Spitfire Color Changes

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by silence, Feb 7, 2013.

  1. silence

    silence Active Member

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    Its my understanding that the first marks (I II) of the Spitfire had black noses.

    Then the "official" color to be applied was the Sky-S, lasting until at least D-Day. As well, the had a Sky-S fuselage band just fore of the tail of the same color.

    Then I read that squadrons stationed on the continent after D-Day changed back to black spinners and eliminated the tail band. I would assume that Spits still based in England did not do this.

    Is this information correct?
     
  2. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    Spinners were painted 'Night' (black) until late 1940, when the colour changed to 'Sky', and the 18 inch wide tail band was introduced.
    When 2 TAF was formed in 1943, fighters operating within that organisation had black spinners,and the Sky tail band, and fighters operating in ADGB retained the Sky spinners.
    However, although 2 TAF aircraft such as the Typhoon, based on the Continent after D-Day, were supposed to have black spinners, there were exceptions, and some aircraft had Sky spinners! Only photo evidence of a specific aircraft can definitely indicate what was what.
    Additionally, some none 2 TAF aircraft had their spinners re-painted in black at unit level, if involved in low-level strike or recce ops, as the Sky spinner was thought to provide a good aiming point for flak gunners! Again, photo evidence of a specific aircraft will clarify this.
    The Sky tail bands were retained on all aircraft until after January 4th, 1945, when, officially, they were to be painted over in camouflage colours, and at this time, a directive to change the upper wing roundels to yellow, blue, white, red was also issued.
    However, as is not unusual in these instances, some units were slow to change, due to pressure of ops.
    Immediate Post War, the Sky spinner and tails band was re-introduced on ADGB aircraft, which eventually returned to using the original title of Fighter Command.
     
  3. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    Airframes has pretty much nailed that.

    The Sky spinner,Sky fuselage band and yellow leading edge strip were all formalised with the introduction of the Day Fighter Scheme (DFS) by an Air Ministry order of 12th August 1941.

    [​IMG]

    Duck egg blue is Sky. The mixed grey described became formalised as the new colour Ocean Grey some time later.

    You can see by the date on the posted document sent by the Air Ministry to HQ Maintenance Command that the change did not happen overnight.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  4. Aozora

    Aozora Well-Known Member

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    Spitfire camouflage and markings can be a complex subject, because their were lots of variations from the set regulations, particularly at times of transition, such as the change from Dark Earth/Dark Green/Sky to Ocean Grey/Dark Green/Medium Sea Grey. Hopefully the info from the old, but still useful Ducimus Camouflage and Markings will explain some of this.

    View attachment Ducimus Spitfire 5a.pdf
    View attachment Ducimus Spitfire 6a.pdf
     
  5. silence

    silence Active Member

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    Thanks, your Benevolence!

    I'm particularly interested in 312 (Czech) Squadron. The pics I've seen have light colored spinners (Spit IXs), and it kinda sounds like it would be reasonable for them to have black spinners with Sky fuselage bands, since they were being used as Fighter-Bombers from 9/43 to 6/44.
     
  6. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    Aircraft of ADGB (previously Fighter Command) also undertook bombing ops at times, particularly as a prelude to D-Day, and only a look at the Squadron history, or the Sqn ORB, will indicate what type of ops were undertaken and when.
    However, although one reference I have states that 312 Sqn were part of 2 TAF, they were in fact still under ADGB. Their MkIX Spits had the standard Sky spinner and tail band, Squadron codes 'DU', and most carried the Czech national roundel on the port side, beneath the windscreen. (Note, some aircraft had this on both sides of the fuselage.)
     
  7. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    I intend no disrespect to those Ducimus publications,they were and still are a good reference source,but they do show their age sometimes.
    For example we have a much better understanding of how the "mixed grey" which was to replace the Dark Earth on upper surfaces evolved into the new colour Ocean Grey. Air Ministry orders certainly do not only refer to Ocean Grey,the one I posted clearly refers to "mixed grey" as does this document.

    [​IMG]

    At the time of the changeover Ocean Grey did not exist,the search for a name was on.

    [​IMG]

    The first references to the new colour do not appear until early 1942,as in this example.

    [​IMG]

    Whenever colours are being mixed their is the potential for mistakes. It should be simple to take a gallon of grey paint,remove one pint and chuck in a pint of Night to give the correct mixed grey. Would you bet your house that it was always done correctly?
    Another old chestnut is that squadrons were slapping their own versions of the new colour Sky on when that was introduced. Their was certainly confusion between Sky and Sky Blue,but the ministry very quickly realised that there was a shortage of Sky and issued an ammendment allowing aircraft already in service to continue to operate in the earlier Black/White underside scheme. It also issued clarifications explaining what the new colour was.

    [​IMG]

    I'm not suggesting that there were not errors and mistakes but their was tight regulation at every level. It's also worth remembering that at this time aircraft in Fighter Command were operating close to home and authority. What happened thousands of miles away in Africa,the Middle East or South East Asia might be a different story.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  8. silence

    silence Active Member

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    Out of curiosity, did RAF fighters ever have some of the wild color schemes that you'd see on LW fighters? If not, any idea why? (I rather suspect a custom-painted Spitfire would be something to see!)
     
  9. Aozora

    Aozora Well-Known Member

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    Good, interesting material - the mixed grey was official, rather than a squadron level improvisation and led directly to ocean Grey. No doubt the unofficial shades alluded to in some publications were simply variations caused through bad mixing or small miscalculations in the proportion of Night to MSG. A Mustang I shows how dark the mixed grey could look (although care needs to be taken with how well the colours have been reproduced)

    Mustang I of 2 Sqn..jpg


    cf a Tempest in Ocean Grey/Dark Green

    Hawker Tempest  V colour 2.jpg

    This Spitfire VB of 222 Sqn shows what could happen when components were replaced or repaired:

    Spitfire VB 222 a-1.jpg
     
  10. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    Good stuff. One thing though, that particular Mustang had the grey painted over Dark Earth, which resulted in yet another variation in shade!
     
  11. fubar57

    fubar57 Well-Known Member

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    #11 fubar57, Feb 8, 2013
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2013
    Is this a real color photo? It looks like a colorized B&W picture to me but it isn't, I would sure like to model one just like it. Also if it is a real color photo, would that be duck-egg green on the bottom? Spitfire VB 222 a-1.jpg

    Geo
     
  12. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    It's a real colour photo but we need to be veeeeery careful with anything other than an original.

    Is this an exotic non standard camouflage scheme in the desert?

    [​IMG]

    Or something far more mundane?

    [​IMG]

    Same original,different reproduction. You will see an image reproduced in different publications with widely different colour balance. This is usually entirely innocent but I have seen it done to promote an author's pet theory!

    It doesn't alter the fact that there were variations.
    Mixed grey is a good example. You have a gallon of Medium Sea Grey and a gallon of Night which you need to mix 7:1. How much easier is it to tip the gallon of grey into a bucket and add a pint and a bit of the Night than to remove exactly a pint of grey (where are you going to put it?) and add a pint of Night? Human nature I'm afraid tends to go for the easiest option.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  13. Aozora

    Aozora Well-Known Member

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    #13 Aozora, Feb 8, 2013
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2013
    That is genuine colour and not a colourised b&w - it is part of a sequence taken by Charles Brown. The details are interesting, although my interpretation does not need to be considered definitive: the spinner, code letters and rear fuselage band (serial number overpainted) are very pale, most likely a colour called Sky Blue, while the lower cowling and (most likely) the undersurfaces are Sky, which is confusingly called "Duck Egg Blue" in the first directive shown by Steve/Stona. To add to the confusion both the upper cowling, port wing and starboard aileron have been replaced by components painted Dark Green/Ocean Grey, or overpainted in those colours: it is possible that the lower port wing is in Sea Grey Medium. It also looks like the starboard wingtip has been replaced because the camouflage doesn't quite line up and the yellow leading edge is narrower than that on the port wingtip.

    Another photo in the sequence is less saturated and has a different colour balance but it still shows the differences between the Dark Earth/Dark Green components and the Ocean Grey/Dark Green. I can't remember the serial No.

    Spitfire VB 222 1.jpg

    Getting back to the original question:
    Spitfire I Cozens 19a.jpg
    First operational Spitfire Is 1938, 19 Sqn.

    Spitfire I 65 1939.jpg
    Up to September 1939

    klt-s.jpg
    September 39 - May 1940 54 Sqn - still Black/White/Silver undersurfaces no fin flash, no yellow outline fuselage roundel

    Spitfire I 19 a.jpg
    August/ September 1940 Battle of Britain - 19 Sqn

    Spitfire IIA P7666.jpg
    November 1940 transition to Sky spinner fuselage band 41 Sqn

    spit2-vic.jpg
    Spitfre LF VB 317.jpg
    kenya-spitfire.jpg
    Spitfire XIV 610 Flight.jpg
    Ocean Grey/Dark Green/Sea Grey Medium with Sky codes and fuselage band c. June 42 - Jan 45

    Spitfire IX D-Day stripes.jpg
    Then along came D-Day

    Spitfire XIV 402.jpg
    Back to black spinner, no fuselage band (over-painted in slightly darker colours) Late upper wing roundels, yellow outline, blue, white red.
     

    Attached Files:

  14. fubar57

    fubar57 Well-Known Member

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    The top photo is a much better rendition but I notice the color behind the roundel has changed quite a bit.

    Geo
     
  15. Aozora

    Aozora Well-Known Member

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    +1 That's one reason why assessing even colour photos can be tricky because, as Steve has explained, colour balances can change in the translation. The Grey under the roundel now looks a lot more like the darker Mixed Grey as seen in the Mustang I photo. For someone wanting to build a model of that particular VB making it look right will be a challenge!
     
  16. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    This caused considerable confusion at the time. Many storemen simply assumed that Sky was Sky Blue,a colour already in the inventory. I'm not sure that the situation was helped by "clarifications" like this.

    [​IMG]

    Sky had its origins in and was the same colour as a colour developed by Cotton at Heston called "Camotint".

    [​IMG]

    Maybe they should just have kept that as a name for the new colour,here described more accurately as a pale blue-green!

    Cheers

    Steve
     
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