The USSR - 1941-1945
Recently a lot of work has been done by Russian modellers and researchers, and this is presented in the excellent: Kolomiets, Maxim and Moschanski, Ilya Kamuflyazh tankov Krasnoi Armii 1930-1945 (Red Army tank camouflage 1930-1945) Moscow, Armada, 1999 (Armada Vertical 5). Available in the UK for £12.00 from Barbarossa Books - e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and now in translation .
The book is accessible to non-Russian speakers like me through even without the new translation English captions and brief summary, and is worth buying just for its excellent photos. George Hogg has pointed out that a little work with your local libraries Russian-English dictionary can go a long way, and I’d add that there are some good basic translating sites on the Internet.
What has always surprised me is that given the rigid central control of the Soviet economy at the time, modellers have gone to some pains to argue for extremes of non standardization.
The basic position on Soviet vehicles is assume green, then spot variations. The basic colours in use and documented are: 4BO, a dark olive green, 6K - very dark brown or black and 7K – a sand/ochre colour.
4BO – Dark Green, replacing what is believed to be the near identical 3B in about 1938.
Chip in official records stated in Kolomiets and Morschanski to match FS595b 34102. This is a rich dark green with some olive to it. It’s duller and a little darker than matt wartime British G3 and more grey than their SCC15, although about the same tone. George Hogg has suggested Humbrol 117, and Mike Starmer has this as a mid point, adding 150 to lighten and 116 to darken. The light extreme would be c. 4x117:3x150, the dark 3x117 to 2x116
Given Russian paint problems, and the whole dilution process used (50% volume of a thinner) its probably not wise to be over pedantic, but I think any attempt to model a Soviet tank must work around some variant of this
The official formula for this green actually seems to give a lighter colour. This is to an “Instruction on painting of 1941”. This document gives the formula for a green described as 4BO. The transcription is available at http://www.dol.ru/users/hotdog/4bo.htm
The green is based on yellow ochre (40-60%), Zinc Chromate (15-20%), white (10-20% and ultramarine (8-13%). The site notes that attempts to reconstruct it have resulted in greens approximating FS595a 34226 and 258. Both these are fairly light greens. The original document apparently states that the finish should be smooth.
Clearly there is a difference between the records chip and what you get if you use the official formula. That is assuming that the values for the paints used in attempts to reconstruct 4BO are accurate. I’m struck by the fact that all extant chips are significantly darker than the attempts to reconstruct the colour, and frankly in lieu of other evidence I prefer to trust the chips. To complicate matters Erik Pilawskii notes at http://www.geocities.com/~ipmsfortcrook/vvscolor.html that 4BO darkened with age as a result of chemical action.
Two other sources have looked at chips. In the Airfix Magazine guide Russian Tanks of World War 2 (PSL, 1977) Steve Zaloga states (without citing a source) that the KVs and T-34s sent to Aberdeen Proving Grounds and Bovington were FS24052. In Tankette 27/3 of 1992 Reinhard Ringl records chips taken from tanks in the Military Historical Museum in Vienna as being FS34095, 14062, 34089, 34096 and 34087. Some of these are of 1950s origin, but at least the match to 34095 comes from a 1945 sample. Pilawskii gives 34257 when new aging to 34095. 34257 is not far from the range indicated for an attempted mix to the original specification given above. So, from light to dark the range matched, or claiming to have matched actual paint chips is
34095 - twice
This gives a range of tones, any of which can be supported by primary evidence. Note that 50% of the “hits” are in the range 34096-087, and using crude probabilities based on an inadequate sample, a tone like 34095/096 would seem a fair bet for “in service” 4BO.
These obviously aren’t all the same colour, but with the exception of 34087, they’re all round about the range of the 4BO chip found in the records, or rather just a touch darker. Russian e-mail contacts have noted that paint was a problem, and that frankly the Red Army had better things to worry about. However we can’t conclude that any dark green will do, or that any old green at all will do, as we only have evidence from the chips referred to above. Anything else is Science Fiction.
6K or 6RP– Dark Brown. Apparently a rich dark brown or black, possibly close to 30117 in its brown state. Darker in use than 4BO, and probably subject to similar variations
7K – The name seems to translate as “Green-yellow”. This seems to have been a sand grey, again subject to a range of variations. Also referred to as Yellow Earth
Dmitriy Shumakov has told me of a 1942 official document requiring 50% of the surface area in 4BO and 25% each in 6K and 7K, but has not provided a citation. This is pretty much what photos in Kolomiets and Morschanski show for a range of vehicles early in the war.
E-mail on the Russian War Club list (kindly provided by George Hogg) states that the Russian Du-Pont Hobby firm apparently makes a set for Soviet colours. This includes “Forest Green”/4BO which matches FS34127. The kit also includes
4BG – “Light Khaki” – FS34259
“Light Sand” – FS23578
“Military Brown” – FS 30117
4BG is unique to this set as far as I know, at its presence in asset of model paints isn’t any form of historical source, but its Russian origin tends to make me want to take it seriously. The Russian War Club web pages and discussion group refer to T-26s using a four colour scheme of 4BG, 4BO, and what are presumably 6K and 7K in Iran. Reference to Modelist-Konstruktor 5/99 indicates that black may have been used instead of 6K (they’re pretty close anyway in some instances) and that the vehicles were of 53rd Army. If it’s out there, then 4BG may be indistinguishable from 7K in black and white photos. 34259 is a light olive green. The “Light Sand” and “Military Brown” seem to be 7K and 6K. Kolomiets and Moschanski state that different military districts were to use different combinations of colours and note that Moscow, Leningrad and others down to the Caucasus were to use three colours over 4BO. They give “dark brown, light sand and yellow brown” as the colours, but note that only 4BO, 6K and 7K were available in any quantity by the end of 1941. It does seem possible that either the light sand or the yellow brown here could be 4BG, but 34259 is only a sand by some stretch of the imagination., and its not a “yellow brown”.
US supplied vehicles retained their Olive Drab, although apparently a few Lees were supplied in a sand colour (Michulec, Robert Armor battles on the Eastern Front (2) Concorde, 1998 (Armor at war Series 7020)). What this might have been is a mystery as the author does not state a source for his information, although a photo in Kolomiets and Morschanski ‘s Tanki Lend-Liza 1941-45 (Zksprent [sic], 2000 p. 14) does show a very temptingly light Lee The British asked to have all lend lease stuff in Olive Drab, even if they re-painted it themselves, and this may mean that vehicles were supplied to the Brits in US desert colours - Fred Weisfelt (see US section) says that Lend Lease vehicles to the UK were in Light Earth, which he matches to Humbrol 94. These Lees could have been this colour, but without photos it’s not possible to be sure. British Light Stone is another possibility if the tank came via the Middle East.
British AFVs were generally supplied in Khaki Green G3, which Mike Starmer understands that the Russians preferred. However, the fact they preferred it to something else and the fact that at least one Valentine was photographed in Russian in a near perfect MTP46 two tone scheme may well mean that they had brown (SCC2) vehicles too.
ã Mike Cooper, 2004