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Andy Eames

French roundels on RNAS aircraft in the Dardanelles

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I read a very good article in Britain at War magazine which covered operations by Royal Naval Air Service pilots supporting the landings at Gallipoli.

It featured some good quality colour photos of aircraft flown by RNAS pilots, but they were shown wearing French roundels (red outer ring > white ring > blue circle) instead of the British pattern.

Did British warplanes carry French roundels in this theatre or might someone have recently given black and white archive photographs computer generated false colour and got the colours confused?

If they did display French roundels, does anyone know why? I think the Ottoman/Turkish roundel was red > white > red so the French roundel would be more easy to misidentify than the British one to my eye.

Finally, the article featured an amusing conversation between the senior Naval Officer and a British pilot. The Admiral wanted to know why their naval big gun fire support was always more accurate when French pilots were doing the spotting. The pilot replied sheepishly "Perhaps the French are more polite than we are?". Sounds like an officer who knew what he wanted to hear.

Thanks for any information. This is an excellent website, I'll enjoy getting to know it. The "Remembered Today" feature is very touching, God bless all of them.

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Personally, I take such reports of "amusing conversations" with a pinch of salt. The opinion of Wing Commander Charles Samson on spotting for NGS was: "...we were practically reduced to spotting for ships' fire the whole time [during the landings], and in those early days of aeroplane wireless and general lack of experience on both sides in aerial fire control, the ships generally paid little attention to our signals. ... There was little doubt that with certain ships we always seemed to get better results. Our favourites were the PRINCE GEORGE and the AGAMEMNON."

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ID: 3   Posted (edited)

As I have commented on here before, my Grandfather was a range taker on the "Aggie", nice to see his work was appreciated  :D

 

Apologies for going off topic

John

Edited by Knotty

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Joining you off topic John - my mum's father was one of "Aggie"'s torpedo gunner's mates ;)

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The first markings applied to WWI British aircraft (both RFC and RNAS) which were operating out from France was the Union Flag. However, as Ian Baker points out: "Choice of the national flag was an obvious one, but it was not a good one. For one thing, it is a complicated design to paint, even in a roughly correct form . Not only that. It is a common thing with visual perception that in shifting light and/or at a distance, colour is of less significance than shape. Also, in moments when rapid decision making becomes necessary, the fine points of a design go unheeded and our eyes register the essentials only. Unfortunately for the British flag, those essentials were a squared-off form containing a cross"... He goes on by saying: "On 26 October 1914 the Admiralty Air Department had issued an instruction that all RNAS aircraft should carry the Union Flag marking on lower wing undersides, but this instruction was not to be in effect for long. Less than two months later, on 17 December 1914, the RNAS issued new instructions requiring the marking of a red ring, five feet in diameter, with a white centre, on the wing undersides of all aircraft. The Union Flag was to continue to be carried on fuselage or rudder sides. Sometimes the new red ring marking was to be seen on the undersides of both upper and lower wings, just to make sure. Very soon this marking was starting to appear on upper wing top sides as well. Sometimes a narrow white ring outlined the red, but not always. Clearly this was a design, a shape, which recommended itself for the fact that it could never, in any circumstance, be confused with the enemy's marking. And surely there can have been no more logical choice of colours then those of the White Ensign: red and white, with white predominating". 

 

Thinking more or less the same, the RFC HQ decided to adopt (from early December 1914 and on) a marking similar to the French roundel, but with the colours reversed. Moving towards commonality of markings with the RFC, the RNAS decided to replace the red and white marking with the three-colour (blue-white-red) roundel. However, for all those RNAS aircraft in service with the red and white markings, the third colour (blue) was to be applied in the centre, as an interim solution! This also meant that the cockades on the French built Nieuport aircraft destined for the RNAS, would not have to be altered. Ian Baker writes that "With the introduction of three-colour roundels on wings and fuselages on RNAS aircraft, together with rudders stripes, Union Flag markings were no longer required, but where they were currently being worn, if not too conspicuous, they were permitted to remain". 

 

TH

 

P6216138.JPG

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How nice to see our aircraft being used as an illustration! 1264 is a recreation of my Grandad's favourite machine, using three original parts we found in his workshop after he died, and this was taken when I flew her from the exact spot on the Greek island of Thassos that he had, exactly 100 years before. The fuselage cockade is painted over the top of a Union Flag, which is what we thought had happened to 1264, though it's now clear that every one of the first batch of Scouts to arrive had different markings. Some had no wing roundels, some had overpainted Union Flags, some just had the Union Flag, some had no blue dot in the middle of the cockade. If you haven't come across it, the blog is at www.bristolscout.wordpress.com.

Incidentally, the Turkish aircraft against which Grandad flew had a black square in a white surround. This was because they were German machines that arrived fully marked up with the German Esisen Kreuz. The black square was adopted as the quickest and easiest way of overpainting the existing markings!

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On 3/6/2017 at 13:20, David Bremner said:

Incidentally, the Turkish aircraft against which Grandad flew had a black square in a white surround. This was because they were German machines that arrived fully marked up with the German Esisen Kreuz. The black square was adopted as the quickest and easiest way of overpainting the existing markings!

 

For example see http://www.tayyareci.com/digerucaklar/turkiye/ww1/albatrosc3.asp

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