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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Hawker Hurricane Mk. IIB
74 Squadron, Royal Air Force
Mehrabad, Iran, April 1943

As said 74 Squadron went to the far north of England (Acklington) in July 1941 where it reverted to Spitfire Mk.IIA’s. It kept these for defensive duties at various locations in Wales and Northern Ireland until embarking for the Middle East in April 1942, arriving in Egypt in June but with no aircraft!

Since it had no a/c it moved to Palestine (Ramat David) where it acted as a maintenance unit servicing USAAF B-24’s – how bizarre for a top fighter squadron from the Battle of Britain! At last, in December 1942, they received Hurricane IIB’s like the one shown in the profile, but only for service in Iran until May 1943 when they returned to Egypt for defensive patrols and conversion to Spitfire Mk.VB and VC in September 1943.

Very little is known of the markings of these Hurricanes: they almost certainly never carried any Squadron code letters, but some probably did have individual aircraft letters (probably in white). They were painted in the standard desert finish of Mid Stone/Dark Earth camouflage on upper surfaces with Azure Blue undersides, and red spinner as standard to all Allied fighters in the Mid East. Note, of course, the tropical carburettor filter under the nose.

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Supermarine Spitfire Mk. VB
74 Squadron, Royal Air Force
Nicosia, Cyprus, September 1943

In September 1943 74 Squadron went to Cyprus with its Spitfire V’s in support of the abortive campaign to occupy certain of the Aegean Islands. In one notable incident on 29th September Flight Sergeant Wilson shot down a Ju 88 and caused two Me 109’s to collide with each other.

Like the previous Hurricane, this Spitfire is in the standard desert camouflage scheme; the only non-standard item is that the serial number is smaller than the usual specified 8 inches high, indicating that it has been repainted over the desert finish. The tropical filter under the nose certainly alters the look
of the aircraft. Again there are no Squadron code letters.

The unit returned to Egypt in late October 1943 to re-equip with Mk.IX Spitfires.

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Supermarine Spitfire Mk. IXC
74 Squadron, Royal Air Force
Dekheila, Egypt, February 1944

Here is one of the Spitfire IXC’s that 74 were re-equipped with in Egypt from October 1943 until April 1944 when they returned to the UK. Its colour scheme is just as that employed in Northern Europe; by this time there was no longer any need for desert camouflage in Egypt to be used as the war there was over. The scheme is Dark Green/Ocean Grey upper surface camouflage pattern with Medium Sea Grey undersides. Even the Sky spinner and band are retained, along with the individual a/c code letter (the Squadron still carried no code letters as identification). There are two slight differences from the standard scheme – it does not have the yellow wing leading edge; and the serial number has been repainted smaller so that it all fits on the Sky band.

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Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk. IXE
74 Squadron, Royal Air Force
Schijndel, The Netherlands, March 1945

This Spitfire is representative of the Mk.IXE version that 74 operated in 2nd Tactical Air Force after their return to the UK, from April 1944 to March 1945. They were naturally involved in the fighting leading up to the D-Day landings, the invasion itself, and all the way on into Germany in support of the 21st Army Group as fighter-bombers and bomber escorts. They first moved to Normandy (Sommervieu) in August 1944, advancing into the Netherlands during the winter campaign.

As can be seen, the Squadron were allocated the code 4D on their return from the Middle East. By the date of this illustration 2nd TAF had removed the Sky spinners (black instead) and fuselage bands (overpainted with camouflage, hence the slightly darker shade of the fresh paint), and also the roundels were the same in all positions – i.e. with yellow outline and the addition of white on top of the wings. The bomb is Dark Green, which was (and still is) standard for British “live” bombs, the yellow ring around the front indicates High Explosive (HE) filling. The camouflage colours are identical to the previous Mk.IXC, but note the 6 inch yellow leading edge to the outer wing.

The wings are of the ‘clipped’ variety without the elliptical tips – for the interest of modellers this was simply done by inserting a shaped wooden plug in place of the original tip. The ‘E’ wings were fitted with two 20mm Hispano cannon and two 0.5 inch Browning machine guns, the latter being inboard of the former and so hidden in side view.

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Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk. XVIE
74 Squadron, Royal Air Force
Drope, Germany, May 1945
Pilot: Sqn Ldr A. J. Reeves

This is the last Mark of Spitfire operated by 74 Squadron, the Mk.XVIE, which was a conversion of the Mk.IX fitted with the US built Packard Merlin engine. Although, apart from serial number, there is no definite external difference between the two marks (late Mk.IX’s had the cut down rear fuselage, and early Mk.XVI’s had the original type, and contrary to the belief of some authors they all had fixed tail wheels), the two Marks were not interchangeable simply by swapping over the engines. This was because the different engines had different electrical voltage systems and were slightly different in certain
crucial measurements.

74 Squadron replaced its Mk.IXE’s with the XVI’s in March 1945, advancing from the Netherlands into Germany with them, being based at Drope from 16th April to 11th May, so the aircraft depicted is as it was only a few days before the end of the European War. The field at Drope was quite unsuitable really, being too small and very waterlogged. The Squadron returned to the UK only 3 days after the end of the war and commenced re-equipment with Gloster Meteor III’s immediately. The only colour difference between this a/c and the Mk.IXE above is that the Sky fuselage band is painted over on the underside with Ocean Grey rather than Medium Sea Grey. The only other external difference is the obvious cut down rear fuselage with ‘tear drop’ canopy and whip radio aerial.

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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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