Camouflage and Markings of No. 74 Squadron RAF

Spitfire Site

Pictorial history of the famous "Tiger Squadron", described and illustrated by Rick Kent
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Supermarine Spitfire Mk. I
74 Squadron, Royal Air Force
Hornchurch, Essex, May 1939

What a change from the pretty colours of the Gauntlet! Here’s one of 74’s early Mk.I Spitfires with the pre-war code letters JH and pre-war style camouflage and markings. The roundels on the tops of the wings were also red/blue over the Dark Green/Dark Earth camouflage. Code letters are light grey (that was not an official standard colour and varied a lot between the various Squadrons, being simply mixed from black or grey and white).

The lower surfaces are still in the original silver (aluminium doped) finish on the right side, and black on the left side with the dividing line straight down the middle of the fuselage, and red/white/blue roundels under both wings. All the serial numbers have been painted over.

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Supermarine Spitfire Mk. I
74 Squadron, Royal Air Force
Hornchurch, Essex, February 1940

Another Spitfire Mk. I, but this one as they appeared early in the war. The most obvious change is to the code letters adopted on the outbreak of war: ZP. Secondly the reinstatement of the white in the fuselage roundel, but deletion of the underwing roundels. This aircraft has the proper black and white lower surfaces, divided down the centre of the fuselage yet again, the upper surfaces remaining as before in Dark Earth/Dark Green. The serial number is still painted over.

The Squadron remained at Hornchurch until 27 May 1940, when it was sent up to Leconfield in Yorkshire for one week’s break, returning to Essex at Rochford (Southend) near the Thames estuary on 6 June. Note that both this and the earlier Spit have the early type thin radio aerial mast and wire aerial attached.

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Supermarine Spitfire Mk. I
74 Squadron, Royal Air Force
Hornchurch, Essex, May 1940

Yet another different Mk.I Spitfire of 74 Squadron. This shows the colours used later in 1940, covering the period from the Battle of France until August when the undersides of fighters were changed to the Sky colour during the Battle of Britain. The fighter has the same basic camouflage scheme of Dark Earth/Dark Green upper surfaces with the black/white undersides, but the much modified fuselage roundel now has the yellow ring added (thinner than officially specified), and also the addition of the fin stripes. By this time, as can be seen, the serial numbers had been put back on.

The radio aerials remain the same as before but note the addition of the armoured glass windscreen on the cockpit canopy.

74 saw its first action of the war in May 1940 helping the hard-pressed squadrons in France with patrols over that country during which five pilots were lost in one week. The unit continued flying Mk.I Spitfires until September 1940, being heavily involved in the Battle of Britain during June and July especially.

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Supermarine Spitfire Mk. IIA
74 Squadron, Royal Air Force
Biggin Hill, Kent, February 1941

Here is the Mk.IIA Spitfire with which 74 Squadron was re-equipped in September 1940 at Coltishall, before moving back south again to Biggin Hill in October for the closing stages of the Battle of Britain.

The Squadron destroyed 38 enemy aircraft in November/December 1940, moved to Manston in February 1941 and to Gravesend in May where it received Mk.VB Spits armed with 20 mm cannon, but moved to Acklington in the far north of England in July 1941 where it reverted to the Mk.IIA Spits until January 1942.

The colour scheme on this a/c is that used by RAF fighters in the winter of 1940/41 – still the standard Dark Earth/Dark Green upper surfaces but with Sky spinner and 18 inch fuselage band; the fuselage roundel is of the standard type adopted for Spitfires until summer 1942. The black lower surface to the left wing was only used through these winter months, before reverting back to the all Sky undersides introduced first in August 1940. The serial is in the standard 8 inch high characters and the codes are Medium Sea Grey. Only the roundel on the black wing has the yellow outline, the other side being the standard red/white/blue. Upper wing roundels are, of course, simply red/blue.

Note the different radio aerial, first introduced on Mk.I’s during the Battle of Britain (in particular no wire to the tail). The cockpit canopy has the armoured screen and rear view mirror as standard. The eight machine gun ports have canvas patches over them fixed on with red primer dope in order to keep dust out of the guns – these were obviously shot through when the guns were fired.

For those modellers interested, the only definite external difference (besides serial number) between Mk.I and Mk.II Spitfire is that the latter has a small bulged fairing below the exhausts on the right side,
which covered the cartridge-starter not fitted to the Mk.I.

As a final note on 74 Squadron in this period, it was commanded from August 1940 to March 1941 by the famous South African ace, Squadron Leader Adolph Gysbert “Sailor” Malan, DFC.

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By charles cameron carruthers  |  2016-03-04 at 10:57  |  permalink

Brilliant illustrations of 74 Sqn lightnings as I remember them from RAF Leuchars and RAF Tengah .I was stationed at both in the Commcen but was piper to 74 for various engagements as I played with Seletar Pipes and Drums before they were disbanded in 1968. I am an associate member of the 74 Sqn association, long may it continue !!!!. Tiger Tiger burning bright… I FEAR NO MAN but I fear the wife!!!

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