British National Colors

From Wings of Linen

This page outlines the colors used in the roundels and on the rudder of British WWI aircraft, as measured by comparisons to surviving fabric and paint samples.


In the earliest months of the war there were no color standards. The first standard colors appeared in early 1915 with VR1 (red), VW1 (white), and VB1 (blue). In spring to summer 1916, the red and whites were replaced with VR2 and VW2. VB2 replaced VB1 in late 1916 to mid 1917, and VW3 followed VW2. Finally in early 1918 a more durable red was substituted in the form of VR3. The combination of VB2, VW3, and VR3 was used well into the 1930's.[1]

In table form:

Date Blue Red
1915-spring/summer 1916 VB1 Methuen 23D7 VR1 Methuen 10B8
Spring/Summer 1916 - Late 1916/Spring 1917 VR2 Methuen 10B8, 10C8, 10D8
Late 1916/Spring 1917 - Spring 1918 VB2 Methuen 20E8
Spring 1918 onward VR3 Metheun 10C8

23D7 VB1 Blue
Reference Color House Paints or Standards Hobby Paints
Methuen 23D7[1]

CIElab 52.3,-21.47,-26.29
rgb #0089a9

Beauti-Tone Blue Bliss (C16-2-0675-4)

Behr Bella Vista (P470-6)
Benjamin Moore Cool Blue (2058-40)
Dulux Peacock's Plume (16BG 24/357)
FS595c 15182
Pantone 2203 U
RAL 230 50 35
Sherwin-Williams Impromptu (6955)

Vallejo Model Color Light Turquoise (70.840) ?

Humbrol French Blue (AB0014) ?

20E8 VB2 Blue
Reference Color House Paints or Standards Hobby Paints
Methuen 20E8[1]

CIElab 30.94,3.01,-33.81
rgb #194a7e

Beauti-Tone Dock Side (A25-1-1456-3)

Behr Beacon Blue (P510-7)
Benjamin Moore Patriot Blue (2064-20)
Dulux Blazer Blue (AB0104)
FS595c 15056, 25056, 35056
RAL 280 30 35
Sherwin-Williams Dignity Blue (6804)
TSD 15-5-4 (DIN6164)

Reaper MSP Ultramarine Blue (9188)

Vallejo Model Color Prussian Blue (70.965) ?
Humbrol Oxford Blue (AB0104) ?

White is white, though the early whites may have had a slightly gray cast.

10B8 VR1, VR2 Red
Reference Color House Paints or Standards Hobby Paints
Methuen 10B8[1]

CIElab 52.58,55.43,30.00
rgb #d94c4d

Beauti-Tone Lipstick (A19-3-1444-3)

Behr Pinkadelic (P160-5)
Benjamin Moore Bull's Eye Red (2002-20)
Dulux Strawberry Patch (10YR 22/483v)
FS595c 21400
RAL 440-2
Sherwin-Williams Gladiola (6875)
Valspar Whipped Strawberry (1006-1A)

10C8 VR2, VR3 Red
Reference Color House Paints or Standards Hobby Paints
Methuen 10C8[1]

CIElab 50.12, 50.79, 27.01
rgb #cc4c4c

Behr Pinkadelic (P160-6)

Benjamin Moor Rhubarb (2007-30)
Dulux/Glidden French Red Stripe (10YR 17/465)
NCS1950 S2060-Y90R
Pantone 1797 U
PPG Bonfire (1187-6)
RAL 460-4
RAL 030 50 60
Sherwin-Williams Coral Bells (6593)
Valspar Whipped Strawberry (1006-1A)

10D8 VR2 Red
Reference Color House Paints or Standards Hobby Paints
Methuen 10D8[1]

CIElab 47.04, 45.74, 22.88
rgb #bb4a4c

Beauti-Tone Lipstick (A19-3-1444-3)

Behr Lingonberry Punch (M150-6)
Dulux/Glidden Tender Rose (10YR 16/407)
Dulux Trade Fire Cracker 3 (10YR 15/500)
FS595c 21302
PPG Burnt Red (17-13)
Sherwin-Williams Red Tomato (6607)
Valspar Deep Rose (2001-3A)

Reaper MSP Rust Brown (9072) ?

Background and Caveats

Note: As always, there was frequently variation in paint color, weathering, varnishing, etc., so this is just a general guide. Unless you've got a high-end, wide-gamut monitor in perfect calibration (and who does?), do not trust the colors you see on your monitor! Instead, visit your local paint store and see if you can find paint samples like the ones listed and then match your hobby paints or mixes against those. The goal is just to "get close enough" for your own tastes.

Color matching was performed with the 1989 Methuen Handbook of Color and a Nix Color sensor.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Rimell'88, pp.30-31.
  • A. Kornerup & J.H. Wanscher, Methuen Handbook of Colour, Third Edition. Great Britain: Methuen London, 1989, ISBN 0-413-33400-7
  • Ray Rimell, The Best of Wind-Sock, Volume One. Great Britain: Albatros Publications, Ltd., 1988.