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Thread: 179 Sqn Wellington camouflage colours, late 1942

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    Default 179 Sqn Wellington camouflage colours, late 1942

    As an aside to the query about P/O Willson of 179 Sqn, in I've been looking through the 179 ORB's Appendices, which are reports on U-Boat attacks by the Squadron. Each report has a section specifically noting each aircraft's camouflage. Here is a short sample, from December 1942, of Wellington VIII LL serials with their camouflage as noted:

    HX641/J - Black
    LB145/X - White
    HK720/D - Special
    HX474/O - Normal
    unknown/C - White under desert top

    Why would the the camouflage be specially mentioned? And what would 'Special' and 'Normal' be as opposed to 'White' or 'Black'?

    Regards

    Simon

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    I belive that in this time period Coastal Command was experimenting with various camouflage schemes for anti-submarine work, and was probably collecting statistics on the effectiveness of various schemes. The basic problem was descending to attack altitude after sighting the U-boat, before the U-boat sighted the aircraft and started to submerge. They had already learned that higher patrol altitudes increased the odds of an initial sighting, but obviously requried more time to descend. If the U-boat had submerged more than a few feet before the aircraft reached the correct altitude to drop depth charges the bombing accuracy fell off quite quickly.

    Various schemes were tried that basically consisted of more and more white on first the bottom, and then the sides, of the aircraft. The RCAF followed this all very closely, and there is a great RCAF photo of an Eastern Air Command Hudson from about this time with a totally white underside, nearly all white fuselage, and even the tires (which were partially exposed when retracted) painted white. This (minus the painted tires) was the final RAF and RCAF coastal colour scheme for several years.

    I suspect "white" and "special" represented various stages of increasing the area of white on the bottom and sides of the aircraft.

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    Simon:

    'Normal' at this time was a Temperate Sea disruptive pattern on the fuselage and wing upper surfaces with white sides and under surfaces respectively, Temperate Sea being Extra Dark Sea Grey and Dark Slate Grey (actually a green colour).

    Among the Coastal Command Fortresses that I know more about, some were painted with the white extending very high up the fuselage sides to leave just a narrow strip of Temperate Sea along the fuselage top - not sure what the camouflage value of that strip was hoped to be - while the wing leading edges of the wings were also painted white a fair bit back over the upper surface. Have seen this scheme on Coastal Command Beaufighters too.

    It's possible that some aircraft were painted all 'white' in which case the scheme I just described may have been regarded as 'special'.

    Fortresses were even painted with gloss white on the undersurfaces, the theory being that it would reflect some light off the water at 50 ft and lighten up the shaded undersurfaces.

    The photos I have seen of 179 Sqn Wellingtons in the Azores all indicate Temperate Sea and white but obviously other schemes were tried.

    Robert
    Last edited by robstitt; 30th January 2014 at 18:10. Reason: *Dark* Slate Grey corrected

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    The developed "Coastal White" scheme called for only the strict plan view, discounting engine nacelles, to be in Extra Dark Sea Grey. I believe that the demarcation was set at a 30deg tangent to the top, so that very little of the top scheme could be seen from either the side or the front. This is particularly noticeable on Catalinas, where it does appear that the fuselage was entirely in white - but wasn't. Some aircraft did exist for some time with the surviving Temperate Sea Scheme rather than just EDSG, Halifaxes for example being seen like this up to a year after the introduction of EDSG only. The scheme did call for gloss White undersides and matt White sides - sorry Bob, no-one was picking on the Fortresses in particular.

    The example of a desert scheme appears odd.
    Last edited by Graham Boak; 29th January 2014 at 16:43.

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    Hi Graham:

    Based again on Fortresses, the standard Camouflage Pattern No. 2 circa 1942-43 consisted of the Temperate Sea disruptive scheme limited to the upper surfaces of the wings and horizontal stabilizer and the upper part of the fuselage with the under surfaces White wrapping up the fuselage sides and over the fin and rudder. The variation where only a narrow strip of Temperate Sea remained along the fuselage top was defined as early as August 1941 - this required that White be applied on any visible surface 8 degrees below the horizontal.

    As early as December 30, 1942, HQ Coastal Command proposed changes to the standard scheme including elimination of Dark Slate Grey from the Temperate Sea camouflage, leaving the upper surfaces in just Extra Dark Sea Grey, as the pattern offered no operational benefits and required substantial effort to apply. An instruction to this affect was issued by the Air Ministry on February 2, 1943, but was apparently not acted on until the Fortress was transferred from anti-submarine to meteorological reconnaissance operations later in 1944, likely because it was impractical until aircraft were flown back to the UK and prepared for their new role.

    At this point the scheme pretty much mirrored that flown on all operational seagulls who apparently had it figured some time previously.

    Robert

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    The odd ones out would seem to be the ones described as 'Black', and 'White under desert top'. What upper surfaces would the 'Black' ones have? As Graham pointed out, 'white and desert top' seems just plain odd, full stop.

    Regards

    Simon

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    I agree it does sound odd. Some finishes may have been locally applied, as part of the on-going effort to determine an effective camouflage. The "black" aircraft, HX641, may have just been a standard Bomber Command finish. Does anyone know the prior history of this aircraft? It may have just arrived from BC in that finish. It is a shame we don't know the serial of the "white and desert", it may have just returned from the Middle East.

    Robert, love your comment on the seagulls.

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    Reading back through the appendices, aircraft 'C', with the white/desert scheme, is listed as a Mk.VIII, but isn't marked 'LL' for Leigh Light. All the other Wellingtons are marked 'LL' denoting a Leigh Light, but not so this one.
    The previous 'C' - HX749 - was lost on December 6th, and the ORB Form 540 lists a new aircraft 'C' (the one in question here) arriving from the UK on December 19th, 1942 with P/O S. H. Nicholson and crew.

    Regards

    Simon

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    Would not be the 'normal', a desert or temperate scheme uppers and sides, and blue bottoms? It was overseas.

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    By this period, late 1942, the only Wellingtons with camouflage coming down the sides would be transports. It was in combat use as a night bomber, with the black going up the sides, or a Coastal Command aircraft, either with Night (for night operations) or White up the sides. Blue (as opposed to Sky) was used in the Middle East and possibly in the Far East on lighter types and in other Commands, but for daylight operations. A desert scheme on the top would be very rare for a maritime aircraft, these being either Temperate Land or (more likely) Temperate Sea Scheme. Desert on top of Night was seen on night bomber Wellingtons in the Middle East, but can be difficult to distinguish from faded Temperate Land, and although should have been normal at this time I'm not sure this was the case. However, the Azores would not count as the Middle East but I think were still under UK command.

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