The Bottisham Blues

Above is one of an iconic set of images taken of what became known as the Bottisham Four on 26 July 1944 which features three P-51Ds and one P-51B of the 375th Fighter Squadron, 361st Fighter Group, 8th Air Force, based at Air Force Station F-374 (RAF Bottisham), Cambridgeshire, England. The photos were shot from a B-17 and were presumably for some publicity purpose as the four Mustangs weren’t on an operation at the time.

The photos evoke a sense of a freedom, a joy ride as it were, quite removed from the real purpose of these P-51’s, that being a machine necessary to prosecute the air war over Europe. None of them would survive the war. Two were lost just days later; E2-S crashed during a training mission in early August killing its pilot, 2nd Lieutenant Donald D. Dellinger and just two days later the lead Mustang E2-C, flown by the 361st’s commanding officer Colonel Thomas J.J. Christian, Jr. was lost during a dive bombing mission against the Arras railroad marshalling yards in France.

The number four aircraft was lost the following month when it crash landed following an operation in France, fortunately the pilot survived the incident. E2-A, the last of the four and the number three aircraft in the photos, survived until April 1945 when it crashed on take off in Belgium, its pilot also surviving.

Another of the images taken on 26th July, 1944. “Lou IV” was named after Christian’s wife Marjorie Lou Ashcroft Christian and was the fourth of his aircraft to be so named. As a P-51D-5-NA 44-13410 “Lou IV” can be recognised as an early “D” model by its bubble top canopy and lack of tail filet, whereas the later D models such as E2-S were fitted with the fillets to provide additional roll and yaw stability.

The images captured in that photo-shoot are an outstanding reference to historians and modellers alike, and have fostered [sometimes fierce] debate on just exactly what colours these darn things were painted for fifty years!

“Lou IV” North American P-51D-5-NA Mustang S/N 44-13410

The subject of this piece is the Mustang closest to the camera (in most of the photos), coded E2-C, flown by the 361st’s commanding officer Colonel Thomas J.J. Christian, Jr., and named “Lou IV” after his wife. “Lou IV” (the P-51, that is) had a very short operational life, being taken on as Christian’s personal aircraft in early or mid-June and being lost on operations on 12th August, 1944. During that short period of time the aircraft was very much a work-in-progress as far as its paint scheme is concerned. As best I can ascertain, what follows is a fairly accurate chronology of how “Lou IV” came to look like it did on 26th July.

Early June 1944

Throughout much of the Spring Col. Christian flew a P-51-C Mustang named Lou III. Both of these photos above must have been taken between the 6th June and early July as the D-Day stripes are still visible on the upper surfaces of the wing and fuselage – the order to remove them coming down at the end of June. Note also that the use of camouflage was already current in the squadron as evidenced in the bottom picture.

Early July 1944

By early July however, Col. Christian was flying a new P-51-D-5 named Lou IV with serial number 44-13410. We can date this photo to early July, perhaps the first week, as the D-Day stripes on the wing have been painted over but the fuselage stripe is just visible in the bottom right of frame. Note also that the Yellow nose has not been painted, nor the silver outline to the squadron code E2.

Mid July 1944

Not long afterwards, it can only have been a matter of days, Col. Christian is photographed standing in front of Lou IV and we can see some further changes to its livery; the silver outline to E2 has been applied and there is clearly a difference in the colour paint used to cover the upper portion of the fuselage D-Day stripes. The very front of the nose looks as though it’s now been painted yellow, though not in the style seen on the later photos. Interestingly, there’s a difference in the tone to the black panel in front of the windscreen upon which the Crew Chief’s name is written compared to the ani-glare panel which is certainly still the factory applied Olive Drab.

26th July 1944

By 26th July Lou IV shows the work on its appearance has continued, most notably in the application of the yellow nose, and curiously the replacement of the forward wing root panel. In comparison to the early July photos in which the black “cloud” shapes painted in black at the wing root can be seen to extend all the way to the wing leading edge, the clouds now end short of that location. A close examination of the images (which I’ll come to later) shows that the new panel is bright and shiny in contrast to the adjacent NMF panels.

But What Colour IS It?

In addition to the stunning colour images of the Bottisham Four, two of these particular Mustangs (E2-C and E2-A) are notable also for the mystery that surrounds their paintwork. I should qualify that statement; the mystery is interesting to a handful of history and modelling nerds.

By mid-1944 Mustangs were being delivered the front line units without camouflage, their only paint being the upper surfaces of the wings (painted silver as part of the manufacturing process which included filling and sanding the wings smooth to improve performance), the rudder also painted silver and the anti-glare panel on the upper nose. At some point further [green] paint was applied, there are splotches visible on the B’s and C’s in the picture above of Lou III. Clearly, the Bottisham Four [at least] were painted beyond that, and a closer examination of the photos taken 26th July indicates that Lou IV had a lot of colours going on.

Some speculative colour call outs; regardless it’s clear that there are at least five colours visible; the original green camouflage, the blue overprinting the D-Day stripes, a lighter colour over the gun barrel covers, a darker colour at the wing tip, and black in front of the windscreen.

At the end of June 1944 the order was passed down to cover or remove the upper D-Day Stripes for the wings and fuselage leaving only the undersides remaining. In the 361st it appears that the stripes were painted over rather than removed, probably because there was green paint already applied.

Principally though, the question of colour focuses on the fuselage spine where the D-Day stripes have been overpainted because it’s quite obvious that the same colour was not used as had been applied earlier. There are two different colours on the fuselage and wings, this much is quite obvious. For a long time the assumption was that it was simply a different shade of green. But was it?

Before going further, some introductions are required. Principle in this investigation’s cast of characters are two people more interested in aircraft colours than is common. The first is Dana Bell, who is one of, if not the foremost researcher into wartime paints applied to U.S. aircraft during the Second World War. In January 2018 Dana published Archival Show and Tell #7 – Not Those Blue Mustangs Again on the Hyperscale website outlining his argument that blue was used on these [and other] Mustangs in mid-1944. The second is Michael Bowyer, who like Dana, is a published author of multiple volumes, many on aircraft colours.

So, did two of the aircraft in the 26th July photos carry blue paint on their wings and fuselage…? I believe they did, yes. Here’s why;

  • Primarily, because Dana Bell says they did and I choose to believe he can tell the difference between green and blue. Dana only person I have come into contact with who has seen the original colour transparency (catalogued as K2487) held in the US Archives. Every version of these photos that I (and probably you) has seen is a reproduction of it, and as such is entirely unreliable as a definitive resource. By way of illustration in how unlikely it is that we’ve seen what the actual image looks like, here’s a selection of randomly dowloaded copies of the same photo to demonstrate the variability in the available scans… Of vital importance though, is that in every one of these copies, Lou IV is clearly painted quite differently to E2-S next to it. I’ll come back to that point later.
  • As importantly, because Michael Bowyer says 361st F/G Mustangs wore blue paint in July 1944. Michael Bowyer had the added advantage of being able to actually stand next to the aircraft in 1944, and write down what he saw in his notebooks. It’s not by accident that contemporaneous notes taken by a reliable witness are considered just about the gold standard in formal evidence. I make the assumption that Michael Bowyer could also tell the difference between blue and green, which makes his observations very important in establishing that blue was used on 361st aircraft, even if he didn’t observe blue on Lou IV specifically. Recalling a visit to Bottisham in July 1944 he wrote the following…

“Although I recorded many RAF Mustangs IIIs, my most vivid memory of the P 51s will always date from a clear, warm, sunny evening, that of July,9, 1944…   Here at hand were a clutch of three P51s, natural finished at a time when about half the USAAF aircraft had shed camouflage. These were among those Bottisham Mustangs that had acquired a most superb blue upper decking to wings and fuselage .The colour was what I described in my diary as ‘ really Royal Blue‘. I noted that it was not desecrated by the addition of invasion stripes above the main plane or wrapping around the fuselage… Finally we wandered to one of the then new , P51D-50-NAs , 413765 E9-0 already resplendent in the blue scheme.

Michael Bowyer

In addition to the eye-witness records , and accepting that in Dana’s case the eye-witness is of an original photo rather than a scan, much of the counter argument to blue centres on a belief that it’s simply not likely that blue would be used, a position that seeks to rest on its own laurels without examination. While that flies in the face of Michael Bowyer’s observation, it’s also a lazy way to argue, so I submit the following as why not blue…?

  • Why not blue? These were young men had at their disposal state-of-the-art aeroplanes which they painted up in bright colours and personalised artwork; this is fact.  It’s no stretch to imagine that some or even most of the colours and designs were simply because they thought it looked cool.  Young men are young men whatever century or decade they happen to inhabit, and there is no reason to think they wouldn’t mark up their machines with what amounted to go-faster stripes the same way I did my motorcycle when I was their age.
  • Why not blue? Clearly the camouflage effect, or lack thereof, wasn’t uppermost in anyone’s mind; the aircraft had a bright yellow nose! In addition, many had very bright coloured nose art and other designs. Other squadrons had aircraft with checkers, stripes, and other designs; these were painted in bright red, blue, green, yellow, black, etc. Using blue paint to cover the D-Day stripes wasn’t going to compromise any camouflage effect whatsoever.
  • Why Not at All? The work they were doing was terribly dangerous and very serious.  The morale boosting benefit of the artwork is well documented, it’s no stretch to imagine that this extended to all kinds of decorations like nose art, colour choice for wing tips, fins, nose cowling, etc. and even painting the gun covers a different shade of blue to the rest of the wing.
  • Why Not simply that it looked cool to the young men flying and servicing these machines.

The Case Against Blue

  • What Blue Paint? where did they get it from? Who knows? RAF stock perhaps – the shade appears pretty close to the RAF’s BS33 Blue Grey. Where the paint came from though isn’t a good argument either for or against and so should be discounted.
  • My airplane wasn’t blue. Several surviving pilots of the 361st have said their Mustangs weren’t blue and this is possibly, even probably quite true. For them, for their aircraft, when they were flying them. No one claims this was a standard application, and likely was used only a short time in July 1944. There is a story however in Dana’s “Show and Tell #7″ which I linked above that illustrates how fallible memory can be though, especially in discussions such as this one – read it, I dare you :).
  • Blue wasn’t a standard USAAF colour. True, but there are tonnes of pictures of blue-painted P-47’s so it was most certainly used as a colour applied to USAAF fighter aircraft. If it was used on only a few 361st FG aircraft in late July there’d be less opportunity for photos to show it.

Conclusion

So, where does all this leave us? Not much further than where we started, actually. The foregoing is all conjecture and no one can prove, either way, how Lou IV was painted (I must admit that I have grown tired of comments and opinions that include absolutes such as didn’t, never, wasn’t, etc., my standard response to those is now “prove it” whenever I get a comment that says they weren’t blue or were green).

This essay is just my opinion based on a study of the photographs, in reading material which is based on observation rather than assumption (but there isn’t much out there satisfying that criteria), and applying a bit of logical and even lateral thought. Ultimately my conclusion was that blue was used at least on Lou IV and Sky Bouncer (E2-A).

Lastly though, it comes back to the photo; I believe the photo below makes the use of blue practically irrefutable. This is why…

…because regardless of the image processing, regardless of image degradation after generations of scans and copies; regardless of the screen resolution, image resolution, hardware and the device used to review the image; regardless of all the other variables inherent in digital imagery, the colour on Lou IV‘s spine and antenna is absolutely not the same as the colour on E2-S, which absolutely is some shade of green. And if Lou IV‘s spine isn’t green, is not indeed the same shade of colour at all, it looks an awful lot like blue-grey to me.


Airfix 1/48 Scale P-51-D-05NA Mustang

This is my second Airfix Mustang. The first was also a yellow nosed 375th Squadron aircraft, Detroit Miss. They are good kits, fit well and have adequate detail. Eduard they are not, but they are easily on par with Tamiya and Hasegawa in my opinion.

Like all of the others though, they do require a few enhancements that satisfy some of my pet peeves about Mustang models.  While I do care more about markings and representation than “rivets”, so to speak, I will fill the panel lines on the wings because Mustang wings were smooth.

It irks me to see Mustang wings with panel lines – it’s irrational too, but I have to fill them.

In the cockpit and other interiors I intended to make just enough of a job of it to be passable (I don’t relish cockpits for some reason…). Instead I got totally absorbed and spent two evenings on the damn thing.

44-13410 wasn’t delivered to the squadron until shortly before D-Day meaning this was a relatively new aircraft in July.  Based on that I didn’t think the floor would be too scuffed up.  I guessed that some paint wear and tear would have accumulated in the cockpit in general, as well as the radios behind the pilot’s seat, so I added a bit of representative wear there too.  This latter effect was a combination of replication and representation as in scale I think we need to exaggerate a little on some of the finer details to make them pop.

I fitted the correct fin to the fuselage halves (the Airfix kit is engineered such that the modeller attaches the correct fin to the fuselage according to the version being made) and glued the cockpit to the starboard fuselage half.  As you can see, I initially painted the interior of the radiator intake yellow chromate but learned that was incorrect as the application of YZC to the fuselage interior aft of the cockpit didn’t commence until early in the -20 production.  As the YZC can [just] be seen I fixed that with a bit of brush painted aluminium before closing up the fuselage.  

Most of my time however has been spent on finishing the wings, filling panel lines and rivets.  A tedious job for sure, but in my opinion quite necessary to achieve the proper look to a P-51’s wings.  

As I did with my recent 15th FG Mustang (which was a Tamiya kit) I wanted to attach the wings after painting as it makes the fuselage in particular much easier to paint.  I also decided to use Bare Metal Foil for the NMF areas. In studying the instructions, and also in test fitting I was confident I could attach the wings later. I attached part number C01 to the wings early to give me something to hold them by, but more importantly to avoid any touch-ups later in areas that would be very difficult to mask around.  With that done, the attachment will be on seam lines in areas I am almost certainly going to use Bare Metal Foil.

I painted the wheelwell in silver and picked out the formers and main spare in Yellow Zinc Chromate. Mustangs had progressively more corrosion control applied to their wheel wells during production; starting with none at all and ending with a full application of either YZC or Interior Green. I’ve represented Lou IV as somewhere in the middle of that transition.

Painting

Mustang wings were top-coated with a silver paint out of the factory; the exceptions to this being the large square-ish panels either side of the underside centreline, the flaps and the ailerons, all of which were all left natural metal.  There was nothing unusual on Lou IV in that regard but there are some interesting things about its D-Day stripes…

The fuselage stripes don’t seem to wrap around the bottom of the fuselage, instead stopping at the bottom edge of the flanks.  In the enhanced image above, the rearmost black stripe definitely does not wrap around, and while more difficult to see, I don’t think the forward one does either.  It seems likely that the white stripes were applied the same as the black.  Further examination of the photo above leads to more interest;

  • The middle white stripe on the wings is either missing or very differently weathered than the other two, on both sides.  I think it’s there, just darker/dirtier than the others for some reason.  
  • There’s an unusual brightness to the leading edge of the radiator air intake almost as if it were chrome trimmed (I don’t think it was that though).
  • There are white(?) splotches of colour at the forward outer edges of the stabilisers, as well as the trim tabs.
  • There’s a slight mismatch to the inboard D-Day stripes on the starboard wing.
  • Whatever colour is painted on the port wingtip upper surface has over sprayed to the underside a little.
  • It’s clear on the starboard wing (and while less clear, I think also on the port wing) that the colour painted on the leading edge around the gun barrels was not overpainted with the D-Day stripes.  We’ll have to come back to that for the upper surfaces later.

The quality of the image overall is such that I’d hesitate to put much stock in other details that may or may not be present.  It appears that the black theatre ID bands on the stabilisers are quite roughly applied, and it appears as though there’s something funky with the paint going on on the port wing outboard of the D-Day stripes.  As best we can tell, the overall condition and griminess seems consistent with a relatively active P-51 albeit on active duty for only a couple of months at the time this photo was taken (assuming it was taken on 26th July with the others).

From top left and going clockwise; I was unhappy with the quality of my panel line filling.  I remade some panel filling goop with liquid glue and Mr. Surfacer 1000 and made another attempt at filling in the line.  Happy with that I painted the outer wings with Vallejo Model Air Duraluminium.  I used some Bare Metal Foil for the centre panels.  

I applied the D-Day stripes with Tamiya Acrylics and then weathered the middle white stripe with some heavily thinned medium grey.  I also applied this thinned mixture to the outer wings to begin the process of dulling the finish down to a weathered finish.  Finally I applied an initial gloss coat in preparation for the decals but before then I turned the wings over and make a start on the topsides.

Decisions, Decisions…

As mentioned above, to me it’s clear the colour I’ve labeled No.2 is blue.  I am not sure what blue it is exactly – I’ve guessed/assumed (I’m not the originator of this theory but it makes sense to me) that it’s RAF Blue-Grey BS33 or perhaps even an unfaded PRU Blue (though a little dark for the latter perhaps). There’s more though; the gun covers…

On E2*S they are clearly painted yellow, on E2*C they are clearly not.  What colour though?  First I thought maybe it was left in natural metal but it’s tone isn’t close to the unpainted fuselage so I discounted that.  In looking first at the B/W image I noted that the tone was very close to the small triangle painted to the upper right of “Lou IV”.  A closer comparison between the images above, and a third colour image from above, leads me to think it could well be some light or medium blue colour.  The only reason for this I can think of is simply an artistic one – there’s no operational reason for a light blue colour there, and to be honest it seems a bit far fetched, but I can’t come up with another colour that satisfies the tonal qualities in the B/W image.  Other colours I considered were yellow but it doesn’t match the yellow cowl; perhaps red, but it doesn’t match the red in the letters of Lou IV.

Colour 5 seemed obvious to me; a comparison of the known black of the D-Day stripes and squadron codes with the area at the wing root and forward of the windshield convinces me they are all the same colour, black.  

What of Colour 4?  Well, I was a bit stumped on this one…  

I’m wondered is this is simply an artefact of the light on the wing but there does seem to be a clear colour demarkation at the wing tip?  I can’t find a match to its tone anywhere else in the image and if I can’t come up with a theory that I can convince myself makes sense, I’ll leave the wing tips the same colour as the rest of the wing.

Starting from top right and going clockwise in the image below you can see the evolution of the blue.  After each coat I took a picture, desaturated it and compared to the B/W images of Lou IV.  While I know this isn’t an exact science and actually only measures a comparative tone, not even the right colour, I want to at least get the relative balance of the colours correct.  

Not shown here was a similar evolution of the gun coaming colour; I started with light blue and that was far too light.  I tried natural metal but that also didn’t work in B/W as its tone and reflectivity was far too bright.  The only thing that worked was a lighter shade of the main blue so that’s where I left it.

And the final result above… If the blue if correct, and it does seem to match the tone and hue of the blue [that I see] in the photo, then the relative shade in the B/W image matches the pic of Lou IV pretty well.  Notice also that I didn’t do any pre or post shading on the wings; this was a relatively new aeroplane when the July 26th pics were taken and the paint was even newer.  While most modellers tend to weather Lou IV quite significantly I believe it would have looked quite pristine and the photos tend to bear that out.  I will add some weathering later, the usual operational stains etc. which will give it some depth and texture, but I think the paint itself would have looked quite new in July 1944.

Fuselage

Next I applied the BMF to the areas where it would show…

With eh BMF complete, I painted the D-Day stripes first and then added the blue and green using blutack as the masking medium.  This was extremely tricky, more so than I anticipated fact, and I had to be very careful with the masking, the foil, the overspray and the paint finish.  Until it is properly dry and I can seal it with a covering coat it has to be treated with kid gloves to avoid damaging the finish.  I went for a hard edge because the photos show that the green and the blue were painted with a brush everywhere except on the rudder – there’s no overspray evident at all on the fuselage. The canopy, by the way is one of the spares I used to mask the cockpit.

After the D-Day stripes were on, I worked my way backwards from the tail, sealing each colour with a light coat of Future to enable further handling and masking.  The trickiest parts were where I had to mask on the foil.  In a couple of places it lifted a little but I was able to burnish it back down again.  I used Vallejo Duraluminium for the rudder which looks a little dark in these pics but looks ok in natural light.  It turned out that I had correctly assessed where to put foil and where it wasn’t needed almost everywhere.  The exceptions were on the port wing root ahead of the D-Day stripes where I needed to paint the aluminium, and the horizontal panel below the exhausts – on the port side it’s almost entirely painted and on the starboard half of it is.

On the port side I had to measure and mask specifically for the nose art which is painted on a very light blue lozenge shape with a darker triangle on its top right corner.  After careful measurement and equally careful masking I applied those and I’m quite confident it’ll accomodate the decal as planned.

Decals

The decals went down without incident.  I’m actually quite impressed with Airfix decals, they react well to setting agents and have very little carrier film.  

At this point I was satisfied with how it was progressing.  It turned out to be one of my most complex paint jobs, there’s nine different colours painted on this fuselage, plus the Bare Metal Foil and each was painted quite precisely in terms of placement.  There were a couple of places where I miscalculated paint application but I know that I’m being quite picky in that.  I did get the nose art backing paint right though, that was a relief.

Final Assembly

Before joining the wings to the fuselage, one of the minor tasks that needed completing was painting the wing roots.  I’d roughed in the blue on each side but I knew it didn’t actually go all the way to the wing root fairing at the fuselage, there was another colour which my interpretation led me to believe was black.  So I took a look a the pics to determine how I’d paint it and noticed something;

In the images above the black “cloud” shapes extended all the way to the wing leading edge at the fuselage, but I knew I’d not painted them that way on the model.  Both photos were taken in early or mid July.  The picture below was taken on 26th July, perhaps week or two later…

…and it’s clear that the panel directly below “Lou IV” must have been replaced as; a) it looks new and shiny, and b) there’s no black paint on it unlike the early-July pics above.  Also, it explains why the yellow nose looks so pristine – it was!

Therefore, based on this I painted the black on the wing root only to the area where it angles out from the fuselage and back all the way to the trailing edge of the flap as seen on the early July photos.  I noted also that in the early-July profile pic it’s clear that where the flaps have dropped the flap “leading edge” so to speak, was left in bare metal, so I painted mine that way too.

Something else became apparent when I was looking at the photos; see how the blue in the pics above is quite subdued, even appearing a different hue of green…?  Here’s another one, taken within a minute of the above in the same lighting but from a different angle…

I’d argue that this gives further weight to the blue proposition; one of the arguments against blue is that it can’t be seen in the photos (I think it can, but nonetheless) – these pics (though obviously not definitive proof) give an indication that blue doesn’t always look blue.

And finally, yet another little detail popped out!  The late-July photo shows a rear view mirror which not installed in the early July pictures.  If it was a field mod it would explain the unusual placement on the right side of the windscreen rather than in the centre as would be expected.

Details…

Here’s the finished underside; to be honest I’m not completely happy with it.  The weathering didn’t go as I wanted it to – it’s not bad (I think…) but it didn’t turn out as my mind’s eye expected it to.

The finish looks a little more glossy in these pics than it does to the eye, the model was under very bright light on the desk.  Based on the photo of Lou IV peeling away from the camera, there’s a bit of general staining on the underside streaming back from the engine as well as some from the drop tank area and spent shell casing shutes.  I also painted the white splotches visible on the underside of the stabilisers, on the Tim tabs and the outboard edges.

I also seems to me that based on the photos the drop tanks themselves were new as they appear very shiny and bright.  Consequently I did essentially no weathering on them at all except for a drop of dark wash on the filler cap to pop out the details on that. I used a small piece of BMF to replicate the stainless steel rub plate on the inside of the gear covers and some painted wire for the fuel lines.

Topside Details

The final steps on the upper surfaces included the the following steps in no particular order;

  • I used BMF for the canopy and managed to do that without scratching the clear plastic while texturing the foil.
  • Weathering was kept to a minimum – slight exhaust staining, the oil vent stain (clearly visible on the starboard side pic of Athelene), minor paint chipping on the wing roots (clearly visible in the close-up pic of the port side), and some scuffing on the port wing root from dirty foot prints.
  • Masked and painted the staining around the square pistol port plate.
  • Painted the gun barrels; this I did with matt black paint which was subsequently dry brushed with powdered graphite from a pencil rubbed on sandpaper
  • Added fuel lines to the aux fuel tanks
  • Applied BMF to the flaps where it was visible in the lower position as I wasn’t happy with the painted result
  • Attached the rear view mirror to the top-starboard side of the windscreen framing (as per photos) and filled the slot in the kit part for the more normal central placement
  • A little dry brushing on the prop blades as an experiment in weathering them; it’s subtle but it’s there and I like the effect
  • Painted and attached the antenna blade – it’s painted blue with a band of black at its base per photos
  • In accordance with the photos – or at least my interpretation of them – I finished the dark green on the wings and fuselage pretty flat while leaving the blue a more satin finish.  I made the demarcation between the two colours quite hard as per photos.
  • I attached the exhausts after drilling them out; they are finished in a brighter metallic colour than I’d normally do them, but again, I think the photos show them to be quite bright at the time of the photo-shoot in July, 1944.

The final lap is always fraught with danger for me; the inevitable screw up (didn’t actually happen this time), the lost part (I pinged the rear view mirror into oblivion necessitating a raid to the spares box), the ham-fisted final enhancements as I think of things to do which I should have thought of much earlier in the build (I nearly disconnected both drop tanks while drilling holes for the fuel lines); all while I try to reign in my impatience to see it done..! Nonetheless, suddenly the model was complete…

Conclusion

My version of Lou IV has ended up looking quite clean but I think that represents what we see in the photos.  I’m quite convinced (others may know this to be a fact…?) that the 26th July pics were a staged photo shoot and all four Mustangs were cleaned up in preparation for it.  The yellow nose on Lou IV was brand new – which we know because the pics taken only a week or two earlier show that it hadn’t been applied then.  Other observations noted earlier in this WIP show that the real Lou IV was a continuous work-in-progress as far as its decoration goes, and as it was the boss’s Mustang it would have been well looked after anyway.

The blue was a very interesting experiment.  Observed from different angles the colour I settled on appears everything from a deep blue-grey, close to the “Royal Blue” described by Michael Bowyer in his notes, all the way to a shade absolutely indistinguishable from the green upon which it borders.  Having taken tons of photos now, I rather suspect the contrast seen in the black and white pics is largely due to the difference in reflectivity as much, or rather than the difference in colour.  

However, the smoking gun in terms of whether there was actually blue on these Mustangs is still the the colour plate below (courtesy of @Dana Bell’s essay at Hyperscale) which [to me] clearly shows a blue-grey which I have replicated on my model.   In fact I only differed from Dana’s analysis in one respect, that being the leading edge of the tail fin – I don’t see blue there, nor any contrast to the paint on the rudder which is universally accepted as green. 

Let me know what you think in the comments below.


Gallery

…and just for a last bit of fun; is this the real Lou IV or is it mine…?

References and Credits

First and foremost, I am indebted to Dana Bell and his “Show and Tell 7” posted at Hyperscale wherein he outlines his reasons for believing that blue paint was used. Much of my belief in the use of blue paint comes from Dana’s argument.

Secondly, one of the most outstanding threads in Hyperscale’s Plane Talking discussion board is the one linked below in which much lively and passionate discussion about Lou IV‘s paint was held. It’s a must-read, whichever side of the discussion you fall on.

Lastly, I am also indebted to those that followed the Work In Progress thread on Britmodeller and gave me encouragement and a sounding board for my ideas.

I also used the following web resources in putting this piece together.


Copyright ©2020

This article, its text, and photos of the model(s) is my original work and is protected by copyright in its entirety, except where noted.  All research sources are listed above in the References and Credits section above, including photos from official sources. All other images were sourced from the internet and are used here under protection of fair-use.  Any copyrighted images will be removed or credited forthwith upon request by its rightful owner.

18 thoughts

  1. Whatever the right colour is/are, and there are only a handful of people who could actually confirm that, I think you’ve done a marvellous job, researched it well and presented a good argument. Above all, the model is just fabulous. That aside, there is a memorial to Christian in the local village on what was the accommodation area. It has been ‘changed’ at some point, the roof element being removed, but nevertheless remains there as a reminder of his great skills.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the comment. The next time I’m in the UK I plan to visit Bottisham, along with a few of others featured in your blog; many of your pieces have piqued my curiosity in actually visiting these spots, was well as one or two filed away to become model features on Making-History one day. Cheers!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re welcome Mark. I do hope you get to visit once the world is in a better place. Hopefully the museum will be finished by then and a good selection of material will be available to you. All the best!

        Like

  2. Excelente publicación e investigación que hiciste al respecto del LOU IV, y gracias por compartirlo. Tomare en cuenta la presente publicación para hacer el mio.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. OK, I disagree with you and Dana – and have told him so many times and the reasons why. First off you built a beautiful model even using the Airfix kit. I myself prefer the Eduard kit but that’s another story. Now my main reason for disputing you and Dana’s blue remarks. Many years ago when I first wrote both P-51 Mustang In Action and P-51 Mustang In Color for Squadron-Signal, I went to the USAF Museum in Dayton and scoured their files for any and everything. At that time we had several kit decals of E2*C with everything in Blue. Hmmm, I said but then passed it off. I didn’t believe it from the get-go because “Why”

    Then I came across a personal letter from Urban Drew (“Detroit Miss” who was the pilot of E2*S that day. It was just a letter to someone at the Museum and not necessarily about the color or anything about the Bottisham Four. BUT it did have an address for Mr Drew in South Africa. He was an airline pilot there. I dropped him a note and we talked aver many letters about his missions. AND about the blue colors on the unit Mustangs. He came right back and told me the entire story of the TWO photo shoots on that day – one at 11AM and the second at 1PM. He remembered all four airplanes and their pilots, and who was in the B-17 photo ship, the name of the photographer, and the TYPE OF FILM used on each shoot. Kodakchrome was used for the morning photo shoot, and Ektochrome for the afternoon pictures.

    And he really was adamant that their was NO BLUE MUSTANGS. He even recalled where the Blue Mustang theory came about – an early 1950s painting that appeared in RAF Flying Review. Now I thought – if the guy at his age could recall the names of all the pilots, the photographer, the times for the various photo shoots (they were simply PR pictures for the folks back home.) The reason why they were available was because th skies over Europe were socked in that day. Now if he recalled all of that why would he possibly get wrong the color of the camouflage on the airplanes. On top of that I have interviewed many crew chiefs and personnel at Bottisham and they were all as adamant as Mr Drew about the blue color. It simply did not happen according to all of them.

    And with that I made a statement in the caption of E2*S that the scheme was British Green not blue of any kind.

    Again you built a beautiful model. I am
    Larry Davis
    ex-Squadron-Sgnal author
    Canton, Ohio USA

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Larry, thank you for the comments on the model and the article, I really appreciate you taking the time to make them.

      My reasoning, including an hypothesis on the “why”, in coming to a different conclusion to yours is in the article so there’s no need for me to repeat it here; your comments make a good counter argument, but I’m sticking with blue.

      Cheers,
      Mark

      Like

  4. A wonderful article Mark, thank you. I have been modelling Mustangs since I read Freeman’s ‘The Mighty Eighth’ as a boy – 50+ years ago, and my much modified 1/72 Airfix model of E2*S, resplendent in blue (as was the wisdom then) still resides on my shelf in a slightly battered form. I’m not going to get involved in the blue/not blue debate at all, but very much enjoyed your analysis of the wonderful photographs. And of course your excellent model of Lou IV. Very best wishes, Charlie (Somerset, UK) aka Johnson on Britmodeller.

    Liked by 1 person

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