Germany - 1939-1945
For many years the standard work was the three volume set Panzer Colours by Bruce Culver and Bill Murphy (Arms and Armour Press: 1976, 1979 and 1984. This drew on wide archival research and contact with veterans and an earlier compilation from 1957. Panzer colours is a seductively gorgeous work – well produced with excellent use of photographs and colour plates. Having been lent the three volumes, I can testify to it’s appeal, and it is in many ways the progenitor of many of the current series of illustrated armour books. However, my Wehrmacht modelling friends tell me that this has come in for some revision and is not now regarded as 100% reliable. The main areas for criticism seem to be its treatment of late war schemes, and interior colours Sadly, as yet nothing has completely taken its place, although gossip on the ‘net suggested that Hillary Doyle and Tom Jentz were working on what would be this generation’s definitive work on the topic - a new volume of Panzer Colours said to be due in 2000. This may have been apocryphal, as a fourth volume of the Polish series of the same title did appear.
Meanwhile a new German language book has appeared: Denecke, Johannes Tarnanstriche des deutchen Heeres 1914 bis heute Bernard und Graefe Verlag, 1999. Although my contacts suggest that this is marred – perhaps fatally so – by its failure to quote sources this does apparently offer some new insights into German practice. I’ve yet to see a copy, and I’d like to thank Rob Lockie and Jari Lievonen for bringing this to my attention. More recently still Tomas Chory has produced Camouflage colours: Wehrmacht Heer, 1939-45 (Olomouc: Aura Design Studio, 2000 ISBN: 80-902634-1-0) This uses the primary sources very closely, and actually includes attempts to match colours from the WW2 RAL rather than post war versions. As such it demands close attention, and seems to have clarified some of the problems raised by Panzer Colours attention. Conclusions paralleling Chory’s have appeared on the Internet, but without supporting evidence. These are at http://www.miniatures.de/html/ita/colourRAL.html
I can’t help feeling that where British AFV modelling has been a victim of ignorance and obscurity until recently, German AFV modelling has been a victim of its own success, at least as far as colours are concerned. It is very easy to find attractive schemes, and to find “expert” texts and off the shelf paints. I suspect that this has led to a number of circular arguments. “They used Dark Yellow. Tamiya produce dark yellow. X in Mil. Mod. says he used Tamiya dark yellow. Therefore German tanks were the same colour as Tamiya dark yellow”. As many of the experienced and expert modellers working in this field haven’t always produced texts with indications of their sources, its easy to see how problems in logic and historiography creep in. This is compounded by creep introduced in translation and by taking actual German colour names too literally.
1935 – According to Panzer Colours this year saw the adoption of a two tone scheme of 33% of the surface area in an unspecified dark green over dark grey. Chory gives the colours as “Dunkelgrau” and “Dunkelbraun” introduced by HM1937 nr.340 – the two colours were RAL7021 and 8017. The compliers of www.miniatures.de state that this was actually RAL7016 Antrazitgrau with RAL 8002 Signalbraun, but as they cite no sources I have to prefer Chory, who does. RAL7021’s actual title varies in secondary sources, and it seems confusing to call it anything other than Panzer Grey. This was a very dark grey with some hint of blue. Chory suggests Humbrol 182 a now defunct colour called “Black grey”. RAL 8017 is a very dark red brown. Restayn notes that RAL 6006 Feldgrau continued in use on softskins into the War – www.miniatures.de say it was the old Great War colour RAL7009 Feldgrau Nr.2. Cory has it as Feldgrau Nr3.
Chory shows RAL 6006 as a very dark green with a hint of grey, matching descriptions from writers on WW1 – his suggestion of 5xHumbol 117 and 1 x33 is not unreasonable, Table 2 gives my attempt at a FS595a match. Neil Barker has reported to me a colour photo of a Panzer IV in a very green-grey in wartime. It looks like there is room for interpretation here, as the tone apparently varied, and a dark grey primer was also used and as Luftwaffe vehicle used the very similar RAL7016 Blaugrau/Fliegerblaugrau.
1939 – By the Polish Campaign plain “Panzer Grey” overall becomes standard. This is codified in HM 1940 Nr.864 of 31.7.40. I’ve seen nothing from 1939 in photographs to suggest that any significant number of vehicles had another tone on them anyway. Very dark red brown camouflage painting may have been more common that black&white photographs suggest.
1941 – HM1941 Nr.1128 of 18.11.41 authorised white for winter use.
1942 – Culver and Murphy note fairly widespread use of and earlier dark green over Panzer Grey, and suggest the possibility that the old dark brown was in use too. Again, the low contrast between the colours makes it difficult to be certain, but if the brown was in use, then it was a darker brown that the usual tone for the post 1943 red brown. It is interesting to note though that both the later camouflage tones were very dark in their raw state. Patterns seem very varied, and come both hard and soft edged. It is not clear why this should be done. Plain Panzer Grey was always a pretty radical option – everyone else who used a plain colour used a dark green or brown of some form, and perhaps crews felt too exposed in plain vehicles. Camouflage has often a little psychology to it. Note that the move was not to an appreciably lighter finish at this stage, and seems to have been made by units themselves rather than from above. Chory says that it was RAL 6007 Grun, which he’s also spotted in use later ….
1943 – February – HM 1943 181 institutes RAL7028 Dunkel Gelb. This was to be used over the existing grey base on extant vehicles, and as a base tone in the factory over primer. It’s clearly an important colour, but oddly one that is quite difficult to pin down. It had been variously described as “sand” and as a “grayish mustard” in some secondary sources. I’ve seen surviving samples of what is presumably this colour (e.g.. on Bovington’s King Tiger and Springer and on some fortifications in the Channel Islands) suggest a warmish sand very close to Humbrol 94. Odd snippets of US colour film from 1944-45 show a paler greyer tone. Interestingly on some black and white photos plain 7028 looks very strong, contrasting a lot with white – an effect noted for British Light Stone when fresh. Clearly, we should expect variations in field applied 7028, and we should also perhaps the factory colour to be more solidly done.
David Bryden, working on the basis of primary research by Doyle and Jentz (yet to be published) states that 7028 is matched almost exactly by Xtracolour 809 RAL7027. This is a light-medium dull grey sand/beige close to FS595a 30372, possibly close to Humbrol 84 and definitely not the colour I’ve seen. There simply isn’t enough yellow in it. Tomas Chory points to distinct variations within RAL7028, and suggest mixes to meet the samples he’s seen. Here the moral is not that RAL7028 was any colour you choose, but that it varied, and one option the modeller has is to try to depict an known variant, or to match a particular primary source.
HM 1943 181 stated that two camouflage colours to be used over RAL7028 – RAL6003 Olivgrun and RAL 8017 Dunkelbraun/Schokoladenbraun. Chory and Panzer Colours states that the green was definitely not the 1935 green, but was lighter and of Luftwaffe origin. As modellers are well aware these were daubed, brushed or sprayed at unit level, and the resulting colours varied a lot as the pastes were diluted. This is not to say that they were ANY colour, but that they varied a lot. David Bryden says that Xtracolour 806 and 807 are fair enough matches for these two colours, but doesn’t state in what condition. The extremes for both would seem to be a dark olive green and a rich chocolate brown with a light olive and rust at the other. Mixes from the ‘web and Chory are Humbrol 105 for the green and 160/177 for the brown. I fancy something close to British SCC1a for RAL8017
1944 – August – “Ambush” Pattern, factory applied becomes standard. Two things are worthy of note here – one, as Alan Boughey has pointed out, is a move to an overall darker appearance and the other is that whilst unit application gave great flexibility, it used time and effort moving paint and materials and it was also un reliable. Ambush is one of the most attractive schemes anyone has put on a tank (British Caunter, for my money is THE most attractive), but as modellers know it is very hard to get right. You can’t do it in a cold wet Polish field with the Sturmoviks only 10 minutes away!
1944 – October 9 – order given to use thinner paint. No citation is given for this and it doesn’t appear in Chory
1944 – October 31– OKH says all vehicles to leave the factory in primer, with brush painted hard-edged Olivgrun and Dunkelgelb ambush patterns. Primer was RAL 8012 – matched by Bryden to a little darker than Humbrol 113. Chory’s mix uses Humbrol 107, WW1 Purple with 133. This is red oxide primer, and it may be helpful to note Mike Starmer’s mix for BS381c (1930) Red Oxide 46 - 18pts 133, 2pts 20 1pt 9. If no Dark Yellow available “Feldgrau” can be used sparingly. This seems from Bryden’s usage to be a synonym for Panzer Grey, but as I’ve not seen the original text, and as there are indications of a separate colour of that name in use I think caution may be advised. Chory has no mention of an official move towards what he calls “Oxidrot”, but notes it happening anyway.
Again no citation.
1944 – November 31 – RAL6003 to be base tone – note that this results in a base green which does seem markedly darker than what most of us would expect from a colour we usually see only as overspray. Hard edged Red Brown and Dark Yellow overpainting. Chory quotes and reproduces HV1945 Nr.52 “Anstrich des Heeresgerats” of 2nd January ’45 as establishing this
1945 – Winter/Spring – Reversion to Dunkelgelb base tone. However, Chory notes that there was never a full switch away from it, as manufacturers continued to use RAL7028 as it was what they had, in spite of HV1945 Nr.52
As with exteriors this is by no means straightforward, and I’d urge you to refer to David Bryden’s WebPages and Chory’s excellent book.
1939-1942 – Upper parts of interior RAL 1001 Ivory and lower parts RAL 7009, a grey green. Bryden matches Ivory to Humbrol 74 plus some white. Chory says 10x71+1x63 – rather warmer. The Grey Green is Humbrol 115, noted at www.miniatures.de as RAL7033 not 7009.
1942 – Late 1942 – Grey Green areas to be left in primer (RAL8012). No citation for this is given in any of my sources
1944 – August – Interiors to be bare primer.
Here things putter out into a great deal of confusion in my secondary sources, with mutual inconsistency and no way to separate them. I’m relying on Tomas Chory as stated above.
1941 – The DAK land in Panzer Grey. This is horrible, so they daub their tanks pretty fully in mud in embarrassment at the smart Caunter pattern British tanks (which are just about to stop being Caunter anyway).
1941 - HM 1941 281 institutes a two tone tropical scheme of a RAL 8000 Gelbbraun/Grunbraun base with 1/3 overpainting in RAL 7008, described by Culver and Murphy as “Grey Green” and by Steve Zaloga as “Graubraun”. According to www.miniatures.de this is “Graugrun” or “Khakibraun”. The mix quoted on the web for 8000 is Humbrol 118+93. I’ve come close to Chory’s chip and colour photos with 26 and a touch of 118, but in bright sunlight it could pass for 26. 7008 is very like raw Revell 86 in artificial light, but in sunlight it’s browner
Panzer Colours say that the British captured a Panzer 1 command tank in overall 7008, and it may be that a. they noted it as grey-green and b. that this is the vehicle, now much repainted in Bovington. Its use seems relatively un-common, but where it shows up it appears as a medium tone contrasting moderately in tone with the 8000 base. An analogy might be to consider faded British Slate 34 on a Light Stone tank.
From Panzer Colours, my impression was that when photographed in desert conditions RAL 8000 doesn’t show up as much darker than British Light Stone or SCC11b (“Desert Pink”), but on the basis of RAL evidence was noticeably browner than Light Stone and much darker – too dark to be useful. I think Panzer Colours have transposed the two.
1942 – HM 1942 Nr.315 of 25 March introduces a base of RAL 8020 Braun with 1/3 overpainting in RAL7021(Grau). Fighting was mainly in western end of Libya, which is very pinky sandy coloured and it seems that 8020 was a warm sand/sandy pink. This has been authenticated from both veteran’s accounts and surviving paint (inside Bovington’s Kettenkrad) to 3pts Humbrol 94 to 1pt Humbrol 61 Flesh. 61 is one of the most horrible flesh colours marketed, but here it produces something not dissimilar to the British SCC11b “Desert Pink”. Chory has 5xHumbrol63+1x93+1x61 – rather stronger, and very like SCC11b, which it seems to resemble in black and white photos.
7027 was 5x110+1xwhite according to Chory, and its a dull grey brown.
What puzzles me about 8020, is why illustrators have chosen to show it as a brown, and darker than RAL8000.
It’s worth noting that apparently Desert finished vehicles got sent to Russia before the appearance of Dunkelgelb, so if its apparently “sand” with a 1942 date, then you could have either 8020 or 8000.
Panzer Colours notes Allied reports that some – perhaps not many – Tigers and Panzer IIIs in Tunisia were an overall medium olive green – perhaps RAL 6003 which was available from Feb.1943. It’s also noted that vehicles finished according to HM 1943 181 also appeared. I’ve seen no confirmation of the former.
Most secondary sources note use of captured British and “borrowed” Italian paint, either on their own or in mixes, but I’ve yet to see a primary source proving this. Italian colours would be an obvious option, and British paint could have been lifted in Tobruk and elsewhere. However, Mike Starmer is very sceptical about the quantities of the latter available “forward”.
References: Zaloga Eastern Front, op.cit.; Zaloga et al. Stalin’s Heavy Tanks 1941-1945… Concord, 1997. (Armor at War 7012).; Ledwoch, Janusz Afryka 1940-1943 Wlochy 1943-1945… Wydawwnictwo Militaria, 1996 – this apparently uses Panzer Colours for its German notes, but the absolute inaccuracy of its comments on British colours means that it may need to be treated with care. Jentz, T, Doyle H and Sarson, P King Tiger heavy tank 1942-1945 Osprey, 1993 (New Vanguard 1)
Restayn, Jean Les Camouflages Allmands…. Steelmasters 39 and 41.
Two websites: http://bryden.com/panzers/Colours and http://www.islandnet.com/~paulie/articles/references/notgrey.html and to that quoted above. There are a number of thriving WW2 German AFV discussion lists, and I’ve noted good links and some attractive camouflage illustrations at http://www.mo-money.com/AFV-news/
Alan Boughey, Chris Lloyd-Staples, Mike Starmer, Richard Marks and Neil Barker gave a lot of excellent and much appreciated help with this bit.
ã Mike Cooper, 2004