Scale Aircraft Modelling|February 2022
British Aircraft Markings in South East Asia 1941 - 1945
Robert Humphreys

A solution to the problem caused by the prominence of the White areas of the national markings was resolved by replacing the colour entirely with a light blue colour, which was arrived at by mixing one part of Roundel Blue with four parts White. This resulted in a pleasing hue, which was referred to as 'India White! The use of this new colour, along with the reduced size of the markings, appeared to satisfy the need to establish an aircraft's nationality without compromising its camouflage. At the end of September 1943 the use of the revised size and colour national markings was finally adopted. The need for aircraft to carry code letters also seems to have become unnecessary around mid-1943, but individual letters were retained. However, it took some time to apply the new markings to all the aircraft in India and Burma, and it was not at all unusual to see a combination of both old and new styles of markings in use alongside each other for some weeks to come.

It is interesting to note that the new low-viz markings are generally referred to as 'SEAC markings! There appears to be no official reason for this, the only plausible explanation being that their adoption took place shortly before the formation of South East Asia Command on 16 November 1943. This Command was established to be in charge of all Allied operations in the South-East Asian Theatre, with British Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten as Supreme Allied Commander.

Hurricane Mk IIC, LD726, Y, of 113 San RAF, as flown by F/O Graham Skallam, Burma 1944

Basic kit: Arma Hobby Hurricane Mk IIC (ref. 70037)

This was an out of the box build depicting LD726, one of the options offered by Arma, finished in Dark Green and Dark Earth upper surfaces with Medium Sea Grey camouflage. The scheme is completed by a Black spinner. The decals include nose art in the form of the name Daisy Bell which was applied in Yellow on the starboard cowling below the exhausts. I must confess that I find the Hurricane to be very attractive in what I consider to be a typical SEAC finish - if there is such a thing!

As noted earlier, aircraft could be delivered for service in South East Asia wearing camouflage and markings not suited for or specified by their recipients. Aircraft were first delivered to India where necessary modifications to areas such as national markings were made before they were deemed suitable and ready for operations. As well as LB935 on sheet X72113, Xtradecal include markings for Mk IIC KZ371, R, in very interesting markings. An excellent image of this aircraft is included in the article 'The Fighting Cobras, which appears in the May 2021 issue of FlyPast magazine. Such a coincidence was not to be ignored, so it was decided to include the aircraft in the project. As well as depicting an aircraft in an interesting and unusual combination of markings, the build would also serve to pay tribute to the vital role played by India in the struggle against the Japanese Empire.

Hurricane Mk IIC, KZ371, R, as flown by F/0 Dilip Kumar from 3 San Indian Air Force, June 1944 Note that Xtradecal state the aircraft belonged to 1 Sqn.

Basic kit: Revell Hurricane Mk IIC (ref. 04144)

Once again the venerable Revell kit was pressed into service, simply because I had a number of them in my stash and bearing in mind the same comments regarding modifications as suggested previously. Camouflage consists of Dark Green and Ocean Grey upper surfaces with Medium Sea Grey under surfaces. Now for the interesting bit. The Sky rear fuselage band was retained along with the Yellow wing leading edges. Xtradecal describe the spinner as being in Sky with the forward half in White. My interpretation of the image in FlyPast resulted in me painting the entire spinner Sky. Roundels are in the now-standard SEAC colours and dimensions for small aircraft, while the fin flash is Blue and White with the White portion facing forward. This is definitely an unusual and eye-catching scheme.

Slowly but surely the situation was beginning to turn in the Allies' favour, although there were still difficult times ahead. The Battles of Imphal and Kohima in early 1944 saw the final Japanese attempt to invade India thwarted and their forces repulsed back into Burma. It was now time for the Japanese to retreat in front of the Allied advance.

Following the directive of February 1942, which required all operational squadrons to delete their codes on grounds of security, most fighters had only carried their individual identifying letters, which were usually 36 high and in White. However, it would appear that some squadrons had retained their full complement of codes. As new squadrons continued to arrive, the practice of displaying complete codes appears to have become more common once again despite no formal record authorising this practice having come to light thus far. As the practice became more widespread, fighters could be seen with their individual code letters in 36 high characters with the squadron codes being either 18 or 24 high and all in White. Again it does not appear that a directive was ever sent to specify the colour of the codes despite White being the most commonly recorded colour. Nevertheless, there were instances where India White and Sky were used.

As was the case in other theatres of war, there continued to be instances in South East Asia of aircraft and aircrews being lost to friendly fire despite the fact that Red had been removed from the markings. An aircraft often mistaken for a Japanese type was the P-47 Thunderbolt, which could, from certain angles, be taken to be a Ki 44 Shoki. As an aid to identification, November 1944 saw the introduction of White bands, which were applied around the forward part of the cowling, wings, and tail surfaces of camouflaged Thunderbolts. These were 17 wide on the nose, 28 wide on the wings, and 18 wide across the vertical and horizontal tail surfaces.

On 27 January 1945, the requirement of carrying White markings was extended to other SEAC fighter types. In several instances the band appears to have been applied across the fin and rudder in the first place. This resulted in a further instruction being issued stating that they were not to extend over the control surfaces for fears of causing balancing problems. Applying the White bands appears to have caused some confusion at Maintenance and Repair Units, who interpreted the instruction to include also both serials and codes. Consequently, these were re-applied when aircraft were being prepared for issue to squadrons or undergoing routine maintenance or repairs. Spinners were also painted White, although there is some evidence that India White was used by a few units.

Hurricane Mk IIC LB957 EG-N, 3 San RAF, 1945 Basic kit: Hasegawa Hurricane IIC (ref. 00648)

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