poniedziałek, 30 stycznia 2017

Colour markings of German bombs 1939-1945

It is beyond all doubt among people interested with military history or ordnance that German air force of the WW2 era had aerial bombs in its inventory.

The matter becomes worse when closer details of this weaponry are concerned. Technical questions, construction and parameters are quite reasonably studied and published, but it's another story when bomb painting is concerned. How did these bombs looked like? In what colour were they painted? How were they marked? 
Scale model makers treat this subject completely freely, what leads to a multitude of colours in which their model bombs are painted. Also a quick research on the internet shows, that the matter is pretty unknown to a wider public. Identification of bomb types in photographs or from recovered relics causes a lot of troubles.
Let's take a closer look at the painting and colour markings applied to German bombs, limited (so far?) to bombs carried externally, also from 50 kg on, and excluding any inventions as illuminating or photoflash bombs, sea markers, target indicators etc.

Bomb body colours

Colour schemes of the bombs in question looked officially like this:

  • Bombs for normal climate before July 1942dark grey RAL 7021.
  • Bombs for tropical climate before July 1942 light blue (initial seriesaluminium). This was meant to prevent bombs from heating up in intense sunlight.
  • All bombs from July 1942grey-beige RAL 7027.
There were exceptions from this rule in form of e.g. green S Be bombs, discussed below.

Honestly speaking, other colours are also mentioned in postwar publications, different from fore-mentioned official regulations and not covered by German manuals - e.g. grey-green (feldgrau), dark green, sand, olive green, blue-grey or black. How far it is caused by intentional change of painting scheme, how far by accidental variation of paint colour or how far by an inaccurate colour description - I have no idea.
It is however worth noting, "technological" painting schemes, where sub-assemblies, from which a bomb is mounted, differed with colour, are also mentioned in postwar publications - e.g. blue body with silver tail or silver body with olive green tail. It was obviously caused by assembling a bomb from parts of different manufacture or production period (or probably by makeshift assembling bombs from parts found in depots by the Allies). But, again, it's hard for me to judge, how common it was.

Let's go farther. 
Markings identifying particular bomb category and type were applied to the bomb body painted in the basic colour. There were descriptions of the bomb, fuze or HE types, additional informations and warnings - an so on. We're not going to deal with these, though (it's a topic for  another lengthy research), honing on the colour markings identifying bomb classes.
It is anyway important, that a more of less precise marking of the bomb type was painted on top of the bomb body, near the suspension lug. Sometimes very short in case of the more typical classes, e.g. Jc for the SC 50 JC or BeC for the S Be 50 C, sometimes shortened just a little bit, e.g. D 250 Pr for the SD 250 Pr, sometimes complete as e.g. NC 50 D or SB 1000 A. Colour markings identifying a class of the bomb were painted on the bomb body or the tail section - in form of stripes, rings or colourful warhead nose. And these are of most interest for us now.

The drawings below show generally, for uniformity, bombs in grey-beige colour introduced in 1942. Any markings save for those of the bomb type, were also omitted for clarity.

250 kg bombs colours.

Demolition bombs SC (Minenbombe), the most classical, with filling factor in order of 50 per cent, were marked with single yellow longitudinal stripes (RAL 1006), in each quarter of the tail section, between the fins. Such a stripe was 40 mm wide in case of the SC 50, SC 250 or SC 500 bombs, 60 mm wide for the SC 1800, but it could also be trapezoid in shape, getting narrower together with the tail cone (it could be encountered on e.g. SC 1800 bombs).
A couple of other irregularities considering bombs marked with longitudinal stripes has to be mentioned (not only demolition ones). Not always - especially in case of heavier bombs with long tail sections - stripes were reaching the forward end of the section, occupying e.g. 1/2, 2/3 or 3/4 of its length only.
An example of standard marking of the SC 250 bombs is shown in the drawing above. 

Well, the question of marking bombs with longitudinal stripes on tail sections requires a little bit more attention. Sometimes, apparently in the early stages of the war, one can encounter photographs of dark grey bombs without any colour markings on their tail cones. There are also opposite cases, where colour identifying bomb class is not applied in the form of stripes, but covers the whole area of the tail cone (except fins), looking sometimes as painted pretty roughly, overlapping the fins.
I suspect - sadly without any hard evidence so far - that German bombs such as SC, SD etc. had no colour markings at all in the beginning of the war. Only some time later (1940?) they received colour painting of the whole tail cones (obviously formally regulated, presented in drawings of official manuals - I have sadly no idea, when these drawings were made), which was limited to longitudinal colourful stripes pretty soon (as can be judged from its limited representation in pictures). When it happened, I have no idea yet, but the stripes were in force in June 1942 beyond any doubt, and apparently in the spring of 1941 already.

High capacity bombs SB (Grossladugsbombe) with filling factor in order of 75 per cent were initially marked in the same fashion as common demolition bombs, i.e. with single yellow stripes on the tail section.  The marking was however subsequently changed to two parallel stripes, e.g. 30 mm wide in 20 mm. distance. An example of such a marking is presented by the SB 1000 bomb in the drawing below. 

Fragmentation-demolition bombs SD (Splitterbombe or dickwandige Sprengbombe), with shells thicker than SC and with resulting filling factor of around 30 per cent, were marked with single longitudinal red stripes (RAL 3000) on the tail section, between the fins. An example marking is presented by the SD 250 above.

Concrete fragmentation bombs S Be (Betonbombe) of pretty unusual construction, with small central chamber filled with HE, surrounded by a thick concrete jacket with embedded metal fragments, were classified as splinter only with no demolition effect. Thus they were clearly distinguished by their colour - they were, in contrast to any other bombs in question, green.
A designation of the bomb type was additionally applied to the body, such as BeA 1 (for the S Be 50 A 1) and analogically BeA II, BeC I, BeC II, BeD, BeE etc. The S Be 250 C is shown in the drawing above.

Kinetic armour piercing bombs PC (Panzersprengbombe, e.g. PC 1600) with filling factor of 15-20 per cent, AP bombs with increased penetration PD (Panzerdurchschlagbombe, e.g. PD 500) with filling factor below 10 per cent as well as rocket assisted AP bombs PC-RS (e.g. PC 1000 RS) were marked with longitudinal blue stripes on the tail section between fins. An example of such a marking is presented by the PC 1600 bomb in the drawing below. 

Incendiary bombs Brand C (Phosphorbrandbombe) - filled with incendiary liquid and glass bottles containing phosphorus, were marked with two red rings on the body - one in the middle and one on the ogive; A red bottle was additionally stencilled between the forward fuze pocked and the forward red ring - as shown by the Brand C 250 A above..

Incendiary bombs without phosphorus, also of the Flam C type (Flammenbombe or Brandbombe) containing mixture of gasoline and oil with small HE charge, as well as an interesting Streubrand C 500 carrying 1400 incendiary ampoules in 20 per cent solution of spirit and opened in air by a exploding cord cutting its sheet metal body, were marked with two red rings - in the middle and in the nose sections of the body. A similar marking was applied to the ABB 500 cluster bomb, a little bit similar to the Streubrand 500 and containing 140 incendiary bombs of the B 1 family. An example marking is shown by the Flam C 250 bomb in the drawing above. 

Smoke bombs NC (Nebelbombe), carrying smoke substance and a small HE charge, were painted feldgrau or grey-beige, had white tip of the ogive with four adjacent longitudinal white stripes (40 mm wide and 250 mm long in case of the NC 250 S) and white marking of the bomb type on the body, as presented by the NC 250 S above. 

Concrete practice bombs ZC (Übungsbombe aus Zement) having concrete bodies with cavities for glass ampoules with smoke liquid indicating impact point, had body nose painted in colour of the smoke they produced - also white or red. Bomb type and smoke colour were aadditionally described on top of the body. Bombs without smoke ampoules had no colour noses. An example painting of the concrete practice bomb is shown by a "red" ZC 250 A rot above.

High capacity demolotion and AP bomb markings.

A specific marking of bombs filled with HE coded 105 or Trialen has also to be mentioned. As the HE containing 15 per cent of aluminium was pretty scarce as well as relatively sensitive, these bombs were intended exclusively for attacking merchant ships from horizontal flight. Such bombs filled with Trialen were thus marked with silhouettes of a merchant ship on the tail cone painted in yellow RAL 1006, instead of usual single or double yellow stripes. Ship silhouettes were to be e.g. 350 mm long in case of the SC 500 J bomb (four silhouettes) or 800 mm long for SB 2500 (initially four, later eight silhouettes - two on each tail cone segment between fins). Bombs were also marked with black stencilling on body sides Nur gegen Handelsschiffe (against merchant ships only), as well as with an appropriate description on top of the body, e.g. SC 500 J Trialen or SB 2500 Trialen.

Markings of the SB 2500 bomb filled with Trialen.
It is, however, worth noting, that ship silhouettes in available drawings or pictures are smaller than the theoretical dimensions given above. In case of the real life SC 500 J Trialen they seem to be approx. 260 mm long.
Side view of the SC 500 J Trialen bomb

An exception can be encountered among colour markings of the SD class bombs, in form of the SD 1700 bomb, made till 1941 only and apparently spent in the following year. The bomb dropped from 1200 m could penetrate 60 mm of armour at 60 degrees angle and was therefore classified as the Panzersprengbombe (AP-HE) or "demolition bomb with increased penetration". Thus it was not marked with an usual red stripe, but - as a 1942 manual describes - with a yellow-blue-yellow one. SD 1700 in dark grey RAL 7021 painting is shown below.
Notice: there are pictures of alleged SD 1700 bombs marked with dark single colour stripes, i.e. apparently red ones, as for regular SD class bombs. Either the two colour stripes were never actually used, either they were introduced on some later date, e.g. in late 1941 or in 1942 only.

SD 1700 bomb markings.
Cluster bombs AB (Abwurfbehalter) of bigger sizes carried markings patterned after regular bombs, but referring to ammunition type with which the container was filled.
In case of fragmentation bomblets (e.g.. SD 1, SD 2, SD 10, SD 15 etc.) as well as shaped charge-fragmentation SD 4 HL, four - or sometimes probably two - longitudinal red stripes were painted at the rear part of the container between the fins, analogically to a fragmentation bomb - as shown by the AB 250-2 in the drawing below.
In case of the AB containers with incendiary bomblets (B 1, B 2 etc.) a single red ring was painted on the rear part of the container body - as presents the AB 500-1 below. An exception was formed by the ABB 500 cluster bomb mentioned above, built differently than AB canisters however.
Canisters were also stencilled in two lines, between suspension lug and fuze charging head, with container type as well as type and quantity of the bomblets it contained - e.g. AB 500-1 / 116 B 2 EZ.

AB cluster bombs markings.

A controversy considering the demolition-incendiary Spreng-Brand C 50 bomb, carrying TNT in the forward section and incendiary electron elements in the rear part, has to be mentioned eventually. According to some postwar studies, the bomb marking combined those of demolition and incendiary bombs - with a red ring on the body and yellow stripes on the tail section. According to original documents of the era, the bomb had
however no markings other than Sprengbrand C 50 description on the body.
Another discrepancy can also be encountered - according to a postwar Allied report the SD 1700 bomb mentioned above, with its unique two colour, yellow and blue marking, was  marked with red stripes on the tail section, as an usual SD bomb.

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