Re: British Brown-green

Bert Hilberink (
Fri, 10 Feb 1995 12:09:04 +0100


Third time lucky I hope... I have tried to post this mail 2 times already. The
first time I made a `mistake', the second time I seem to have been a victim
of the address conversion. Anyway, I just try again.

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After an `absence' of about 1 year (got a daughter and a new job), I'm getting
a bit more time to participate in the discussions.

To start with, Doug wrote:

> > Can someone help with the color that the British used on the
> >upper surfaces of their planes. I understand it was a brown that looked
> >kind of green after it weathered.
> > What do you use for this color?
> Is is PC10. Leo Opdycke at WWI Aero has some color chips that show these
> colors. On
> my flying models I typically use Sig's Olive Drab. It is pretty close for
> most applications and there is no mixing involved.
> For a better approximation you can use FS10045. I don't know what brand or
> number of the model paits would be the closest.
> Doug

I can give a bit more information on the brown "that looked kind of green after
it weathered" and FS-numbers. Actually I wrote it for Rec.models.scale
some time ago, but it might be of interest for somebody. In November 1993 I
responded on a question about the painting schemes of SE5's:

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In article <> (Larry
Marshall) writes:
>In <2b7li6$> (Daniel Lockhart) writes:
>> I picked up a SE5 kit this afternoon, and found no paint scheme in the
>>instructions. I grabbed Jane's WW1 book and am not clear on this point,
>>is the belly of the bird the same yellow as the undersides of the wings
>>or is it earth tones as the top of the wings?
>Most SE5s were painted olive drab on the upper surface and fuselage with tan
>undersurfaces. There were, however, many variations. Windsock Publications
>has a couple superb documents on SE5s you might want to check on.

The Windsock publications referred to are:

- RAF SE5a, Windsock Datafile 10
- RAF SE5, Windsock Datafile 30

Some other useful references are:

- J.M. Bruce, The Aeroplanes of the Royal Flying Corps,
- J.F. Connors, SE5a in Action, Squadron Signal Publications.
- Aeroplane Monthly May-November 1977.
- Scale Models International, December 1983.

Returning to the original question about the camouflage. The upper
surfaces of most SE5's and SE5a's were finished in PC10 (this is more
accurately described as "khaki" than "earth tones").
Often the fuselage undersides were finished too in PC10; actually almost
all photo's of SE5's/SE5a's show this colour used for the "belly". BTW,
the colour of the underside of wings and horizontal tailplane is not "yellow"
or "tan"; these were clear-doped.

My references describe PC10 as either a range of hues between
Methuen 3(E/F)8 to almost 5F8, or as (nearest FS595a) 14087 (average).
Most model paint ranges cover this colour. "Unbleached linen fabric, doped"
is given as being near to FS595a 13617.

I hope this information helps.


Bert Hilberink

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Later I sent some more information, especially on the difference between the
"brown" and "green":

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In article <urf.752534233@sw2001> (Urban Fredriksson) writes:
> (Bert Hilberink) writes:
>>Returning to the original question about the camouflage. The upper
>>surfaces of most SE5's and SE5a's were finished in PC10 (this is more
>>accurately described as "khaki" than "earth tones").
>Correct me if I'm wrong, but PC10 wasn't really
>"camouflage", was it? I'm almost sure it was only
>meant as a protective finish, to aviod having the
>linen beeing damaged by sunlight. This may or may
>not explain why it apparently varied in colour

Yes and no... I will summarise some facts from Ian Huntley's column
in Scale Aircraft Modelling (3/88):

Already before the first world war the British Government
was testing different "mixtures" to protect fabric from the effects of
sun and rain. First they thought a coat of clear cellulose would be enough.
However, they quickly found out that fabric still crumbled after (long)
exposure to sunlight. Only fabric below markings did not rot. What was
needed was a screen to blank off sunrays: a Protective Covering. They
tried all types of pigment added to clear cellulose: black absorbed too
much heat (not surprisingly...), white didn't work as camouflage, etc.
The best Protective Covering in the range PC-1 to PC-60 (and beyond)
turned out to be PC-12 (chestnut red-brown). Unfortunately around that
time camouflage started to become very important in the fighting over
France, and PC-12 was not ideal as a camouflage colour. Furthermore it
wasn't cheap. Luckily PC-10 (dark khaki) was found to be almost as
effective as protection, almost ideal as camouflage and quite cheap
to produce. (Note: one of my other sources (Windsock Datafiles 10/30
on SE5(a)) suggests that PC-10 meant Pigmented Cellulose Spec. No.10)

Once the government had accepted, they took out patent rights on the
stuff: only the RFC could use it... This meant (can you believe it...)
that the RNAS had to use something else. Even after both services were
allowed to use PC-10, the RNAS kept on using its own "proprietary khaki"
which obviously was somewhat different in hue. Moreover, there were at
least 5 different doping schemes for the RFC (according to the Datafiles
ranging from somewhat lighter and on the olive/brown side (earlier versions)
to more brown orientated (later versions)). Later in the war changes were
made in ingredients which inevitably meant an increase in the number
of doping schemes.

Another reason for the difference in colour: all finishes were glossy
when new, so they looked more greenish; by the time the surface had matted
down the brown appearance predominated (Note1: PC-12 was also used from
time to time... Note2: Don't underestimate the fading effect: remember
the olive drab finishes on WWII B-24's and other types...).

So: yes and no. Originally it had been meant only as protective finish, but
it turned out to be also needed as camouflage.


Bert Hilberink.

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That's it for now. Tonight I'll finally start working again on my 1:72 Sopwith
Triplane: the scratchbuilt cockpit is `almost ready'...


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