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WWII RAF Roundel Colours

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  • Jennings
    Rank 5 Registered User

    WWII RAF Roundel Colours

    Hi all,

    Can someone shed some light on the colours of red and blue used by the RAF for roundels during the immediate pre-war period until the introduction of the Type D roundel in 1947?

    It is my understanding that after the Munich Crisis in 1938 when camouflage started to be introduced throughout the RAF, that roundels went from the bright blue and red used since WWII to Dull Ident Red and Dull Ident Blue. I've seen plenty of documentation on that, and colour photos (in the Google/LIFE archives) back it up. But apparently there are some older books (Ducimus?) that claim that before the Type C/C1 roundel was introduced in 1942 that the earlier bright colours were still used.

    I know nothing is 'always' and nothing is 'never', but I've yet to see anything offiical that says that anything but the Dull Ident colours were used after 1938/39.

    Thanks!

    JH
  • Mark V
    Steve Atkin

    #2
    Basically you are correct. The wartime red and blue were not however called 'Dull Ident Red' or anything like that - they were simply termed 'Red' and 'Blue' (and 'Yellow'). There are some documented instances of the pre-war bright red and blue shades being used (erroneously) in wartime, one that springs to mind is Gloster manufactured Hurricanes in 1940. The reason could be as simple as their having large stocks of the old paint.

    And no (before anyone asks) - the wartime roundel colours do not appear in BS381C.
    Last edited by Mark V; 16th February 2009, 03:52.
    www.warbirdcolour.co.uk

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    • Flanker_man
      Rank 5 Registered User

      #3
      Isn't it also true that the designation 'Type C' or 'C1' or 'Type D' etc when referring to roundel dimensions/ratios is a purely made up system created by Ian Huntley ??

      I'm sure that I read somewhere that they were never used in official documents, but were just a convenient nomenclature invented by Ian.

      Or am I just imagining things again ???

      Ken
      Flanker Freak & Russian Aviation Enthusiast.
      Flankers (& others) website at :-
      http://flankers.co.uk/

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      • Mark V
        Steve Atkin

        #4
        Originally posted by Flanker_man View Post
        Isn't it also true that the designation 'Type C' or 'C1' or 'Type D' etc when referring to roundel dimensions/ratios is a purely made up system created by Ian Huntley ??

        I'm sure that I read somewhere that they were never used in official documents, but were just a convenient nomenclature invented by Ian.

        Or am I just imagining things again ???

        Ken
        Yes indeed the roundel names A, B, C etc are a post war creation and not 'official' - I think the nomencalture was devised by Bruce Robertson (?). The official references for roundels in period were simply Type I, Type II, Type III etc (relating to post war unofficial references B, C, C1 respectivley).
        www.warbirdcolour.co.uk

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        • WP840
          Whisky Papa

          #5
          During WW2 why did RAF fighters have a yellow ring around the red, white and blue roundel on the fuselage? Why also were the roundels on the wings only the standard 3 colour and when did the yellow ring start getting painted thinner?

          Pictures from www.airliners.net
          Attached Files
          If you're not living on the edge then you're taking up too much space!

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          • Jennings
            Rank 5 Registered User

            #6
            Originally posted by Mark V View Post
            Basically you are correct. The wartime red and blue were not however called 'Dull Ident Red' or anything like that - they were simply termed 'Red' and 'Blue' (and 'Yellow'). There are some documented instances of the pre-war bright red and blue shades being used (erroneously) in wartime, one that springs to mind is Gloster manufactured Hurricanes in 1940. The reason could be as simple as their having large stocks of the old paint.

            And no (before anyone asks) - the wartime roundel colours do not appear in BS381C.
            Do you have any official documentation on the changeover to the wartime colours (as in a date)? I've got some "experts" (self-appointed) who insist that Ducimus and other "definitive references" state categorically that the bright colours were used until 1942 when the new roundels came into use. I posted this, but it didn't change their minds..

            Tks

            J

            Comment

            • Mark V
              Steve Atkin

              #7
              Originally posted by WP840 View Post
              During WW2 why did RAF fighters have a yellow ring around the red, white and blue roundel on the fuselage? Why also were the roundels on the wings only the standard 3 colour and when did the yellow ring start getting painted thinner?

              Pictures from www.airliners.net
              The roundel type III with the thin outer Yellow (and White) rings was put in to widespread use from May 1942 onwards and replaced the earlier type with equally proprtioned rings. It was simply seen as a way of making roundels slightly less conspicuous in the geographical location of action at that time (and also worked for night bombers for obvious reasons). The evolution of roundel design and placement were continuing throughout the war against a background of changing tactics and geographical location of action. The basic need for national identification markings was seen by all sides as an essential requirement but this was moderated by the need for camouflage concealament. The two requirements were, to varying degrees, in constant confliction with each other, however there are some fairly consistant patterns, for example the upper wing roundels of RAF fighters based in Northern Europe remained constantly what was reffered to later as Type B (Red and Blue only) throughout the war up until early 1945. This was due to the need for concealement of aircraft on the ground where it was felt that Red and Blue alone would offer the best compromise of clarrity of national identity without being too bright and attracting undue attention. It was not until 2nd TAF in Europe in early 1945 felt confident enough to change to a more readily identifiable Type III (C1) upper wing roundel as by then it was felt there was more advantage to ensuring friendly aircraft could identify their own when on the ground at forward operating bases (and also of course due to the Luftwaffes diminishing offensive ability at that time).



              Originally posted by Jennings View Post
              Do you have any official documentation on the changeover to the wartime colours (as in a date)? I've got some "experts" (self-appointed) who insist that Ducimus and other "definitive references" state categorically that the bright colours were used until 1942 when the new roundels came into use. I posted this, but it didn't change their minds..

              Tks

              J
              Well I am an 'enthusiastic student' and not an 'expert' but I suspect you may be getting confused between the terms 'used' and 'officially specified', in other words making a distinction between what should have happened and what actually happened in a wartime situation. The isolated use of the 'bright' pre-war colours up to the end of 1940, as I said earlier, has been confirmed from archeological evidence and is not disputed. However this was unusual, not officially sanctioned and somewhat rare. Stocks of the old colours must certainly have been around, in all probability in great enough quantities to have encouraged Glosters to continue to use them against official policy. Distinguishing the older colours from the 'new' wartime colours is also hampered by the names Red and Blue etc (rather than 'Dull Red or 'Dull Blue' which would make it easier to be clear about the distinction in shade).

              There are many knowledgable people on her (such as 'Roobarb') who can confirm all this. If you want detailed printed references I would point you to Paul Lucas's superb 'Camouflage & markings No. 2 - The Battle for Britain' which gives a very detailed description of the evolution of British aircraft markings from the immediate pre-war period up to early 1941.Or 'British Aviation Colours of World War II' (re-print of official wartime AP's) or perhaps Peter Vachers book on Hurricane R4118, all excellent works of reference and normally available on www.abebooks.co.uk.
              Last edited by Mark V; 16th February 2009, 13:51.
              www.warbirdcolour.co.uk

              Comment

              • Jennings
                Rank 5 Registered User

                #8
                Thanks! All the documentation I have at hand (some going back into the early 1970s) agrees with you. I have the Ducimus book on USAAF camo & markings, but not the RAF volume (sadly - wish they were all reprinted). Apparently the Ducimus is at least open to the interpretation that the pre-ware colours were used up until 1942.

                Cheers,

                J

                Comment

                • Mark V
                  Steve Atkin

                  #9
                  In fairness to Ducimus, they did come out a long time ago and we are now blessed with much more comprehensive reference material on RAFaircraft - particularly the Paul Lucas books and better ways (such as this forum) to share and discuss such information.
                  www.warbirdcolour.co.uk

                  Comment

                  • Mk1
                    Mk1
                    Rank 5 Registered User

                    #10
                    Jennings:
                    Thanks for starting this thread as I am soon to paint my 70% Mk1 replica. Is the LIFE photo you posted an un-retouched wartime original (1940-41)? If it is, it's very close to the scheme I want to put on my replica.

                    Mark V:
                    Also appreciate your terrific insights and references.

                    Regards, Mk.1
                    -----------------

                    Comment

                    • antoni
                      Rank 5 Registered User

                      #11
                      Paul Lucas - Model Aircraft Monthly November 2005 - Wind of Change
                      Hurricane camouflage and markings November 1935 - August 1938

                      “Work on redesigning the national markings appears to have been completed by 19 March 1936, as on this date an RAE 'Note on the Camouflage Painting of Aircraft' gives the revised form of roundel as being of 1-3-5-7 proportion and gives the colours as being Yellow VYl, Dull Blue VN.B.6, White VW3 and Dull Red VN.R.5. These 'dull' shades were those already in use on Night Flying aircraft and ultimately the 'Dull' preflX was dropped and the colours simply became officially named Red and Blue. These names were then retained until 1947.
                      As these new markings were only supposed to be applied to camouflaged surfaces, where the under surfaces of fighters remained in Aluminium finish, the original 1-3-5 proportion roundels were to remain in use although they would be applied in the new 'dull' colours. It is of interest to note that although the new 'dull' colours were supposed to be used on camouflaged aircraft, some manufacturers continued to use Bright Red and Bright Blue colours for some considerable time with DTD Technical Circulars being issued on this subject as late as 1941!”

                      Comment

                      • Jennings
                        Rank 5 Registered User

                        #12
                        Many thanks Antoni. I think that pretty well clinches it.

                        J

                        Comment

                        • Mark V
                          Steve Atkin

                          #13
                          Seems to - I would be interested to see more examples of the 'incorrect' wartime use of pre-war roundel colours (other than the previously documented Gloster built Hurricanes).
                          www.warbirdcolour.co.uk

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