British Vehicle Markings - a rough guide

Discussion in 'Weapons, Technology & Equipment' started by SquireBev, May 30, 2020.

  1. SquireBev

    SquireBev Well-Known Member

    Hello all.

    I've recently been researching British tank and vehicle markings for a tabletop project I'm working on, but I've been frustrated by the paucity, or at least inaccessibility, of information available online. Discussion on forums always seem to end up recommending the same handful of books that have been out of print for thirty years, and the few online references that do exist tend to focus on a particular unit at a particular time, rather than an overall view of the system.

    With this in mind I've attemped to draw up a series of reference charts, covering different types of formations, in different theatres, at different points throughout the war. I make no claims about the completeness of my information, as I've only been able to work with what sources I could find, but I'm hoping it proves at least vaguely useful to someone.

    It's still very much a work in progress - there are still gaps that need filling, and I'm sure there are errors in need of correction. Comments, criticism and feedback are all welcome!

    The full series can currently be found by clicking the example image:

    Additionally, I apologise if this isn't the correct subforum, but it seemed the most appropriate.

    EDIT: To save scrolling through the entire thread, here's the link:
    Last edited: May 6, 2021
  2. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian

    I understand your frustration. It isn't quite necessary to go back 30 years to get a reference but the more recent Warpaint books by Dick Taylor (vol 3 has charts of AOS numbers and is c 2011) are ALSO out of print and very expensive. Why this sort of material isn't popular enough to be kept in print is a mystery to me.
  3. SquireBev

    SquireBev Well-Known Member

    Indeed. I'd have thought it'd be the sort of thing Osprey would cover, but as far as I can tell they've never bothered.

    Hopefully once lockdown lifts I'll be able to track down Taylor's Warpaint and Hodges' British Military Markings in a library somewhere.
    Chris C likes this.
  4. Nice chart!

    You can add the tactical symbols for the Motor Bn in the Arms Bde, same as the other Bns, but in green colour.

    I believe that the MG Company (AoS 64 over Black) should be in Div Tps as Independent Mortar and Machine Gun Company, rather than under Inf Bde. Actually, all troops except Armd Bde and Inf Bde are Div Tps. There should also be a Forward Delivery Squadron RAC.

    I have Div HQ RASC as AoS 80, not 40. At some point there was also a Counter Mortar Battery RA (AoS 78). I'm not sure if the Divisional Battle School Training Centre APTC (AoS 41 over black) was there for the period you consider.

    RAOC should be before REME, not after, and RAMC between RASC and RAOC.

    Last edited: May 30, 2020
    SquireBev likes this.
  5. SquireBev

    SquireBev Well-Known Member

    Brilliant, thanks!

    I've seen conflicting sources about whether or not the MG company should be part of the infantry brigade. Ditto the number for the RASC HQ. Did it change over time?

    As for the precedence of the RASC/RAMC/RAOC/REME - was this a seniority thing? REME being a new creation and thus the most junior branch?
  6. The MMG Coy was not part of the Inf Bde, hence the black AoS Flash (Div Tps) instead of a green one. But obviously it worked closely with them.

    I think the Serial 80 for CRASC was specific to Armd Divs. Inf Div CRASC used the 'standard' Serial 40.

    Yes, I guess the sequence of listing is indeed a seniority thing, because they are consistently listed in that order in OOBs and elsewhere. REME was not considered as the most junior branch, but just more junior than RAOC from which it derived.

    The usual listing order for Div Tps was HQ, Armd (RAC), Arty (RA), Engrs (RE), Sigs (RCS), Inf (MMG), S & T (RASC), Med (RAMC), Ord (RAOC), REME, Pro (CMP), Postal & finally Misc (Met Sec, ...). I'm not sure where the Armd Car Regt (Corps Tps) and the Fwd Del Sqn fit, but they would probably be with the Armd Recce Regt in the RAC part. Fwd Del Sqn did not appear to have the same AoS Serial across all Divs. Instead, each one had a specific number.

    For Signals units the same remark applies as the one you noted for LADs.

    Finally, I would suggest that you use either the full unit type or the abbreviated form rather than a mix of those as per your draft table above (but naturally I understand that there might be are space constraints :)

    Last edited: May 30, 2020
    SquireBev likes this.
  7. SquireBev

    SquireBev Well-Known Member

    Thanks again - very helpful!

    I'll see about rearranging things a bit and adding the missing units tomorrow. Stay tuned.
  8. SquireBev

    SquireBev Well-Known Member

    I've updated the Late War Armoured and Infantry Divisions based on your feedback. See below:

    UK - LW - NW Europe - Armoured Division Organisation-01.png UK - LW - NW Europe - Infantry Division Organisation-01.png
    8RB likes this.
  9. SquireBev

    SquireBev Well-Known Member

    Also updated BEF Armoured and Infantry Divisions based on information provided by Chris C:

    UK - EW - NW Europe - Infantry Division Organisation-01.png UK - EW - NW Europe - Armoured Division Organisation-01.png
    Juha and 8RB like this.
  10. 8RB

    8RB Well-Known Member

    Think you might also be interested in thread 8th Rifle Brigade vehicle markings
    Apart from HQ, Motor Battalions had four platoon. So far, for 8th Rifle Brigade (Motor Battalion in 11th Armoured Division), I have found photos of HQ (green open diamond), F Coy (green open square) and G Coy vehicles (green open circle). Would love to see photos also from H Company (possibly green open triangle) and E (support) Company (based on the cover of their post war Company I expect they used a solid green rectangle).
  11. SquireBev

    SquireBev Well-Known Member

    Interesting stuff. I've seen a lot of references to green tac signs worn by motor battalions but this is the first time I've seen actual photos.
    8RB likes this.
  12. Listy

    Listy Well-Known Member

    Allow me to help you with the most useful guide that I found many many many years ago. I just wish there was one this detailed for both the 14th and 8th Armies, and the BEF:
  13. ceolredmonger

    ceolredmonger Member

    Thanks for this it has long been needed. I'm still using an old Terry Wise booklet from the 70's as my most reliable reference.
    Please do the scholarly thing and add references and notes. There are a lot of unsubstantiated versions doing the rounds on wargaming boards. Some sources add credibility.
    Osborne2 likes this.
  14. SquireBev

    SquireBev Well-Known Member

    Good stuff, thank you. I've come across that document before but managed to forget all about it since!

    Good point - I'll make a list.
    ceolredmonger likes this.
  15. Trackfrower

    Trackfrower Member

    There are a couple of books by Malcom Bellis too
  16. SquireBev

    SquireBev Well-Known Member

    Yep, I've got one of them on its way from eBay, along with a few others - Terence Wise, George Bradford, Kenneth Jones.

    Hopefully with these and the info from Taylor's Warpaint that certain kindly souls have been sending me, I should be able to piece together something vaguely coherent.
  17. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Andrew Foulkes has covered BEF markings in more detail than anyone. His book doesn't though include 1st Armoured Division as they arrived later than 11th April.

    Vehicle Markings of the B.E.F - From the GHQ diary of 11 April 1940

    4th Infantry Division continued to use a different set of serials, but 2 Corps came into line.

    BEF Div Cav used '2' on black and the Machine Gun Battalions were a Corps asset....and there are still unknown aspects such as the background colour used by motorcycle battalions in a Motor Div.
  18. SquireBev

    SquireBev Well-Known Member

    That does look very useful. Is it still in print, or at least still available anywhere at a sensible price?
  19. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    The answer for all such questions only ever seems to be 'probably', but I'd like to ask whether the Indian Army followed the same system as the British Army with respect to vehicle markings?

    I've been told that Malcolm Bellis' 'Commonwealth Divisions 1939-1945' has some information, but I don't currently have a copy.
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2020
  20. SquireBev

    SquireBev Well-Known Member

    I'll be happy to help once my copy arrives - hopefully later this week!
    Chris C and Charley Fortnum like this.

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