Supermarine Spitfire Mk I flying over England, 1938

WW2 RAF Early Temperate Land Scheme

WW2 RAF Camouflage Reference Contents:

Temperate Land Scheme (1938-1940)

At the onset of World War II in Europe, the Royal Air Force (RAF) adopted the Temperate Land Scheme, a defining camouflage strategy for the early war period, notably during the Battle of Britain. Introduced around the 1938 Munich Crisis, this scheme was characterized by a disruptive topside pattern featuring the harmonious blend of Dark Earth and Dark Green hues. This pattern, designated as the Temperate Land Scheme, remained a constant on all tactical aircraft throughout the war.

The Temperate Land Scheme had two variants, 'A' and 'B,' distinguished by the directional orientation of their Dark Green sections. 'A' featured a top-left to rear-right direction, while 'B' presented a mirror image with a top-right to rear-left direction. The shade of Dark Green sparked some controversy, with variations captured in different photos — ranging from a deep forest green to a more olive tone, particularly with aircraft using the later Day Fighter Scheme.

Dark Earth, true to its name, manifested as a dark earthly brown prone to fading, especially when compared to Dark Green. Freshly painted aircraft showcased minimal contrast between these two colors. Interestingly, lower fuselage colors operated independently of the topside scheme, resulting in variations over time. Initially, Night (a dark black-blue) adorned the port side, contrasting with White on the starboard side, serving as a ground identification method for the Observer Air Corps.

This two-color scheme's application on the fuselage varied widely. In some instances, Night covered only the wing area, while in others, it extended further along the fuselage. Flaps sometimes sported the opposite color, adding to the dynamic appearance. Older aircraft like Hurricanes retained Aluminium rear lower fuselages, remnants from the preceding overall Aluminium scheme.

As the war progressed, the shortcomings of this pattern for concealing aircraft against the sky became apparent. Consequently, a new sky color was introduced during the height of the Battle of Britain. However, it wasn't a singular sky color but rather four distinct variants, each contributing to the famous air battle in varying degrees.

During this period, spinners were typically Night, with a degree of personalization, especially by distinguished Wing Commanders. Squadron codes, contrary to popular belief, were not in Medium Sea Grey but rather in Grey, a slightly darker and more neutral hue. This basic Grey hue was the standard until July 2, 1942 according to AMO A.664/42.

Early in the war, it was common for RAF aircraft to bear a greenish-yellow diamond on their wings. Far from a mere decorative element, this was a chemical detection patch, known as a 'gas patch,' designed to change color upon exposure to chemical agents. However, by the Battle of Britain, these patches were removed, coinciding with the diminishing threat of chemical warfare.

Shadow Compensation

One notable technique employed by the RAF for its biplanes during this period was 'Shadow Compensation.' This involved painting lower wings in lighter colors than the standard scheme. The rationale behind this was that the shadow cast by the upper wings would create an even appearance in terms of colors. Light Earth and Light Green were the chosen shades for Shadow Compensation in the Temperate Land Scheme.

While Light Earth found extensive use in the early years of the North Africa campaign, it differed slightly from Middle Stone, lacking its mustard tone, Light Green was a uncommon RAF color that was only used for shadow shading. The application of Shadow Shading on RAF aircraft often extended to the upper parts of the fuselage, incorporating the two lighter colors. For aircraft with White/Night undersides, this configuration yielded a six-tone camouflage scheme.

Despite its initial application, Shadow Compensation was gradually phased out by the RAF early in the war. The treatment of lower wings as upper surfaces became the norm from December 1940 onward.

Color Guide to Temperate Land Scheme

  • Aluminium: It was just aluminum varnish, so most aluminum-like metallics would work well for this finish.
  • White: Neither the wartime BS 381C nor MAP contained white shades. A regular basic white with minimal tinting would be the best option for this paint.
  • Night: This paint included ultramarine pigments and was like a very dark black-blue color that was probably only noticeable when looking very closely. Any black-gray or tire-rubber black could be used as a substitute.
  • Dark Earth: This color along with Dark green were paints very common in use for camouflage of RAF aircraft. This is probably why they are common in the color palettes of various model paint manufacturers. It should be noted that Dark Earth is more of an olive brown color than just brown. The closest modern equivalents are considered to be BS 450 of BS 381C and FS 30118.
  • Light Earth: this color was used extensively in the early years of the North African campaign. Light Earth is slightly lighter than MAP Middle Stone and lacks its mustard hue. The closest modern analog of FS is considered to be FS 30257
  • Dark Green: Like Dark Earth, this color was very common and used even more widely, especially in the post-war years. The Cold War successor of this color, BS 641 Dark Green, changed hue and was even redesignated BS 241. However, both BS 641 and BS 241 are still the closest analogs to the wartime MAP Dark Green color. When it comes to FS, the closest analog is FS 34083.
  • Light Green: It was a relatively rare RAF color, used only for shadow compensation in RAF Temperate Land camouflage at the beginning of WW2. Light Green is somewhat closer to Medium Green than Dark Green, and its approximation may be US Medium Green FS 34102.
Original Paint Aluminium White Night Dark Earth Light Earth Dark Green Light Green
General (1938-1940) Lower Lower Starboard Lower Port Upper Patches Lower Wing Patches Upper Patches Lower Wing Patches
Arcus Colors 079 099 360 389 390 387 388
Model paints can be used for the early Temperate Land camouflage scheme of RAF aircraft in the late 1930s.

Photos of RAF Aircraft in Early Temperate Land Camouflage

Supermarine Spitfire Mk I over England 1938
This twin-bladed Spitfire Mk I clearly illustrates the early Temperate Land Scheme camouflage scheme.
Supermarine Spitfire Mk I K9955 RAuxAF 602 City of Glasfow, Scotland, March 1940
Also a Spitfire Mk.Ia K9955 from RAuxAF No 602 City of Glasgow Squadron at Drem, East Lothian, Scotland. This Spitfire is also painted in an early version of Temperate Land camouflage. Note the night/white underside boundary leading over the engine nacelle, this was simplified in the later scheme.
Hawker Hurricane Mk.I over Egypt, October 1940
A late variant of the White/Night boundary on the underside is clearly visible on this Hurricane Mk I flying over Egypt in October 1940. Unlike the previous photo, the engine nacelle is painted in a single color, and the rear fuselage and stabilizers, painted in Aluminum, are also well evident.
Gloster Gladiator Mk.I RAF Kenley, July 1938
A rare picture of a trio of Gloster Gladiator Mk.I aircraft with a fresh camouflage applied in accordance with the recently introduced Temperate Land scheme. The photo was taken at RAF Kenley, 1938.

References to Early Temperate Land Camouflage:

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