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I./JG3 During BoB


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Okay, so I was jumping around the interwebz today and found a few drawings of I./JG3 during the Battle of Britain that did not have the yellow cowling.





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This perplexed me because I thought they had yellow noses the whole time:




So my question is, what did they have? Yellow noses, standard camouflage, or a mix of both?

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I love markings questions. :)


During the early war period of 1939, about a year prior to the Battle of Britain, the Luftwaffe introduced a new camouflage which was dark: RLM 70 / 71 and the underside RLM 65.


These are the dark green Bf 109s you see during the Invasion of Poland.




Bf.109E-1 flown by 2./Igr 101, Fürstenwalde (District of Brandenburg) Germany, August 1939

These were great defensive markings, as they hid aircraft against the ground. But they weren't great offensive markings. In air to air combat, they needed something lighter, so they wouldn't be as conspicuous. So, during the winter of 1939/1940, they limited the dark part of the camo to just the upper surfaces of the aircraft. This way, the lighter underside would come up along the sides, giving it a "lower visibility profile".


At the same time, the dark camo on the top was given contrasting colors to break up the natural shape of the aircraft. This contrasting pattern was RLM 71, mixed with 02.


It's these markings (or variations of these markings) that the Luftwaffe JGs entered into the Battle of France with (Spring 1940):




Bf.109E-3 flown by 1./JG2, based in france France May 1940

At the same time, new ideas were being developed (on both a command and unit level) with regards to recognition markings. While the aircraft needed to be less conspicuous, it also needed to be quickly identified.


So, the national markings (balkenkreuz and hakenkreuz) were widened with a larger white outline. And yellow started being introduced to the aircraft. Obviously, recognition marking practices vary from unit to unit, and sometimes pilot to pilot (which is why you see so many variations), but generally, the yellow swatches could be found on the nose, on the wingtips, on the tailplane-tips and on the spinners. The most common practice though was to paint the under cowling and the rudder.


For example:




Bf.109E-4 of 9./JG26, Based at Caffiers. France August 1940

In general, these are markings that most Bf 109s entered the Battle of Britain with. And this is where the British got the idea for the mythical and supposedly elite "Yellow Nosed Bastards".


However, during the Battle of Britain, the dark tops and the light sides were found to be too easy to spot over the English Channel. And thus, the Jagdgruppen (independent of the Luftflotte command) started using captured stocks of French paint to deaden the aircraft colors, and mottle the sides of the aircraft. This practice, which again was done on the unit level (so a lot of variation), is the start of what we now know as "Luftwaffe Grey". And because of this, by late August 1940, a new camo theme starts to emerge:




Bf.109E-1 flown by Gefr.Erich Mummert, 4./JG52 shotdown on Detling aerodome 30 september 1940

Notice the darkened sides, done hastily on the ground.


Here's another version:




Bf.109E-4 8/JG2 Richthofen Le Havre france Luftlotte 3 (Battle of Britain)

This hasty mottling would soon evolve into the famous "Luftwaffe squiggle" or "tiger stripe" which you can see on other aircraft of the period.


However, you can still see the bright yellow noses on some of the aircraft.


Officially, the Luftwaffe continued to allow highly visible yellow recognition markings on the Bf 109 until the Summer of 1941, when a general order was made to all daylight fighter units to stop the practice.


However, many pilots recognized long before the Luftwaffe command did, that the bright yellow noses were just too easy for the enemy to spot. And with the changing nature of the war, some of those units took it upon themselves to self restrict (or self mute) their own offically sanctioned markings. Thus, as they deadened the sides, they also muted the nose. All well before 1941.


This is why the yellow noses are present on some aircraft, but not on others!


For example, this Bf 109F-2 from I./JG3...




...becomes this aircraft (click link), once Hans von Hahn realizes that he doesn't want to be seen:




Hope that helps!







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  • 1 year later...

So, I've done some cursory reading of JG3 "Udet" in WWII: Stab and I/JG3 and there was quite a bit of transition between the 1939 and 1940 paint schemes.  JG3 actually oversprayed their aircraft with the light blue (RLM 65?) and only painted their tails up to the horizontal stabilizer. This gave them a unique look of a darkened tip on their aircraft.  


I found it interesting.  Perhaps it's just because we're going into CloD full steam right now but I rate that book pretty high on my list in my personal collection. 

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That would make an awesome diorama!  If you have time, you should give it a shot.  Practice makes perfect.


Regarding RLM 65, yeah.  They definitely stretched it up the sides to create the "lower visibility profile" I mentioned in my earlier post.


The first two profiles in my earlier thread show a really good example of that transition.




Regarding the "darkened tip" tail plane you mention, that's one of those cool JG3isms that sometimes slip into their frontline aircraft markings. Other units had other variations, which you can pick out from time to time. I guess it all depended on the ground crew and how creative / lazy / rushed they were.


Here's an awesome example of the practice (care of Cpt. Farrel):



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Since has become a repository of Bf 109E markings, I wanted to copy over part of a discussion that happened on a private thread.


Paraphrasing the question, it was:  "When does the yellow undercowling start to appear on Bf 109s?"


Here was my answer.


During the Summer of 1940, air combat in Western Europe was intensifying. And there was a great need for instant sight recognition between German fighter aircraft. So squadrons started using more and more yellow on their aircraft. At first, this yellow was painted on at the depot or unit level. But later, this yellowing started happening at the different aircraft plants that were manufacturing the aircraft.

Either way, yellow started appearing on the wingtips, the tailplane tips, and the spinners. And most commonly, it was placed on the engine cowling and rudder in varying degrees.

This practice of "all-yellow" on the nose continued until regulations were issued in the Summer of 1941.

Basically, by 1941, they realized that the all-yellow on the engine cowling was too conspicuous. So, the yellow was parred back to only the underside of the engine.


And this "yellow undercowling" style persisted until the beginning of 1945 when it was stopped.

Of course, pilots often overdoped the yellow on their own in order to mute it.

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