Britische Tarnanstriche
Zweiter Weltkrieg, 1930–1945

Britischer Kampfpanzer Matilda mit falschem Tarnanstrich.

British Matilda Mk.III Infantry Tank painted in the »Caunter Scheme« camouflage pattern used in North Africa in 1940. The painting instruction supplied with the Airfix kit were incorrect, the light blue disruptive stripes of the desert camouflage pattern should actually be B.S.C. № 28 »Silver Grey«, and Airfix M3 »Olive Green« is too dark to match B.S.C. № 34 »Slate«. Wargamers may deploy the Airfix model of the Matilda Tank in the early campaigns in France and North Africa. Captured Matilda Tanks were converted to self-propelled guns by the German Wehrmacht, who used them for training purposes.

Basic Vehicle Patterns

  • U.K. 1930
  • France (BEF) 1939
  • North Africa 1937, 1939 & 1940
  • U.K. 1941, 1942 & 1943
  • North Africa 1942 & 12/1942
  • North Africa 1943
  • Sicily 1943
  • Italy 1943
  • Syria/Persia/Iraq 1943
  • Far East 1942 & 1945
  • NW Europe 1944 & 1945

How many olives are in dark green?

There is some controversy among manufacturers of plastic model kits regarding the correct colour used for the basic dark green camouflage pattern of British Army vehicles in World-War 2. The old Airfix 25-pounder field gun und Quad tractor kit nicely illustrates the kind of confusion which has persisted for more than 20 years.

  • Airfix 25 pdr und Quad ca. 1976: „LIGHT BROWN M5 overall, with irregular patches of OLIVE GREEN M3 on tractor only“. This editor still owns a section of 25-pdrs painted light brown according to these faulty instructions.
  • Airfix 25-pdr und Quad 1993 re-release: „30 DARK GREEN overall, with irregular patches of 29 DARK EARTH on tractor only“. Not correct either, the Quad should be Dark Brown with Patches of Dark Green as before, but the 25-pdr und the ammo trailer need to be painted Dark Green instead of Dark Brown. The text in the instructions is ok, the drawing is incorrect.

Apparently, someone noticed the obviously mistaken painting instructions of the 25 pdr und trailer. Simply reversing the colours in the original instructions is a workable solution, even if it isn’t completely accurate for the Quad. More importantly, notice how colour designations can change from LIGHT BROWN to DARK EARTH und OLIVE GREEN to DARK GREEN. How can there be such confusion about colour? Did the British Army not issue precise specifications regarding the colour schemes to be used on vehicles? Apparently, manufacturers are in doubt und hobbyists are easily frustrated by the problem.

Modell Grundfarbe Tarnflecken
Airfix Quad M3, later 30 Dark Green 29 Dark Earth
Airfix AEC Matador 30 Dark Green
Airfix Universal Carrier M3 Helloliv
Airfix DUKW 86 Helloliv
Airfix Churchill Tank 86 Helloliv
Airfix Sherman Tank 86 Helloliv
Hasegawa Daimler, 7th Armd. Div. 54 Khaki Green
Matchbox Jeep, 7th Armd. Division 75 Bronze Green
Matchbox Jeep, 11th Armd. Div. 86 Lt. Olive, 72 Khaki Drell 33 Matt Black
Matchbox 17 pdr, 11th Armd. Div. 75 Bronze Green
Revell Desert War M5 Stuart 116 Sand 48 Sea Green/Light Blue
Airfix Desert War Matilda M14 Sand M3 Lt. Olive / M25 Lt. Blue

In the case of the 11th Armoured Division Jeep und Morris tractor for the 17 pdr anti-tank gun produced by Matchbox it is not clear if the two colours are to be mixed in order to produce the basic colour or if either colour can be used interchangeably. In any case, the table above clearly shows that five manufacturers recommend no less than six different shades of green to be used on British vehicles.

Until recently, the author had assumed that Airfix M3 »Olive Green« really is the same as Humbrol 30 »Dark Green«, because the Airfix M3 codes disappeared in the late 1970s or early 1980s, und Humbrol 30 replaced them. The 1993 Airfix re-releases are split on the issue, translating the original M3 code into 30 »Dunkelgrün« und 86 »Helloliv«, the former being used on some tractors und the latter on tanks und the US built DUKW amphibian. Francis Liew, historian und contributing writer for this camouflage article, points out that Humbrol 86 »Helloliv« is actually the matching colour used for modern British vehicles (»Olive Green«). Revell recommends 48 »Sea Green« to be used in the three-colour Desert War camouflage, the same pattern that Airfix would have had you paint in M3 »Olive Green«, M14 »Buff« und M25 »Light Blue«.

British Standard Colour

The table below lists British Standard Colour information extracted from documents which were de-classified und released to the public in 1984. Field orders issued by the War Office und any documents classified as „secret“ were kept secret for 30 years. British Standard shades und matching Humbrol colour codes were compiled und edited by contributing writer Francis Liew.

Home Forces: 1939 Three Colour Disruptive Pattern

B.S. Designation Official Shade Note Humbrol
Light Green № 22 B.S.381-1930 Lighter Disruptive Pattern 86
Middle Bronze Green № 23 B.S.381-1930 Base Colour 30
Dark Green № 24 B.S.381-1930 Darker Disruptive Pattern 75
Most vehicles were in the three colour disruptive pattern or in a two colour disruptive pattern using only dark green patches over the bronze green base colour. Photographic evidence suggests that some light tanks in the cavalry/recce regiments were painted in a two colour pattern using light green disruptive patches on the bronze green base colour.

France (BEF): 1939 Three Colour Disruptive Pattern

B.S. Designation Official Shade Note Humbrol
»Khaki Green« № 3 B.S.381-1939   30
Dark Green № 4 B.S.381-1939   75
Light Green № 5 B.S.381-1939   86
The only difference between the 1939 und 1940 Fahrzeug patterns is that the B.S. shade numbers were changed. Vehicles without disruptive patters would be painted in the base colour only. Three colour und two colour patterns existed, as noted above.

U.K.: 1941 Two Colour Disruptive Pattern

B.S. Designation Official Shade Note Humbrol
S.C.C. № 2 Brown № 2 B.S.987C-1942 Base Colour 26
Dark Earth № 1A B.S.987C-1942 Disruptive Pattern 29
S.C.C. № 2 Brown was used as a base colour from 1941 to 1943.

U.K.: 1942 & 1943 patterns

B.S. Designation Official Shade Note Humbrol
1942 Khaki Green № 7 B.S.381-1939 Base Colour 151
S.C.C. № 2 Brown № 2 B.S.987c-1942 Base Colour 26
S.C.C. № 2 Brown continued to be used as a base colour even when Khaki Green was temporarily introduced as an alternate base colour in 1942.

NW Europe: 1944 Two Colour Disruptive Pattern

B.S. Designation Official Shade Note Humbrol
Khaki Green S.C.C. № 15 B.S.987C-1942 Olive/Khaki Drab 159
Black Disruptive Pattern 33
The Mickey Mouse Pattern was introduced in early 1944. It consisted of large intersecting circular areas of matt black, applied freehand with a brush at army depots, either by soldiers or civilian employees. Please note that it was mainly used on „softskins“ – tractors, trucks, etc und armoured/scout cars. The pattern was to be „applied to all top surfaces, with extensions down onto the Fahrzeug sides, und along the bottom edges of the vehicle“; „the underside of the chassis was also painted black“.
Variations of this pattern included random black disruptive patterns, used on self-propelled howitzers, und „black wavy pattern“, used on Universal/Bren Carriers only. Please note that the only photographic evidence of tanks using black disruptive pattern was the 4th/7th Dragon Guards (8th Armd Bde), where bold black curves were painted on the sides of the hull. Black disruptive pattern was not normally used on tanks, because British tank crews made extensive use of hessian tapes und foliage for breaking up the vehicle’s silhoutte

NW Europe: 1945 Pattern

B.S. Designation Official Shade Note Humbrol
Deep Bronze Green № 24 B.S.381-1942 75

North Africa: 1937 Two Colour Disruptive Pattern

B.S. Designation Official Shade Note Humbrol
Light Stone № 61 B.S.381-1930 Base Colour 121
Terra Cotta № 44 B.S.381-1930 Disruptive Pattern 70
This particular desert scheme of terra cotta disruptive lines on a light stone base colour could be painted to resemble stone walls, but it was not in widespread use. Because of the unique appearance of the surrounding terrain, local camouflage schemes had to be devised in the field.

North Africa: 1939 Two Colour Disruptive Pattern

B.S. Designation Official Shade Note Humbrol
Light Stone № 61 B.S.381-1930 Base Colour 121
Slate Grey № 34 B.S.381-1930 Disruptive Pattern 31
Shades № 52 B.S.381-1939 (Pale Cream) und № 53 B.S.381-1939 (Deep Cream) were also used as base colours, particularly in the campaign against the Italians in North Africa. They were never in widespread use und the light stone basic overall colour quickly replaced them.

North Africa: 1940 Three Colour Diagonal Bands Disruptive Pattern

B.S. Designation Official Shade Note Humbrol
Light Stone № 61 B.S.381-1930 Base Colour 121
Light Grey № 28 B.S.381-1930 Disruptive Pattern 64
Slate Grey № 34 B.S.381-1930 Disruptive Pattern 31

North Africa: 1942 Two Colour Disruptive Pattern

B.S. Designation Official Shade Note Humbrol
Light Stone № 61 B.S.381-1930 Base Colour 121
Dark Green № 4 B.S.381-1939 Disruptive Pattern 75
Apparently, Crusader tanks serving in North Africa were also camouflaged in a Light Stone und Black disruptive pattern. An exception to the rule, but not too far off from the guidelines laid down by the War Office.

North Africa: December 1942 Two Colour Disruptive Pattern

B.S. Designation Official Shade Note Humbrol
Light Stone № 61 B.S.381-1930 Base Colour 121
Terra Cotta № 11A B.S.987C-1942 Disruptive Pattern 70
Terra cotta is a red earth tone, described by veterans of the campaign as a deep red. After wear und tear in operational use, it turned to a dull pinkish colour, similar to the shade of light coloured bricks. This pattern was used in the Tunisian und Middle Eastern theaters of operation. The city of Petra in Jordan is named „Red Rose City“ after the vicinity’s red desert sand.

North Africa (Tunisia): 1943 Pattern

B.S. Designation Official Shade Note Humbrol
Middle Bronze Green № 23(G3) B.S.381-1930 Base Colour 30
A two colour disruptive pattern was used on Universal/Bren Carriers. This pattern was different from the black wavy pattern applied to carriers in NW Europe in 1944, it consisted of black flames, or teeth along the upper und lower edge of the carrier’s superstructure.

Sicily: 1943 Two Colour Disruptive Pattern

B.S. Designation Official Shade Note Humbrol
Light Mud (Mid. Stone) Base Colour 84
Blue-Black Disruptive Pattern 67

Italy: 1943 Pattern

B.S. Designation Official Shade Note Humbrol
Khaki Green № 7 B.S.381-1930 a.k.a. Bronze Green 151

Syria/Persia/Iraq: 1943 Two Colour Disruptive Pattern

B.S. Designation Official Shade Note Humbrol
Light Stone № 61 B.S.381-1930 Base Colour 121
Terra Cotta № 11A B.S.987C-1942 Disruptive Pattern 70

Far East: 1942–1945 (British und Indian armour fighting in Burma)

B.S. Designation Official Shade Note Humbrol
1942 Jungle Green № 13 B.S.987C-1942 Base Colour 116
1945 Deep Bronze Green № 16 B.S.381-1930 Base Colour 75

It is apparent, that British AFV colours changed frequently, adapting to diverse terrain conditions encountered in the theater of operation. Using the above table, wargamers und collectors will be able to select the correct colour schemes for vehicles participating in the campaigns in France 1940 und 1944, Italy 1943–45, Germany 1945 und the Desert War.

Snow Camouflage

In January 1945, 21st Army Group issued a „Snow Camouflage Booklet“ with the following guidelines for snow camouflage:

Section 34. „Use of Whitening Agents. In western Germany und in the Low Countries snow conditions are seldom constant. Rapid thaws may be expected und snow cover will not necessarily be continuous over a wide area. Morever, even in deep snow, buildings, woods und other features still provide dark backgrounds. White paint or other whitening agents should not, therefore, be used directly on vehicles und weapons, but only as a means of whitening materials to be put on them.“

Section 35. „White paint may be used, when practicable, on the underside of any tarpauline which can be reversed ...“ and, as an alternative, "... to provide a temporary effective camouflage material, garnished nets can be dragged in the snow."

Appendix A:
„Calico: supplied in rolls of three foot width. Suitable application, making into patches with strings attached, to be used on artillery or other nets, or for attachment to tank turrets, guns, recce vehicles und for general improvisation.
White Scrim: supplied in rolls of 100 yards length, three inches wide. For garnishing nets, wire netting, helmet covers, wrapping of gun barrels, small arms und for sniper aides.“

Appendix C listed methods of preparing limewash from rock lime (24 hours) und slaked lime, using salt or powdered glue to obtain a more permanent type of paint. Please note that, using only limewash, this snow camouflage was not very durable und soon revealed patches of the darker paintwork colours underneath.


Ein Stück Originallack eines historischen Panzerfahrzeugs mag durchaus die gleiche olivgrüne oder dunkelgraue Farbe besitzen, die der Bastler heute bei Revell und Humbrol kaufen kann, aber es wäre ein Fehler, Modelle im Maßstab 1:72 auf diese Weise zu lackieren. Aus der Ferne betrachtet erscheint das dem Sonnenlicht ausgesetzte reale Fahrzeug nämlich deutlich heller als ein kleines, in der gleichen Farbe lackiertes Modell. Staub, der sich auf dem Fahrzeug ablagert, kann die Grundfarbe weiter optisch aufhellen, die Tarnwirkung manchmal vollständig zunichte machen und es unmöglich werden lassen, das Fahrzeug vor dem dunklen Hintergrund einer Baumgrenze oder eines Waldes zu verstecken.

Ein Verständnis der Luftperspektive hilft Modellbauern, diesen Effekt zu simulieren. Die historische Grundfarbe wird als Grundierung verwendet, vorzugsweise aufgesprüht, um das Lackieren zu beschleunigen. Die Grundierung sollte trocknen, bevor weitere Farbe aufgetragen wird. Anschließend wird die Grundfarbe mit Weiß oder Dunkelgelb abgetönt und das Fahrzeug damit trockengebürstet. Die erhabenen Flächen des Modells nehmen die Farbe an, so wie das echte Fahrzeug Sonnenlicht aufnimmt. Nebeneinander betrachtet, allerdings im entsprechenden maßstäblichen Abstand voneinander, erscheinen Fahrzeug und Modell gleich groß und ihr farblicher Gesamteindruck sollte ähnlich sein, abhängig von der Intensität der natürlichen Beleuchtung, die der Modellbauer nachbilden möchte. Das Trockenbürsten kann in mehreren Schichten erfolgen, wobei jedes Mal mehr Weiß zugesetzt wird. Eine letzte Schicht Staubgrau kann aufgetragen werden, um die kumulative Wirkung zu simulieren, die ein staubiger Straßenmarsch auf das Fahrzeug und seine Besatzung haben würde.

Francis Liew

Figuren und Fahrzeuge der britischen Armee im 2. Weltkrieg