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RAF Blue in WW2- Fact or Fiction


LarryH57

Question

Over the last 30 years I have seen a fair number of WW2 MV's painted in RAF blue and I have often wondered how accurate they are in that colour.

 

When you study war time photos of the RAF in the UK you will see that from very early in the war RAF vehicles from staff cars to fuel bowsers were painted in disruptive camo that I believe was green & brown and that as the war progressed colours changed to match the Army with black disruptive paint over brown (?) and later mickey mouse type camouflage.

 

I have not found a photo of RAF blue & yellow cab roof either in WW2 though I did see a colour photo of an all yellow Beaverette used as crash rescue on a Bomber Command airfield circa 1944 (for use by firemen in asbestos suits to get in close)

 

So why is it that MV owners paint their 1942-45 era RAF vehicles blue and why for that matter does the film industry do the same! Is getting an award more preferable than accuracy?

 

Finally can anyone say for sure when RAF blue was first used-1918? And when did it make a comeback after WW2?

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Hi,

Ted asks did anyone keep a copy of the rare colour movie 601 sqdn from Dig1940...

yes I did, I will endeavour to post the photo from it when I get 5 mins.

 

Jamie at Sovereign Hobbies Colourcoats does not dial in scale effect, his colours are matched to the colour swatch he has before him, I hate it when manufacturers do scale effect, AS THEY DONT KNOW WHAT SCALE A MODELLER IS WORKING TO !

I once stood 72ft away from rlm02 for 1/72 aircraft model to match full size aircraft, and it should have matched rlm02 with white added (I recall a Monogram book formula of 72%), anyhow it matched my increasing white addition mixes on....the original rlm02 !

Its another myth such as pre shading and sooty rivet lines.

Early war RAF Blue Grey is not the same as the colour introduced at the end of the war, surviving example of a Bedford OX at Lytham St Annes Spitfire group is in prewar RAF Blue Grey, compare this to the fordson tractor repainted in post war blue grey ! and if you think its faded, look underneath the rear end. Furthermore WAAF on tractor towing an arc of Type B bomb trolleys, see how the blue grey is matching her tunic. Likewise other colour pics I have. RAF Blue grey post war certainly doesnt match WW2 tunics, far darker and a hint of red. I have peeled away paint on Bomb trolley to reveal same colour as that Bedford OX.

BOBC

Edited by BOBC1940
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Hi.

We are all aware that paint fades and discourse with exposure to light . Dirt petrol etc .. And similarly films and photos may not show true colours as the paper. Toner fixer etc and again discoloration with age may influence the colour .. Allow for colour variances during wartime due to necessity and differences in factor paint mixes and you get a plethora of colour variances..

As such when I attend a military or air  show and see a mix of colours i think that is representative of how vehicles would have appeared in WW2.. 

On the specific topic of RA F blue i recently acquired a record vice and found the blue described as either record blue or RAF blue .As record vices have used this colour through the war years into modern times i would suggest this is actually an good reference colour ..due to its continuous production 

Regards

Jenkinov

 

 

 

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On 12/16/2020 at 12:03 AM, BOBC1940 said:

Hi,

Ted asks did anyone keep a copy of the rare colour movie 601 sqdn from Dig1940...

yes I did, I will endeavour to post the photo from it when I get 5 mins.

 

Jamie at Sovereign Hobbies Colourcoats does not dial in scale effect, his colours are matched to the colour swatch he has before him, I hate it when manufacturers do scale effect, AS THEY DONT KNOW WHAT SCALE A MODELLER IS WORKING TO !

I once stood 72ft away from rlm02 for 1/72 aircraft model to match full size aircraft, and it should have matched rlm02 with white added (I recall a Monogram book formula of 72%), anyhow it matched my increasing white addition mixes on....the original rlm02 !

Its another myth such as pre shading and sooty rivet lines.

Early war RAF Blue Grey is not the same as the colour introduced at the end of the war, surviving example of a Bedford OX at Lytham St Annes Spitfire group is in prewar RAF Blue Grey, compare this to the fordson tractor repainted in post war blue grey ! and if you think its faded, look underneath the rear end. Furthermore WAAF on tractor towing an arc of Type B bomb trolleys, see how the blue grey is matching her tunic. Likewise other colour pics I have. RAF Blue grey post war certainly doesnt match WW2 tunics, far darker and a hint of red. I have peeled away paint on Bomb trolley to reveal same colour as that Bedford OX.

BOBC

How can you say the Bedford OX at Lytham St Annes is prewar blue grey ? I have seen pictures of it and  it looks freshly done !  ?   At the outbreak of WW2 Queen Mary trailers were hauled by either Commer or Crossley tractor units . I would guess camo or at least a single colour finish in KG3 would have been called for. The pre and post war colour had the same BSC  , if the mix had changed the number would have changed .  TED 

Edited by ted angus
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Hi Ted,

I was there analysing it for a good hour, freshly applied paint was not what I saw at all, I could see areas that had peeled away, that had weathered over years, no areas that had been missed with the paint, I looked under the rear end for areas that had not perhaps faded in the sun and photographed it with a Kodak colour card, it was a tad darker, but not anywhere near the colour of the Fordson tractor parked several feet away which had been restored and repainted with a tin of the postwar RAF Blue grey a few years ago. The Bedford is in a matt with a slight sheen at most, the Fordson at least satin if not getting on towards gloss. They had acquired the Bedford in that paint it has and had not touched it at all, and if someone postwar had repainted it with the latest RAF blue grey it would have matched the Fordson, clearly they who had painted the Bedford in what year we dont know well before Lytham acquired it,  had taken a tin of an earlier shade and used that. I have a sample of the paint used by Lytham on the Fordson tractor on a piece of metal , painted out from the same tin. They have a Type C Mk I modified bomb trolley also being repainted after restoration in the post war colour same tin source.  Furthermore that Bedford also reminded me of the same colour I saw on one at Flambards in Cornwall decades ago. It also matched the colour I had exposed by peeling the yellow paint away on a W arm support from a Type B bomb trolley, they were the first trolleys in use in WW2. It is a less saturated colour and hasnt the hint of red about it, and is paler. I have photos of all this. It was like the colour of WW2 tunics which I also have to hand. The Fordson and my sample is darker and more blue with a hint of red. I will try and post the images, though photos cannot replicate what the eye sees and can lead to discussions on what they show detracting from actual comparison in daylight.

BOBC

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Perhaps Paragon Paint have the answer  ?

A few years ago , I had some Hammerite  Smooth Finish  BLUE , rather than leave it spare in the tin , I painted a load of Record G clamps & sash cramp heads , put them back on the garage roof joist  hanging nails to dry.  I also did a Record  34  vice ,  when dry looking at the G clamps - they looked  brand new & finish quite right.   Looking at the vice , possibly I could see a very slight shade shift  ?

 

I have a brand new  IRWIN Record  36 vice   ,   I didn't pay a fraction of the official list  £ price.   Fresh out the crate - it has sat bolted to a bench in a dark garage for over 5 years - possibly it is a shade brighter/deeper than the traditional Record blue  ?      I think the IRWIN ones may be made in China or Taiwan  ?    so don't compare with this new stuff.

https://www.paragonpaints.co.uk/BS381C-110-Roundel-Blue-Record-Vice-Blue.html

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Lots of colours are described as RAF blue  or blue grey,  A tunic was mentioned in an earlier post. My first working uniform was the rough serge battle dress , now it was much darker than my best blue, then came a working dress in the same material as the best blue, the jacket was a very dark blue the trousers similar to the best blue, we then got lightweight summer trousers for UK and Europe  a much more mottled colour ! All different but all loosely termed RAF Blue. 

But lets return to RAF Blue Grey BS 381 colour 33, in 1948/9 and third numeral was added  blues had a 1 prefix  2 was green 6 was grey.   So at this point Colour 33 became 633, without any published colour change. Pre-war the RAF used gloss. post-war it was initially used as semi-gloss then gloss.  So this brings me to comparison of colours :

BOBC,  says the Bedford is matt with a slight sheen whereas the tractor is satin approaching gloss.  You cannot compare these 2 and I will show you a picture that illustrates my point.  this is an ammo tin, originally painted in BS 381 colour 499 Service Brown, I simply wiped the dust off it ( on the right you can just about see a swirl where my rag wiped off the dust ) then on the left side I applied 1 coat of matt varnish - Now you would think it was 2 different colour but no its all service brown.  The difference is caused by the changes in reflectivity.  there is no firm UK standard on these reflectivity levels most paint companies use 6  or 7 levels in their products. In the MoD - excluding very specialised coatings we used 7 levels: Matt,   Semi-Matt, Eggshell. Satin, Semi-Gloss, Gloss, High Gloss.

So comparing a Bedford that looks Matt to a Satin tractor will give you totally false comparison. If the Bedford and tractor were both gloss you would see a totally different comparison. . 

TED

BS 381 colour  499 Service Brown -.jpg

Edited by ted angus
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Hi,

I will get a sample painted out of the BS381 633 and then partition it off and make it matt using a matt that doesnt have white in it, (some model varnishes end up matting and whitening, black goes grey, whilst Galeria Matt makes black stay black).

It wasnt that the Bedford is paler, but the hue is different, I am not aware of different surface matting causing colour hue change, only colour saturation and darkness change.

If we wet the Bedford and it matches the fordson then proof they are the same colour, but I was seeing different hues.

 

When I get 5 mins, I will post some pics, but Christmas prepping has a large gravitational pull and I cant get out of it.

BOBC

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yes of course different varnishes have a different effect, I have the same issue on my models.  The paint would no doubt  have been from different manufacturers, with many years between them. Once a paint is tinned it starts to degrade hence all our paint had manufacturers date, batch and  a use by date.  this goes a long way to explain the hue defferences. , even as late as 1990 we were getting BS paints  with differences between batches but still met the colour of that particular  BS number.    Enjoy your christmas prep, with just me and the wife not much to do. TED.

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Hi,

I had forgotten this thread so must get around to painting out the 'post war' RAF blue grey and applying matt and satin varnishes.

I did wet the 'OX' at the time to account for gloss etc and still saw a hue difference compared to the Fordson tractor.

As for the matador posted by Listerj123 , even allowing for the difficulty of truly seeing a colour on a monitor, albeit it I have a colour calibrated monitor so see colour as it should be compared to non calibrated monitors, it all depends on the camera in use, colours best judged before evening sun starts, this appears in daylight during showtimes, no yellowy sun at play, the pic looks somewhat saturated with the grass not looking normal but even so, the immediate cyan look of the matador has me saying, NO. I don't see RAF Blue grey getting to that light blue cyan colour unless the camera has an odd colour quirk going on. sky blue looks correct, tree etc.  My reaction to that photo is , not RAF blue grey, prewar or postwar !

 

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It's a 1945 build,  Contract S8202/3 apparently all raf so would that be the light colour 

As asked before......Assuming we are seeing the vehicle colour truly as it is, and no strange camera quirk, I am not aware of any AM order that says there is also another RAF blue grey which is this cyan sky blue colour. I have data from Mike Starmer and nothing in that about a pale light blue for the RAF.  The RAF Blue Grey may well fade to that colour over time, bleached by the sun, but its definitely not in standard RAF Blue Grey. Are you saying that contract S8202/3 was to be in a non standard light blue ? If so why was that decreed when normally standard Blue Grey was to be used ? Do you know of the research that went into this odd colour ? Who's vehicle is it ?  I tried to find another photo of it by a different camera but couldnt see this restored vehicle in google images at all.

BOBC1940

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BOBC,

Like Ted Angus (my partner in crime relating to RAF Vehicle Colours) I too was after a shot of the Fordson 7V as requested a mere 10 years ago on this thread. Any help with a screen shot of the Fordson 7V would be gratefully received via a PM or via Ted or on here

Did you by chance see the recent programme on TV called 'Dig 1940' concerning the Battle of Britain? The programme showed clips from a very rare 'home movie' in colour, by W Rhodes Moorhouse showing 601 Sqn Hawker Hurricanes in the BoB. But as the film panned across a group of pilots in the background was an RAF truck in green and brown camo - which looked the same colours used on the Hurricanes - not that I'm claiming it was the same paint.

Thanks in advance

Larry

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RAF Blue-Grey seems to have continued in use for some Air Ministry items other than vehicles.

This is a 1943 dated Kismet foot pump. It's probably fairly safe to assume that it has never been repainted.

It is blue....but very close to grey under some lighting.

Kismet AM 1943.JPG

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Well RAF blue grey seems to have been used on all manner of tools and equipment that was not of a size that mattered regarding aerial observation by the Luftwaffe. Incidentally i have seen tool compressors that have been camouflaged and yet Trolley Accumulators that have had  RAF blue grey wheels and white wheels too.

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Hi,

LarryH57 and Ted Angus, worth the wait ! these are the images (THEY GO BIGGER IF CLICKED) you are after from DIG1940 rare GENUINE COLOUR home movie 601 Sqdn 1940. The vehicle in the background is an Albion AM463 350 Gallon 3 Boom refueller (such as I was trying to find an interested party in acquiring the project off the owner when I was faced with the chance of restoring one ). It doesnt look like its in the paint of the Hurricanes. That moment lasts a sec or so , so well spotted. I also add here shots of the Hurricanes as well as a Starter Trolley then the lorry from that movie ( can I get confirmed, thats a Fordson 7V, is that correct ?) , very important photos of the green and brown its in for those wishing to see colour photos of 1940 RAF vehicles, then other shots of RAF blue grey, followed by green brown Brockhouse 450 gallon towed bowser (Tracked Fordson doing the towing), a front view of another Albion AM463 with Spitfire (in Nobels Tarmac Green and Khaki Green 3) , another lorry then staff car (both in same movie clip one after the other), a Fire appliance (not in red !) , and later war David brown tractors.

ENJOY !

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Aviation historians, modellers etc, note the green/brown of the Bristol Bombay compared to the Hurricanes, subject for another thread !

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compare extracts from photos:-

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Albion's brown not like any other brown in the same movie or elsewhere, but similar to the head on shot with RAF crew at right, of a vehicle in Nobels Tarmac Green wavy camouflage.

Ted confirms my thoughts on that Matador, 'fictional', thats not normal RAF Blue Grey unless there was a special order that the construction batch were to be that odd 'un military' colour ! A lot of effort is involved in painting a vehicle so to know more the story of how that colour was arrived at would be good to know. I have seen pale blue but after 80 yrs it appears to have been faded over time.

BOBC1940

 

 

 

 

Edited by BOBC1940
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The front viewed truck is a Commer 30cwt, a very nice and rare shot. I also think the shots with them in the hooped body are also Commers.

Lastly the little truck in the side biews is another Commer, a 15cwt.

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The truck in several shots is a Bedford MSC..  I would say most of the BoB period "Brown & Green" are KG 3 and dark green- the same as the army were using .

The crash tender is a Fordson WOT1 Weeton type. picture is by IWM taken late WW2 at Prestwick who had mainly civvy Air Ministry employed firemen. The PE1301 on the door is often mistaken for its reg number in fact its TYPE 1301 the type number of crash tenders in the RAF's short lived  type number scheme.   I have seen snippets from that home movie used in DIG 1940 on other programmes over the years. 601 Sqn was known as the Millionaires Sqn  it was a prewar Auxiliary Sqn the pilots were mainly very rich chaps - hence the colour movie film I suppose. The Bowser filling the Lanc coded Z I would say is in SCC2 & 1A  as its in the camp pattern that was introduced about the same time as these colours

Most of the tractor shots are reported to be 44/45 period taken by the Station  Commander Grp Capt Cozens at Hemswell. However I think the date is 1943 as that is the year he was at Hemswell ??? 

Thanks for sharing these shots. Ted

Bedford MSC.jpg

Edited by ted angus
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