Color profiles: Janusz Światłoń, captions: Mariusz Łukasik
Free decals for selected painting schemes in 3 scales.
In 1940 the Great Britain faced arguably the greatest threat to its very existence in modern history. The Luftwaffe summoned no fewer than 2,700 aircraft, grouped in three Luftflotten (Air Fleets), to pave the way for the seemingly imminent German invasion on the British Isles. A large percentage of them, some 1,200 (sources vary on exact number), were fighters, single-engined Bf 109s and twin-engined Bf 110s.
Around that time the Luftwaffe introduced new marking and painting schemes for its fighters. The hitherto used camouflage (promulgated on 22nd March 1938 by L.Dv 521/1 directive), which was common for fighters and bombers, was a splinter pattern of Schwarzgrün RLM 70 and Dunkelgrün 71 over Hellblau RLM 65 undersides, with division line running low along fuselage. The new scheme replaced RLM 71 (or RLM 70) with Grau RLM 02, and the colour demarcation line was notably higher up fuselage sides. During the interim period this demarcation line was raised before the colours themselves were altered, and the fuselage sides were painted with RLM 65. Since such large, light-coloured surfaces stood out, they were toned down with mottling and stippling of RLM 02, RLM 70 and RLM 71, applied in various combinations (singly or with two colours mixed, rarely all three). Their actual pattern was up to groundcrews and pilots, although designs used by particular Staffeln and Gruppen had much in common. Not surprisingly, during the Battle of Britain the Luftwaffe fighters sported various camouflages: the early one, either unchanged or modified to comply with recent regulations, or the new one, seen on factory-fresh machines.
At the turn of 1939/40 the standard thin-bordered Balkenkreutz, which had been introduced in 1936, was replaced by a wide-bordered cross of different proportions. The early-style crosses were, as a rule, left unchanged on wing uppersurfaces only. There were several exceptions to that rule, however. At times early-style crosses were retained in other locations as well, whilst on other machines the new, wide-bordered crosses were painted on wing uppersurfaces. Still, some aircraft featured simplified crosses in white outline only. The tail markings were modified, too. The early-style swastika, positioned in the fin/rudder hinge line, was moved to the rudder. Sometimes the swastika was smaller, or in some cases deleted altogether.
The Luftwaffe twin-engined aircraft carried four-character (letter / digit) codes (Kennzeichen). First two characters, painted in black on the left side of fuselage cross, and sometimes on starboard wing undersurface (here in character – cross – character sequence) identified the parent Geschwader. The third character, located directly to the right of the fuselage cross, was the aircraft’s individual letter. It was usually pained in the Staffel-assigned colour on the fuselage and repeated in black on wing underside (it was often painted in black and underlined in Staffel-assigned colour). White-coloured characters were used by 1., 4., 7., 10. and 13. Staffeln, red ones by 2., 5., 8., 11. and 14. Staffeln, yellow by 3., 6., 9., 12. and 15. Staffeln, green by Gruppe Stab, and blue by Geschwader Stab. Sometimes, in place of four-character codes painted on wing undersurfaces, aircraft’s individual letter was applied in black (or in Staffel colour) on both wings, usually outboard of wing crosses (rarely inboard). Painting individual letters in Staffel colours on wing upper surfaces, outboard of crosses, was a fairly common practice. The fourth and final character of the code identified the Staffel (or Stab) to which the aircraft belonged. 1. Staffel was assigned the letter H, 2. Staffel – K, 3. – L, 4. – M, 5. – N, 6. – P, 7. – R, 8. – S, 9. – T, 10. – U, 11. – V, 12. – W, 13. – X, 14. – Y and 15. – Z. Geschwader Stab used letter A, whilst Gruppe Stab (I. through V. Gruppen) letters B, C, D, E and F, respectively. Despite strict regulations, the size and proportions of the code characters varied considerably.
Single-engined fighters were coded 1 through 12 (twelve was the authorized strength of a Bf 109 Staffel). The numbers were painted ahead of fuselage cross in Staffel-assigned colours, with markings denoting parent Gruppe aft of the cross. The 4., 7. and 10. Staffeln carried white markings outlined in black (rarely in red), 2., 5., 8. and 11. Staffeln used red markings (very rarely black ones) outlined in white, whereas 3., 6., 9. and 12. Staffeln – yellow (rarely brown), outlined in black (or in case of brown markings in white). The exact location, shape and size of the digits differed, although these variations were usually unit-specific. Gruppe markings were as follows: none for I. Gruppe, a horizontal bar for II., a wavy bar for III., and a small black, white-outlined circle for IV. Gruppe. Propeller spinners, factory painted in RLM 70, usually acquired markings in Staffel colours. These were narrow strips around spinners, coloured spinner tips, or entire spinners were repainted. During the discussed period another technique of marking spinners emerged, that of painting one fourth segment in Staffel-assigned colour.