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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The Jet Age

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Gloster Meteor F. Mk. III
74 Squadron, Royal Air Force
Colerne, Wiltshire, June 1945

74 Squadron was re-equipped as the RAF’s third Meteor squadron in June 1945 at Colerne in Wiltshire and formed the first all jet fighter wing along with 616 and 504 Squadrons. As you can see the camouflage and markings are nearly the same as the wartime ones – Ocean Grey/Dark Green upper surfaces, Medium Sea Grey undersurfaces, 18 inch Sky fuselage band, and six inch leading edge to the outer wing panels. Obviously there was no Sky spinner on a jet! The two differences from wartime Fighter Command practice were the addition of underwing serial numbers and the reintroduction of the narrow white stripe in the upper wing roundels.

The Mk.III Meteors were retained until March 1948, re-equipment with F.4’s commencing in December 1947.

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Gloster Meteor F. Mk. 4
74 Squadron, Royal Air Force
Horsham St. Faith, Norfolk, 1949

The F.4 Meteor was operated by the Squadron from December 1947 to October 1950. This shows the period when Fighter Command aircraft reverted to all silver finish, which lasted from the late 1940’s to c.1954 – a relatively short time. At first, as with this aircraft, the wartime style of roundels and fin flash were retained, only being replaced with the post-war style divided into three equal lots of one third in the much brighter shades of red and blue around 1949/50. Code letters were still retained at this time, the pre-war style of coloured markings only gradually reappearing at different times on different squadrons during the early 50’s; indeed 74 Squadron continued with code letters for a time even when they first got the Mk.8 Meteors in October 1950.

The major differences between the Mk.3 and Mk.4 Meteors were, of course, the much larger engine nacelles and the clipped wings of the 4. 74 spent all of their time with Mk.4’s at Horsham St. Faith, where they had moved to in August 1946 with the Mk.3’s (they spent a brief period at Lubeck, Germany, in July/August 1947).

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Gloster Meteor F. Mk. 8
74 Squadron, Royal Air Force
Horsham St. Faith, Norfolk, 1954

This Meteor 8 shows the return of the Tiger stripe markings on 74 Squadron’s a/c. When first received in October 1950 code letters were still in use as they had been on the F.4’s, and the 8’s were also ‘silver’ all over, the correct official name for the colour was High Speed Silver which was actually a 50/50 mixture of aluminium and clear (transparent) cellulose dope paints. Post-war RAF silver aircraft were all painted with this finish and not in natural metal with the one exception of the Lightning. The best way I found to reproduce this finish on models is to airbrush firstly with aluminium paint and then with a coat of gloss varnish over the top. Anyway to get back to the Meteor 8’s, the Tiger markings were introduced while the a/c were still in the silver colour, with black individual letters on the fins. These aircraft had the earlier type of cockpit canopy with the metal rear end. As I mentioned before, camouflage was reintroduced on the upper surfaces from around 1954, consisting of Dark Green and Dark Sea Grey; the undersurfaces remained in silver.

The profile shows a later style of all clear cockpit canopy, and the full set of under wing and under fuselage fuel drop-tanks, with their prominent safety and trestle markings and stripes on them.

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Hawker Hunter F. Mk. 4
74 Squadron, Royal Air Force
Horsham St. Faith, Norfolk, 1957

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In March 1957 74 Squadron was re-equipped with the beautiful Hunter Mk.4. As you can see, the basic camouflage is the same as for the Meteor 8. In fact the only change to the colours was the movement of the Squadron marking to the nose (something which was done by many Hunter units) with the Tiger’s Head badge in the centre.

The only other things worthy of mention for modellers are to note the various whip aerials (on top of the wings, two side-by-side on top of the fuselage, and one below the nose); and also the gun gas ejector chutes above the cartridge link collectors (Sabrinas) on the nose. There was a problem with the very early Hunters in that these gases used to collect inside the nose when the guns were fired, and on one occasion the front of the nose actually exploded and blew off on a test flight; the pilot was fortunately able to make it back to base and land safely. Incidentally for anyone who does not know it, the link collectors were universally nicknamed Sabrinas in the RAF because at that time there was a well-known TV blonde bombshell called Sabrina who had a very large bust measurement!

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Hawker Hunter F. 6
74 Squadron, Royal Air Force
Coltishall, Norfolk, May 1960

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74’s re-equipment with Hunter F.6’s started in November 1957, though the F.4’s remained until January 1958; even so the 4’s only lasted for somewhat less than a year. The colour scheme remains the same on the F.6. I have drawn one with the four drop tanks that this mark could carry (the Mk.4 could only carry the two inboard ones).

Modellers should also note that some Hunter drop tanks had fins while others did not. Note that this a/c has the blast deflector plates on the gun muzzles and also the whip aerials are painted yellow to prevent accidents. The Mk.6 also has the more powerful Avon engine with enlarged jet pipe of course, and also the saw-tooth wing leading edge.

74 Squadron moved to Coltishall on 8 June 1959, preparatory for it’s re-equipment with the Lightning in June 1960.

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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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