Book Review
British Vehicle Colours
Warpaint - Colours and Markings of British Army Vehicles 1903 – 2003 Volume 1 by Dick Taylor
  • move

by: Alan McNeilly [ ALANL ]


This is the first volume in a series of 4 which will cover Colours and Markings of the British Army from 1903 to 2003. Written and researched by Dick Taylor, this first volume brings us 104 pages of interesting, useful and informative data covering British Army vehicles during the early part of the 20th Century

The series is intended for the Military Historian, Military Vehicle Restorer and most of all for the Military Modeller, (like you and me).


The book is an A4 size, soft back, colour presentation. Both the quality of the printing, photographs and presentation are what one would expect for the 21st century.

•Acknowledgements and Thanks
•Introduction to Volume 1
•Chapter 1 - Colours and Sources
•Chapter 2 - Paint and Camouflage Up to 1939
•Chapter 3 - Registrations, War Department Numbers and Census Marks
•Series References and Bibliography

Obviously the scope of the book is vast, hence no doubt 4 volumes being necessary, but it does for the first time start to bring a one stop shop to understanding and interpreting the wide and varied paint schemes used by the British Army across the decades.

The subject of British Army paint schemes and interpreting black and white photographs is one that is hotly debated across the net and by historians, modelling enthusiasts, and anyone who has delved into trying to model British Armour... whether WW I, WW II or Modern will know the argument and debate that can flourish around the colour of for instance Olive Drab, or Light Stone!!

In the introduction to Volume I, the author gives us a critical clue to understanding the subject covered in Chapter 1, Colours and Sources:

“.... it is this: strive to find the rules and regulations, but do not be surprised to find that they were frequently disobeyed.”

This sums up for me the essence and joy of modelling British Subjects, like Sherman Tanks, as nothing is quite what it may seem and so is the case with British Camouflage and Paint.

in more detail

Chapter 1 - Colours and Sources:
This chapter introduces the reader to the concept of the description and representation of colours, it tells us about British Standard (BS) and helps one to understand the variables that effect paint, such as hue, tone and glossiness, place and time of manufacture and the all critical ‘Mk I eyeball’. It covers understanding of primary and secondary sources for research and then leads on to the interpretation of photographic and film sources. It also gives a startling example of just how wrong our interpretation of colour can be on page 12, showing us a Black and White image set beside the actual colour version (in this case a Churchill turret).

It closes with an insight into the type of film used and how this affected the result of the picture being taken. So again, critical to all of this, is the time period in which things happened and where the event was being photographed. I’d recommend reading Chapter 1 a couple of times.

Chapter 2 – Paint and Camouflage Up to 1939:
This Chapter covers the paint and camouflage used up to 1939 and is a fascinating read, with some cracking photographic references. The chapter opens with a short discourse on what camouflage is; this is followed by an introduction to paints used prior to WW I. It then moves on to talk about Wagons and Motor Transport, these being the large majority of vehicles used during that period.

The Chapter then proceeds with detailed information about the paint schemes used on Armoured Cars and Tanks, and looks in detail at the Solomon Scheme, the use of ‘Tank Brown’ and other schemes used during that period of time.

The closing part of this chapter covers the period between the wars up to 1939, showing the changes that were beginning to take place with an increase of vehicles all around.

There are some cracking examples for the modeller to think on and draw inspiration from, many of which I had not seen before.

Chapter 3 - Registrations, War Department Numbers and Census Marks:
This is a meaty chapter on a subject again hotly debated and talked about. It covers the Civilian Registration Systems between 1896 and 1963, Registration Plates, Pre WWI Military Census Systems and WWI Military Census Systems.

The Chapter then moves on to a time between the wars, and the Prefix or Vehicle Role Classification Letter System. This is followed by The Vehicle Type System (A & B Vehicles), Number Ranges, WWII Prefix Types, Location and Style of markings.

The remainder of the chapter is dedicated to an understanding of Registrations in Other Countries, including The Commonwealth, various miscellaneous systems, and looks at the1949 Vehicle Registration Mark System. In the closing pages we get information on the 1993 Vehicle Registration Mark System and more modern Miscellaneous Registrations.

At the end of the book are a series of tables covering T Numbers, F Numbers, D & S Numbers, and the Post 1949 system. An explanation for these tables is provided on page 81.

Photographs and Plates:
There are at least one or two good quality size photographs per page and a number of pates. These on their own would provide a valuable reference particularly for WWI and early WWII modellers and there are plenty on modern vehicles too. There are some absolutely cracking examples of unusual painting schemes to stimulate your imagination.


I hesitated to do a review on this book due to my own lack of knowledge on the subject, which is a complex but highly interesting one. Also the time necessary to do this volume justice. However, sometimes you have to bite the bullet as I feel this is the first of a highly important series of books that will, and can, add a great deal of ‘light’ to this complex subject. No single book in itself can cover everything and the author acknowledges gaps and areas of debate, but that does not detract in any way from the wealth of information it contains nor lessen its value to modellers, restorers and military historians alike.

This is a volume that I will be returning to time and time again. Dick Taylor’s passion for the subject is clear to see and he has given himself a daunting task which, when complete, will add a huge amount of information and detail to this fascinating subject.

There are a very useful set of references and internet sources contained between page 98 and 104.

I have Volume 2 of this series covering Paint and Camouflage 1939 to 1945 which I will try and bring you an overview on as soon as I get the time. It is an equally impressive publication.

What we have here Gentlemen, is the first of a comprehensive work on this often confusing subject bringing into play, with clear explanations, all the elements one needs to consider around this subject. Couple that with excellent pictures and plates, and this volume provides the base for some excellent projects and painting schemes, on top of a wealth of knowledge and valuable information for the reader.

Highs: The first of a comprehensive series providing insight, knowledge and inspiration for the reader, be they Modeller, Historian or Restorer.
Lows: None I can think of other than waiting for Volumes 3 and 4.
Verdict: Highly recommended reading for all with an interest in British Army vehicles from WWI to the Modern day
Percentage Rating
  Scale: Other
  Mfg. ID: ISBN 978-83-89450-63-0
  Suggested Retail: 15 GBP
  Related Link: Item Webpage
  PUBLISHED: Mar 28, 2010
  NATIONALITY: United Kingdom

About Alan McNeilly (AlanL)

Greying slightly, but young at heart. I've been teaching adults off and on for most of my life. Left the services in 85 and first started modelling in about 87 for a few years. Then I had a long spell when I didn't build anything (too busy) and really just got started again during the summer of ...

Copyright ©2021 text by Alan McNeilly [ ALANL ]. All rights reserved.


Although I too model British kit (exclusively), my bias is a little more personal than that. I served with Dick for quite a few years - in the same troop for a couple of years too.
MAR 29, 2010 - 05:21 AM
Hi Ken, Sounds to me like a book in the making Al
MAR 29, 2010 - 07:58 AM
A mate of ours has already written it.
MAR 29, 2010 - 11:53 PM
Looks like an interesting read, Cheers Al
MAR 30, 2010 - 04:50 AM
MMP has a US distributor here: It's a pretty cool site with lots of military books from all eras, arenas, and subjects. I found the most direct way to find the book was to click on the Publishers List on the left panel and then click the MMP button from the page that opens. They didn't list Volume I but had Volume 2 (1939 - 1945) in stock. That was my primary area of interest since I currently have several British vehicle and equipment builds on hold because I'm stuck on the painting scheme and colors. Having found conflicting and contradictory information and questionable colors of paint sold as being the correct shades I look forward to clarifying the issue. I am anxiously awaiting its arrival!
APR 20, 2010 - 08:44 AM
Hi Jim, Volume 2 is a meatier edition 176 pages, I'm reading my way through it slowly. Enjoy. Al
APR 20, 2010 - 09:17 AM
Alan, thank you! I have been trying to sort out British camo patterns and colors for years. I wound up using law enforcement canvassing methods to make deductions from many conflicting sources. After reading your review I purchased both volumes and it is a joy to read and a treasure to own. I'm now looking forward to doing my first pink Sherman II; my wife has thought for years I was kidding her about it! If you build any British armor, anytime in your modeling career, you HAVE to buy these books!
APR 20, 2010 - 01:20 PM
It sounds like I made a good buy! I do have some WWI armor kits so I will try and track down Volume 1 as well. I have some modern armor kits I bought just to show the progression of armor post WWII to to the current day with the Leopard, Leclerc, and Abrams, but I think most of the later stuff will get the NATO 3 color treatment.
APR 20, 2010 - 02:14 PM
Hi Mattthew, Glad you enjoyed them, they are really useful references, well written and researched, a valuable addition to ay Library. The 4 volumes when complete will be very comprehensive. Hi Jim, Enjoy Al
APR 21, 2010 - 08:05 AM

Click image to enlarge
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move