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Author Topic: JEJ's EN398 - How it actually looked.  (Read 31112 times)
Big_guy
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« Reply #15 on: June 22, 2009, 08:49:36 PM »

Hi guys,

Good discussion going on here.  As this is a pet peeve of mine, I am in the process of writing up a small follow-up piece to a short modelling article on EN398 that is coming up in the next RT magazine (www.ipmscanada.com).  So here's some excerpts from what I've currently got written up:

This red vs. green maple leaf thing has strong evidence to support that it was always a red maple leaf as the RCAF-mandated marking, and nothing (that I've ever seen) to indicate the use of any other colour, official or otherwise.

There are (at least) two official and widespread national identification markings for RCAF Spitfires:

  • the official marking, which was an 8" decal, consisting of a 'veined' red maple leaf sitting an 7" Azure Blue disk, surrounded by a 1/2" Dark Blue ring.
  • the commonly-seen marking on Spitfires, a simple red leaf shape on a plain white disk, approximately 8" diameter.


(Note: I won't deny that a traditional red-white-blue roundel marking also existed; I've just never seen evidence of it on wartime aircraft.)

Without going into the evidentiary background in detail, the following helps establish the lineage of the red maple leaf:

  • the RCAF ensign, flying the red maple leaf roundel, was approved in 1940
  • in Feb 1943, the official blue-blue-red decal was approved for use on overseas operational aircraft
  • in Nov 1943, the RCAF ordered all units to fly the RCAF Ensign

Thus RCAF personnel were aware of and were conditioned to think in terms of a red maple leaf roundel to identify themselves to the world, well in time for airmen to consider it when designing the marking.

Why the red/white roundel evolved is anybody's guess - maybe it was designed first at the grass roots level (I once interviewed a 414 Sqn Mustang pilot who told me that his Spitfire pilot buddy first designed the marking), and then RCAF HQ got involved to standardize the marking, maybe there was a shortage of the original decals (a result of higher attrition than planned?), or maybe something like easier application with stencil/paint and better wear and durabilty.  Who knows at this point?  For sure they both existed and were in use at the same time by different units.  You definitely see variations in the red leaf shape on Spitfires, so it was not a standardized stencil or drawing that was being used for the paint job.

Perhaps contributing to the issue is that during the First World War, RAF No. 5 (AC) Sqn worked closely with the Canadian Corps. Consequently, they adopted a green maple leaf as the unit badge, which was approved in June 1937.  So why did 5 Sqn choose green?  Why not?  The British knew what colour leaves were, and we certainly didn’t have any reason or place to challenge that assertion.  Maybe that is where the green leaf idea originated?  Or possibly the original 1/72 Airfix kit with JE-J and a green leaf, plus flawed assumptions by now-ancient resources like the Harleyford Spitfire book and the Profile series booklet, showed a green maple leaf on JE-J, are other possible culprits in how the urban legend got started.

And incidentally, for the red maple leaf marking, a number of profile drawings and model decal sheets are using Canada's flag maple leaf as the pattern.  This is wrong, as the current leaf was not in use until 1965, when it was designed for our new (current) national flag. The WW II markings were a lot less stylized, and a lot more like a natural (real) maple leaf.

Hope this helps the discussion!

Cheers,

Steve Sauvé
Ottawa, Canada
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Cheers,

Steve Sauvé
Ottawa, Canada
sb.sauve@gmail.com

Main Spitfire Interest - RCAF Units in WW II
dragoonpvw
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« Reply #16 on: June 22, 2009, 10:16:36 PM »

Steve, where does that leave Bob Morrow.
 To quote Bob of 402 Squadron..
Quote
On May 16, 1942 we moved to Kenley Surrey, and set about serious business. On May 31, we moved to Redhill in the Kenley Sector.
   When we were at Redhill, I introduced the logo of a red Maple Leaf in a white nine-inch circle. My rationale was that the Poles had their insignia, so why not the RCAF? RCAF headquarters liked the idea
.
 that would lead to the supposition that the maple Leaf appeared sometime after 31 May 1942 and before August when he went back to Canada.
 good luck
 Paul
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Big_guy
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« Reply #17 on: June 22, 2009, 11:34:07 PM »

Paul,

That's great info; is it from a published source or a private one?  One of the things on my 'to do' list for this , RT article is to get the shooting dates for the official RCAF photos that show the marking.  That Bob Morrow date ties in nicely with 402 getting new Mk.IX's in early '42.

I actually have my George Burroughs interview recorded on a cassette (and I even know where the cassette is!), and I know he mentioned the Spitfire pilot, who George said created the marking, by name.  I'll give it a listen while I transfer it to disk and report my findings.  George passed on a few years ago, so there's no more follow-up questions to be asked.

I have no doubt that the dates and info you cited are correct, and that's great news, so I wonder why the RCAF HQ went for a wonky blue-blue-red marking, instead of just simply adopting officially the red-white marking as is, or at least modifying it into a true RCAF red-white-blue decal for operational aircraft application?  Something acceptable for all, yet subdued for night bomber use maybe?

Cheers,

Steve
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Cheers,

Steve Sauvé
Ottawa, Canada
sb.sauve@gmail.com

Main Spitfire Interest - RCAF Units in WW II
NZTyphoon
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« Reply #18 on: June 22, 2009, 11:49:05 PM »

Just for interest the photo of  MK329 is in Shores and Thomas' 2 TAF Vol 4 - apparently the original photo was badly water damaged as a consequence of which the details of the individual letter and the D-Day stripes are missing. What can be seen is that the code letters are flat bottomed, as described by Antoni and appear to be serifed. They definitely look different to those on EN398.

I can still remember building Airfix's old Spitfire IX in Johnny Johnson's markings...and now I feel really old. Undecided

MK329 or MK392?

Sorry, I've been tied up with varsity exams etc; the photo is of MK392.
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dragoonpvw
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« Reply #19 on: June 23, 2009, 01:38:27 AM »

The quote is from "Spitfire the Canadians" by Robert Bracken. I had an email address for him at one time and some comments about "Johnnie's " plane as I am building a 1/4 scale model. The only evidence I heard about the colour is from Johnson's own comment about the leaf being green. I don't remember where it was originally quoted. I don't even know if his memory is correct. I eventually decided to go with the green, purely as a matter of respect. If he says it was green then that is how I will do it. The plane obviously had the standard red and white when he got the plane. There was also no idea about the shade of green. I prefer the idea of it being standard camo green if anything. The white circle with the maple leaf cutout seems a fine compromise. In the Canadians book there are a couple of different leafs, one just has a light outline of a lighter colour. Unfortunately the colours are hard to quantify in black and white as orthochromatic films still in use at that timecan often confuse us. If it was a panchromatic film then the colours could be different. The dark colour of the cowl I simply take as the oily area being cleaned and leaving a slightly darker and having a sheen.
 good luck
 Paul
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Big_guy
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« Reply #20 on: June 23, 2009, 03:41:02 AM »

(I'm not sure if you were talking about Robert Bracken's email address, but if you were, then I should tell you that he passed away about a year ago.)

Seeing as the official decal marking and the ensign adopted in 1940, and flying at RCAF units were based on a red maple leaf, I truly believe there is no real evidence to support that any other colour but red would have been used for the marking.  It just doesn't make sense, at least from our country's history and perspective.

I just can't see Johnson purposely changing the leaf colour to green from red. For one thing, a green leaf on white background belongs to No. 5 Sqn RAF, but, more than that, I think it would have been terribly insulting to the Canadians he commanded. Changing your 'foreign' subordinates heraldry is simply not the way a leader gains respect from his troops.  Imagine changing the stars in a US marking from white to yellow? Or changing the Polish checkerboard to black and white, or something similar? I've recently seen a photo of an WWII RAAF Mosquito sporting what appears to be a current style red 'roo' roundel on the crew entry door.  What if Johnson commanded them and for some reason decided that a green 'roo' was the way to go?

Anyway, I'm really enjoying this discussion, and I hope to read and participate in more in the future!

Cheers,

Steve Sauvé
Ottawa, Canada
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Cheers,

Steve Sauvé
Ottawa, Canada
sb.sauve@gmail.com

Main Spitfire Interest - RCAF Units in WW II
dragoonpvw
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« Reply #21 on: June 23, 2009, 04:25:20 AM »

The white circle and red maple leaf has nothing to do with the rcacf ensign. I think you might be over thinking this. Bob Morrow chose this in 1942 as a logo for his planes, "402 Squadron". He used part of the ensign design, just because the poles had theirs.  It was definitely not a mandated insignia for RCACF aircraft. If it was, most planes flying during the war would have had charges against them. look through both of Brackens well illustrated books, there is a dearth of maple leafs. As I said earlier, look at Bob Ogilvies plane and see the maple leaf on his plane, just a white outline and a darker shade inside, Black? Red? Geen? who knows. Some ground crew had said that the white circle only was used with the maple leaf cutout showing the background of the planes camouflage. That is what I took to be the green on 398 if JEJ's memory was correct, green meaning raf dark green. I think you miss the idea of personalizing your vehicles, this was not a mandated insignia from high command. It was a localized affectation initially, and obviously as borne out by pictorial evidence, never adopted service wide.
 good luck
 Paul
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Big_guy
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« Reply #22 on: June 23, 2009, 03:17:24 PM »

Edgar, please,

Would you mind dialing down the inflammatory language?  Implying Johnny Johnson was a liar is not what I said; lying means that he was deliberately hiding something, and nobody here thinks that.

I'm sure there's other examples where non-(insert nationality here) commanded (insert nationality here) units and embraced his units' emblems, simply as a part of good military leadership.  Johnny Kent was Canadian, and, as a Wing Commander, carried the Polish Wing badge on his personal aircraft, even to the point of having it painted on top of his own maple leaf badge (which, coincidentally, appears to have been green with a black outline!). A good leader doesn't deliberately distance himself apart from his subordinates, even on something as trivial as a simple badge of which his troops are proud.

I'm willing concede the possibility that a simple stencil over the camouflage could have been used for some of these leaf markings; as was noted in a previous post, because of the films in use and the choice of filters a photographer had, it is difficult to discern the tones in some photos as being red, green, Dark Green, or something else. It just seems natural that the crews would have embraced elements of the same marking they were seeing on the RCAF ensigns, etc., on display around their units. 

And now I'm off to dig through my Bracken books to study this some more....

Cheers,

Steve Sauvé
Ottawa, Canada
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Cheers,

Steve Sauvé
Ottawa, Canada
sb.sauve@gmail.com

Main Spitfire Interest - RCAF Units in WW II
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« Reply #23 on: June 23, 2009, 04:40:49 PM »

Dana Bell once mentioned that the recollections of veterans with regard to colours of their aircraft cannot be generally relied upon without further verification. I was aware of the alleged JEJ letter about the leaf being green when drawing my profiles. I still opted to go with red (however, it is easy to change Smiley because I didn't treat his as a definitive statement (and, shall I say, red looks more attractive Smiley

Trying to verify the green leaf hypothesis; a number of questions may be evaluated.

1. Did the entire unit/wing of JEJ used the leaf emblem. Was it intended as RCAF emblem rather than unit one?

The previous analysis seems to imply that the emblem was RCAF rather than unit/individual. This would strongly support the red leaf theory and in my mind, it remains to be demonstrated that the emblem wasn't intended as a generic Canadian national marking to contradict it.

2. Was the emblem designed as white stencil only, or two-colour one involving the use ot 2 stencils?

This, I guess is the hard one... anybody's guess. Would mean that although the emblem was intended to be red, it was applied as simplified white-outline only.
On a general note, national markings (Polish checkerboards or Czech tricolours being an example) were usually applied with care and therefore multi-colour. I can't remember seeing any of these being applied without full complement of colours.

3. Could JEJ have chosen to have a green emblem to distinguish himself from the rest of the unit?
I guess there could be personal reasons for this, possibly needs to be explored further.

The last question is how the green leaf idea came about in the first place back at the time when Airfix Spitfire IX was issued. It could be either some knowledge (interviews with the pilots?) or an assumption (leaves are green!). The level of research in Profile Publications, Airfix kits etc. was generally not up to the current standards, but maybe there was more to the reasoning behing the green which hasn't yet surfaced in this thread.

/Martin
« Last Edit: June 24, 2009, 09:26:46 AM by Editor » Logged
vingtor
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« Reply #24 on: June 27, 2009, 10:45:20 PM »

The green on the engine cowling a darker shade perhaps?

Paul Lucas has some interesting thoughts about early Spitfire Mk.IX colours in the July issue of Model Aircraft Monthly, including EN398.

Anyone ??

Nils
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SMF144
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« Reply #25 on: December 12, 2009, 08:06:53 PM »

To further  what Steve Sauve and Paul have said, I corresponded with the late Bob Morrow about this particular issue and here is what he had to say: “In 1942 we, 402 City of Winnipeg Squadron, were re-equipped with Spitfire Mk-Vbs and we happily left our Hurricane bombers behind. In our enthusiasm we wanted to look as smart and up to date as possible. The answer was the maple leaf. After some trial we settled on a 9” diameter white background with a red maple leaf in the center, except for bomber command who objected to the white and settled for a dark blue instead. “
Now, a Postagram issued by Headquarters, Bomber Command on 21 November 1942, states the following: Emblem for R.C.A.F. Squadrons. The following distinguishing marking has been approved for all aircraft of R.C.A.F. Overseas Squadrons – An emblem consisting of a circular disc of 8” diameter with ½” outer roundel of dark blue and R.A.F. blue centre in which is inserted a maple leaf in red. These emblems will be worn on the port side of the fuselage forward of the leading edge.  This instruction also shows up in a Postagram issued by Air Ministry to everyone and their brother, even the USAAF, dated 19 November 1942.
This instruction was then repeated to the squadrons in No.6 Group R.C.A.F. by W/C J.E. Fauquier, in a memo dated 6 January 1943, who added “It is requested that immediate action be taken to have these emblems inserted on all aircraft in R.C.A.F. squadrons.”
As for Neil Robinson’s article on JEJ’s EN398, I was not impressed with the profile by John Freeman. He simply copied the one from Robert Brackens book. Have you ever seen a sailor, let alone, Popeye wearing a yellow shirt? Somehow I doubt that and the reason it is yellow? Quite simply the late Ron Lowry wanted to add a little bit of colour; just as he added the yellow outline to the code letters which it never had. And while we are on the subject, what I find interesting is the variation of the size of the maple leaf or the white background on AE+B and JE+J.  Another point about AE+B. In the picture with Ian Keltie, you will note that the outer .303s have been removed. Did JE+J do this? Dunno.
 
Stephen M. Fochuk
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kaysersoze
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« Reply #26 on: January 21, 2010, 02:59:21 PM »

i am in the process of doing EN398 in the 1/32 kit from tamiya. my question is how accurate the painting of the model is, on the previous page?
reason i ask, is that it looks the most convincing ive seen from the B+W pictures ive seen.
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Big_guy
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« Reply #27 on: January 22, 2010, 12:54:21 AM »

The only comment I'd make is that the maple leaf badge carries the current Canadian flag maple leaf, which is not correct for a WW II aircraft.  There's lots of photos around showing typical leaf shapes for Spitfires.
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Cheers,

Steve Sauvé
Ottawa, Canada
sb.sauve@gmail.com

Main Spitfire Interest - RCAF Units in WW II
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