General articles

Vehicle Marking Requirements as defined in 1975

Vehicle Registration Marks
Certain vehicles introduced into service since 1 August 1972 are fitted with reflective numberplates. These are right hand drive vehicles only in the following groups:

  1. Commercial ambulances.
  2. All cars and motor coaches.
  3. Most “General Service” vans.
  4. Vehicles & trailers, by their official designation clearly show they are neither operational nor tactical eg: Truck Animal Transporting, Truck Refuse Collection, Truck Van Pantechnicon, Trailer Caravan Recruiting, Trailer Hearse etc

Not to be used on BAOR vehicles, where the use of reflective plates is illegal.
Army “Trade Registration Plates” for use at certain Army depots conform to the normal military layout except that the marks are in BLACK on YELLOW background.

Formation Identification Markings
To be displayed on all unit vehicles except motor cycles, BAOR vehicles, and units permanently allotted to NATO, as follows:

  1. Headquarters of theatres, commands and field force formations, including all units for which the headquarters are responsible, are to display the sign of the respective formation headquarters.
  2. District headquarters (UK only) and units, for which they are responsible, are to display the respective district sign.
  3. All units of field force formations, wherever they are located, are to display their respective formation sign.
  4. Units in the UK not part of a field force formation, wherever they are located, are to display the sign of the district or area in which the unit headquarters is located.
  5. Static training organisations, establishments and units are to display the sign of the headquarters to which they are responsible.

Unit Identification Markings
To be displayed on all vehicles and to take the form of a tactical number or the respective unit badge.

  1. Unit Tactical Number. Field force formations units are to display their respective number. In addition BAOR units and units permanently allocated to NATO incorporate their formation identification.
  2. Unit Badges. Units, schools or establishments not part of a field force formation are to display their respective unit badge below a bar containing the official unit abbreviation.

Display methods of Unit & Formation Markings

Location of markings. Unit and formation markings are top be displayed at the front and rear of all vehicles, immediately above the bumpers. They are either hand painted or applied by transfer onto a flat vertical part of the body or onto a metal plate fixed vertically above the bumpers. Formation signs are to be displayed on the right side and unit identification on the left side. Trailers are only to display markings at the rear. Motorcycles are only to display unit markings on each side of the forward end of the petrol tank.

Size. All markings, whether applied directly onto the vehicle body or on a metal plate are not to exceed 9½ ins (24 cm) high and 8½ ins (21 cm) wide.


  1. Formation Signs. The colours and background of the sign must comply with MOD approved pattern.
  2. Unit Tactical Numbers. Are to be 2 ins (5.1 cm) high WHITE numbers painted on to a background that matches the normal background of the vehicle.
  3. Unit Badges. Are to be hand painted or applied by transfer on to a background that matches the normal colour of the vehicle. A BLACK painted bar above the badge, not to exceed 1 in (2.5 cm) high and 8½ ins (21 cm) wide, is to be superimposed with the official unit abbreviation painted in white.
  4. Arm or Service identifying colours. These are not to be used.

BLACK painted service staff cars are not to display formation or unit identification signs. In BAOR and Hong Kong the following vehicles are exempt from displaying service number plates:

  1. Service senior commanders’ cars which bear a title plate eg CBF, DCLF.
  2. Certain vehicles of intelligence units and RMOP (SIB) which will carry civil number plates.
  3. Service vehicles that are used for adventurous training may require civil number plates in certain countries eg Austria, France, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Spain.

Tactical Markings
Sub unit symbols. These may be used, particularly when call sign plates are not used or on vehicles of a sub unit which do not have a radio. The signs should be painted in WHITE on an OLIVE GREEN background. The outer measurements should not exceed 6 inches, and should be located near the tactical sign.

Standard symbols for RAC / RA /RE / R Sigs / Infantry major unit
Battalion/Regimental HQ and Command and Support Squadron and Command Company
Administrative Company, HQ Squadron/Battery
Support Company/Squadron
4th Company if implemented
Standard symbols for Support Squadron RE
Squadron HQ
Stores/Resources Troop
Plant Troop
Workshops Troop
Bridging Troop/Bridging Park















Call Sign Plates
These may be used at discretion of Arm, Service or formation commanders.

Specialist Vehicle Marking

Military Police vehicles
The words “MILITARY POLICE” are to be painted in RED letters 2½ ins ( high on a board at the front and rear of the vehicle. In peacetime the background of the board will be WHITE, in war the background will be BLACK.

Motor cycles are to have WHITE patches 4 ins ( in depth with the letters “MP” in RED 2½ ins ( high on the front and rear adjacent to the numberplate, or if not possible in the most convenient place.

A flashing BLUE light, of maximum power 7 watts, will be fitted in BAOR, Berlin, Hong Kong, Northern Ireland and Cyprus. A two-tone horn will also be fitted, but not in Cyprus. In Belgium the flashing light will be AMBER, this also applied to Army Fire Service vehicles.

Recovery vehicles
These vehicles will be fitted with a rotating AMBER light on the cab and a WHITE light to illuminate the scene of a breakdown or accident.

Explosive Ordnance Disposal & Bomb Disposal vehicles
Vehicle wings are to be painted RED. A BLUE flashing light, of maximum power 7 watts and a two-tone horn will be fitted in the UK. In BAOR an AMBER flashing light and two-tone horn will be fitted.

Signboards, with a WHITE background, will be displayed in a prominent position on the front and rear of the vehicle. Lettering will be in RED 3½ ins ( high.

Royal Engineers. The signboard will be 45 ins (1.14 metres) long and 5 ins (13cm) high marked:

Royal Army Ordnance Corps. The signboard “of suitable size” will be marked:

Army Recruiting Staff vehicles
At the discretion of the commander, vehicles used by Army Recruiting staff and Army Youth Teams may display a WHITE signboard with RED letters approximately 3 ins (7.6cm) high marked:

Chaplains vehicles
These vehicles must bear a BLACK signboard with “CHAPLAIN” in WHITE letters 2 ins (5.1cm) at the front.

Commercial ambulances
Only commercial ambulances are to be fitted with a BLUE flashing light, of a maximum power of 7 watts, on the cab, world-wide use except Belgium where an AMBER flashing light is required. A bell (7 ins) fitted world-wide, except BAOR where a two-tone horn is to be fitted. Some military ambulances may be fitted with a flashing light under local rules.

Vehicle Registration Marks 1973

After 1st January 1973 UK statutory regulations required vehicles registered after that date less than 3048 kg unladen weight to be fitted with reflective number plates, this also applied to the trailers towed by them. Other vehicles and trailers may have them fitted. The MOD policy was to comply with these regulations where operationally acceptable. Accordingly where their role permits the following are to be fitted with reflective number plates:
Commercial ambulances.
Cars of all types.
Motor coaches.
Vans other than GS types.
Other non-operational vehicles and trailers falling with the date and weight limit above.

All other vehicles and all of those in Germany continue with white characters on a black background. Trailers of the Army and RAF, unlike civilian trailers, have an individual vehicle registration. Royal Navy trailers are not provided with registration plates, vehicles that are likely to tow trailers are provided with a third registration plate for affixing to the trailer. A trailer of the Royal Navy towed by an Army or RAF vehicle on public roads must display the registration of the towing vehicle.

Heavy vehicles
When moving along or crossing public roads, a rotating AMBER light will be used by all heavy ‘A’ vehicles, tank transporters, tractors over 20 tons towing trailers, M2 rigs and vehicles normally used on airfields.

Airfield construction vehicles
A, B, and C vehicles, and engineer construction plant when working on airfields should have flat top surfaces, such as cab roofs, painted YELLOW.

Union Flag transfers
Previously 6 ins by 4 ins, now defined as 6 ins by 3 ins (15.3cm by 7.6cm). Still no rule as to exact the position but should be “prominent”. The position was later defined in JSP Road Transport Regulations.

Bridge Classification Signs (STANAG 2010 and SEATAG 2010)

GS vehicles with a rated capacity of less than 3 tons are no longer required to carry a bridge load classification sign. Where signs are required they are still YELLOW, but at the front of the vehicle now to be nearest to the kerb in the country they are to be driven. The smaller side sign, which is only required for towing vehicles, is still on the right side, irrespective of the side normally nearest the kerb.

Safety markings
Air hose connections – Emergency: RED, Service: YELLOW
Air reservoir drain taps – YELLOW
Retaining nuts of divided wheels – RED (but no mention of white wheel nuts)
Tipper locking pins – RED
Diesel filler caps – YELLOW (but no mention of red for petrol)
Slinging points “SLING HERE” – WHITE, with stencilled arrow showing exact point.
Speed limit signs – not to be used unless required by local or national regulations.

Left hand drive
Now left-hand drive vehicles were only marked as such if NOT fitted with trafficators.

Movement by air
All vehicles and trailers to be moved by air, require a 10 in (25.4) square matt black patch to be painted on the sides; the position of the patch was not yet specified. Lettering, of unspecified dimensions, should be in WHITE indicating the rear axle weight (RAW), front axle weight (FAW), all up weight (AUW) and chalk number. The actual weights and chalk number were written in chalk prior to flight to assist in loading, to ensure the proper distribution of weight within the aircraft. This was so that the vehicle could be tied down in the prescribed manner which was specific to the aircraft, the vehicle and whether the vehicle was driven in forwards or reversed in. The ‘chalk number’ refers to the allocation of a vehicle to a particular aircraft, it is not the sequence of loading, and of course FAW + RAW = AUW

In addition to these markings FV430 series required the centre of gravity to be marked on both sides of the vehicle. The markings are different where there is a single axle, be that on a trailer or even a concrete mixer. Axle weight + Tow-bar weight = All Up Weight In the case of a towed gun: Axle weight + Trail weight = All Up Weight

Vehicle Marking Requirements as defined in 1977

The previous regulations issued in March 1975 were soon to be outmoded by the Defence Review later that year. The implications of it took a little while to filter through into new regulations. The thrust of the review was a “one Army concept” ie TAVR and Regular Units are to be treated alike including the elimination of markings that make such distinctions, together with markings that are not strictly necessary. These changes were to be completed by certain dates within the year starting 1st April 1977. Disbandments defined dates by which some signs would become obsolete anyway, notably the disbandment of the 3rd Division in the UK on 31st July 1977 and HQ 19 Airportable Brigade on 31st March 1978.

The new vehicle signs comprise two elements separated by an oblique stroke.

The first element. This consists of numbers or letters, which indicate the formation or district to which the vehicle belongs.

The second element. Thisconsists only of numbers and will be specific to the unit that the vehicle belongs.


SW/10 is HQ Sowdist.
SE/21 is a unit in South East District not allotted to any operational formation.
2/40 is the Army Air Corps Squadron of 6th Brigade

These signs in WHITE, based on a self-adhesive clear film, are to be 27mm/96 Point in height. They are to be displayed on vehicles on the front (offside) and at the rear. The sign should be at the lowest vertical surface immediately above the bumper, where no vertical surface is available then the angled forward edge of the bonnet above the headlamps is to be used. On trailers, the sign is to be displayed at the rear only. The background is just the normal colour of the vehicle, but in BAOR the characters are to be WHITE stencils 51mm high on a matt BLACK patch of appropriate size. Black painted staff and utility cars are not to carry any identifying signs, with the exception of Star Plates when applicable.

Bridge Load Classification Plates. These are now changed from YELLOW to GREY

Tyre Pressures Markings. Changed from WHITE to matt BLACK or GREEN depending on background.

Sub Unit Markings. Remain unchanged.

Call Sign Markings. Armoured vehicles are to carry WHITE on YELLOW figures indicating Call Signs on:
APC – Either side.
Tank/Armoured Car – To carry removable plate at rear of turret.

© Clive Elliott 2000