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Service Colour
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In the course of some recent research, I have been looking at pre-WW1 paint mixes for British Army vehicles.† I can roughly interpret most of the mixes given but cannot arrive at any idea as to "Service Colour".† The mixes are given as dry pigments mixed by weight and liquid media mixed either in gallons and quarts or in pounds and ounces.† This makes them very awkward to interpret as the relative densities of the dry pigments are unknown to me and the mere proportions by weight are thus misleading.

Has anyone come across Service Colour?† If so, do you know whether it is grey or brown and whether it is light or dark in tone?

Gordon McLaughlin

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Gordon,

'Service Colour' is given in British War Department documents, published inter-war just prior to WWII,†as 'Deep Bronze Green' (British Standard Colour No. 24 of 1931). Though†it†may not be the same colour you refer to. Your reference to a pre-WWI colour is very interesting. Can you please give more details?

Cheers,
Mark.

-- Edited by Mark Mackenzie at 04:18, 2007-05-26

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Legend

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The RA used to have something referred to as "The colour" which was a grey blue (or a blue grey) applied to all wooden gun carriages, limbers caissons etc. It may have also applied to other horse drawn vehicles. I've seen an illustration suggesting that it may also have been applied to some of the first army steam lorries in about 1903. However I thought that this had been replaced by brown or greenish paint by 1914

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The paint mixes that I've been looking at are given in the Handbook for Military Artificers, 1910 and are the same in the 1915 issue which differs in some other respects.

The colour for artillery carriages, engineer transport and other transport vehicles is described as Lead Colour and is a straightforward mixture of white (white lead) and black (lamp black).† The instructions say that a lighter colour can be mixed by reducing the amount of black used.† In the notes for this colour in the 1915 edition, it is said that this colour is not used on SA Ammunition carts and wagons which are painted in Service Colour.† The 1910 edition says that they are painted brown.† The notes for Service Colour in both editions say that it is used only on small arm ammunition carts and wagons.† This might suggest that Service Colour was a shade of brown but might equally mean that the colour used on these vehicles had changed.† The standard of proof reading in both editions is poor and odd details have not been corrected so either interpretation might be valid.

The complete mix for Service colour is this.

Ground white lead† 38lbs
Stone ochre† 26lbs 8ozs
Burnt Turkey Umber† 9lbs 8ozs
Ground lamp black† 12ozs
Prussian blue† 12ozs
Patent driers† 9lbs 8ozs
Raw linseed oil† 2 galls 1 quart
Turpentine 3.5 quarts (ie 7 pints)

This mix produces 1cwt of colour.

A second mix is given for Waterproof Service Colour for Canvas Covers.† This is the same as the mix above except that the proportions have changed slightly and the raw linseed oil and turpentine are replaced by boiled linseed oil, yellow soap and water.

In all, there are 16 mixes covering 8 colours.†

The problems in working out what colours these mixes produce are that the densities of the dry pigments†are not known so that the actual volumes used are unknown and the effect of the liquid media on the final colour is not known.† It appears that the media used affect the final colour to some extent because they are not colourless in themselves and I think that this accounts for the change in the pigment proportions in the waterproof mix where the liquid media are different.

Gordon McLaughlin


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Gordon,

Great†information, thanks very much! It kind of reminds me of PC10, which was also given as a recipe. I would have thought that orche, being yellow-red, and blue mixed together would have made a brown-green colour.

Does the handbook mention†"khaki green" or any of the desert colours?

Cheers,
Mark.

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The problems in interpreting these colours are the same as those involved with PC10.† There, too, dry pigments were used and the liquid media used affected the final colour.† Fortunately, it was possible to mix PC10 from the original mix for use in restoring preserved aircraft in museum collections and so the colour is broadly established.† As far as I know, this has not been done with land colours.

The handbook gives mixes for eight colours and†does not always specify their use.† Some of the paint mixes are highly specialised but others might be used for almost anything.† The colours are Lead (grey), Stone, Service Colour, Red, Black, White, Chocolate and†Green.† Of these, only Stone seems definitely to be intended for concealment.† The red pigment used is Venetian Red which is a brownish colour akin to rust red.† The green pigment is Brunswick Green which is rather too blue in hue to be a camouflage colour.† Chocolate might be a camouflage colour but its use is not given.

There are two mixes for Stone Colour.† The first is this.

Ground white lead† 4lbs
Stone ochre† Ĺoz
Turkey umber† 1oz
Patent driers† 6ľoz
Raw linseed oil for mixing† 1lb 6ozs.

Notes accompanying this mix say,"The colour may be varied by the quantity of Turkey umber employed.† A common stone colour can be made without adding ochre."† This suggests that the colour is not intended as a fixed standard colour and this impression is strengthened by the notes for the second mix.

The second Stone Colour mix is intended for use on the shields and barrel casings of Maxim guns.† The mix is this.

Ground white lead† 1lb 2ozs
Burnt umber† 1.33ozs
Spruce ochre† 6ozs
Patent driers† 2.67ozs
Varnish, gold size† 1/8th pint
Boiled linseed oil† 1/6th pint
Turpentine† 1/6th pint.

The notes say that this will be enough to apply one coat to the barrel casings of eight Maxim guns.† One pound of this mix will coat the front surface of the shields of eight guns.† The notes also say,"The colour of the paint may be varied to suit local conditions, such as background &c."† This strongly suggests that it is regarded as a camouflage colour.† The high proportion of white lead would make this a very pale colour and it would be reasonable to think of it as a desert colour.†

The notes refer to varying the shade of the Lead, Stone, Chocolate and Green paints but don't say what the Chocolate and Green were to be used for.

There is nothing in the instructions to indicate whether the paints were matt or gloss in finish and there is no reference to varnishing them although mixes for clear varnishes are given.† Camouflage and concealment are not specifically mentioned.† The 1915 edition says that vehicle markings are to be applied in white; the 1910 edition doesn't specify a colour.

I don't know when the first edition of the handbook was issued.† It is quite possible that these colours are Victorian in origin although they appear in the 1915 edition without change.† Surprisingly, the 13pr and 18pr field guns are mentioned in relation to the lettering of their carriages and ammunition wagons but the only colour mentioned for artillery carriages is Lead Colour.† I have always thought that these guns were finished in dark, gloss green rather than grey.

Gordon McLaughlin


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Gordon,

Excellent information. I have just looked, and there is a copy of the Handbook in the AustralianWarMuseum library so will try and borrow on inter-libray loan if they allow!

The ingredients of US Olive Drab are known to be Ochre and Lamp Black. The samples that I have seen that are claimed to be Olive Drab all show a dark green colour with a hint of brown. So I guess Service†Colour might be similar but probably even more green given the blue content.

Have you seen the excellent New Vanguard books by Dale Clark on WWI artillery? He has a short section section on Camouflage in which he states that:

The 1900 handbook for the 15-pdr Ehrhardt specified that it should painted with two coats of khaki colour, applied thinly and evenly over the surface, avoiding elevating screws and bright parts.Khaki was a light browny-green, which started to replace traditional British artillery grey from 1891. It should be noted, however, that some colour sketches by J.C. Walford (an RFA officer), in the possession of the Royal Artillery Histrorical Trust, show an overall blue-grey in use during WWI and there is a distinct possibility that this represents a survival of the traditional British artillery grey, at least with some batteries, as late as 1917. Photographs suggest that markings were always applied in white.

During WWI mid-green came into use for artillery and other equipment. When examined recently, a limbered wagon built by the Royal Carriage Department was found to have been painted mid-to-dark- green at the time of its construction in 1916. It was difficult to determine the original colour and finish, as the lead whitener used in paints of the period blackens over time, but it is known that Light Brunswick green and Dark Brunswick green were the most widely used colours in Royal Engineers camouflage parks during 1917-18. Large patches of dark 'service' brown were subsequently applied over the green to produce a camouflage effect, and a mid-green/dark brown camouflage pattern is consistent both with a scheme shown in Walfords sketches, covering 1915-17, and interpretation of some monochrome photographs of field artillery on the Western Front during the same period.

All the armies on the Western Front experimented with complex multi-colour dazzle camouflage patterns. The darker colours in the dazzle schemes were probably service brown and green or khaki, but Walfords blue-grey also appears as part of a disruptive scheme. Very bright stripes or irregular patches are to be seen in photographs of some British artillery of 1917-18. As some bold schemes were tried, and some battlefields were on chalk, it is possible that the bright stripes or patches are white, although another possibility is a light creamy sand. This was the earliest paint colour found on the BL 15-pdr displayed at HM Royal Armouries, when the gun was undergoing restoration, and also the latest colour to be found on the limbered wagon described above.

I am guessing Clarke got the service colour wrong and that it is in fact†the green and that the dark brown is the Chocolate in the handbook.The only colour missing from the handbook is the so-called khaki or khaki-green.
There is also a short section on camouflage colours in BT Whites British Tank Markings and Names, in which he refers to khaki green as

Armoured cars used by the Royal Naval Air Service in 1914-15 were generally finished in a light or medium shade of naval grey. An exception was the Royal Marine Artillery Anti-Aircraft Brigades Pierce-Arrow armoured cars (with 2pdr. pom-pom AA guns) supplied in 1915; these were painted Daimler khaki-green, in accordance with Admiralty specifications.

Cheers,
Mark.



-- Edited by Mark Mackenzie at 04:21, 2007-05-27

-- Edited by Mark Mackenzie at 04:22, 2007-05-27

-- Edited by Mark Mackenzie at 04:34, 2007-05-27

-- Edited by Mark Mackenzie at 04:35, 2007-05-27

-- Edited by Mark Mackenzie at 05:33, 2007-05-27

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Thanks for the extract from the Osprey book.† I haven't seen this series but I'll look out for them.

On the subject of Service Colour, I have a copy of BS987 of 1942 which includes a colour swatch labelled Service Brown.† This is simply one of the SCC browns with a coat of gloss varnish applied over it.† Surprisingly, it is very similar to the Humbrol gloss enamel, No. 2 in their range I think, called Service Brown.† It may be that the term Service Colour acquired a different meaning in later years.†

I was prompted by your reference to Olive Drab and your earlier reference to PC10 to look again at the pigments in PC10.† The main pigments in PC10 are Ochre and Lamp Black in the ratio 17 to 1 by weight.† The same pigments occur in Service Colour in the ratio 35 to 1.† This would suggest a lighter, yellower colour than PC10.† Both PC10 and Service Colour contain Prussian Blue but SC also contains a quantity of Burnt Umber which is a mid brown which might make it even less green than PC10.† In addition,†the main pigment in SC, by weight, is white lead.† In fact, the white lead weighs slightly more than all the other pigments combined.† This might produce a paler yellow-brown when compared with PC10.† On the other hand, this is all guess work and the colour might be nothing like that.

On the general subject of vehicle colours, it would be interesting to know how colours were specified and "announced" in WW1.† I gather that Army Council Instructions (ACIs) were used in WW2 to announce colour changes and I wonder if something similar existed in WW1.† Alternatively, it may be that the List of Changes was used.†

Which edition of the Handbook does the AWM have?

Gordon McLaughlin

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Gordon,

Apologies for the late reply (I have weekend access only). The Aust. War Memorial library link is:

http://www.awm.gov.au/firstopac/

They have the 1915 edition. The 1910 edition is available from www.bookfinder.com for $100 ... I could have sworn I saw a 1915 edition last week as well.

It is a pity the WWI colours have been overlooked. Besides ACI's,†painting instructions†were also given in General Orders (Middle-East, India etc), Routine Orders†and Military Training Phamplets. These are in The National Archives in UK but are hard to locate without going there in person.

Interesting on the Humbrol paint and Sevice Brown. Have you seen the books by Mike Starmer yet on WWII colours?

Cheers,
Mark.



-- Edited by Mark Mackenzie at 16:19, 2007-06-01

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Thanks for your message.

I haven't seen any of Mike Starmer's work as I've been rather out of touch with the subject of WW2 colours.† It was a subject that I researched in the late 1970's and I wrote one or two articles in Centurion on camouflage and markings. I gather that Starmer has sorted out the colours used in the Caunter camouflage which† is good going.† I'll look out for his books.

I was looking at the AWM site yesterday and came across a couple of watercolour paintings of MT.† It's never a good idea to rely on these paintings as the artist often modifies colours to suit his purposes† but I was interested to see that one showed the lorries† in brown and the other showed them in grey although the† colours of the tilts varied.† The only colour photograph that I know of shows a light brown.†

As I live in Northumberland, I can't get to the PRO, IWM or most other national research facilities.† Thank heaven for the Internet!

Gordon McLaughlin



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Gordon,

Besides the AWM art, there†are also cigarette cards that often appear on ebay and show AFV in colour. Some of these from a google search are:

http://www.diggerhistory.info/images/equipment/wmilmotors.jpg

and this one:

http://website.lineone.net/~lizbamji/wonz01.jpg

these show mult-national as well as British so you have to know your stuff!

Can you please provide further details on the articles that you did for Centurion? Were these UK or Nth African colours?†Also what is the reference book for the colour photo that you mention?

Cheers,
Mark.

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I thought I had the answers to your questions at my fingertips.† Instead, I can't find my copies of Centurion and the list that I had has likewise disappeared.† The articles were no great shakes, dealing with points of detail for the most part.

The colour photograph appears on a web site and I had the URL stored on the computer but seem to have deleted it accidentally.† I have found the site again and the URL for the relevant page is:

http://www.greatwardifferent.com/Great_War/Marne_Color/Marne_Color_10.htm

It shows an ambulance in overall brown and a single decked Daimler bus in civilian colours with a red cross on a white disc painted near the side door.† The site in which the pictures appear is well worth visiting and has some fascinating material in it.

Gordon McLaughlin


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Legend

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Hi thought this might be of interest....service colour?

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Very interesting photographs.

What colour is it?† I can't make it out.

Gordon McLaughlin

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Legend

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Gordon McLaughlin wrote:

Very interesting photographs.

What colour is it?† I can't make it out.

Gordon McLaughlin



Hi Gordon unfortunatly your guess is as good as mine but i think it may be meant to represent stone colour but without talking to the people who did the restoration its all guess work, the pictures were taken at† "The Leyland Vintage Commercial Museum", not by me I might add these came from a truck enthusiast site something that turned up when I was looking for info on Thornycroft trucks......its apparantly on loan from "The British Motor Industry Heritage Trust"......mostly it looks to me like the greenish colour used on the Wills cigarette cards.....

I also think that the "original colour pictures" on "The Great war in a different light" Website may be tinted pictures not originally using colour plates.....

Cheers


-- Edited by Ironsides at 13:01, 2007-07-17

-- Edited by Ironsides at 13:05, 2007-07-17

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Legend

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Hi Gordon I thought it might be an idea to see if the pigments for the recipe for service colour is actually available, the problem really is in identifying the actual pigments used rather then the fineness or density since different mines will give different shades of colour...
I†e-mailed kremer Pigment well known specialists in the field† of colour restoration and here is†their reply apparantly from Dr kremer :

Dear Sir,
The asked pigments are naturally occuring pigments. There is a certain width in the hues which might have been covered with these names.
We offer:
for Burnt Turkey Umber
40710 Burnt Turkey Umber
40720 Burnt Turkey dark Umber
40723 Burnt Turkey Umber, Typ B
40730 Burnt Turkey Umber, reddish, light
for Stone Ochre:
40194 Ochre from Poland
40200 Ochre Avana
40210 Ochre German
40220 Ochre Italian
40231 Brown Ochre
Best regards
Dr. Kremer
KREMER PIGMENTE GmbH & Co. KG
GeschšftsfŁhrer Dr. G. Kremer
Hauptstrasse 41 47, DE 88317 Aichstetten Germany


the rest of the pigments are no problem, however from the list above a wide variety of final colours and†shades would result .....

heres a table†I worked out based on proportions of pigment:

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† approx %†††††kremer No
16.150 kg ground white lead†††††† 50%††††††††††46003
11.262 kg stone ochre†††††††††††††††35%††††††††††40231†††††††††††††††††
4.037 kg burnt turkey umber††††† 13%††††††††† 40710
0.212 kg ground lamp black††††††† 1%††††††††††† 47250
0.212 kg prussian blue†††††††††††††† 1%††††††††††† 45200
4.037 kg patent driers
10.125 ltr raw linseed oil
3.93 ltr turpentine
318 grms pigment= appox 1%

Assumes 425 grm per pound wieght and 4.5 ltr per gallon i also believe colour charts are available.....

Cheers


-- Edited by Ironsides at 22:26, 2007-07-17

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Legend

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Hi sorry got the conversions for wieghts wrong should be 454grms to the pound add 6.3% for the correct kg wieght this doesnt however effect the proportions or the resultant colour

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Gordon:

Today I tried producing the WWI colours following the mixes given in the "Handbook for Military Artificers". The paint I used was acrylic with names corresponding to the pigments given in the handbook. Very crude I know!

The five camouflage colours in the handbook are Lead, Stone Colour, Service Colour, Chocolate and Brunswick Green. (excluding black, white and red and alternate varnish mixes etc for the above colours). The lead and green are self explanatory. The Stone Colour paint turned out to be similar to 1930 B.S.381C Portland Stone i.e. a light yellowish-brown with a green tinge. Service Colour was a brown-green colour and Chocolate was a red-brown colour ... I suspect these last two colours were similar to PC10 and PC12 respectively as the pigment ingredients are similar.

Service Colour was a surprise as I had expected it to be more Brown. The main ingredients are white, ochre, black and umber with a touch of Prussian blue. Black and Ochre together produced a Dark Green colour. The umber (a dark brown) led to the brown-green colour.

Regards,
Mark Mackenzie

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Richard (SA Military Museum)

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Hi Guys, I don't usually  get involved in forums but the following may help.  I was looking for info on Cart, water, tank Mk I. List of Changes no 12951 of 8 Dec 1901 refers to LoC 12894 in regard to painting the water cart in Service  colour.

LoC 12894 of 4 July 1905 states: With reference to numbers 10192, 10977: - In future paint of a drab colour which will be known as "Service colour "will be issued for painting all guns, carriages vehicles and stores, which hitherto been painted khaki colour.

Existing stores &c, hitherto painted khaki, at home stations, will be painted the "Service colour" at the next periodical painting.  officers concerned will therefore demand sufficient paint of "Service colour"  to meet their requirements and return to store, for transmission to Woolwich, any surplus stock of Khaki-coloured paint. The lettering of all vehicles painted "Service colour" will be in black paint. The foregoing will also apply to stations abroad when the existing stocks of khaki paint at those stations have been used up.  

 

 

  



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Hero

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Interesting post. I've been looking into colours for painting my model of a Mk1 Tank, this I've decided to paint in its original Grey scheme.

Looking around I came across a simple ratio way of organising greys. which basically went... White 2 x Black 2, White 4 x Black 2, White 6 x Black 2.

Anyhow, the reason for my posting this, is that Lamp Black when mixed with white can produce either a brownish or blueish hue depending on the manufacturer. So this is basically another variable to take account of when deciding on a final colour. 

Helen x

 



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I would look at battleship grey as this would have been the most common colour in the Royal Navy at this time.

THE OLD LANCER

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THE OLD LANCER wrote:

I would look at battleship grey as this would have been the most common colour in the Royal Navy at this time.

THE OLD LANCER


Although painting it in a Warship grey was tempting, I came to the conclusion that although being Navy led and called Landships at first, as 'Water Tanks' they would more likely be painted in either a WD Grey for Road Trucks or Railway Wagons. I feel Fosters would be more likely to use a Ministry Department Grey as apposed say the Mid Grey preferred by the Royal Navy at that time.

This is just my opinion and I don't have any evidence to support my decision. Just a feeling. confuse

Helen x



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Hi Helen,
The nearest that I've come to the colour is with Halfords grey undercoat?

THE OLD LANCER

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Richard (SA Military Museum) wrote:

Hi Guys, I don't usually  get involved in forums but the following may help.  I was looking for info on Cart, water, tank Mk I. List of Changes no 12951 of 8 Dec 1901 refers to LoC 12894 in regard to painting the water cart in Service  colour.

LoC 12894 of 4 July 1905 states: With reference to numbers 10192, 10977: - In future paint of a drab colour which will be known as "Service colour "will be issued for painting all guns, carriages vehicles and stores, which hitherto been painted khaki colour.

Existing stores &c, hitherto painted khaki, at home stations, will be painted the "Service colour" at the next periodical painting.  officers concerned will therefore demand sufficient paint of "Service colour"  to meet their requirements and return to store, for transmission to Woolwich, any surplus stock of Khaki-coloured paint. The lettering of all vehicles painted "Service colour" will be in black paint. The foregoing will also apply to stations abroad when the existing stocks of khaki paint at those stations have been used up.  

 

 

  


Richard

I realise this a quite an old thread but I would be interested in obtaining a copy of these entries on the List of Changes, particularly LofC 12894 of 4 July 1905 which is not available in the UK.

Regards

Andrew

 



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Legend

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Richard (SA Military Museum) wrote:

The lettering of all vehicles painted "Service colour" will be in black paint.

 

  

 

 


 Stating the obvious here, but in case it escaped notice, doesn't the use of black lettering imply that Service Colour must have been a relatively light hue? You would use white on a dark shade, probably also on a mid tone.

 



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