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DH Vampire prototypes colors


Pete57
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Hi,

My first post here... :)

What color were the Vampire prototypes painted?

Technically speaking, they were not fighters, but rather experimental aircraft – the designation being E.6/41 – nevertheless they should have been painted in accordance with the M.A.P. pattern No.2 for monoplanes with a wing span of under 70ft., i.e. areas of Dark Green and Dark Earth or Ocean Grey, with Yellow undersurfaces, as per the directive issued on June 6, 1940, regarding new and generally unknown prototypes.

This is indeed the scheme worn by the two Gloster E.28/39 Pioneers (incidentally, also an experimental type).

The first DH 100, E.6/41 (LZ548/G) was painted a “Possible Medium Sea Grey over aluminium undersurfaces” in W.A.Harrison’s interpretation in the Warpaint Series No.27, while other color profiles on the internet show Grey upper surfaces over Yellow undersurfaces.

A b/w picture of this aircraft, on page 7 of “The Havilland Vampire – The Complete History”, by David Watkins, clearly shows how the yellow, outer ring of the Type C1 roundel is of a lighter shade than the undersurfaces color.

The all-Medium Sea Grey upper surfaces were called for in the scheme issued on June 7, 1943 (about two months before the aircraft’s first flight) for high-altitude fighters operating by day - but why an experimental aircraft?

And if it had later been decided that the aircraft was to be a day, high-altitude fighters, why weren’t the undersurfaces painted P.R.U. Blue as the spec called for?

A stable mate, the DH 103 Hornet’s prototype, had the upper surfaces painted Medium Sea Grey (as it was to be a high-altitude, day fighter), but its undersurfaces were rightly painted Yellow (as evidenced by the orthochromatic pictures) designating its prototype status – so why not the Vampire’s prototype?

The third E.6/41 prototype (MP838/G) seems to have been painted the same scheme, while the only picture of the second prototype (LZ551/G – and the only survivor of the trio) I’ve found (on page 2 of Warpaint No.27) shows the aircraft painted a “patchy”, very dark grey on the upper surfaces, with wide areas apparently un-painted.

As this aircraft was later converted into the Sea Vampire prototype, I’m inclined to believe this particular picture was taken while it was being thus modified, as further evidenced by the two-piece canopy...

Can someone cast some light?

Thanks :worthy:

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Warning, speculation follows...

Alas my sources for Vamps are limited. I could only find one photo of the first prototype (to my surprise), which was in Putnam's "DeHavilland aircraft since..." In that photo the yellow of the 'P' marking is not obviously different from the underside shade. It also looks very much like the top/bottom shades of a Hornet prototype pictured (and it seems to me I've got a color shot of that? I'll have to consult "Camera Above the Clouds"). If, as you say, it can be determined that the underside is NOT yellow, you've got yourself a loverly can of worms! It certainly doesn't appear to be aluminium to me.

I believe that the rules about prototypes (and whatever the contract justification, this beastie was meant to be a fighter) allowed the topsides to be "appropriate for the intended role." The jet (in general) was seen as the natural "high altitude fighter". DH would have had plenty of Medium Sea Gray about, since NF Mossies were liberally covered in it!

Not a lot of help, I know, but at least I tried.

bob

Edited by gingerbob
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Warning, speculation follows...

Alas my sources for Vamps are limited. I could only find one photo of the first prototype (to my surprise), which was in Putnam's "DeHavilland aircraft since..." In that photo the yellow of the 'P' marking is not obviously different from the underside shade. It also looks very much like the top/bottom shades of a Hornet prototype pictured (and it seems to me I've got a color shot of that? I'll have to consult "Camera Above the Clouds"). If, as you say, it can be determined that the underside is NOT yellow, you've got yourself a loverly can of worms! It certainly doesn't appear to be aluminium to me.

I believe that the rules about prototypes (and whatever the contract justification, this beastie was meant to be a fighter) allowed the topsides to be "appropriate for the intended role." The jet (in general) was seen as the natural "high altitude fighter". DH would have had plenty of Medium Sea Gray about, since NF Mossies were liberally covered in it!

Not a lot of help, I know, but at least I tried.

bob

Hi Bob,

This is the pic I'm talking about

Vampireprorotype.jpg

Notice how the roundel's yellow ring seems to be of a different color than the boom's underside color... :confused:

Whaddya think?

Regards,

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Hi Bob,

This is the pic I'm talking about

Notice how the roundel's yellow ring seems to be of a different color than the boom's underside color... :confused:

Whaddya think?

Regards,

Pete57 :welcome:

The Vampire prototype is still on my to do list because of the uncertainty around it's paint scheme. I would love to get a definite answer to the questions you've raised but I suspect it will always remain a best guess.

Warning MORE speculation!

As a photographer for nearly 40 years I know that interpreting colours and shades from photos is a minefield due to all the variables of lighting, film, picture reproduction etc but I've just converted this colour picture of an early Vampire;

TG278.jpg

into black and white;

TG278BW.JPG

and to me the undersurface shade looks similar tonally to the Vampire prototype. There is definitely contrast between this shade and the roundel's yellow ring. The uppersurface (Ocean Grey?) shade looks darker in this image but the prototype could still have been two shades of grey. I'm not convinced the undersurfaces would have been aluminium (paint) as it looks to be non-reflective and as far as I know the use of high-speed-silver came a few years later.

It does seem strange that the Vampire prototype built to an experimental specification wasn't painted with the expected yellow undersurfaces but the Meteor prototypes built to a fighter specification were! Perhaps in the 6 months between their first flights the decision was taken to discontinue the yellow undersurfaces on jets, at least, for some reason, but this is just my idea. It would need a search through the records of the time to shed any light on this, assuming anything still exists. The next jet to fly was the DH108 in 1946, it and all subsequent jet prototypes did not have yellow undersurfaces, whilst other non-jet prototypes did!. It must have made sense to someone :hypnotised: not sure it does to me though!

Just my thoughts......

Steve

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Glad to see some discussion happening here.

Since I posted my reply I was looking at colour shots (though I did not find the Hornet prototype I was thinking of). I noticed that the yellow of the undersides on certain aircraft seemed to be slightly different than the yellow of the roundel. I just checked again- Camera Above the Clouds V.3 p.51 (a TT Martinet), and 59 (a Sea Hornet proto)- and the underside color seems slightly darker and more "mustardy" than the roundel ring. I am not yet ready to discount the possibility of yellow, and that certainly strikes me as the colour to be expected in this particular case.

The question of Meteor vs Vampire (fighter vs. experimental) doesn't really arise, because the early Meteors were development airframes, just like the prototype Vamp... err, Spider Crab.

The first Spiteful prototype flew in June '44 in similar appearing (b&w) colours- uniform grey uppers (couldn't see the underside well enough to speculate on the photo I had most readily at hand). I believe, though others might argue, that that WAS Medium Sea Grey on top (a fragment has been unearthed, and was discussed either here or on FlyPast forums or both). The first "production" Mk.21 rolled out in late Jan '44, and that too has the light grey topsides, but I think it has PRU blue underside, and it also has the blue/red markings I would expect on the high fighter scheme.

I like the experiment of converting the colour to b&w- I 'virtually' held that near the prototype shot (thanks for putting it here, by the way) and what little I can make of the contrast between roundel ring and UNDER side strike me as compatible with the prototype's UPPER and the roundel.

There must be some other prototypes we can throw into the mix? There's the aforementioned Hornet. Maybe Welkins? (The blue/red markings take away the yellow to judge with, though.)

This also reminds me that I still would like to see more documentation concerning the high altitude scheme- I've seen records concerning its development, but in terms of application I pretty much am left with the evidence of photos. I find it unlikely that the RAF said "Well, manufacturers, we have these two different fighter schemes that could be applicable- do what you think makes sense." But if we're going to pursue that, it should probably be in a different thread!

bob

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hi to me it looks like pru blue/medium sea grey like the hornet

simon

I haven't tried converting a colour photo of something in the pru blue/medium sea grey into black and white but I would have thought that the pru blue would come out darker than the msg. This would mean that the colours would have to have been reversed from the normal.

Since I posted my reply I was looking at colour shots (though I did not find the Hornet prototype I was thinking of). I noticed that the yellow of the undersides on certain aircraft seemed to be slightly different than the yellow of the roundel. I just checked again- Camera Above the Clouds V.3 p.51 (a TT Martinet), and 59 (a Sea Hornet proto)- and the underside color seems slightly darker and more "mustardy" than the roundel ring. I am not yet ready to discount the possibility of yellow, and that certainly strikes me as the colour to be expected in this particular case.

I like the experiment of converting the colour to b&w- I 'virtually' held that near the prototype shot (thanks for putting it here, by the way) and what little I can make of the contrast between roundel ring and UNDER side strike me as compatible with the prototype's UPPER and the roundel.

Just had a look at those two photos and the Martinet's yellow does look darker under the roundel position, but about the same just in front of the wing root. The Sea Hornet is the same, but the rear of the engine nacelle looks about the same. In both cases if could be the curvature of the fuselage is causing a different lighting effect as both of the areas I've noted are receiving the same amount of light and at the same angle as the roundel ring. Both of the roundel rings show variation in the shade of yellow from top to bottom due to the fuselage curvature. We only see things because of the light reflected off them, curved surfaces reflect a different amount of light and also reflect different coloured light from other directions towards our viewpoint than flat ones.

If you enlarge the black and white picture I posted and look at the lit area under the cockpit I think this is a better match for comparing with the prototypes under surface. I don't think it's exactly the same colour but tonally it's not far away.

Steve

Edited by BritJet
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An interesting question. I have photographs of the prototype taken from the Aeroplane Spotter of 1945 which show the machine before its first flight. The undersurfaces are darker than the yellow insigna colour so they are not yellow. The uppersurfaces are a single colour. I am of the opinion that since it was not the usual practice to paint a prototype in its final scheme untill preliminary flight tests had been completed the colours may be: undersufaces a primer grey similar in tone to Medium Grey and the top surfaces in a darker grey primer/undercoat. It would certainly have to have paint on since the fuselage was wooden balsa sandwich. The rudders look dark enough to be the standard Red Oxide dope finish over fabric but were they metal instead? They were on the first production machines.

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If we accept Medium Sea Grey for the upper surfaces (it does look like the undersides color in BritJet’s b/w rendition), and rule out Yellow (different color than the roundel’s outer ring), “aluminium” (there doesn’t seem to be that aluminized paint’s or natural metal’s glint), and most definitely PRU Blue (clearly it is not a dark color), then what options are we left with? :(

And, what about the colors of the currently preserved Sea Vampire prototype (LZ 551/G)?

In the b/w pictures of its early trials, the colors do seem to be very similar to - if not the same as - those of the other prototypes… :hmmm:

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If we accept Medium Sea Grey for the upper surfaces (it does look like the undersides color in BritJet's b/w rendition), and rule out Yellow (different color than the roundel's outer ring), "aluminium" (there doesn't seem to be that aluminized paint's or natural metal's glint), and most definitely PRU Blue (clearly it is not a dark color), then what options are we left with? :(

And, what about the colors of the currently preserved Sea Vampire prototype (LZ 551/G)?

In the b/w pictures of its early trials, the colors do seem to be very similar to - if not the same as - those of the other prototypes… :hmmm:

All three prototypes were painted in the same scheme and looking at black and white photos of other aircraft painted in Sky could this be our colour?

LZ551 looks like it's been repainted into it's original scheme as it no longer has the crudely applied darker upper sections so perhaps that is the answer to the original question? I'll convert a photo of how it is now into b+w and see what the lower colour looks like.

Steve

Edited by BritJet
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I admit the thought did cross my mind... ;)

Well......

LZ551.jpg

and then converted to b+w...

LZ551bw.jpg

Looks reasonably close to the original photo to me allowing for the variables involved! The contrast between the yellow roundel ring and both colours looks right. I think it's how I'm going to go with my model and seems far more likely to me than aluminium undersurfaces.

What do you reckon?

Steve

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MSG or EDSG? I'd thought that said Sea Vampire was EDSG on the upper surfaces - certainly doesn't look any lighter than the Buccaneer behind it, but then with the lighting on the "carrier", it's hard to tell. I seem to remember that aircraft looking fairly dark "in the flesh".

As for any other aircraft wearing the scheme, EDSG over sky was of course widely used by the FAA post-war, and I think Coastal Command had a grey over sky scheme, though probably not EDSG (maybe ocean grey?); someone here is bound to know better than me about that one!

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Steve,

Reckon that's exactly it! :yahoo:

But...why MSG over Sky? :o

Any other aicraft known to have used this combination?

Pete

Well it works for me but if anybody has any other ideas I would love to hear them.

Perhaps the upper surfaces were painted as per the high-altitude spec. due to the expected performance but, as it was conceived as a fighter with no perceived PR role it was thought sky undersurfaces made more sense? Again, just my idea based on trying to interpret this stuff. The FAA Museum must have either had the same ideas or something more concrete to go on when when LZ551 was restored.

I can't think of anything else that appears to have used this combination but, if there was it would be useful as proof!

I hope we have finally got to the bottom of this colour scheme as it has interested me for a long time. Thanks for asking the original question as it got me thinking about it again but far more actively.

:beer::partytime:

Steve

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MSG or EDSG? I'd thought that said Sea Vampire was EDSG on the upper surfaces - certainly doesn't look any lighter than the Buccaneer behind it, but then with the lighting on the "carrier", it's hard to tell. I seem to remember that aircraft looking fairly dark "in the flesh".

As for any other aircraft wearing the scheme, EDSG over sky was of course widely used by the FAA post-war, and I think Coastal Command had a grey over sky scheme, though probably not EDSG (maybe ocean grey?); someone here is bound to know better than me about that one!

I don't think the prototypes were painted in EDSG, it looks more like MSG to me, but I can see what you mean about the Buccaneer behind. I can only agree with you about the lighting on the otherwise superb Carrier it has caused me to use a few words that I won't repeat here!

It's difficult to compare the grey of the Buccaneer to LZ551 due to the different angles and variable lighting on the Carrier but these two photos LZ551 top view to me show LZ551 to be much lighter than EDSG. Whatever colour LZ551 is painted in now it's not the same as on the production Sea Vampire as that looks much darker.

The David Klaus IPMS Color Cross-Reference Guide lists Coastal Command as being EDSG over white but there were no doubt exceptions.

Steve

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Vampireprorotype.jpg

Regards,

I used to work in that Shed!!!

Oh happy days, long since gone, I used to love to hear the old boys talk about the Goldern days of Hatfield, Many a classic came out of there, Including the Sea vixen!!!

and the HS 146 300 which I had a little hand in myself, still got the tape, lost my coin long ago!!!!

I know :offtopic: Sorry

Dave

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It's difficult to compare the grey of the Buccaneer to LZ551 due to the different angles and variable lighting on the Carrier but these two photos LZ551 top view to me show LZ551 to be much lighter than EDSG. Whatever colour LZ551 is painted in now it's not the same as on the production Sea Vampire as that looks much darker.

Steve

I've noticed the cockpit seems to be Interior Grey-Green, whereas the b/w picture of LZ548's cockpit in Watkin's book (see scan herebelow) shows a predominantly black color (as expected that late in the conflict)…

LZ548cockpit.jpg

On the other hand, though, I don’t see any reason for the restoration crew to change the cockpit color…

Any ideas?

Pete

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  • 5 years later...

Hello folks, to add to the debate, I recently received the CMR Sea Vampire prototype LZ551/G, as flown by Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown in the world’s first pure-jet deck landing aboard HMS Ocean in late 1945. Knowing that it is based upon the same a/c displayed at the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton, it appears that there could be some confusion (mine or others) as it sports a Sky underside. Why should I say this when so many illustrations, models and even the prototype at Yeovilton itself has a Sky underside.

Please take a look at the following examples on the internet and see what you can deduce; I for one believe the current Yeovilton exhibit could be very wrong indeed, if purporting to be Eric’s actual aircraft on that momentous day.

Colour Clip of the actual landing…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i0DDkzS6p7E

A photograph of LZ 551 at Yeovilton from 1988…

http://www.ipernity.com/doc/327697/21220457

What do you think?

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The aircraft at Yeovilton is definitely LZ551. I don't think the FAA museum or anyone else is claiming that it was frozen in time after its first carrier landing and preserved in exactly the condition it was in on 4 December 1945.

There's a whole book about the life of that specific airframe, which I don't have, but seems likely to go into detail if you want it:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/VAMPIRE-LZ551-prototype-aircraft-carrier/dp/0951313924

Edited by Work In Progress
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Cheers WIP...so we all now know, it is attributed to, but not the actual configuration a/c that 'Winkle' landed. So I go with Chromate a/f and prototype yellow undersides! Don't say sky!

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Warpaint goes with Medium Sea Grey over Aluminium,the latter seems odd. At least the third prototype was in the same scheme, so it does not appear to have been a "one off" in some kind of primer. I don't know what you mean by Chromate, that's a bright yellow to me.

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  • 4 months later...

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