RAF technician repairs aircraft code on Avro Lancaster, Waddington, 1942

WW2 RAF Aircraft Colors

WW2 RAF Aircraft Camouflge Reference Contents:

Exploring British Aviation Color Standards

Delving into the realm of British military aviation, the primary color standard that adorned the aircraft was the renowned British Standard BS 381. This standard had its genesis in 1930 as British Standard BS 381: Colours for Ready Mixed Paints, swiftly undergoing revision in 1931 as British Standard BS 381C. This comprehensive palette comprised 57 colors, each identified by one or two-digit numbers. The order followed a systematic sequence encompassing blues, browns, greens, grays, reds, browns, and yellows. Noteworthy is the absence of white and black. Further expansion occurred with the addition of seven more colors, totaling the palette to 64 by the advent of World War II. The numbering system, from 1 to 73, saw a few omissions, with six of the newer colors deviating from the standard sequence.

The prelude to World War II saw the emergence of numerous colors, and the conflict itself witnessed the introduction of others. The Ministry of Aircraft Production (MAP) took charge of wartime color standards from 1940, encompassing the major hues used on Royal Air Force (RAF) and Fleet Air Arm (FAA) aircraft. Wartime updates in 1943 and 1944 saw a reduction in the palette to 27 colors. However, only a handful of BS 381C colors found application in aircraft camouflage. MAP colors, devoid of numerical designations, were identified solely by their names. Camouflage directives, outlined in Air Ministry or Admiralty orders, typically featured named two-tone disruptive schemes like the Temperate Sea Scheme, coupled with an underside color, tailored to the specific role of the aircraft. Aircraft supplied to the RAF/FAA by the United States under Lend-Lease were factory-painted in DuPont colors, closely mirroring their MAP counterparts, and later, substitute paints from the ANA system.

Post-war, in 1948 and 1964, BS 381C underwent its first updates, now recognized as BS 381C: Colours for Specific Purposes. Several wartime colors were assimilated into this framework, though some were excluded, including notable ones like Ocean Grey. The 1948 update introduced a three-digit numbering system, with the first digit denoting the color group and the last two indicating the shade. The color groups encompassed blue (1), green (2), yellow (3), brown (4), red (5), gray (6), and violet (7). Strikingly, whites were notably absent. Fortunately, nearly all colors from the 1931 palette retained their numbers, such as No 1 Sky Blue transforming into Sky Blue BS 101 and No 62 Middle Stone becoming Middle Stone BS 362. Exceptions were minimal, like No 43 Salmon Pink rebranded as Salmon Pink BS 447, and some name alterations, for instance, No 7 Dark Blue rechristened Strong Blue BS 107.

RAF Color Tables

British Standard BS 381C (1931)

Color BS 381C (1948) BS 381C (1943/1944)
No 1 Sky Blue BS 101 No 1
No 2 Turquoise Blue BS 102 No 2
No 3 Peacock Blue BS 103 No 3
No 4 Azure BS 104 No 4
No 5 Oxford Blue BS 105 -
No 6 Royal Blue BS 106 No 6
No 7 Dark Blue BS 107 -
No 10 Light Brown BS 410 -
No 11 Middle Brown BS 411 No 11
No 12 Dark Brown BS 412 No 12
No 13 Nut Brown BS 413 -
No 14 Golden Brown BS 414 -
No 16 Eau de Nil BS 216 -
No 17 Sea Green BS 217 -
No 18 Grass Green BS 218 -
No 19 Sage Green BS 219 -
No 20 Olive Green BS 220 -
No 21 Brilliant Green BS 221 no 21
No 22 Light Bronze Green BS 222 -
No 23 Middle Bronze Green BS 223 -
No 24 Deep Bronze Green BS 224 -
No 25 Light Brunswick Green BS 225 No 25
No 26 Middle Brunswick Green BS 226 No 26
No 27 Deep Brunswick Green BS 227 -
No 28 Silver Grey BS 628 No 28
No 29 Quaker Grey BS 629 No 29
No 30 French Grey BS 630 -
No 31 Light Battleship Grey BS 631 No 31
No 32 Dark Battleship Grey BS 632 No 32
No 33 R.A.F. Blue Grey BS 633 -
No 34 Slate BS 634 -
No 35 Lead BS 635 -
No 37 Signal Red BS 537 No 37
No 38 Post Office Red BS 538 -
No 40 Crimson BS 540 -
No 41 Maroon BS 541 -
No 43 Salmon Pink BS 447 BS 43
No 44 Terra Cotta BS 444 BS 44
No 45 Venetian Red BS 445 -
No 46 Red Oxide BS 446 No 46
No 47 Light Indian Red - -
No 48 Deep Indian Red BS 448 -
No 49 Light Purple Brown BS 449 -
No 50 Deep Purple Brown - -
No 51 Chocolate - No 51
No 52 Pale Cream BS 352 No 52
No 53 Deep Cream BS 353 No 53
No 54 Primrose BS 354 -
No 55 Lemon BS 355 No 55
No 56 Golden Yellow BS 356 No 56
No 57 Orange BS 557 No 57
No 58 Light Buff BS 358 -
No 59 Middle Buff BS 359 No 59
No 60 Deep Buff BS 360 -
No 61 Light Stone BS 361 No 61
No 62 Middle Stone BS 362 -
No 63 Dark Stone - -
No 64 Portland Stone BS 364 No 64
No 67 Traffic Green BS 267 -
No 68 Traffic Yellow BS 368 -
No 70 Traffic Red BS 570 -
No 71 Middle Graphite BS 671 -
No 72 Dark Graphite - -
No 73 Gulf Red BS 473 -
A full list of colors introduced under the specification BS 381C: British Standard Colours for Ready Mixed Paints. Note that BS No 33 and No 67-73 were added to the standard after 1931. In addition, several paints were renamed after 1948, e.g. BS 4 Azure to BS 104 Azure Blue, BS 7 Dark Blue to BS 107 Strong Blue, BS 29 Quaker Grey to BS 629 Dark Camouflage Grey, BS 31 Light Balttleship Grey to BS 631 Light Grey, BS 32 Dark Battleship Grey to BS 632 Dark Admiralty Grey, BS 38 Post Office Red to BS 538 Cherry Red, BS 57 Orange to BS BS 557 Light Orange, and BS 67 Traffic Green to BS 267 Deep Chrome Green.

MAP Aircraft Camouflage Colors

Color BS 1948 BS 1931 DuPont FED-STD Munsell
Light Earth - - 71-048 FS 30257
Dark Earth BS 350 - 71-035 FS 30118
Light Green - - 71-047 FS 34102
Dark Green BS 641 - 71-013 FS 34083 10Y 2.9/1.5
Extra Dark Sea Green - - 71-067 FS 34092
Grey Green BS 283 - 71-036 FS 34227
Medium Sea Grey BS 637 - - FS 36320
Dark Sea Grey BS 638 - - FS 36173
Extra Dark Sea Grey BS 640 - 71-19323 FS 36118
Ocean Grey - - 71-068 FS 36152 7B 4.5/1
Light Slate Grey BS 639 - - FS 34159
Dark Slate Grey BS 634 - 71-19323 FS 34170 0.5GY 3.7/1
Sky Grey - - - FS 36463
Sky BS 210 - 71-021 FS 34672
Deep Sky - - 71-052 FS 25052
Sky Blue - - 71-061 FS 25530
Azure Blue - - 71-062 FS 35231 4.1PB 6.2/6.0
Light Mediterranean Blue - - 71-063 FS 35177 2.4PB 4.4/4.6
Dark Mediterranean Blue - - 71-064 FS 35052
P.R.U. Blue BS 636 - 71-066 FS 35109 5.3B 3.9/3
Middle Stone BS 362 No 62 71-069 FS 30266
Night BS 642 - 71-006 FS 27040
Yellow BS 356 No 56 71-010 FS 33538
Red - - 71-007 FS 20152
Blue BS 105 No 05 71-012 FS 25053
Aluminium - - - FS 17178
Matt Red - - - FS 21105
Matt Blue - - - FS 15055
Semi Matt Black - - - FS 27038
List of colors approved by MAP for use in RAF and FAA aviation camouflage during World War II. Please note that FS analogues are very approximate as they refer to color standards of a different country and time period.

References to RAF WW2 Colors:

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