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RFC SPAD VIIC.1 Colour Scheme validity?


Wez
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Normally preferring Cold War aircraft I'm finding myself very much out of my comfort zone here.

 

Avalon decals have recently released some decals for the SPAD VIIC.1 in RFC service, I'm quite taken by the scheme for a/c B3534 of 23 Sqn RFC which is shown as being overall light grey, it looks quite attractive with its red and white stripes, the question is, is the grey correct?  I don't ever recall seeing a WW.I period aircraft in this scheme, I could believe it if it was in the buff scheme but I'm a bit dubious about the grey.

 

Can anyone confirm whether the scheme is in fact a valid scheme for this aircraft?

 

See, I told you I was out of my depth!

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I've scoured around a bit but haven't found any photo or profiles of this particular aeroplane, except one internet source which has a profile halfway down the page:  https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/255481-spad-vii-markings-23-squadron/  No provenance given, unless I missed it. I'll go through my old Windsocks in case it turned up there and let you know if I find it.

 

As a one-off personal scheme it isn't unlikely though, but I'd want a bit more reference before commiting if I was building it. I was sent their Camel sheet for review and several of the schemes on that had discrepancies.

 

Paul.

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The old Squadron Signal "SPAD Fighters in Action" has a colour profile of an overall light grey RFC SPAD VII. I can't find my copy (maybe I parted with it at some point), so I don't know the serial number. If that's the source for this scheme, I wouldn't put much confidence in it. I believe all S.VIIs in British service were delivered either in French Light Yellow if they came off the French production line or in PC10 if they were built in the UK by British Bleriot or by Mann, Egerton & Co. French-built aircraft may have had their uppersurfaces partly or wholly repainted PC10 in the field. I've always assumed the Squadron Signal profile should have been Light Yellow.

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Scale Aircraft Modelling June 2021 did an aircraft in profile on the SPAD S.VII and S.XIII, including plans and colour profiles.  Including  various RFC machines, including B3534. No photo of B3534.  Even if there was a photo, it would be a matter of interpretation unless there is documentary evidence that the colours are what they are purported to be.  

 

Windsock Datafile No. 8 on the SPAD S.VII has a section on colours and Markings by Ray Rimmel and J Guttman.  Some machines were imported from French manufacturers and some were built in Britain.  So French finishes didn't always apply.  Initial deliveries consisted of clear doped fabric with light yellow engine surfaces and forward fuselage painted in light yellow.  Later it is suggested aluminium powder was added to a yellow pigment resulting in a solid opaque colour ranging from rich egg yoke to near beige or buff to a whitish yellow depending on age and weathering.

 

It includes a section on British colours.  It doesn't mention the use of light grey but says 'No. 23 Sqdn also had several colourful schemes - one flight at least paining red and white stripes around the radiator cowling.  Again, no photo of B3534.

 

What is obvious is that the yellow scheme shows a distinct difference in shade between the forward fuselage and the rest of the fuselage, whilst there appears to be no such distinction between forward and rear fuselage on B3534.  Perhaps the British machine was painted in a similar finish to Nieuports or all-over Battleship Grey (could it be used on fabric surfaces?)

Edited by detail is everything
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13 minutes ago, detail is everything said:

 

What is obvious is that the yellow scheme shows a distinct difference in shade between the forward fuselage and the rest of the fuselage, whilst there appears to be no such distinction between forward and rear fuselage on B3534.  Perhaps the British machine was painted in a similar finish to Nieuports or all-over Battleship Grey (could it be used on fabric surfaces?)

I'd expect Battleship Grey to damage the fabric, it being meant for metal or plywood panels, but confess I hadn't thought about it before. But I have always wondered about the matching of finishes over different materials. As you say, front and rear of Spads differ, when the fabric is clear doped or fatty varnished to give a yellow tint. The paint on the metal doesn't match the dope on the fabric very closely. Yet some photos clearly show some care taken when the whole airframe has been painted.

 

Paul.

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I've found a photo of B.3534 (the serial  as applied to the aircraft includes the full stop) in Jack Bruce's "The Aeroplanes of the Royal Flying Corps (Military Wing)". The basic colour scheme looks exactly the same as in photos of other French-built Spad 7s in the book, so basically Light Yellow, but it has red/white/red stripes round the rear fuselage, the front of the cowling looks to be painted white (with one dark stripe visible) and the fin is a dark colour, painted around a 'box' of the original one in which the serial is displayed. The wheel discs are also painted a dark colour, and I'm guessing they, the cowl stripe and the fin are all red.

 

I agree with Paul, paint intended for metal or plywood panels would be unsuitable for fabric. Dope would be needed, and as far as I know there wasn't a light grey shade in use in the British flying services. Also, aircraft with UK-based training units were sometimes completely repainted in quite bizarre personal colour schemes but it's very unlikely that would happen on a front line squadron, although personal touches like the red spinner on Ball's Nieuport might be tolerated. Duncan Grinnell-Milne's 56 Sqn SE5a "Schweinhund" only received the full red fuselage treatment after the Armistice, for example, it was less extravagantly decorated during the war.

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Thanks all for your input especially @AWFK10 for taking the time to dig out a photo.

 

Avalon have the dark stripe on the cowling as red, likewise the fin.

 

The consensus then is the yellow scheme which leads to more questions (always the way), some photos show the forward fuselage in a darker tone than the doped areas yet photos of the preserved Italian and French aircraft in the 4+ book (which I've finally managed to dig out from the reference stash), show the doped areas as being darker - is this due to ageing in the case of these two aircraft?  I'm guessing that if B.3534 is in an overall colour, it is likely to be in the aluminium/yellow pigment mentioned by @detail is everything

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4 hours ago, Wez said:

some photos show the forward fuselage in a darker tone than the doped areas yet photos of the preserved Italian and French aircraft in the 4+ book (which I've finally managed to dig out from the reference stash), show the doped areas as being darker - is this due to ageing in the case of these two aircraft?

Not an expert by any means, but having researched the later-model SPADs in some depth for a project a few years ago, I'll share an observation. The Ripolin paints used on metal portions of French-produced a/c of the era were broadly designed to match the corresponding dope colors...but some matches were closer than others.

 

As a for-instance, on the Smithsonian NASM's SPAD XIII -- whose colors were restored under the direction of noted aviation authority Alan Toelle -- the Ripolin color for the brown camouflage was found to match the dope color quite closely, while original paintwork for the 'light green' metal areas was found to be a darker and much more saturated hue than the corresponding dope. (Presumably different supply and manufacturing conditions during wartime may have led to those variations.)

 

I know it doesn't answer your question as to the specific colors on your a/c, but it may suggest that different shades of the 'same' color may not have been out of the ordinary.

 

Cheers

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Let's assume that the originators of the grey reconstruction were also aware of all of the above. Then why did they come up with grey?

 

Here is that pic of B3435. Although it looks like the clear doped scheme, one has to wonder why the roundel then has a white edge? And why does the forward, darker tone seem to stop in front of the cockpit (like RFC repaints) instead of behind (like clear doped)?

 

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Here two more pics, of other SPAD VIIs of 23 Squadron around that time.

 

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Edited by 48-Alone-Is-Great
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For the yellow/beige (ecru) scheme, enamel was used on metal and wood components while dope was used on fabric surfaces. The surrounding white ring on the fuselage indicates a color other than doped ecru. Maybe battleship grey enamel on forward fuselage. Easy enough to add a bit of black dope to readily available white dope to make a suitable grey. Really needs some recorded mention of grey or other colour to be certain.

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Morning gentlemen,

let me comment the discussion from the point of author of the decal sheet (and Aircraft in Profile article in SAM magazine).

 

When I was looking for British SPADs, I have found this so much discussed overall Grey aircraft in Squadron Signal - SPAD fighters in action, page 24 (talking about photo, not profile). Photo caption says that aircraft is Grey overall with probably Red and White add-ons. I have discussed it with my friend Michal Ovcacik, who is the author of the publication covering SPAD VII (4+ publications, ISBN 8086637-00-X) and  when looking on the really "overall look" of the aircraft he also is close to the light grey colour. This theory was confirmed (sic) by Jan Kase, who also published the book on SPADs in the nineties. That is why I decided to design the profile in Grey.

 

I can not say that I am correct, the same is that nobody can say I am wrong because we are discussing the BW photo more than hundred years old. My reconstruction depicts the possible appearance of the aircraft. I just wanted to add remark with the explanation why...

 

I hope that the next WWI decal sheet covering RFC Nieuports XI and XVII will not start another discussion...

 

Happy modelling to all.

Jan

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3 hours ago, Jan Polc said:

Morning gentlemen,

let me comment the discussion from the point of author of the decal sheet (and Aircraft in Profile article in SAM magazine).

 

When I was looking for British SPADs, I have found this so much discussed overall Grey aircraft in Squadron Signal - SPAD fighters in action, page 24 (talking about photo, not profile). Photo caption says that aircraft is Grey overall with probably Red and White add-ons. I have discussed it with my friend Michal Ovcacik, who is the author of the publication covering SPAD VII (4+ publications, ISBN 8086637-00-X) and  when looking on the really "overall look" of the aircraft he also is close to the light grey colour. This theory was confirmed (sic) by Jan Kase, who also published the book on SPADs in the nineties. That is why I decided to design the profile in Grey.

 

I can not say that I am correct, the same is that nobody can say I am wrong because we are discussing the BW photo more than hundred years old. My reconstruction depicts the possible appearance of the aircraft. I just wanted to add remark with the explanation why...

 

I hope that the next WWI decal sheet covering RFC Nieuports XI and XVII will not start another discussion...

 

Happy modelling to all.

Jan

Hi Jan, when do you plan to have the Nieuport decals available please?

Clive

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16 hours ago, Jan Polc said:

I hope that the next WWI decal sheet covering RFC Nieuports XI and XVII will not start another discussion...

 

Jan if you believe that your living in cloud cuckoo land. The good news is is the KITCAT is not obsessive about Spads but others are I'm afraid,

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15 hours ago, dad's lad said:

Hi Jan, when do you plan to have the Nieuport decals available please?

I will be very happy to have the RFC Nieuports in December. In fact Avalon is my hobby and the work for Guidelines and plastic kits producers have priority. I am finishing the Combat Colours book right now and then there are Nieuports in the pipeline together with SE-5a sheet in 1/72.

Edited by Jan Polc
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6 minutes ago, Jan Polc said:

I will be very happy to have the RFC Nieuports in December. In fact Avalon is my hobby and the work for Guidelines and plastic kits producers have priority. I am finishing the Combat Colours book right now and then there are Nieuports in the pipeline together with SE-5a sheet in 1/72.

Excellent news, far too few options for RFC aftermarket decals at the moment. Hopefully my own local hero Albert Ball will feature.

 

Clive

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Looking at the contemporaneous photographic evidence  shown above and other articles referred to, I'm sill inclined to go with the early clear doped fabric with light yellow engine surfaces and forward fuselage painted in light yellow, scheme (perhaps an anglicised version).   The line where the forward fuselage is painted in light yellow on B3534 is just further forward than the usual French rear of the cockpit line (reflecting other examples of British machines with the same engine and cockpit panels painted a colour).  Also a photo of A6682 in the Profile article in SAM magazine written by Jan, clearly shows a white edge to the roundel.  But it is all a matter of interpretation and Jan and Berman could be right with say Battleship Grey engine and cockpit panels (hence further forward paint line) and field applied grey dope.  Just seems unlikely that's all.

 

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Edited by detail is everything
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Looks like I opened a can of worms here, sorry! :worms:

@Jan Polc thanks for explaining why you went down the grey route, I asked the question simply because it's not normally my field of interest (but I liked the scheme and I have the kit), but I'd never seen/heard of a grey scheme for a Spad before.  You're so right, interpreting B&W photos is pot luck at the best of time, more so when the pictures are over 100 years old!

 

@detail is everything, interesting interpretation, thanks for your input.

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When I made the 1/48 Blue Max SPAD VII many years ago, this machine was one of the marking options on the decal sheet and I agreed with Chris Gannon that it was yellow/yellow.

Not sure how to attach pictures here, but here's a  link to my old model - long gone now I'm afraid but surviving in a picture on the old ww1 list site!

 

http://www.wwi-models.org/Images/Adam/Allied/Spad7-2/Spad.jpg

 

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