British Vehicle Camouflage 1939-45 Part 1.

This summary is © Mike Starmer and Mike Cooper, 2005.

First published in the February 2010 AMMS Brisbane newsletter

During the Second World War British AFV and vehicle camouflage was determined by a number of Army Council Instructions (A.C.I.s) and Military Training Pamphlets (M.T.P.s), with General Orders (G.Os) used in the Middle East. Colours used were supplied pre-mixed, matching two British Standards: BS.381C of 1930 and BS.987C of 1942, together with some nonstandard paints for specific purposes. In the Middle East locally produced theatre colours that did not match these standards were introduced during 1942-43.


1939-41 – Bold horizontal/ diagonal patterns of two greens following M.T.P.20 of June 1939. The most usual colours were a basic of Khaki Green No. 3 (BS 381C Middle Bronze Green No. 23 ) and Light Green No.5 (Light Bronze Green No. 22). Plain G3 or G5 were occasional alternatives. Infantry tanks Matilda I & II apparently only G3 and Dark Green G4 (Deep Bronze Green No. 24).

January 1941 – A variation of colour took place with A.C.I. 1559. Wood and metal bodywork was to be painted Khaki Green No. 3 and Nobel’s Dark Tarmac No. 4 with canvas hoods and tilts in S.C.C. 7 and S.C.C 1A to the same pattern as M.T.P. 20 thus resulting in a green/ black-green and green/brown scheme.

1941-42 – Standard Camouflage Colour Shades ( S.C.Cs.) from BS.987C came into use alongside and then supplanting, the greens, but in the same M.T.P. patterns. The basic shade was Khaki Green 3 or S.C.C. 2 with S.C.C.1A over it. These browns were introduced as a result of a severe shortage of a vital chemical agent used to produce strong greens.

1942-44 – M.T.P. 46/4A introduce new toned schemes aimed primarily against aerial observation, usually using the BS.987C browns as laid down in A.C.I. 1160 of May 1942. The most common versions were variants of the "Foliage" pattern and the "Mickey Mouse" variant of the "Dapple" pattern. Vehicles continued to be delivered and used in plain S.C.C. 2 following A.C.I. 1160 which gave S.C.C. 2 as "Basic Paint". In October 1943 A.C.I. 1496 authorised S.C.C. 14 (black) as the main shade over S.C.C. 2.

1944-45 The final change in colouring came in April 1944 when A.C.I. 533 authorised S.C.C. 15 Olive Drab for use as the new basic colour, partially to remove the need to repaint US supplied vehicles. S.C.C. 15 Olive Drab was used to cover the obsolete S.C.C. 2 in M.T.P. 46/4A patterns or on its own, particularly after the abandonment of disruptive painting with A.C.I. 1100 of August 1944 except on vehicles still in S.C.C. 2.

In Italy vehicles used Home Forces schemes as outlined above, but others showed the remnants of their final North African schemes or the new scheme introduced by General Order of April 1943 which used bold standard patterns of Blue-Black or dark olive green over a basic colour of "Light Mud". Although some were repainted many Lend-Lease vehicles retained their base coat of U.S. No.9 Olive Drab.

Interiors of tanks were silver from 1930s until about mid-war when gloss white came into use. U.S. supplied tanks used gloss white. Softskin vehicles were the basic colour inside.

Softskins - Details as above except:

Pre-war – 1941 – Tilts are a light canvas colour, in 1940-41 painted over with M.T.P. 20 bands in the darker colour used – usually G3. Tilts could also be dyed Khaki Green No. 3 over which G5 might be painted.

August 1941 – A.C.I. 1559 authorises the use of Khaki Green No. 3 and Nobel’s Dark Tarmac Green No.4 on bodywork with bituminous emulsion of S.C.C. 7 and S.C.C. 1A (dark brown) on canvas surfaces. The evidence available at present suggests that Nobel’s Dark Tarmac Green No.4 is a very dark blue-green.

November 1941 - A.C.I. 1559 is cancelled by A.C.I. 2202. With M.T.P. 20 still specified all top horizontal surfaces are to be S.C.C. 1A or if unavailable S.C.C. 14 (black). S.C.C. 2 to be used to restore faded tilts. Photographs and film show this in use with M.T.P. 20 bands. They also show M.T.P.46/ 4A pattern overlaying a sharp straight line between a dark top and medium sides. New tilts and hoods were now manufactured from canvas dyed to a near match for S.C.C. 2.

August 1944 - A.C.I. 1100 – Tilts to be dyed S.C.C. 15 Olive Drab rather than S.C.C. 2. Bituminous Emulsion S.C.C. 7 (green) may be used on tents, penthouses and hoods where S.C.C. 15 was not available.

Middle East

Middle East practice was determined by local General Orders and, due to supply problems, more variation is apparent than that in Europe.

19351939 In 1936 the 11th Hussars had Rolls-Royce and Crossley armoured cars together with support trucks in Silver with gloss Black disruptive bands. In the same year 6 RTC Vickers Medium tanks were in BS.52 Pale Cream with a fairly standard disruptive pattern of BS.46 Red Oxide applied. By 1937 this pattern had changed somewhat but was the same on every tank and used the same colours. The 11th Hussars meantime had adopted the same cream/red colours and established a fairly regular pattern on their Rolls-Royce cars. This unit utilised other colours up to 1939 but the pattern remained. By this time various other units in Egypt has also adopted disruptive painting of various styles and colours.

19391940 - On 25 July 1939 G.O 370 specified a basic colour of BS. 62 Middle Stone with a disruptive patterning of "Dark Sand" in style similar to M.T.P. 20. This scheme appears relatively common in Egypt in summer of 1940.

1940-1941 - By mid to late 1940 many newly arrived vehicles and tanks appear to be painted a plain overall colour, BS. 52 Pale Cream is cited for the 6 RTR new A9 cruisers, whilst the more normal colours seem to have been Light Stone No.61 or Portland Stone No.64. However in November 1940 a new scheme was specified in G.O 297. This scheme comprised the tricoloured disruptive designs now known as "Caunter Scheme". Very many AFVs and softskins carried this scheme of Portland Stone No.64 basic with Silver Grey No. 28 and Slate No.34 or Khaki Green No. 3 in angular disruptive stripes. Period G.Os specify Light Stone No.61 or Portland Stone No.64 at various times and a local variation substituted a mixed light blue-grey for Silver Grey No. 28. A scheme for use in the Sudan specified Light Stone No.61 with Light Purple Brown No.49 in patches or stripes.

February 1941 - G.O 63 calls for a single basic colour of Light Stone 61 with up to two disruptive colours applied over. These colours are specified as Slate 34 and Silver Grey 28 still in the angular disruptive stripes as before and cancelled GO 370 of 1939. This remained the predominant scheme during 1941.

October 1941 - A Signal 4/105 calls for one basic colour only, Light Stone No.61 to be used before issue to units.

December 1941 - GO 1272 now calls for a basic colour of Light Stone No.61 or Portland Stone No.64, according to supplies with one disruptive colour over at the discretion of Commands i.e. Palestine, Malta, Trans-Jordan etc. This cancels GO 297 of 1940 and GO 795 of 1941. At first this may have been Slate in patterns similar to Caunter but later possibly green, Silver Grey No. 28 and Black have been noted in apparently random patterns.

Malta adopted a distinctive design generally known as "rubble", a series of light coloured blocks with a darker colour as "cement" lines. This scheme varied immensely, from the neat appearance of stonework through crazy paving to straight lines like a chessboard. The colours varied from Khaki Green No. 3 lines with Light Stone No.61 or Portland Stone No.64 "stones" to darker lines painted over the original sand colour depending on country of origin.

1942. Over Light Stone 61 the single colour disruptive was still in force although many units did not employ it whilst others used a variety of schemes, designs and colours, some with black and/or white outlining.

October 1942. G.O.1650 cancels all previous patterns and colours and introduces standardised drawings for certain type and classes of AFV and vehicles as decreed by the Camouflage Directorate of GHQ ME (G(cam)). Colours to be used are :- Basic shade – Desert Pink Z.I. with a disruptive pattern in Dark (Olive) Green PFI. Black ( S.C.C. 14), Very Dark Brown (S.C.C. 1A) or Dark Slate BS. 34 are alternatives. These designs are common on Shermans, Grants, Valentines, Crusaders, Stuarts and the Churchills of Kingforce (which were most probably Light Stone No.61 over Khaki Green No. 3 or S.C.C. 2 in the Crusader design). As Desert Pink was a new colour, Light Stone No.61 continued in use on vehicles with or without disruptive paintwork. Desert pink occurs on its own as a single shade on vehicles of no tactical value and ACVs disguised as 10 ton trucks. Where dyed tilts were supplied from the UK and Commonwealth they were chemically bleached to a pale brown colour. Although M.T.P.46 had provision for ME colours actual use of this type of scheme has not been confirmed.

April 1943 - G.O 1650 is cancelled by a new G.O with standardised drawings for certain type and classes of AFV and vehicles are decreed by the Camouflage Directorate including new colours for Tunisia, Sicily and Italy. Basic shade is "Light Mud" with Black in standardised bold disruptive patterns for camouflage. Green seems to have been used too. All "desert" colours to be overpainted. Lend Lease vehicles used "Light Mud" over US Olive Drab as an alternative. By late 1943 European colours are common. In May 1944 S.C.C. 15 Olive drab is introduced to replace all earlier schemes.

Far East

Until 1943 vehicles appear to conform to ME or UK standards. Late 1942 or early in 1943 S.C.C. 13 (green) is introduced for use in India and Burma as basic colour. There is a D.S.W & V. liaison letter of June or July 1944 in Italy, section III camouflage, regarding the discontinuation of disruptive painting. In this the subject of India and Australia using Scamic Camouflage Colour No.207 Very Dark Drab arises as used overall without disruptive paint. Due to coincidence of nomenclature this is evidence suggesting the use of S.C.C. 16 Very Dark Drab from the middle of 1944. It goes on to say that this colour is too dark for clothing and personal equipment for the war against Japan. This conclusion probably led to the introduction of S.C.C. 19 for these purposes.

British Vehicle Camouflage 1939-45 Part 2.

This summary is © Mike Starmer and Mike Cooper, 2005.

First published in the April 2010 AMMS Brisbane newsletter

The mixes here are the best at the time of writing. They represent matches for the standards rather than necessarily model colours. Colours not seen/referred to are omitted. These are all based on primary research by Mike Starmer. Unless otherwise stated all paints are Humbrol.

BS381C 1930

Light Bronze Green No. 22 a.k.a. Light Green G5
Mix: Humbrol 226 + touch 60 OR use 159 which is dull. A simple but effective mix is Humbrol 159 and 38 in ratio 3:1. This gives a vivid grass green. In use: 1938-41 usually as the light shade in M.T.P.20 schemes with G3/Middle Bronze Green No. 23 or occasionally on its own. Description: A light-medium grass green. Gloss until 1938-39.

Middle Bronze Green No. 23 a.k.a. Khaki Green No. 3/ G3/"Service Colour"
Mix: Humbrol 226 + Revell 65 in ratio 3:2 approx. If unavailable then Humbrol 80 produces a slightly rich tone. WEM ARB07 is very good match. Humbrol 30 is a long way too blue and light. For dyed canvas tilts use Humbrol 117 as a basis. In use: 1938-43. The usual basic colour until replaced in 1942 by S.C.C. 2. Used with G5 and less often with G4 or occasionally on its own. Specified as alternative dark tone in Middle East "Caunter" scheme. Gloss pre-war finish overall until 1939. Description: In its gloss form this is a dark rich yellow-green contrasting highly with G5 and much less so with G4.

Deep Bronze Green No. 24 a.k.a. Dark green G4.
Mix: Revell 65 + black in ratio 10:1 approx., Do not exceed this amount of black. In use: 1938-41. With G3 and pre-war on its own as a gloss finish. Description: Very dark yellow-green almost black green.

Silver Grey No. 28
Mix: Humbrol 74 + 145 in ratio 5:2, or 74 + 34 + touch 27approx. WEM ARB08 is very good match. In Use: Caunter scheme in M.E. and as disruptive colour for a period. Description: Neither silver nor grey but a medium yellow-green, fades to blue-grey in extreme.

R.A.F. Blue-Grey No. 33
Mix: 77 + 67 in ratio 4:1 or 112 only but satin varnish overall. In use: R.A.F. use only on ground vehicles 1935 till 1941 as semi-gloss finish. Then Post-war. Description: A dark blue-grey, NOT Humbrol 96 which is uniform colour!

Slate No.34 a.k.a. Dark Slate.
Mix: 32 + 81 + 117 in ratio 4:2:1 or 111 + touch 102 as fair alternative. Fades to grey about 111. In use: 1940 - 42 Middle East as dark shade in Gaunter scheme and then a disruptive colour over Light Stone No.61. Description: A darkish dull grey-green.

Terracotta No. 44
Mix: 100 + 70 in ratio 6:5. In use: Mentioned in unofficial sources as possible use in Egypt 1936-39 in disruptive schemes. Description: A distinct red-orange colour.

Red Oxide No. 46.
Mix: 133 + 20 + 9 in ratio 18:2:1. There is nothing simpler. In use: Egypt by 6 RTC in 1935 until 1939 and 11th Hussars from 1937. Some other units may have used it. Description: A strong dark red.

Light Purple Brown No.49.
Mix: 60 + 33 + 25 in ratio 8:3:1 OR Revell 331+10 + 25 in ratio 6:2:1 There is nothing simpler. WEM ARB10 A very good match. In use: Specified for use as disruptive colour as patches or bands over Light Stone No.61 in The Sudan. Possible use 1941-42. Description: Strong red-brown with purple tinge.

Pale Cream No. 52
Mix: 74 + 34 + 103 in ratio 4:3:2. In use: Egypt 1935 to 1939 by 6 RTC, 11th Hussars and some other units. Description: "Pale cream" describes this nicely - a light rich cream colour.

Light Stone No.61 a.k.a. "Desert Yellow".
Mix: 74 + 26 in ratio 8:1 OR Revell 16 + 1 ratio 2:1 approx. colour. In use: 1939 - 43 as basic shade in Middle East. Description: Medium toned yellow sand colour.

Middle Stone No.62.
Mix: 154 + 83 in ratio 5:3. Now accurately available as Humbrol 225. In use: Adopted as basic colour in a two toned disruptive scheme specified in G.O 370 of July 1939. Description: A powerful yellow sand colour, became R.A.F. Middle Stone.

Dark Stone No. 63.
Mix: Humbrol 83 is approx., no sample available at the time of writing. In use: Mentioned once in a 13 corps document as short term basic shade for 1943 in Tunisia. Description: Dark yellow brown, same family as above.

Portland Stone No.64.
Mix: 34 + 74 + touch 33 or 67 in ratio 4:3:t. A simple but effective mix is 196 + 74 + 34 in ratio 7:2:2. In use: 1940-41 as basic shade in M.E. Description: A pale sand grey/ very pale cream with a greenish tinge.


Nobel’s Dark Tarmac Green No. 4.
Mix: Provisional match, 91 + 33 in ratio 2 : 1. in use: A.C.I. 1559 August 1941 authorises this use as disruptive over G3 on wood and metal bodywork only in M.T.P. 20 scheme, S.C.C.7 and S.C.C.1A to be used on canvas areas. A short term scheme. Description: A very dark blue-green.

Dark Sand.
Mix: Provisional match, Humbrol 110 only. !n use: In Egypt as disruptive over Middle Stone No.62 following G.O 370 of July 1939. Trials colour in ME 1936-39 Description: This was an experimental pre-war colour. Current matching to primary source in the PRO suggest it was a dull slightly red-brown.

Un-dyed canvas UK vehicles.
Mix: Humbrol 84 + 90 in ration 4:1 gives a good basis. In use: UK and with BEF France 1937-41.

Bleached canvas Middle East.
Mix: 29 + 34 in ratio 1:1 to 3 depending on requirement. In use: In Middle East, where vehicles were shipped with Khaki Green dyed canvas, tilts were chemically bleached.

BS.987C: Camouflage Colours 1942, amended 1944 & 1945.

Coloured paints produced in enamel for wood and metal and bituminous emulsion for canvas. Only S.C.C. 15 Olive Drab and S.C.C. 16 Very Dark Drab of this set were named, all others are colloquial terms from contemporary sources.

S.C.C. 1A (very dark brown)
Mix: Revell 84 + Humbrol 33 + 113 in ratio 8:2:1. A reasonable match can be made with 170 + 33 in ratio 6:1. WEM ARB015 is a very good match. In use: 1941 -45 as disruptive in M.T.P. 20 and M.T.P. 46/4A schemes and as alternative dark shade in 1942 ME patterns. Description: The colour of plain chocolate - a warm black or deep rich brown. Medium contrast with S.C.C. 2, an alternative colour was S.C.C. 14 Black.

S.C.C. 2 (brown, khaki brown or service drab)
Mix: Revell 84 + Revell 86 in ratio 16:5. Acceptable results can be had with Humbrol 98 + 29 in ratio 5:4. WEM ARB05 is slightly light but can be used on a model as is. Dyed tilts in S.C.C. 2 can be represented by Humbrol 29 mixed with slight touches of white, black or grey to detail variations in dye. In use: 1941 - 1945 as basic colour with S.C.C. 1A or S.C.C. 14. Description: Rich dark brown with a hint of "khaki".

S.C.C. 4 (cup of tea)
Mix: 29 + 74 in ratio 16:1. Straight 29 may be a fair match. In use: Possibly and only occasionally 1942 - 44 as basic shade with S.C.C. 2 disruptive in unofficial M.T.P.46 scheme. Description: Dull medium earth colour - what we would call "Dark Earth" but NOT the R.A.F. colour which is lighter and more yellow.

S.C.C. 7 (warm green and Dark Green in Australian orders)
Mix: 195 +154+174 in ratio 7:2:1. A reasonable match is equal parts of 150 and 116. In use: 1941-45 on canvas tilts, tents and penthouses in European schemes. As disruptive colour in Australian orders with Light Stone No.61 or Portland Stone No.64 in Trans-Jordan and Palestine.

S.C.C. 13 ("Jungle Green")
Mix: 159 + 155 + 33 in ratio 4:3:1. In use: A basic colour only. Replaced ME and UK colours in India, Burma and Far East 1943-45. Description: Very drab/ muddy dark green. Darker than U.S. Olive Drab.

S.C.C. 14 (Blue-Black or Charcoal)
Mix: 33+67 in ratio 4:1 or straight Revell 9 anthracite grey. WEM ARB16 a very close match. In use: 1941-45 in M.T.P. 46 scheme and with S.C.C. 15 in N.W.Europe. Disruptive colour in Middle East schemes. Description: A very noticeably blue-black.

S.C.C. 15 Olive Drab.
Mix: 150 + 159 + 33 in ratio 5:5:2. A reasonable match is 159 + 33 in ratio 8:1. Dyed tilts can be represented by Humbrol 150. In use: Introduced April 1944 in A.C.I. 533 as new basic colour with or without S.C.C. 1A or 14 disruptive paintwork as M.T.P.46 for operations in N.W.Europe and Italy. Description: Fresh olive drab, a very dark drab inclined towards green. Unlike the US colour which it resembles when new, this fades green. Noticeable contrast with black and less so with S.C.C. 1 A. Definitely NOT blue-green or like any Humbrol colours.

S.C.C. 16 Very Dark Drab.
Mix 155 + 66 + 33 in ratio 10:2:1. A slight lighter colour than the standard, OK on a model. In use; Possibly introduced as early as mid-1944 for use in India-Burma, colour S.C.C. 207 of same name mentioned in Far East documents. Description; A dull dirty brown green, darker than S.C.C. 13. U.S. Colours.

No.319/No.9 Olive Drab.
Mix: 159 + 33 in ration 11:2 or Humbrol 155 + Revell 42 in 1 : 1 for true colour, adding more Humbrol 155 gives a good faded average. When fresh it is close to British S.C.C. 15 Olive Drab. In use: 1860 - 1970. But 1941-45 on Lend lease equipment on its own or in Italy with Light Mud and rarely black. Description: Varies with manufacturer and fading. FS595A 34087 in some version is too brown and light, despite being widely cited as a match. Nearest is FS595B 33070 a dark drab with a green hint when new , fading brown or grey in use.

Non BS Theatre colours.

Desert Pink Z.I.
Mix: 34 + 118 in ratio 4:1. A provisional mix. Use as is for model. In use: 1942-43 Egypt, Western Desert and Tunisia; Introduced by G.01650 of October 1942 as new basic colour with disruptive colours on certain classes of vehicle or on its own. Description: Earthy pink or warm sandy pink locally produced.

Dark (Olive) Green PFI.
Mix: 116 + 150 in ratio 2:1 or could be slightly greener. A provisional mix. In use: 1942-43 Egypt, Western Desert and Tunisia; Introduced by G.01650 of October 1942 as new disruptive colour on certain classes of vehicle. Alternatives are Black, very dark brown or Slate No.34. Description: A dark olive green colour locally produced.

Light Mud
Mix: 187 + 31 +34 in ratio 6:1:1. A provisional colour according to colour photographs and verbal descriptions. WEM ARB17 is very close, use as is on a model. In use: Tunisia, Sicily and Italy 1943-45 as basic colour in disruptive patterns. Seldom if ever on its own. Sometimes used as disruptive over Khaki Green No. 3 or S.C.C. 2 when units moved to Sicily from Tunisia and over U.S Olive Drab on some Lend Lease vehicles. Description: Dirty sandy grey. Described by veterans as "light grey" and "dirty grey-beige".


Much is still being written up by Mike Starmer but the basic framework is given here and in: Hodges, P and Taylor M. "British Military Markings" (revised edition) Cannon Publications 1994. Note that the information is not contained in the earlier edition. Mike Starmer, who has added a wealth of primary research, has matched colours against original British Standards where possible or advice and confirmation sought from authoritative sources. Paul Lucas has researched "Dark Sand" from Primary Sources and Ian Scrivener has provided much information and advice into colour history. See also by Steve Guthrie for coloured illustrations and some colour notes.

Many thanks to Ken Schofield for this very large and important contribution.