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"Operation Crusader 1941 'white red white' national stripes?" Topic

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World War Two on the Land

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olicana10 Sep 2010 4:25 a.m. PST

I don't expect an answer to this, but it's worth a try.

During Operation Crusader 1941, a large national marking was applied to tanks (in a similar way to D-Day aircraft) in the form of verticle stripes – white red white.

I know that the following formations definately used it (and I have some other pics showing it but can't remember which book they are in):

4th Armoured Brigade
32nd Army Tank Brigade
1st Army Tank Brigade

I have a picture of a 6 RTR Crusader Mk1 without it, but the caption reads 'prior to Operation Crusader'. So my question is:

Were all British tank formations required to paint these white and red stripes on their vehicles for Operation Crusader? (they are mentioned somewhere as being "Crusader stripes").

ezza12310 Sep 2010 7:45 a.m. PST


The Crusader Project blog may be a good starting point to try and find out this information;


bgbboogie Inactive Member10 Sep 2010 8:44 a.m. PST

RTR markings

olicana10 Sep 2010 8:52 a.m. PST

Hi Ezza,

yes I know about that site. I have access to most of what is written there in books, etc. I find it a difficult site to navigate – its posts need more labels so you can find stuff (as a new reader).

Andreas Inactive Member02 Sep 2011 3:15 a.m. PST

Hi James

I am the owner of the site. The best way to navigate the site is to go here, which is the table of content, by type of content:


Regarding your question. My understanding is that the order was issued to all formations to paint this marking onto their tanks. I have the copy of the order being passed on from the 4 RTR (32 Armoured Brigade) war diary.

I hope your 22 Armoured Brigade modelling work is progressing well. I was very impressed by it.

All the best


Jemima Fawr Inactive Member02 Sep 2011 4:31 a.m. PST

These markings were a resurrection of WW1 tank markings – which became necessary when the Germans began using captured British tanks. They remained in use until replaced by the Allied Star, but even then you can still see them painted on the odd AFV well into 1944 and even on the Normandy beaches.

donlowry02 Sep 2011 10:24 a.m. PST

I have also seen red-white-red vertical stripes. Why the change?

Etranger Inactive Member04 Sep 2011 6:10 a.m. PST

The WRW marking was a specific ID marking for the Crusader operation & was only in use for a few weeks. Mike Starmer and Dick Taylor both cover it in their books.

The RWR marking was, as Mark says, a generic British tank marking later replaced by the allied star.

Andreas Inactive Member18 Oct 2011 1:23 a.m. PST

I think the marking was still in use in January, so a few months would probably be a better term?

Etranger Inactive Member18 Oct 2011 5:32 p.m. PST

I'm sure that they were still apparent on vehicles several months later. Officially however they weren't meant to be!

Andreas Inactive Member19 Oct 2011 1:36 a.m. PST

When did the order to no longer use them come in then? I have them as turret markings on Stuarts of the 10 Hussars in January. Those guys only arrived in the desert in January, but they may of course have taken over older tanks.

All the best


Etranger Inactive Member19 Oct 2011 3:13 a.m. PST

I'm trying to find the thread, but that titbit came from Mike Starmer over on the FOW forum. Dick Taylor hasn't covered in yet in his work on Britsh Armour it's in the next volume to be published (4). Meanwhile I've got this quote from the excellent Austin Armor Builders magazine, Sabot Away! May 2009, pages 4 to 7, again by Mike Starmer

The White-Red-White Flash: In early November 1941 whilst planning for "Operation Crusader", the relief of Tobruk, the issue of recognition of friendly AFVs for ground forces was again addressed. All participating armored units were ordered to mark their tanks with a large and distinctive easily recognized marking due to a number of factors ……..

An order from the GHQ of the 8th Army was issued about 5th
November 1941 immediately applicable to all units designated
to partake in the forthcoming operation which commenced on 18th November and continued until 6th January 1942. This order applied to units of both XII and XXX Corps and Tobruk Garrison. In addition to which I have copies of the pertinent sections of this order to 7th Armored Division, 6th Infantry Division and 32nd Army Tank Brigade…….

[R]ecognition of AFVs will be standardized throughout the EIGHTH ARMY on the following lines. Tanks only. Sign to be painted in positions shown on attached diagram, the sign to be 3 vertical bands, the centre band to be red, the outer bands to be white. Each band will be 6 inches wide and up to 18 inches deep according to available space. Paints and brushes are being sent immediately to Formation O.F.Ps. The sign will be painted on as soon as paint is received. Completion of all tanks will be reported to this H.Q.

In each case the designated positions were both sides of the turret, both sides of the front track-guards and one centrally on the front hull plate. These locations were indicated on a somewhat crude drawing attached to the above order…… No marking was to be applied to the rear or horizontal surfaces; this was not an air recognition sign.

This order was followed by item (b)regarding tanks and armored cars that were to carry two pennants in various positions as prescribed in the order on specified dates. There was a codeword issued as the instruction to adopt these pennant positions…….

Following the successful end of the operation in January, albeit with huge losses of tanks and equipment, the white-red-white marking was cancelled and presumably units were ordered to paint over them. No order has yet been found instructing units to obscure or remove the marking but there are a number of photographs taken in early 1942 of different types of tanks that do show fresh camouflage colored rectangles of paint over
those areas where the flash would have been applied.

This flash was never used again anywhere in the Middle East on any other type of tank or other vehicle than those listed above.
Mike Starmer

Andreas Inactive Member19 Oct 2011 4:30 a.m. PST

Great, many thanks. The pictures I have show M3s from 10 Hussars (2 Armd Bde, 1 Armd Div) with the sign in place, in January 42, after the end of the first push. So my guess is it was officially cancelled after the counter-offensive, in February 1942. I'll dig through my war diaries to see what I can find.

All the best


Etranger Inactive Member19 Oct 2011 6:41 p.m. PST

If you do find a definite date – let Mike Starmer know!

Andreas Inactive Member20 Oct 2011 3:03 a.m. PST


Interestingly, there's a picture of a Morris 9 LRC with the stripes, also from Jan. 42.


All the best


AndreasB Inactive Member14 Oct 2018 2:06 a.m. PST

Just found this picture dated 16 March 1942 (and it's deffo post 17 Jan 1942)


All the best


mysteron Supporting Member of TMP16 Oct 2018 2:59 a.m. PST

Some still carried the recognition markings sometime after Crusader . That appears to be one of those tanks.

Blutarski16 Oct 2018 4:47 a.m. PST

FWIW, my old and hoary copy of "Armor Camouflage and Markings, North Africa 1940-1943" by George Bradford show the following recognition schemes -

Valentine Mk III, 8th RTR, Bardia, Jan 1942:
Prominent vertical WRW stripes on turret side, from turret ring to rooftop + small vertical WRW flash at front of sand guard.

M3 Stuart (Honey), 3rd RTR, 1942:
Vertical WRW stripes on turret side, from turret ring stopping short of rooftop + small vertical WRW flash at front of sand guard.


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