There is still no definitive information

about the precise color shades applied in

1942 however, based on the available data

analysis, study of the period photographs

and factoring in the camouflage standards,

the most probable aircraft appearance can

be determined. The camouflage schemes

of the Spitfires flown off the island varied

quite a bit. Initially the most suitable color

was considered the Dark Mediterranean

Blue but due to the shortage of this paint

there were aircraft painted in different

shades of blue. The lighter shade, Light

Mediterranean Blue, originally intended for

the biplanes, was also used, then the naval

Extra Dark Sea Grey, American Blue Gray

M485 and various colors from the ships‘

stocks, initially not intended to be applied

on the airplanes. Spitfires from the later

deliveries mostly received the “Malta” ca-

mouflage either at Gibraltar before embarking or immediately upon their arrival on

the island. The quality of the paint application was rather inferior to the factory

finish. The coat of paint sometimes fully

covered the original paint work, in other

cases it was rather thin, and the original

coloration showed through so the new

coating was more of the blue filter rather

than fully covering coat of paint.

March 7, 1942

April 20, 1942

The first Spitfires that reached Malta, and

the first ones deployed outside of Britain,

took off on March 7 off the Royal Navy aircraft

carrier HMS Eagle. During the operation

code-named Spotter fifteen Spitfires

Mk.Vb were dispatched carrying 340 l (90

gal) drop tanks which enabled them to

extend their range for more than 1,000 km

(650 miles) long flight to Malta. All fifteen

Spitfires safely landed at Ta Kali airfield.

No. 249 Squadron was the first to receive

the new Spitfires and three days later, on

March 10, it flew its first combat missions

against the Ju 88 formation escorted by

Bf 109.

The oldest document promulgating the

requirement for the new camouflage for

the Spitfires delivered to Malta was the

supplement Nr. 1 to M.E. Air Movement

Instruction No. 1 dated March 30, 1942.

It stated that the Spitfires destined for

Malta were to be camouflaged in the new

scheme of Dark Mediterranean Blue on the

upper surfaces and Sky Blue on the lower

surfaces. At the same time, the No. 601

and No. 603 Squadrons personnel in Great

Britain was getting ready to be dispatched

to Malta with the full complement of 47

new Spitfires Mk.Vc (including reserves).

These aircraft were to be painted in the

new Malta camouflage but upon relaying

the instructions they were simplified to

the “sea camouflage“ which was, logically

anticipated as the camouflage applicable to

the Fleet Air Arm aircraft and the aircraft

were painted in that way at the factory.

Once this mistake was noticed at Gibraltar

the stocks of Dark Mediterranean Blue

and Sky Blue were loaded together with

the aircraft. The supplies however were

sufficient for repainting only the portion

of the aircraft to be delivered. Out of forty

seven Spitfires on board of USS Wasp

during the Operation Calendar twenty

seven were camouflaged at ASU with Royal

Navy colors, the remaining twenty were

repainted with new “Malta” colors of Dark

Mediterranean Blue and Sky Blue. The

Spitfires on board received markings in

white numerals 1 and 2 and a code lettter.

Operation Bowery. Photographic evidence

from the embarking of the Spitfires

confirms both the desert camouflage in

Dark Earth, Middle Stone, Azure Blue or

Sky and the Navy camouflage in Extra

Dark Sea Grey, Dark Slate Grey and Sky.

According to the veterans’ recollections

most of the Spitfires were repainted on

board in some kind of blue or blue-grey

color. The application of the USN colors

seems the most probable. Those are

M-485 Non-Specular Blue Gray, applied

to the upper surfaces of the twelve F4F

Wildcats assigned to the USS Wasp (CV7) CAP duties, and Deck Blue 20-B color

applied to the exterior steel deck as a part

of the aircraft carrier camouflage scheme.

There is a third option: both colors, M-485

Non-Specular Blue Gray and Deck Blue

20-B could have been applied to maintain

the upper surfaces camouflage pattern on

some Spitfires. In that manner the twotone blue-grey camouflage scheme would

have been consistent with the scheme on

the upper surfaces of the aircraft operating

on Malta at that time. The lower surfaces

color remained the standard shade of

Azure Blue or Sky. 46 Spitfires aboard

USS Wasp and 18 aboard HMS Eagle were

marked in the same way as the Spitfires

from the Operation Calendar. The white

numerals 3 or 4 on one side of the cockade

and the code letter on the other one.

An interesting event worth mentioning

occurred during the Operation Bowery

when the Spitfires took off from the USS

Wasp. After the take off in his Spitfire

BR126 X-3, the Canadian pilot, P/O Jerrold

Alpine “Jerry” Smith found out that his drop

tank was inoperable, and he was not able

to reach the airfield on Malta. He jettisoned

his tank and received order to bail out of his

Spitfire. Instead Jerry inquired about the

attempt to save the aircraft by landing it on

the aircraft carrier deck. After the captain

approved, he indeed tried to do it. His first

approach was too high and too fast however

his second attempt was successful and he

safely landed his Spitfire and stopped mere

six feet from the end of the flight deck. He

managed, as the first in the world, to land

a Spitfire on the aircraft carrier and even

without an arresting hook! For his deed

P/O “Jerry” Smith was unofficially awarded

the American Navy Wings from the flight


March 21, 1942


Two weeks later another nine Spitfires

Mk.Vb reached Malta in the same manner.

Spitfires arriving in Malta during the

operations Spotter and Picket were

camouflaged in the standard desert scheme

of Dark Earth and Middle Stone on the upper

surfaces, the lower surfaces were painted

in either Sky or Azure Blue. The lower

surfaces color depended on the factory: the

aircraft manufactured at Supermarine had

Sky, those completed at Aircraft Servicing

Units (ASU) had the lower surfaces in Azure

Blue. Upon the arrival in Malta the Middle

Stone patterns were overpainted in a grey

color which is said to have been a mixture

of various shades. The exact color of this

mixture remains unknown, but it’s believed

it was very similar to Extra Dark Sea Grey.

March 29, 1942


The rather strong contrast of the desert

camouflage colors did not seem the best

scheme for flying over the sea. Therefore,

before embarking on the aircraft carrier at

Gibraltar, the third batch of seven Spitfires

Mk.Vb had their upper surfaces overpainted

in the dark grey-blue color, probably Extra

Dark Sea Grey.


May 9, 1942


For years, based on the archive

photographs, it was speculated what color

was applied to Spitfires Mk.Vc transported

on board of the USS Wasp carrier during the