land - if you got that wrong you could miss your carrier, make landfall in the wrong place, run out of fuel or all 3.  By day it would emit smoke, by night a flame, and the aircraft would then use it as a fixed mark, flying a standard pattern around it which would allow the Observer (Navy) / Navigator (RAF) to work out the wind.

 

As Selwyn says, you wouldn’t use a small flare like this to illuminate an ASV target; not powerful enough and no parachute (so it would fall too fast - you want the light source to descend slowly, as for instance at Taranto where some of the aircraft were flare droppers to illuminate the anchorage so the dive bombers and torpedo bombers could attack).  Leigh Lights were the illuminator of choice for ASV attacks on U-boats.  
 

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2 minutes ago, Ex-FAAWAFU said:

These floats would have been used (as the name suggests) for navigation; it was critical to know what the wind was doing , often many miles from land - if you got that wrong you could miss your carrier, make landfall in the wrong place, run out of fuel or all 3.  By day it would emit smoke, by night a flame, and the aircraft would then use it as a fixed mark, flying a standard pattern around it which would allow the Observer (Navy) / Navigator (RAF) to work out the wind.

 

As Selwyn says, you wouldn’t use a small flare like this to illuminate an ASV target; not powerful enough and no parachute (so it would fall too fast - you want the light source to descend slowly, as for instance at Taranto where some of the aircraft were flare droppers to illuminate the anchorage so the dive bombers and torpedo bombers could attack).  Leigh Lights were the illuminator of choice for ASV attacks on U-boats.  
 

Thank you very much FAAWAFU,

 

here are a couple of quotes confirming the precious information that you and Selwyn have provided:

 

"One early problem with ASV Mk.II was that its minimal range was too long. To make a successful attack, the crew had to see the submarine. At night, this could be achieved by dropping flares, but this warned the Germans that an attack was imminent".

https://uboat.net/allies/technical/leigh_light.htm

 

"Early air-to-surface radar sets, namely the SV Mk. II, had an inconveniently long minimum detection range. Thus as the aircraft approached the target, it would disappear off the radar at a range that was too great to allow it to be seen by eye at night without some form of illumination. At first, aircraft solved this problem by dropping flares to light up the area, but since the flare only lit up the area directly under the aircraft, a string (a number of flares in succession) would have to be dropped until the submarine was spotted. Once it was spotted the aircraft would have to circle back to attack, the entire process giving the submarine a fair amount of time to dive out of danger".

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leigh_Light#Development

 

On a side note, I think I have found the type of flare they used in the ASW role:

 

http://michaelhiske.de/Allierte/USA/OrdnancePamphlets/OP1665/Part01/Chapter19/Figure083.htm

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