Category Archives: Military

Hawker Hurricane Mk I, 4/27/1939-6/5/1940 dH 2-position prop, “B” pattern camo, starboard profile, 1/2 white underside, v.10


<Hawker Hurricane Mk I, 4/27/1939-6/5/1940 dH 2-position prop, "B" pattern camo, starboard profile, 1/2 white underside, v.10

Mid-production Hawker Hurricane, Mk I, with de Havilland 2-position propeller.  This is what one would look like if it was painted all together, and they stopped before applying the national and service markings. Just “B” pattern camouflage on top, Dark Green and Dark Earth. Starboard side white, port side black, underneath, meeting at the centerline. Nothing of the original “Aluminum” finish remains outside, but the wheel wells and inside of the undercarriage doors might well be “Aluminum”, still. Black spinner.

The “A” and “B” camouflage patterns were mirror images, so this starboard, “B” scheme, is the same as a port-side “A” scheme, except reversed left to right
The black/white underside recognition features was ordered in August 1938. While the requirement for black under the port wing was made known fairly readily, how to treat the starboard wing, horizontal stabilizers and fuselage underside was somewhat to very unclear between 8/38 and 4/39. The intent was to have the port side black up to the center of the fuselage, and the starboard side white, up to the center of the fuselage, as this drawing and its companion show.

Fixed pitch, variable pitch and constant-speed propellers: De Havilland’s 2-position propeller was hydraulically actuated, the design licensed from Hamilton-Standard. The 2 positions were “Fine” for takeoff, “coarse” for maximum speed.  Better than the fixed-pitch, solid wood Watts propeller, but quickly replaced by the British engineered Rotol constant-speed design. A constant-speed propeller changes pitch in response to engine power- open the throttle and the blades bite deeply. Close the throttle and the blades barely nibble. Inertia of the moving pieces has little effect on changes in power, no waiting for the engine itself to speed up or slow down.

Hamilton Standard’s own constant-speed design was the “Hydromatic”. Curtis-Wright backed a constant speed design operated by an electric motor, which had the advantage of being able to “feather”, go to super-coarse pitch, for least drag, whether or not the engine was running. Hydraulic operation required the engine-driven hydraulic pump to change pitch, so feathering  had to be done *while* shutting down a failing engine.

 

Hawker Hurricane Camouflage and exterior / interior colors.


I’ve just completed a series of color profiles of Hurricanes and I’m going to explain them here, with links to click on to show the images. I can’t seem to imbed them in this page without making a literal copy, which seems like a bad idea. So here’s literal copy to show what kind of image we’re talking about, and then descriptions and links:

Hurri Mk I, A patt

Hawker Hurricane, 1939; port profile,”A” pattern camouflage; 2 speed de Havilland prop; black, white, aluminum under v.12

Here’s the first plane, chronologically by subject:

Hawker Hurricane Mk I, 1938, digital image, by me, "A" pattern camo, Watts prop, no strake, tube mast, alu. finish under.

There are four parallel histories here, one, of the exterior colors and camouflage the RAF and RN used on all their airplanes, from 1937 to 1946. Second, the evolution of Hurricanes as a new-build manufactured item from Hawkers, Gloster, etc., in the UK, and Canadian Car and Foundry in Canada. Third, the evolution of Hurricanes in service, as operated, maintained, and repaired in the RAF, RN and Empire Air Forces. Fourth, the colors and markings specific to Hurricanes in the RAF, RN and Empire.

RAF camouflage and exterior colors  evolved in this sequence:

  • Overall Aluminium
  • Dark Earth and Dark Green upper surfaces, Temperate Land Scheme; black propeller blades
  • Aluminium undersurfaces
  • Black and white undersurface identification marking
  • Black spinner, yellow propeller tips
  • Sky undersurfaces (Sky type ‘S’)
  • Black starboard wing underside returns, departs
  • Sky spinner and aft fuselage band
  • Black overall night fighters
    • Special Night, ultra-flat black
    • Smooth Night, matte black.
  • Dark Earth and Mid-Stone, over Azure Blue
  • Dark Green and Ocean Gray, over Medium Sea Gray
  • Dark Green and “Mixed Gray”, over Medium Sea Gray
  • Black undersides for night intruders
  • Dark Earth and Dark Green, over Medium Sea Gray

 

RN camouflage and exterior colors evolved in this sequence:

  • Overall Aluminium
  • Slate Gray and Extra-Dark Sea Gray upper surfaces, Temperate Sea Scheme; black propeller blades
  • Aluminium undersurfaces
  • Black and white undersurface identification marking
  • Black spinner, yellow propeller tips
  • Sky undersurfaces (Sky type ‘S’)
  • Black starboard wing underside returns, departs ?
  • Sky spinner and aft fuselage band
  • All white lower surfaces, gloss below, matte above

 

Hurricanes as manufactured: The original Hurricane production line followed Hawker’s usual practices of the mid 1930s, building up the fuselage truss and wing center section spars from tubing and rolled sheet metal. A family of joints between multiple tubes had been designed at Hawker, with tools to form the tubing into flat-sided, readily joined pieces, brackets to allow the formed pieces to be bolted together securely, and fittings to anchor the joints to internal tension wires. The fuselage girder was internally wire braced from the engine bearers to the rudder pivot.

The first 500 airplane’s wings were also fabric over metal frames and featured high strength sheet steel spars, rolled from single sheets into avertical web and top and bottom octagonal tubes, fore and aft. Ribs zig-zagged between the spars (/\/ww.\/\) forming a light, strong, stiff structure. The wide-track, retractable, landing gear was attached at the outside of the inner wing stubs. Ribs attached to the spars, front and back, to give an airfoil shape to the linen that was stretched over the whole structure and then doped.

Photographs clearly show the tube frames were painted a light color, almost certainly the familiar Aluminium lacquer or enamel, as were the interiors of wheel wells, spars, ribs, etc. The cockpit walls, outside the tube frame, were, in production, painted with the RAF’s standard, gray-green, fuel-proof, coating. (Lacquer? Enamel? something else?)

The heel-boards leading from under the seat to under the rudder pedals were unpainted aluminium or possibly painted Aluminium colour. Cockpit seats also appear to be unpainted aluminium, but Aluminium colour is again possible. There aren’t any contemporary color photographs and few Hurricanes led a sheltered life. Forensic sanding, as the Smithsonian did on the rudder counterweight of the Mustang “Excalibur” would be interesting. Presumably, this is what leads to the schemes used by Hurricane Restoration and other professionals.

While those were being built, Hawker designed an all-metal wing of monocoque construction. It was lighter, cheaper and easier to build than the traditional form, but required Hawker’s technology to evolve, while the original form poured off the production line and into RAF service.

It was painfully clear that centralized manufacture of anything in war-time was an invitation to disaster. Hurricane production, like everything else, was dispersed to many locations, each building as much value into their piece as possible, before having to send it to another workshop to integrate into the next step.

 

Other operators: Hurricanes in the Belgian, Dutch East-Indies, Royal Egyptian, Finnish, Imperial Iranian, Irish, Portuguese, Soviet, Turkish, and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia Air Forces started out in RAF/RN colors, and if they survived, further evolved locally. A single Hurricane shipped to Australia during the war, a single example shipped to Argentina after the war and three that were transferred to the Belgian AF after the war had similar histories. The RAF identified many of its own squadrons by the country of origin of most of their pilots, for example, Royal Australian, Royal Canadian, Czechoslovak in exile, Danish in exile, Free French, Royal Indian, Royal Hellenic. Royal New Zealand, Royal Norwegian, Polish, and South African. All operated within the RAF and their equipment was the same as near-by RAF units.

I do not attempt to describe what camouflage was carried by the 20 Hurricanes built by the Zmaj factory in Yugoslavia or the two built in Belgium. More than one Zmaj-built example fell into Italian hands, two Mk IIb Trop models fell into Japanese hands and a number of working or repairable examples came into German hands.

The RAF and RN standard, when Hurricane production began, was overall Aluminium (note spelling) dope, lacquer or enamel, depending on substrate. Fabric surfaces of Hurricanes were Irish linen, with a dark red dope applied to tighten it, then the Aluminium top coat. Aluminium dope is a excellent finish for fabric covered airplanes, because it blocks all Ultra-Violet light, which would otherwise bleach and degrade the underlying dope and fabric. A trained worker can get a satisfactory finish using standard tools and techniques.

Before the Munich Crisis, someone in the RAF realized it was time to hide the airplanes, and the familiar Dark Green and Dark Earth were applied. These were not repeats from WWI practice. There must be a history, but I don’t know it. They were collectively named “Temperate Land Scheme”. The Royal Navy soon had both a Temperate Sea Scheme, and a Tropical Sea Scheme. Eventually there was a Desert scheme for the RAF. All of these camouflage schemes applied only to the upper surface of the airplane. The underside finish was the previous, non-camouflage, standard, Aluminum, dope, lacquer or enamel.

Yes, these rabbit holes go very deep. See, for example,
http://www.britmodeller.com/forums/index.php?/topic/66903-raf-hurricanes-in-desert-camo/

The prototype Hurricane had its exterior metal panels polished, the very first production planes might have had Aluminium lacquer over gray primer. The green and brown finish became the factory standard, quickly, and the Maintenance Units would have updated any early production.

All this first set use the Temperate Land Scheme and the Desert scheme. (Capitalized? “S”cheme? There is no end to this stuff.)

Temperate Land colors are Dark Earth, a golden brown, much like a freshly plowed field in UK, and Dark Green, a nice, mature foliage color. On my first visit to the UK, looking out of the airplane window, I saw these same colors spread out in the countryside, and I realize this is precisely what this camouflage was intended to blend in to.

Here are relevant examples:

Captured Hawker Hurricane

Color photo of captured RAF Hawker Hurricane undergoing testing in German hands. Note Luftwaffe markings, worn appearance of finish.

Canadian Hurricane

Contemporary color photo of Canadian Hurricane in flight

Preserved Hurricane

British Science Museum’s Mk 1 Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire. Hawker Siddley overhauled the Hurricane in 1963, the finish may not be original.

 

 

Contemporary WWII photo of Hurricane production, in Desert scheme

 

When Hurricanes went to Crete, Malta, Palestine, the Suez Canal Zone, and Egypt, they went wearing the standard green and brown. An Azure Blue for undersides to match the deep, dark, blue of a drier sky, appeared. A yellow-brown named “Mid Stone” replaced Dark Green and that was enough. Night bombers and intruders got black undersides, sometimes, but I’ve never seen evidence of all-black night flyers in the Mediterranean.

Undersides are a different kettle of fish. Originally left Aluminium, they were then intended to be painted half black and half white, divided down the middle of the underside. with the black on the left or port underside and the white on the right or starboard underside. This would make it very easy to recognize RAF airplanes compared to any others. The tersely worded official telegram instruction was open to more than one interpretation, however, resulting in airplanes with the wings painted white and black underneath, but the fuselage and tail left all Aluminium. In other cases, the black and white on the wings extended to the centerline under the fuselage, but the fuselage, fore and aft of the wings, remained Aluminium.

During the Battle of Britain, providing easy identification of British planes was reconsidered, and a new underside color, named Sky, was required, from sunrise on May, 1940. Also referred to as “duck egg blue”, Sky was a light, slightly greenish, blue. It had been worked out as the overall color for a notionally civilian Lockheed owned by a man named Cotton. As war became more and more likely, it became clear that accurate maps of Germany might be valuable and hard to get. Mr Cotton’s twin-engined Lockheed had a hidden camera installed, with a remote controlled cover that could open in flight,

Some experimentation revealed the light greenish blue concealed it best from ground observers. Thus painted, it ranged far and wide in European skies, in the fading years of peace, building a foundation for British aerial mapping throughout the war.

 

Additional reading:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Hawker_Hurricane_operators

“Duel of Eagles” – Peter Townsend

Camouflage & Markings: R.A.F. Fighter Command, Northern Europe, 1936-1945 
by James Goulding

http://www.britmodeller.com/forums/index.php?/topic/66903-raf-hurricanes-in-desert-camo/

Explore Hawker Hurricane and more!

 

Corrected captions for the Denver Post’s Plog of WWII in the Pacific.


Have a look at the well chosen pictures at the Denver Post’s Photo Blog or Plog. http://blogs.denverpost.com/captured/2010/03/18/captured-blog-the-pacific-and-adjacent-theaters/1547/

Sadly, the captions seem to have been either the intentionally uninformative wartime stuff, or edited to reduce meaning. I ended up with strong feelings about a bunch of the captions and sent them back the following suggestions. You may snicker knowingly if you please. I stopped after photo #19, and I tried to hit the meaningful stuff, and wound up sending them the following as comments. In each case I’ve put the photo caption and then my comment:

“2: December 7, 1941: This picture, taken by a Japanese photographer, shows how American ships are clustered together before the surprise Japanese aerial attack on Pear Harbor, Hawaii, on Sunday morning, Dec. 7, 1941. Minutes later the full impact of the assault was felt and Pearl Harbor became a flaming target. (AP Photo)”

Not to quibble but shore installations (Hickam Field) are already aflame, bombs have clearly gone off in the water of the harbor, torpedo tracks are visible and an explosion appears to be illuminating the third ship from the left, front row, the USS West Virginia. This photo is seconds, not minutes, from the full impact being felt. It is credited “Photo #: NH 50931” by the National Archives.

“4: December 7, 1941: The battleship USS Arizona belches smoke as it topples over into the sea during a Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The ship sank with more than 80 percent of its 1,500-man crew. The attack, which left 2,343 Americans dead and 916 missing, broke the backbone of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and forced America out of a policy of isolationism. President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced that it was “a date which will live in infamy” and Congress declared war on Japan the morning after. (AP Photo)”

The battleship USS Arizona had already sunk, on an even keel, as she still lies today, before this photograph was taken. Note the forward main gun turret and gun barrel, in the lower left. The forward mast collapsed, as shown, into the void left by the explosion of the forward magazine, which sank the ship. The flames are from burning fuel oil. The fires were not extinguished until December 8, so this picture may have been taken on the Day of Infamy, of the day after. Compare to official U. S. Navy photo Photo #: 80-G-1021538, taken on the 9th of December, after the fires were out, showing the forward mast in the same shape.

“9: April 18, 1942: A B-25 Mitchell bomber takes off from the USS Hornet’s flight deck for the initial air raid on Tokyo, Japan, a secret military mission U.S. President Roosevelt referred to as Shangri-La. (AP Photo)”

When asked where the US bombers that struck Japan on April 18, 1942 had flown from, President Roosevelt replied (humorously) “Shangra La”, an imaginary paradise invented by novelist James Hilton. He showed shrewd tactical sense, the imaginary location was placed on the Asian mainland, opposite the direction the B-25s had actually came from. The U. S. Navy later had an air craft carrier named the “USS Shangra-la”, making it the only US ship named after an imaginary place, work of fiction, or a presidential joke, your choice.

(not shared with the Denver Post – I built a model of one of the Doolittle raiders and posted this writeup about it: https://billabbott.wordpress.com/2009/03/13/building-itale…olittle-raider/)

“10: June 1942: The USS Lexington, U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, explodes after being bombed by Japanese planes in the Battle of the Coral Sea in the South Pacific during World War II. (AP Photo)”

The Battle of the Coral Sea is usually dated May 4–8, 1942, not June, 1942. This photograph must have been taken after 1500 (3:00pm) on May 8, and may be seconds after the “great explosion” recorded at 1727, 5:27pm. It is Official U. S. Navy Photo #: 80-G-16651. The USS Lexington was scuttled by US destroyer torpedos and sank about 2000, 8pm, that day.

“17: June 1942: Crewmen picking their way along the sloping flight deck of the aircraft carrier Yorktown as the ship listed, head for damaged sections to see if they can patch up the crippled ship. Later, they had to abandon the carrier and two strikes from a Japanese submarine’s torpedoes sent the ship down to the sea floor after the battle of Midway. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy)”

Belongs directly after Photo 11, showing the damaged and listing USS Yorktown. The two photos were taken the same day, after the second Japanese air attack on the Yorktown, after noon, June 4, 1942. This is official US Navy Photograph #: 80-G-14384.

“18: Oct. 29, 1942: U.S. Marines man a .75 MM gun on Guadalcanal Island in the Solomon Islands during World War II. (AP Photo)”

75mm gun, not .75 (100 times bigger!). 75mm is slightly less than 3 inches. .75 would be slightly less than .030 inches, 1/10 the size of a “30 caliber” aka 0.30″ rife bullet. Given the short barrel, light construction and high elevation, its probably a howitzer and not a gun. “Artillery piece” might be more constructively ambiguous.

“19: October 16, 1942: Six U.S. Navy scout planes are seen in flight above their carrier.”

SB2U Vindicators were withdrawn from all carriers by September, 1942. Marine SB2U-3s operated until September, 1943, but only from land. The photo may have been released or dated October 16, 1942, but is unlikely to have been taken on that date.

(I’ve edited the original captions in for reference here – what I sent didn’t quote the captions, except for #18. I rebel at mumbojumbo like .75mm or .20mm, conflating the common “.(something)” inch dimensions for inch dimension ammunition with the dimension “mm”.

Generally “0.(something)” is the recommended format for dimensions, but “50 caliber”, “.50 caliber”, “.45-“, “30-” etc., clearly intersect with 75mm, 20mm or 9mm and produce a muddle in the mind of writers and editors…)

If the NRA really cared about educating people, they’d work on this issue.