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MK 4 colours

January 15 2005 at 7:29 PM
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OK, this is probably a dumb question that I have a sneaking suspicion that I already know the answer to but, in a couple of my old reference books (B.T. White British tank names and markings 1914- 1945) plus even David Fletcher's new book on the Mk 1's there are some references to British tanks wearing the "battleship grey" colour scheme especially with the Mk1's. But The B.T. White book gives a colour plate for "Firespite II" a Mk IV about Oct. 1917 with a training Battalion in this grey scheme. I also recently bought an old 30p Pan book (published 1967) called "The Ironclads of Cambrai" which depicts two Mk IV's in a grey scheme. Now I know better than to use a cheap novel as a reference point but it just has me wondering were all Mk IV's actually the "khaki brown" paint scheme or did some go into combat in a "battleship grey"? I've been to Peter Kempf's outstanding web site (thank you Peter!) which gives an excellent overview of WW1 AFV markings and schemes but I do wonder if there is any case of a potential variation for Mk IV cammo. Is it also true that the Whippet and Mk IV in Brussels are still in their original colours? I have been told that the MkIV female in the Australian War Memorial is also original but it looks a little too pristine for that.Thanks for your time and help.
And keep up the good work Peter!

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Never say never

January 16 2005, 1:38 AM 

Well, I am not one of those types that hunt for very specific shades of colours and run around putting up 100% strict rules regarding very specific colour schemes. As anyone knows: exact shades is hambug, as paints deteriorate but due to mixture, ages, effects of weather etc etc etc, and during wartime variations ALWAYS occur, because colour schemes are not the most important thing when you are readying a piece of equipment - you take what you got, right? So I will never bet my soul on these things.

Still, Battleship Grey seems to be used only on Mk 1:s, and early ones at that. But I can imagine a later situation with say a Mk IV where someone doesnt get the proper supply of brown and opts for the grey instead. But it was probably just an exception to the rule in that case.

When it comes to references, all WRITTEN statements when it comes to Mk IV:s say Brown. And the Brussels Mk IV ("Lodestar") is in her original colour, and that colour is unmistakably BROWN, khaki-ish, light nutbrown-ish, something like that. The Aussie Mk IV seems to be re-painted.

BT White is a valuable work, but I wouldn't rely too much on the colour artwork, as muych of it is clearly just guesses. And one monochrome scheme (brown) could be taken for another monochrome scheme (grey).

You COULD make a Mk IV in Battleship Grey, and I wouldn't argue with you, but it would be in no way typical of how Mk IV:s looked.

All the best
/Peter K

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Mk. IV colours

January 16 2005, 2:09 AM 

As I've been crawling around inside No.4643, the AWM Mk.IV, which has been repainted externally (to a dark green shade), but is in original condition on the inside, I wouldn't throw grey too far away. All interior parts that are not white are... grey. This includes the pilots' stand, the transmission and some smaller fittings, which are in dark grey (battleship grey, if you want. I'd go for Humbrol 164 Dark Sea Grey or 165 Sea Grey Medium). At the same time, the interior of the machine gun shields and the ammo boxes are in a medium grey, somewhere between Humbrol 175 Light Grey and 122 Matt Pale Blue. On the edges of the machine gun shields(which are not accessible from the outside) you can also see the "old" chokolade brown exterior paint. The AWM also holds a (MK.IV or Mk.V?)6 pounder, which is in overall dark grey except for the breech block (rust).
My theory is that the Vehicles were delivered in dark grey and immediately got an overcoat of chokolade brown when commissioned. This leaves ample space for several of them escaping the repainting and going into action dark grey.

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January 16 2005, 7:23 AM 

Thanks to Peter and Rainer for citing the evidence for brown Mk IVs. The news from the Australian Mk IV is very interesting indeed - and I'm going to add it to my files.

(Oddly enough my copy of "Ironclads..." is right in my line of sight at this moment! I would like to stress that this is a book jacket illustration from long after, and should not be regarded as carrying even the same weight as an Osprey colour plate).

Given the fact that a grey would be a not a-typical primer/undercoat at the time this all seems to fit, but I have to stress that I have seen no contemporary evidence in the unit diaries for anything but brown, and that this evidence is actually at its strongest just as the MK IV was entering service. Equally, I have seen no other contemporary evidence to indicate that anything other than brown was in use on heavy tanks from Arras until the prototype Mk VIII was being built at least.

Obviously, we hit a problem her with an absesnce - as yet - of the sort of hard evidence that comes in WW2, but like our colleagues the aeroplane bodgers, I feel we d have enough to be fairly certain about brown here. Rainer's description of "chocolate" brown is very useful, and tallies again with what I'd expect to see. Given the fact that Mk IIs and surviving Mk Is were brown by Arras, I see no reason to assume that Mk IVs with their battalions would be anything else.

The evidence is thin, but as far as I can tell contemporary primary source material for anything other than brown after early 1917 has yet to turn up.

Mike Cooper

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firespite 2

January 16 2005, 10:21 AM 

i think i remember reading somewhere in that BT White book that the colour plate of Firespite 2 was supposed to represent how she looked when she was painted up for a ceremonial occasion (royalty visit?). it shows her in grey with red lines and her name in red. looks really nice and i'm sure the admiralty/someone was very proud!

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Try false loopholes

January 16 2005, 7:29 AM 

Act-ually, of you want something other than lovely plain brown (and nice numbers and names) have a think about the various, occasionally extreme, examples of "false loopholes" that crop up on Mk IVs and a few Mk Vs.

At its most way out this proded one B Bn Mk IV at Passchendaele, at lesat, that looks like it has been painted in crazy paving.

On the subject of the lack of camo, its worth noting that in August 1918, 3rd Tank Brigade suggested that Whippets and Heavies might benefit from someform of painted camo. So sounds like they were both plain at that satage.

Mike Cooper

(PS - Shane, happy to share the citations to the primary sources I've mentioned)

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Wow, some amazing info there

January 17 2005, 12:23 AM 

Thanks guys, it just struck me as being a "potential" chance (if a slim one) of having an alternative. I am grateful for the confirmation of "Lodestar's" camm scheme. I think the fact that a first world war vehicle of any type still in her original colours is fantastic. And she looks Brown!And I admit using an old cheap book cover as any form of reference is blatantly stupid in this day and age but seeing that cover on "Ironclads" just fueled the suspicion there might just be a chance. It's also interesting to note that the point made about "Firespite II" being dressed up for a royal visit is also interesting as Mark Hayward in his excellent book on the Sherman Firefly gives reference and a colour plate for a Guards Armoured Division vehicle that along with others were repainted grey using captured Kreigsmarine paint for their farewell parade in 1945. So I know the connection is thin, but it has at least happened twice. Though it doesn't appear to be a standard British army practice! Rainer, thanks for the info on the interior of the AWM's MkIV. That was very interesting. I hope I don't sound too sucky here but I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you and Maxwell Hundleby for writing what I think is the finest tome on any WW1 armour ever written. I've had the honour and pleasure of being inside Mephisto so the A7V holds a special place in my heart. Great to hear from you too Mike, and keep up your good work too!
All in all, as Mike said unless some definitive primary evidence shows up and confirms it, then it is just a theory but I'd like to think that with the way the world works there is some chance as Rainer said I think, of a couple slipping through the cracks. Who knows?

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