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Phantome

RAF post-war camouflage AMOs

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Hello RAF post-war experts,

 

I am doing ongoing research for my color and camouflage guides and am close to finishing the modern RAF page but I feel I am flying blind because I do not have the relevant Air Ministry Orders, particularly for the early post-war period (up to the 1950s) when there were tons of different schemes. I have manged to get a hold of a small number of Paul Lucas articles that make mention of various AMOs during this period and some Warpaint books, but sadly, they are only discussed in reference to the topic in question. I have also seen some comments here on BM where these AMOs are mentioned (notably by @Giorgio N ).

 

Anyway, here is a summary of what I think I know from what I have read and everything is speculative and possibly contradictory or outright wrong :P I will be editing this as more concrete evidence is supplied.


Latest update: 1/25/20

 

Immediate post-war:

Wartime standards still in use but lots of ad hoc overseas schemes and increasing use of aluminium finishes

- From 31 March 1945, order for all (day?) fighters to be in aluminium finish. Clearly not followed strictly to the letter as there are lots of post-war Spitfires that were still left in wartime camo.

- 19 October 1945 Camouflage conference sets guidelines for camouflage policy in the next 5 years.

- Bombers: Tiger Force colors of White over Night, pattern 1 or left in wartime Dark Earth/Dark Green over Night, pattern 2.

- Some Egypt-based Spitfire F.18s in 1949 finished in Dark Earth/Light Slate Grey over Medium Sea Grey, pattern 1

 

AMO A.413/47 (15/May/47):

Formalized the decisions taken during a 19 Oct 1945 camouflage conference

- Day Fighters: Aluminium finish

- Night Fighters: Dark Green over Medium Sea Grey, mid-fuselage demarcation (same as the late wartime scheme)

- Night Bombers: Medium Sea Grey over Night, pattern 2

- Day Bombers: Medium Sea Grey overall (??? seen on some Lancasters)

- Maritime Patrol: Medium Sea Grey over White (??? not sure if specified in this document but Shackletons in this scheme begin to appear and some Lancaster GRs too)

 

BS 381C:1948 Colours for Specific Purposes (1/1/1948):

91 colors, adds the three-digit nomenclature. Most MAP wartime colors still separate

 

April 1949:
High-Speed Silver introduced, specified to DTD 772 standard. First applied on late Meteor F.4s

 

AMO A.217/51 (19/Apr/1951):

Specified more specific schemes based on role, altitude, speed of aircraft

- Day fighters: Aluminium finish (High-Speed Silver in practice since 1949)

- Day fighters, short range: Light Slate Grey/Medium Sea Grey over PRU Blue, pattern 2

- Day fighters, long range: ???

- Night fighters: Dark Sea Grey/Dark Green over Medium Sea Grey, mid-fuselage demarcation

- High Altitude Night Bombers: Medium Sea Grey over Night, pattern 2 (??? not sure if this scheme is named as such, but assumed for the 'heavies'?)

- Medium Altitude Night Bombers: Medium Sea Grey over Night, pattern 2 (seen on 617 Sqn Canberras)

- High Altitude Day Bombers: Light Slate Grey/Medium Sea Grey over PRU Blue, pattern 2 (seen on Canberras)

- Medium Altitude Day Bombers: ??? (does this exist?)

- High Altitude Photo-recon: Medium Sea Grey over PRU Blue

- Medium Altitude Photo-recon: ??? (does this exist? aluminium perhaps?)

 

AMO A.658/52 (18/Dec/1952):

Specified overseas schemes, cancelled earlier LSG/MSG over PRUB scheme

Day fighters: High-Speed Silver officially mentioned for the first time (but in use since 1949)

- Overseas (Germany, MEAF, FEAF): Dark Sea Grey/Dark Green over PRU Blue

- High Altitude Day Bombers: High-Speed Silver

-

 

AMO A.228/53 (3/Sep/1953):

Introduces camouflage on former overall silver aircraft

UK fighters: Dark Sea Grey/Dark Green over HS Silver

Tactical aircraft (does this mean Tactical AFs or just non-fighters?): Dark Sea Grey/Dark Green over PRU Blue

 

1955?:

Maritime Patrol: overall Dark Sea Grey or White over Dark Sea Grey

 

1957?:
Introduction of Anti-Flash White on bombers

 

AMO A.285/59 (?/?/1959):

Mentions white for medium bombers, light bombers (except Canberra) in MEAF, FEAF

Sources: https://www.britmodeller.com/forums/index.php?/topic/234925037-anti-flash-aircraft/&do=findComment&comment=1108511

 

AMO A.239/60 (23/11/1960):

Specifies 4 basic color schemes

- White: Medium Bombers (i.e. V-Bombers), Long Range Photo-Recon

- Silver: ???

- Camouflage: ???

- Grey: ???

Sources: Paul Lucas 'The Lost Tomorrows of an Eagle' (MAM Apr 2006)

 

1964?:
Introduction of camo on bombers (Medium Sea Grey/Dark Green over Anti-Flash White)

 

BS 381C:1964 Colours for Specific Purposes (1/1/1964):
102 Colors, adds all MAP wartime colors that were previously not in BS 381C (most).

 

DCI T.346/65 (4/Aug/1965):

All fighter/ground attack, fighter-recon aircraft to have Light Aircraft Grey (originally written just 'light grey') undersides (so Dark Sea Grey/Dark Green over Light Aircraft Grey)

Sources: Paul Lucas '

 

 

Some other random questions:

- When "Tactical air forces" are referenced, does this include RAF Germany? I have seen decal descriptions of Germany-based Sabres that have PRU Blue undersides.

- This photo makes me want to blow my head off WHY ARE THEY DIFFERENT WHY?!!??!?!!?!: https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205024152

- Was there a later photo-recon scheme specified afterwards? Or were many Meteors just finished in fighter camo regardless of role?

 

Many thanks! :)

Edited by Phantome

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AIUI policy was that new schemes would be applied to new aircraft leaving the factory. Existing aircraft would retain the paint scheme and markings they left the factory in until such time as they required major maintenance. At that point they would be repainted in the then current scheme and markings.

 

At the end of WW2 there were large numbers of aircraft in MUs so “old” paint schemes lasted for a while as aircraft were brought into operational units. It also accounts for a mix of schemes on the same unit at times.

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I should add, if anyone has a copy of these orders in PDF and wishes to share, I would be most grateful :)

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Interesting topic. Now without providing you with concrete dates, photographic evidence I’ve scoured through over the years would suggest that High Speed Silver was applied to Meteors IV’s fresh from the factory as early as 1947. I also believe that the ‘Desert scheme’ of LSG / DE / MSG was an emergency scheme applied to Tempests and Spitfires after a rather nasty altercation with the Israelis in mid 1949. I accept that I’m generalising a bit here, however these two examples do differ from what you’ve printed above. 
 

Cheers and best of luck.. Dave 

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If you're planning to gather together all the various changes in camouflage within the postwar RAF, it would be a very useful work !

I have indeed tried to collect as much information as possible on the various AMOs and similar documents relating to camouflage changes, however I do not have full texts, all I put together are various bits of information found here and there. I will try to add as much as possible here, it may take a while as my notes are not currently immediately available and I'd have to dig into my bookshelves.. anyway, give me some time and I'll try to contribute

 

In any case, I can answer some of your questions and add a few comments right now. In no particular order:

 

Egypt based Spitfire and Tempests: this was indeed a short-lived desert scheme, introduced in 1949 after a couple of clashes with Israeli aircraft. These did not go well for the RAF and among the measures taken was a new scheme. With the retirement of these types around a year later, the scheme was abandoned.

 

Tactical aircraft: these were the aircraft of the "Tactical Air Forces", and yes, these included RAF Germany, or better what we now know as RAF Germany... This started as 2 TAF during WW2, became BAFO in July 1945 and was renamed 2 TAF again in 1951. The name Royal Air Force Germany was introduced in 1959-

 

Meteor recce schemes: FR types generally carried "fighter" schemes. The Meteor FR.9 in particular carried for a while the short lived scheme for Day Fighters, Short Range. When this was abandoned, the FR.9s carried whatever scheme was supposed to be used on the Meteor. The Meteor PR.10 however were not classed as fighters and as such were camouflaged according to the requirements for PR types. Speaking of which, for a while they carried Dark Green and Dark Sea Grey over Medium Sea Grey

 

 

The picture that drives you mad is "easily" explained: Vampires were initially in overall aluminum but then the Day Fighters, Short Range scheme was introduced, A few units had in service aircraft with both schemes and this is what is shown in that picture. with 2 aircraft in each scheme.

 

Speaking of the Day Fighters, Short Range scheme, the same colours were also used for a short time by jet bombers, between the Medium Sea Grey over Black scheme and the later in overall aluminum. A number of Canberra B.2 was so camouflaged and some served in this scheme over Suez

 

With the introduction of the "intruder" variants of the Canberra, another scheme was introduced with the usual Dark Green and Dark Sea Grey on top and lower surfaces in black. This was applied to a number of B(I).8 in Germany, will get back to you with the relevant dates.

 

Some more on the aluminum schemes.. the name "high speed silver" if I understood the matter correctly refers to the type of paint used, not really the camouflage scheme. The camouflage scheme was simply in "aluminum" or sometimes in "silver", with whatever kind of paint applied according to the relevant DTD. I would also not use the term "aluminum dope" as this more correctly refers to a specific kind of paint

 

EwenS already explained how in-service aircraft were never supposed to be repainted immediately, this explains why a number of types retained their wartime camouflage well into the postwar years. I should add that I have not seen any indication of any change in camouflage in March 1945 and that the overall silver scheme was only approved with the camouflage conference in October 1945. The various official documents seems to have taken til February 1946 to be prepared and circulated,

 

Last but not least, a small suggestion: with the various schemes it would also be useful to add if the scheme was to be to Pattern No 1 (top colours carried low on the fuselage) or to Pattern No 2 (top colours only on the extreme upper surfaces). It can help identifying the scheme in some situations, particularly in B/W pictures.

 

 

 

 

 

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Brilliant stuff @Giorgio N!

 

The "mystery" behind the Vampires over the canal was also because I assumed they were different variants: the ones not painted in HSS appear to have different canopies. Am I wrong? The IWM page mentions that they are all FB.9s and they do have the same squadron markings so it makes sense. I know very little about Vampires (except the blood-sucking type :P ) so I am wondering if they got different canopies.

 

Giorgio, if you have information available, could you clear up the distinction between day fighter, long range and short range? It seems from an earlier post of yours on a different thread you give two different camo schemes for each but does this mean overall HSS finishes were abandoned as early as 1951?

 

 

 

 

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29 minutes ago, Phantome said:

Brilliant stuff @Giorgio N!

 

The "mystery" behind the Vampires over the canal was also because I assumed they were different variants: the ones not painted in HSS appear to have different canopies. Am I wrong? The IWM page mentions that they are all FB.9s and they do have the same squadron markings so it makes sense. I know very little about Vampires (except the blood-sucking type :P ) so I am wondering if they got different canopies.

 

Giorgio, if you have information available, could you clear up the distinction between day fighter, long range and short range? It seems from an earlier post of yours on a different thread you give two different camo schemes for each but does this mean overall HSS finishes were abandoned as early as 1951?

 

 

I can't remember any canopy variation in late Vampires, to me they all look the same. The FB.9 was the variant generally used in hot climates as had an air conditioning unit for the cockpit. I have somewhere the serial range that saw the use of the short range day fighter camouflage.

 

Regarding the distinction between short and long range day fighters, I'm sure I have this somewhere, I'll post when I find it. At some point this distinction disappeared, IIRC in 1953.

Regarding the overall silver finish and the use on day fighters, we have to consider that there was also a distinction based on theatre: that between fighters based in the UK (meaning mainly Fighter Command) and fighters of the tactical air forces (meaning generally based abroad, Germany, MEAF and FEAF), The UK based fighters retained the overall silver scheme until the Dark Green/Dark Sea Grey over Silver scheme was introduced in September 1953 "for all fighters based in the UK". This scheme first use on new aircraft was on the Sabre Mk.4 used by Fighter Command (those with 2 TAF had PRU Blue undersurfaces) and both Meteor and Vampires were also repainted in the scheme. As often happened, it took time to see all the aircraft previously in service receive the new scheme.

 

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Methinks I will need to pay a visit to Kew in February to sort everything out. But on the plus side, we're getting somewhere...

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Great thread.  I can't assist but it would be so helpful to have this all documented in in one place.

 

David

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2 hours ago, David Womby said:

Great thread.  I can't assist but it would be so helpful to have this all documented in in one place.

 

David

Very much agreed.

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 Re 'High Speed Silver'.

 

Meteors were not being finished in High Speed Silver in 1947. This finish was not introduced until 1949.

 

It is important to note that HSS was not just a name for a paint: it was a completely new type of finish.

 

Previously an aluminium finish had been available as paint and/or dope, both cellulose and synthetic types. These were covered by DTD 63 (Cellulose Enamel), DTD 83 (Dope), DTD 260 (Synthetic Enamel), DTD 308 (Dope), and DTD 751 to 753 (Dope), replacing DTD 83 and 308.

 

DTD 772 introduced the High Gloss Finishing Scheme, colloquially known as High Speed Silver. It was a process consisting of four parts.

  • A primer for direct application over metal. It could be either a pigmented syntehetic resin (psr), or an etching primer.
  • A filler which could be pigmented nitrocellulose or a synthetic resin.
  • A finish which was a glossy pigmented nitrocellulose and synthetitic resin.
  • Two polishes, an abrasive cutting compound to be followed by a liquid polish, both to be free from wax.

The finish was to be capable of being polished to give a highly glossy surface without detriment to the life of the scheme or the protection afforded to the metal. Primer, filler and finish were all required to be different colours.

 

It should be noted that this sceme was for application over metals. It could not be applied over wood. Fabrics were to be finished according to DTD 751 to 753. Vampire fuselages would not have been finished in HSS. There was a problem when HSS was introduced for Canberra bombers, the GEE-H antenna in the fin was covered by plywood panels which could not be painted HSS. An alternative finish had to be applied over the wood. You can see the different finish in many RAF and RAAF Canberra photos.

 

Peter M

Edited by Magpie22
Spelling correction - probably missed others!

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I look forward to your post war color listings. You did a great job for WW2 colors; I believe that your effort will be useful for these.

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Another questions while we're at it: what was the color specified as "black" in the post-war era for interiors? Was this just some generic black, was it matched to BS 4800 (00E53) or was Night BS 642 still in use? I have seen a scanned Phantom paint specification and all fuselage colors are match to a BS color except white and black so I assume Night was not in use by then....

 

I assume the paint was meant as an exterior finish for night aircraft, not as an interior color

Edited by Phantome

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17 hours ago, Phantome said:

Another questions while we're at it: what was the color specified as "black" in the post-war era for interiors? Was this just some generic black, was it matched to BS 4800 (00E53) or was Night BS 642 still in use? I have seen a scanned Phantom paint specification and all fuselage colors are match to a BS color except white and black so I assume Night was not in use by then....

 

I assume the paint was meant as an exterior finish for night aircraft, not as an interior color

 

Night was not only used for the camouflage finish but was also required to be used for codes. I have to check if this is still the case or was some changed at some point. What I know is that Night and black had different stores numbers so I would expect that both colours would have been available at the same time.

For Night here I mean the colour later defined as BS 642, there were other "blacks" used during WW2 on night fighters and their history could fill several pages...

Edited by Giorgio N

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Ok, I've edited the first post in order to streamline it and make the gaps in knowledge more obvious. I'm particularly keen on the 1947-53 AMOs so if anyone else has info on these that would be great.

 

Also added mention of a couple of other AMOs from 1959-60 though I'm not sure they add much.

 

Will add links/sources to the other ones once I have time so it's more authoritative.

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