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KeithR

WWII RAF Pilot's Uniform Libya Query

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I’m currently building the Airfix P-40 112 Squadron, Libya 1941.

I’d like to put in the pilot that Airfix supply but haven’t a clue what PO Duke would be wearing and what colour his clothes would be.

I’m guessing RAF blue with a yellow/orange Mae West and brown leather helmet. But since he’s flying in the desert perhaps he’d be wearing khaki?

Can anyone help please?

 

Thanks,

 

Keith.

 

 

 

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In Libya flying dress would be the Khaki Drill tunic and shorts (by this date probably the new 1941 Pattern) or trousers (during the slightly cooler months). The blue service cap was usually still worn on the ground. Flying headwear at this stage would have been most likely a Type B leather flying helmet (the Type C began appearing mid 1941). Footwear for flying duties was often flying boots ( 1936 (black leather) or 1939 Pattern (black lower shoe with beige/khaki coloured uppers) although during very hot periods the issue crepe soled desert boot was favoured. The Mae West could well have been the 1932 Pattern at this stage as the 1941 Pattern was only beginning to be issued in numbers. The 1932 was actually a pale beige/khaki/grey unlike the 1941 Pattern which was the yellow which most are used to seeing.

 

HTH,

 

Tim

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It's hard to be that hard and fast with the RAF, uniform even to this day is a set of clothing from which you chose which bits you want want to wear (we always did that to annoy the army).

 

In WWII, although there was uniform issued, aircrew in particular would wear what they felt most comfortable in for the conditions they were operating in or they felt brought them good luck.

 

If a pilot had an old RAF blue battledress tunic that was more comfortable than his newly issued KD one, he's more likely to wear that than the uncomfortable one just because it fits some notion of what's uniform.

 

Try Googling WW2 RAF desert aircrew, there's so much variety.

 

I've just Googled Neville Duke and in one of the pictures he appears to be wearing KD trousers, desert boots and a dark coloured tunic, possibly RAF blue.

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10 minutes ago, Wez said:

It's hard to be that hard and fast with the RAF, uniform even to this day is a set of clothing from which you chose which bits you want want to wear (we always did that to annoy the army).

 

In WWII, although there was uniform issued, aircrew in particular would wear what they felt most comfortable in for the conditions they were operating in or they felt brought them good luck.

 

If a pilot had an old RAF blue battledress tunic that was more comfortable than his newly issued KD one, he's more likely to wear that than the uncomfortable one just because it fits some notion of what's uniform.

 

Try Googling WW2 RAF desert aircrew, there's so much variety.

 

I've just Googled Neville Duke and in one of the pictures he appears to be wearing KD trousers, desert boots and a dark coloured tunic, possibly RAF blue.

 

The blue UK issued BD tunic was usually only used on the ground in North Africa and not for flying and usually when the temperature dropped. It was virtually never used during flying in single seat fighters in North Africa because the sun level meant the temperature built up to uncomfortable levels very quickly during daytime and even during the slightly cooler months with rainfall.

 

Just to quantify what I'm saying and that I'm not making this up from an unconsidered opinion, but I've worked as an artefact researcher for the national aviation museum here specialising in British WWI and WWII flying kit and clothing. I've also interviewed several veterans of the African airwar specifically about flying kit and clothing.

 

And as an aside to the OP, one of my relatives flew as Duke's wingman although later with 92 and not 112  🙂

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Tim, I'm not doubting your credentials, I'm just speaking as ex RAF groundcrew used to dealing with aircrew.

 

Follow this link to picture I mentioned previously.

 

You'll notice he's climbing from a Tomahawk.

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Here's a bit of anecdotal for you..my uncle served as ground crew in Libya, I have seen a photo (black and white), he is standing with a pilot alongside a P40, the pilot is clearly wearing a v neck jumper, open neck shirt and shorts with what looks like desert wellies (short boots). If I can contact my cousin I try and post here if it helps. I love the fact that these guys wore what was comfortable as opposed to regulation issue in the most uncomfortable conditions.

 

Piggy

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Just now, Wez said:

I daresay you are Tim, I'm just speaking as ex RAF groundcrew used to dealing with aircrew.

 

My point  is really that in North Africa what RAF fighter pilots actually flew in had very little range, quite unlike over Europe where there was a greater variety. This was due to conditions in the air, cockpit temperatures quickly built up and as a result the usual clobber was KD tunic, shorts or trousers, flying boots or desert boots, Type B or C helmet, Type D or E oxygen mask, goggles (anything from Mk.IIIs up depending on when the pilot in question had begun operational flying) A silk scarf was usual (most common were Tootal, Duggie, Dunhill, etc). Gloves were often not worn despite the fire hazard due to sweating which inhibited and affected control. There was also the idea, that if the fuel tank goes up I haven't got much to protect my torso anyway so why bother.

 

On the ground in North Africa aircrew wore all sorts of bits and bobs. Nights could be cold and they wore a hotch-potch of kit and clothing.

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22 minutes ago, Wez said:

'Follow this link to picture I mentioned previously.

 

You'll notice he's climbing from a Tomahawk.

 

Like most photos of this nature it's a press or publicity shot. He's wearing what he was wearing around the airfield when the press showed up to take a snap. He's plonked a helmet on so they can take their snap. These sorts of photos are a dime a dozen and whilst looking the heroic part don't actually demonstrate what he would actually fly in. But they look great in the papers back home which is the point!

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From the IWM:

 

large_000000.jpg?_ga=2.73426514.19214654

Flying Officer P St.G B Turnbull and Flying Officer J H W Saunders of No. 3 Squadron RAAF walking away from one of the Squadron's Curtiss Tomahawk Mark IIBs at Rosh Pinna, Palestine.

 

 

This is all I can get right now as the IWM site picked this exact moment to go DFM. ( Down For Maintenance )

 

 

 

Chris

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10 hours ago, Smithy said:

In Libya flying dress would be the Khaki Drill tunic and shorts (by this date probably the new 1941 Pattern) or trousers (during the slightly cooler months). The blue service cap was usually still worn on the ground. Flying headwear at this stage would have been most likely a Type B leather flying helmet (the Type C began appearing mid 1941). Footwear for flying duties was often flying boots ( 1936 (black leather) or 1939 Pattern (black lower shoe with beige/khaki coloured uppers) although during very hot periods the issue crepe soled desert boot was favoured. The Mae West could well have been the 1932 Pattern at this stage as the 1941 Pattern was only beginning to be issued in numbers. The 1932 was actually a pale beige/khaki/grey unlike the 1941 Pattern which was the yellow which most are used to seeing.

 

HTH,

 

Tim

As someone massively interested in RAF and FAA flying clothing, have you got any decent photos of crepe soled boots?

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, 85sqn said:

As someone massively interested in RAF and FAA flying clothing, have you got any decent photos of crepe soled boots?

 

A quick search on Google will bring them up. Colloquially called "desert wellies" they were initially private purchase as the ammo boot was standard issue at the start of the campaign. At some point it appears that a run of them was procured by the British military as broad arrow marked boots exist.

 

Locally procured kit in Egypt for British forces during the war is tricky as records seem to have been either lost or never properly recorded in many cases - it's the reason why the supplier of the initial pattern white SAS beret is to this day sadly unknown.

Edited by Smithy
Typo

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Wow! This is a fantastic response to my question. I never cease to be amazed at the depth of knowledge and helpfulness of people on this site. Thank you all so much!

 

In a nutshell it seems that anything goes, although khaki drab seems to be most likely with blue also a possibility.

Short sleeves look to be pretty common too but since my Airfix pilot is pretty well padded I’ll have to assume Pilot Office Duke was on a dawn mission after a very cold night and had his long sleeve tunic on.

 

The colour photo from the IWM that you referenced is a great one @Corsairfoxfouruncle , thanks.

It’s nice to see a bit of flamboyance with the red neckerchief. I think I’ll give Neville one too.

That photo also answers another query I had by showing a soft edge to the camouflage on 112 Sqn aircraft.

 

Another unanswered question is how many aerials does his ‘plane have? I’ve seen evidence of none, one, two or three and some aircraft seem to have a very thick and floppy cable going from half way up the mast to a few inches behind the mast.

Any idea what that is? Should I set up another thread for this query?

 

Once again thanks everyone.

 

Regards,

Keith.

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A few years back I went to Goodwood to take G-ILDA (Spitfire T9) to heaven and back.  Being hot at the time, I was given a bit a a slagging about being in the closed cockpit in the heat.  I decided to go with the Action Man (GI Joe) look.....

 

50065398273_d94b2c901d.jpg

 

🤪

 

 

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12 hours ago, Grey Beema said:

A few years back I went to Goodwood to take G-ILDA (Spitfire T9) to heaven and back.  Being hot at the time, I was given a bit a a slagging about being in the closed cockpit in the heat.  I decided to go with the Action Man (GI Joe) look.....

 

50065398273_d94b2c901d.jpg

 

🤪

 

 

I have got him! Had it for years, looks like Clark Gable!

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8 hours ago, 85sqn said:

I have got him! Had it for years, looks like Clark Gable!

Now all you need is a KittyHawk, Hurricane IIc, or a Mk.V Spitfire in the correct scale and you’d have one heck of a Scene. 

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Excellent @Grey Beema  very dashing. Tally-ho chaps!! The moustache is a great touch. He looks the spitting image of Jason King!

I'll have to do my pilot like that. I shall call him Deville Nuke!

 

Cheers!

Keith.

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A larger copy of Dennis' post. From the IWM.

 

large_000000.jpg?_ga=2.82494486.10239347

 

large_000000.jpg?_ga=2.4744755.102393476

Flying Officer A C Rawlinson, Flight Lieutenant B R Pelly and Flying Officer A H Boyd of No. 3 Squadron RAAF, walk away from Gloster Gladiator Mark II, N5752 'NW-G', at LG 10/Gerawala, Egypt, on the day following their major engagement with 17 Italian fighters over Bir Enba, Libya, during which a fourth pilot, Squadron Leader P R Heath, was shot down and killed. Boyd scored three victories in N5752 before it was shot down by Italian fighters near Sollum on 13 December 1940.

 

large_000000.jpg?_ga=2.77644948.10239347

Pilots of No 335 (Hellenic) Squadron RAF in front of a Hawker Hurricane Mark I at LG 20/Qotafiyah I, west of Daba, Egypt

 

large_000000.jpg?_ga=2.48376358.10239347

Pilots of 'B' Flight, No. 33 Squadron RAF follow their Squadron Commander from one of the unit's newly-acquired Hawker Hurricane Mark Is, at Fuka, Egypt. They are (left to right): unidentified, Flying Officers C H Dyson, P R Quintin and H J Starret, Flight Lieutenant G E Hawkins, Sergeant J Craig, Flying Officers J F Mackie and V C Woodward, Squadron Leader Charles Ryley (OC Squadron).

 

 

 

Chris

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