The prosecution of the war saw only a limited increase in the uniformity and the standardization of colours and camouflage of CR.32s in continental Spain, and these were observed more within Spanish units than Italian ones (finish standardization among Italian CR.32 units appeared more within each of the two Squadriglie based in the Balearic Islands: during 1938, 101ª Squadriglia maintained its aircraft in mainly a silver-finish and 102ª Squadriglia carried the typical Italian 1936-'37 "band-camouflage" scheme; towards the wars end, some CR.32s with different schemes of patch-camouflage appeared within both Squadriglie). With the increasing organization of Nationalist technical services and air-parks, such as the main establishment at Seville in Southern Spain and Logroño in the North, some camouflage uniformity became more frequent, especially when new CR.32s arrived from Italy to Seville-Tablada where aircraft were assembled and prepared before being assigned to new units. However, during operational service and maintenance at unit-level, initial uniformity more-or-less rapidly disappeared. Keeping in mind, since the beginning of air operations and before the end of 1936, the camouflage of CR.32s in Spain were at least prescribed according to the landscape and the season, but photos and analysis on dated images and especially field-conditions show that standardization was never completely achieved, apart from some generalized finish uniformity towards the end of the Civil War in 1938-'39.
Instead, a further kind of disuniformity developed as the war developed, generally along lines of nationality of Italian and Spanish units, and within the Aviazione Legionaria itself, and along the various tasks performed by the different fighter Gruppi. Different applications of colors and schemes can also be noted not only between Italian and Spanish units in camouflages: there were obvious differences in finish even among the Italian Gruppi themselves operating in continental Spain.
This is partially explained in that different combat concepts and "battle formations" were separately developed by the “Cucaracha”, “Asso di Bastoni” and “Gamba di Ferro” Gruppi in Spain (an interesting article on this matter being published by Italian Rivista Aeronautica in May 1940, written by an ex-25ª Squadriglia’s CO, Capitano Enrico Meille, who served in Spain during 1938-'39).
However, differences associated with specific Italian and Spanish units are not considered here in detail, a general view on the subject being considered with some examples in profiles 19 and 20 representing similarly camouflaged aircraft of XXIII Gruppo Caccia, at the end of 1937 - early 1938, according to a scheme generally different from those of the other Groups. Moreover, particular camouflage schemes were also tested by Italians on their CR.32s in Spain (unpublished photographic evidence).
The author also had an enlightening interview with a former member of Aviazione Legionaria, Maresciallo Giuseppe Gorini (Lucca, Tuscany, 1985), ground crew charged with camouflaging CR.32s within 25ª Squadriglia of XVI Gruppo Caccia "Cucaracha", who served as a Sergente in Spain since February 1938 until February 1939 at operational bases of Mas de las Matas, Caspe and Vendrell, in order (Image 4 shows an example of a four-colour camouflage scheme applied in spring 1938 to a CR.32 from 25ª Squadriglia flown by CO of XVI Gruppo Caccia, Maggiore Armando François - reference for colour profile 26 in the book).
|Fiat CR.32 Colors and Camouflage in the Spanish Civil War
Part II (1938-1939)
By Alfredo Logoluso
|Image 4 - XVI Gruppo da Caccia, Aviazione Legionaria - pil. Francois -- March/April 1938|
|Copyright: Alfredo Logoluso,2010
STORMO! © 2010 12 (2010) 1-2
|Alfredo is an aeronautical engineer and a former officer with the missile defence section of the Aeronautica Militare Italiana. He has worked in both the military and civil aerospace industries. For many years he has researched the aviation history of the Spanish Civil War, writing numerous articles for Italy's specialist press on the subject. One of his primary contacts is Angelo Emiliani, who was the first Italian researcher to document the air war in Spain. Alfredo is the author of Osprey Aircraft of the Aces No. 94 - Fiat CR.32 Aces of the Spanish Civil War.|
|Although reporting on the last year of the war, when in general ground crews of CR.32 units applied something more of a camouflage standard with respect to the former period 1936-'37, Gorini too remembered the great colour variety presented by those aircraft he helped to paint and re-paint, within his first-line unit operating from advanced bases where supplies of secondary maintenance materials were far from regular: often, basic paints that were available were mixed in changing proportions, the results being multiple tones and color gradations. Even multiple mixes among intended upper- and lower-surface colors were possible (for instance, upper- and side-camouflages including sometimes bluish-grey paint during 1938-'39, both within Italian and Spanish units).
Starting from a set of five or more basic colour-paints, applying combinations of two, three or sometimes four different colours on the same aircraft, adding mixtures of two or more different basic colour-paints in variable proportions and varying camouflage schemes, all these and other differences in painting techniques, as by brush or spray-devices and paints more-or-less diluted or shaded, resulted again during 1938-'39 into a great variety of CR.32 finishes, as seen in the earlier period in Spain 1937.
During 1938-'39 an attempt to standardize these schemes appeared, mainly within Spanish CR.32 units and partially among Italian fighter Gruppi based in continental Spain, in so far as the background camouflage colour is concerned (and may be also more often in accordance with a warm-season or cold-season paint standards).
The basic difference was application of sand-yellow (paler) or ochre-yellow (darker) as background colour for CR.32 upper- and side-surfaces (the first colour initially intended for summer and the second one for winter periods). Camouflage was then completed by more-or-less shaded and extended patches applied on a uniformly painted background: green patches only (two-colour camouflage) or green and maroon patches (three-colour camouflage).
Again these four basic colours (sand-yellow, ochre-yellow, olive-green, reddish-brown) presented some variability, probably less accentuated toward the end of the Civil War.
And again variations should be considered too, for instance: olive-green background with yellow (and maroon) patches/mottles, greyish-green background or patches/mottles, bluish-grey also used as upper- and side-surfaces colour-paint for background and/or patches/mottles, etc.
Examing b/w photos, a useful method to check sand-yellow (pale) or ochre-yellow (darker) colour-paints applied to aircraft is a direct comparison with "grey-tones" corresponding to a person's flesh color (faces, hands, etc.) as seen, near to the painted surfaces, when taken in the same light conditions. Another useful comparison can be made with "grey-tone" given by standard Italian "Marus" flying-jacket (pale-brown) widely used by both Italian and Spanish airmen, several examples still existing today.
Sand-yellow "grey-tones" appear comparable with "grey-tones" shown by the pale flesh complexion of caucasians; for example in the book: photos on pages 13, 17, 19, 20, 27, 30, 34, 37, 38, 40, 41, 43, 47, 48, 49, 51, 64, 65, 70, 73, 74, 75, 81. Colour profiles presenting quite extensive sand-yellow upper- and side-surfaces are: 8, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14, 17, 19, 20, 24, 25, 28, 30, and 31.
Ochre-yellow "grey-tones" appear darker than flesh "grey-tones" of caucasians; for example: photos on pages 52, 82, 84 (showing personnel from left: with pale, intermediate and dark flesh face complexions) and 85 in the book. Also, examples of CR.32s camouflaged without sand-yellow paint and by ochre-yellow background are in photos on pages 66, 72, 77, 80 - (another example being reported here in Image 5: a CR.32, later in 1938 flown by CO of 24ª Squadriglia, Capitano Giuseppe Majone, with background of upper- and side-surfaces painted ochre-yellow, where the "gray-tone" appears evidently darker than flesh "grey-tone" of the Italian airman with his hand on the forward fuselage, and lighter than the standard "Marus" flying-jacket; instead, olive-green camouflage patches appear darker than flying-jacket). In the book, colour profiles presenting quite extensive ochre-yellow upper- and side-surfaces are: 18, 22, 24, 27, 29, 32, 33, and 34.
|The Final Colours
Two CR.32s, both produced in Spain by Hispano Suiza between 1940 and 1943, are today preserved in the Spanish Air Force museum of Cuatro Vientos, near Madrid, and the Italian Air Force museum of Vigna di Valle, near Rome. Early colours applied to both preserved aircraft and more recent restorations approved by both museums (after independent research) continued to show considerable differences in camouflage painting and schemes - significantly, as was during the Civil War.
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|Image 6 - The CR.32 at Cuatro Vientos - Picture 6 (www.modelbrouwers.nl)|
|Image 6 shows the plane in 1975, before restoration (assembled from parts of different aircraft): traces of sand-yellow background paint and olive-green shaded patches were visible on the tail fin (reported from CR.32 NC 262, code 3-51, flown by J. García Morato within Grupos 2-G-3 and 3-G-3 during the Civil War), while on the fuselage and other parts there appears to be a three-colour shaded-patch camouflage: bluish-grey, olive-green, dark-brown (under-surfaces were pale-bluish-grey).|
|Image 7 - The CR.32 at Cuatro Vientos - Picture 6 (www.modelbrouwers.nl)|
|Image 7 shows this CR.32 after restoration (1988): painted as CR.32bis NC 508, code 3-52 (previously 3-13 flown by J. Salvador Díaz within "Patrulla Azul" beginning 1937 and then passed to Grupo 2-G-3, finally in service after the Civil War end) camouflaged by a particular two-colour scheme: olive-green background and unshaded ochre-yellow patches, under-surfaces aluminium-silver.
The CR.32 at Vigna di Valle
Between 1956 and 2003, HS C.R.32 quater NdF 328 at Vigna di Valle displayed up to six different camouflages, in sequence:
1) A two-colour scheme of Spanish origin (ochre-yellow background and olive-green shaded patches);
2) A two-colour scheme of Spanish inspiration (sand-yellow background and olive-green sparsely shaded patches);
3) A two-colour scheme of Spanish inspiration (olive-green background and sand-yellow shaded patches);
4) (Image 8) a three-colour scheme of Spanish inspiration (sand-yellow, olive-green and reddish-brown shaded patches);
5) (1976-2003) a three-colour scheme of Spanish inspiration (sand-yellow background with a light shade of olive-green and brown patches);
6) (Image 9) a two-colour scheme imitation of Spanish camouflage (light-yellow background and pale-green shaded patches, so-called "low-contrast" paint).
|Image 8 - The CR.32 at Vigna di Valle (A. Mondadori archive)|
|Image 8 shows the CR.32 of Vigna di Valle (HS C.R.32 quater NdF 328) at Turin in 1970, before final restoration, camouflaged with a three-colour shaded-patches scheme applied after its shipment to Italy in 1956: sand-yellow, reddish-brown, olive-green and aluminium-silver under-surfaces - a camouflage of Spanish Civil War inspiration, also applied to RA’s CR.32s in 1938-39.|
|Image 9 - Picture 9 (fotoalbum.virgilio.it)|
|Image 9 shows the CR.32 after 2003 restoration, painted as an aircraft of 24ª Squadriglia, XVI Gruppo Caccia "Cucaracha", coded 3-6 with number 328 reported on the fin, so keeping the Hispano Suiza’s Numero de Fabricación as an Italian FIAT CR.32’s Numero di Costruzione (actual aircraft taken as a reference for this restoration, CR.32 ter coded 3-6 within 24ª Squadriglia at the end of 1937, had NC 720) and camouflaged by a two-colour camouflage scheme: light-yellow background with pale-green shaded patches and pale-bluish-grey under-surfaces.
Notes on “Osprey Aircraft of the Aces – 94” colour tables
Colour references for tables presented in the book resulted also from independent research of mine, trying to put in evidence both camouflage variety (with respect to periods, air-units, operational theatres, etc.) and a general lack of precise relationship between colours applied to CR.32s in Spain and so-called "standard paints" more-or-less prescribed for aircraft of the Regia Aeronautica in Italy since September 1937 (mimetic-yellow, -maroon, -green) and later by 1938-'39 (more colours added to the set, again mainly according to Spanish continental experience).
References (examples being reported here in Images 1 to 4) and colour tables files for the book were prepared by computer-graphics, working on monitor images only, final effects in colour-print resulted in some darker tones. Moreover, some discrepancies can be noted:
- Profiles 10, 12, 13, 14, 23, 30, 31, 35, 36: quite brown-like patches should be olive-green (as reported by color plates commentary);
- Profiles 21, 35, 36: ochre-yellow background should be darker;
- Profile 26: reddish-brown patches should be dull.
Obviously however, any mistakes existing in the Osprey book regrading aircraft colours and camouflage schemes are the responsibility of this writer only, and in no way could be ascribed or associated to the highly professional and strict artwork prepared for publication.