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MMP Books – White Series 9118
Malta Spitfire Vs - 1942
Their Colours and Markings

by Brian Cauchi

S u m m a r y

Publication Details:

MMP Books – White Series 9118
Malta Spitfire Vs - 1942 Their Colours and Markings
by Brian Cauchi



Media and Contents:

Soft cover, 29.7cm x 21cm, 168 pages plus covers.


GBP £19.99 from MMP Books

Review Type:



A most thought provoking analysis of the camouflaging of Spitfires on Malta




A book for those who do not seek answers, but rather insight and a discussion of a most intriguing issue in aircraft camouflage.

Reviewed by Steven Eisenman

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F i r s t  R e a d

This new, and much anticipated, monograph on the colour and markings of the Spitfires on Malta in 1942 could have been titled “Fifty Shades of Grey – Malta”.  As with the actual Fifty Shades of Grey, not everyone might like this monograph.

You will probably not like this monograph if you like precise answers, verifiable conclusions, exact FS and Munsell colour equivalents, or exact matches in Model Master or Humbrol paints.

You will probably not like this monograph if you do not like speculation, conjecture, or the expression of one’s opinion.

You will probably not like this monograph if you believe that nothing can be discerned or gained from the analysis of black and white, and often fuzzy, photographs (The veritable Fifty Shades of Grey).  This will be especially so if that analysis is used in an attempt to determine colour.

What Brian Cauchi has done, in this most intriguing monograph, is to assemble, as best he could, a photographic chronicle of the evolution and styles of the camouflage applied to the Spitfire Vs delivered to defend Malta.  Using these photographs, he has organized the monograph into two primary parts.

The first part puts the photographs in the context of the sequence of the Spitfire delivery operations. The analysis is done of photographs of the aircraft before being loaded on the carrier, on the carrier and then upon delivery.  The problem, which the author readily admits, is that after Operation Bowery the quantity and quality of photographs falls off dramatically, to almost none.

For the second part, the photographs are arranged by RAF Squadron.  Here the pictures are analyzed with regard to how the aircraft looked in service.  But even here, the number of photographs available is limited.

Mr. Cauchi then takes the limited resources available to him and, with his own experience, knowledge and judgment, attempts an analysis of each of the pictures to determine what was done to the airframe in order to camouflage it to meet the demands of air warfare over Malta.  These resources include the limited RAF documentation available, first person accounts and other secondary sources.

In carrying out this analysis there are two crucial issues that become the core of the monograph.  The first is that Spitfires in the Desert Scheme of Dark Earth and Middle Stone was an anathema to the RAF on Malta.  It was virtually the work of the devil, although it continued to exist on many aircraft.  Malta was not a desert and the air war was carried out over the deep blue Mediterranean.

The second is based on a secret cypher telegram from RAF H.Q. Malta to the Air Ministry Whitehall and RAF Gibraltar dated 7 April 1942.  The telegram simply requests: “All Spitfires aircraft for Malta be sea camouflaged either before leaving U.K. or at Gibraltar as this will expedite getting them on to the line on arrival here.”   Note that the telegram does not use initial capital letters for “sea camouflage”.

For Cauchi, the quest is first to determine whether the request for the application of a “sea camouflage” before delivery was actually complied with, which it appears it was not.  Also, it is a quest to find out if the reference to “sea camouflage” was intentionally ambiguous or did it mean the “Temperate Sea Scheme” (TSS).  The reference to a “sea camouflage” with the use of dark greens and greys appears to go back as far as 1935, but the specific requirement for painting aircraft for the FAA in TSS, Extra Dark Sea Grey and Dark Slate Grey, appears in August 1940.  So the concept of the TSS was known at the time of the telegram.  Although, the development of an Air Diagram for “Sea Camouflage” that incorporated EDSG and DSG was used in 1939.  (See: “Fleet Air Arm Camouflage and Markings 1937-1941”, by Stuart Lloyd).  Was the reference to “sea camouflage” like the Pirates Code, more a guideline than a rule?  Could even Dark Green and Dark Earth fall within those guidelines?

Since, it seems that the specific intent and meaning behind the use of the term “sea camouflage” cannot be known, Cauchi goes picture by picture to try to determine if, in fact, the aircraft was re-camouflaged, what scheme and colours did it carry, and did it fall within the ambiguous “sea camouflage”.

As you go with the author on his quest you may often find yourself at odds with him.  With one picture you can be in full agreement on his assumptions and opinions. With another you my cock an eyebrow, as a wave of doubt passes through you.  Is that a dark over paint or is that merely the result of dust coupled with a sudden rainstorm?  In other words, mud covered.  Are there two colours on the aircraft? Or, is it the effect of a thinly applied unknown dark colour allowing the Middle Stone to show through?

Speaking of over painting, one thing I came to realize was that camouflage was more important than speed.  One airframe could have as many as four coats of paint applied, and some of those coats may have been brush applied.  A Temperate Land Scheme aircraft could be repainted in the Desert Scheme at the factory, then have a dark colour applied over that and then retouched up again in large sections.  That will surely reduce one’s air speed a couple miles per hour at least, especially as the paint may be quite flat.

The author also raises the issue of underside colours and the possible use of Mediterranean blues.  It also seems that Sky Blue (not Sky Type S) was around more and longer than I thought.

One personal observation about the author’s coverage of the painting of the Spitfires during Operation Calendar; the author, while addressing the colours that might have been used, does not take into consideration the amount of paint available on a USN aircraft carrier to repaint 30 Spitfires, as no additional paint was reported to have been put onboard.

The remainder of the book includes veterans’ testimonials and a series of appendices, which includes, among other items, Spitfire V serial number blocks, delivery listings and pilot profiles.





I believe that many thought this would be the monograph that would provide answers. In fact, it raises many more questions and provides new grounds for new disagreements.  That being said, the author is to be congratulated on his attempt to bring all the issues to the fore in one place.

As there appears to be no definite and final answers, for the readers going along with Cauchi’s quest, the trip becomes an intellectual exercise.  I do not think the author would, or could, say that the reader was definitely wrong in the conclusions or opinions the reader held, after reading this monograph, that are contrary to the author’s.  I see only an agreement to disagree.

Thanks to MMP Books  for the sample.

All MMP Publications books are available direct from the publishers, who now accept credit cards (Visa, MC, Amex, Switch)  

North American distributors are MMD, Australian distributors are Platypus Publications. In Europe, the books are available from any good bookshop (via our UK distributors, Orca). Contact MMP direct in case of difficulties. 

Thanks to Roger at MMP Books  for the sample.

Review Copyright 2013 by Steven Eisenman
This Page Created on 22 May, 2013
Last updated 22 May, 2013

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