General articles

Vehicle Marking Requirements as required from 31st March 1978

Formation Heraldic Signs/Badges - To be phased out
Arm/Service Identifying Colour Signs - To be phased out

Exceptions are Recruiting Caravans and other vehicles belonging to Army Youth Teams and Unit sponsored KAPE Teams. (KAPE - a public relations scheme, Keeping the Army in the Public Eye). These may display:
Cyphers/Crests on removable boards on the front.
Written Unit titles on removable boards on the sides.
Caravans only – directly on the sides.

Non-operational vehicles. Units, may at their own expense, display their Cyphers/Crests on the doors.

Vehicle Marking Requirements as defined in 1980-83

Formation Heraldic Signs/Badges. These are only permitted in certain overseas locations, which do not include NATO countries.

NATO National Markings. The position of these is now defined as being required on the left front and left rear. It is surprising how many in service vehicles are incorrectly marked. Land Rovers often end up with the rear sticker put on the right as on the left side there is a shortage of space with the number plate and its light. The size of the Union Flag is now slightly smaller still at 15 by 7.5 cms; previously it was 15.3 by 7.6 cms, and prior to that 15.2 by 10.2 cms.

BAOR Exercises (1980)
Vehicles depicting enemy forces ‘B’ vehicles should have a YELLOW cross on a BLACK disc stuck on the windscreen, ‘A’ vehicles should carry a YELLOW pennant and marked with a YELLOW band round the gun barrel. If there is no gun a YELLOW cross is painted on the front of the vehicle, although often tape is used for this identification. Vehicles carrying ammunition are to display red flags front and rear, and display YELLOW signs 40 x 40 cm front and rear between 1.50 m and 2.50 m above the ground with the words “ACHTUNG SPRENGSTOFF” in 3 inch BLACK letters. In addition all vehicles and trailers carrying ammunition are to display a notice reading in English and German “NO SMOKING WITHIN 20 METRES OF THIS VEHICLE”. The notice should be “large” but no actual dimensions are given, nor any indication of the colour scheme, nor is the German text given.

Berlin Urban Camouflage
This was devised by Brigadier Clendon Daukes during his command of the Independent Armoured Squadron in Berlin between 1982 and 1983. He produced an urban camouflage consisting of large squares of three colours (white, brown and grey) irrespective of the size of the vehicle; all Berlin vehicles were painted to this scheme, including ‘B’ vehicles. There was a short break in the use of the scheme with the arrival of a Household Division Commander who felt it unsuitable for parades. But it impressed both the Americans and the Warsaw Pact who adopted this camouflage for many of their vehicles

Vehicle Depot Markings
It is very exciting rubbing down paintwork on our vehicles to find old stencil markings, and with great skill these are often reproduced on restored vehicles. Unfortunately markings applied in vehicle storage depots are only temporary, and should be removed when they are issued. It would be quite novel to restore a vehicle as it would be stored in a vehicle depot, but would look a little strange if it carried all the kit and markings of an operational unit.

Marking of vehicles on receipt at depot. Vehicles are marked with WHITE 25mm letters with 25mm between lines.
‘A’ vehicles on the nearest wing or nearest prominent position.
‘B’ & ‘C’ vehicles on the inside of the passenger windscreen furthest from the driver.
Trailers on the rear end.

Vehicle Code Number which defines the vehicle make, type, and variant exactly and is 4 digits + 4 digits eg Humber Pig APC Mk 1 Code No. 1760.0501.
(Prior to 1964 the Code No. was 6 digits + 2 digits + 3 digits, for this type of Pig code was 310118.01.777.)

Prefix CL followed by the Reliability Classification. This is based on the age of the vehicle from entry into Service, irrespective of the time spent in RAOC vehicle depots. Not required for ‘A’ vehicles.
Class 1– for the first 60% of planned life.
Class 2 – for next 40% of planned life.
Class 3 – over planned life.

Serviceability Classification is marked in the same line as the Reliability Classification, and is as follows:
‘S’ - Serviceable.
‘U’ - Uninspected.
‘Y’ - Unserviceable requiring a Field Standard repair.
‘Z’ - Unserviceable requiring a Base Standard repair.
‘P’ - Provisionally Beyond Economic Repair (BER).
‘D’ - BER confirmed.
‘R’ - Reject. Where work is to be done under a manufacturer’s warranty.
‘W’ - Unserviceable where spares will not be available for 8 weeks or more.

Prefix R. This is the date received in depot marked by month/year eg ‘10/75’.

MAJOR or MINOR. This relates to the type of maintenance and is determined by the vehicle type, whether it is serviceable and the unit from which it has come. Followed by the date.
Major Servicing includes change of all oils and is carried out every 36 months.
Minor Servicing includes topping up of oils and is carried out every 12 months.


After the receipt inspection, which may take place quite some time after the receipt of the vehicle, the serviceability status and date is added to the right of the ‘CL’ prefix.
eg CL 1 S 4/76

Marking of vehicles entering storage
There are two types of inspection and maintenance:
Annual Inspection and Maintenance (AIM)
Two Yearly Inspection and Maintenance (TYM)
The Exercise/Storage duties supervisor is to determine the type of inspection required (AIM or TYM).
The marking MAJOR or MINOR is removed and replaced with AIM or TYM.

When AIM/TYM has been completed, the Maintenance supervisor is to insert the date.


Marking of vehicles to be issued
Stored vehicles selected for issue will have the ERO number and Target Date marked in RED letters 50mm size below the main depot markings. ERO is the Equipment Release Order, and the Target Date is date assigned for the issue of the vehicle.
Prior to issue all temporary markings are to be removed, except on ‘A’ vehicles where the gun barrel is marked with Gun Pull Mack & Maintenance details (GPM).

Vehicle Marking Requirements as defined in 1986


At the discretion of the local commander, in the interests of security, markings that disclose the identity of units or formations may be removed or obscured. Vehicles used with adventurous training expeditions in countries other than NATO, are usually required to be ‘civilianised’ by using a civilian registrations, obliteration of service markings and painting in a non-service colour.

Manufacturer’s names & insignia

Manufacturer’s emblems etc are to be painted the same colour as the rest of the vehicle. The exception is on staff cars and commercial type vans, but even so metal or enamelled insignia are not to be added to or embellished in any way. Badges of private clubs or organisations are not permitted on Service vehicles.

Air transportation chalk numbers
The BLACK 250 mm squares are now required to be painted ‘in the vicinity of the cab’ on either side of the vehicle. The unspecified size of the WHITE lettering is now defined as 25mm. More detail is given for the marking of the centre of gravity for FV430 series, this is to be a thin 150mm vertical line marked ‘CG’ in 25mm WHITE letters.

Pedal cycles
The rear mudguard of every pedal cycle is to have an area of not less than 12 square inches painted WHITE.

EOD & Bomb Disposal
The sign for Royal Engineer vehicles no longer just displays ‘BOMB DISPOSAL’, but the full title ‘ROYAL ENGINEERS BOMB DISPOSAL’. The WHITE sign is now 5mm smaller at 1140mm x 125mm, but despite the extra (RED) letters, remains 90mm high.

Tyre pressures
Earlier exceptions to markings still apply. The tyre pressure markings are no longer WHITE but in the appropriate contrast colour in figures not exceeding 25mm, previously it had been 2 inches (50mm). They are to be in a central position to the edge of each mudguard or on the body above the wheel. Staff cars are to be marked on the inside of the glove compartment or other inconspicuous place accessible to the driver.

White wheel nuts!
Although there are repeated regulations, standards and specifications that require the clamping nuts of divided rim wheels to always be painted RED; I can find no written requirement for wheel nuts to be painted white. In fact the Joint Service Road Transport Regulations state that all other wheel nuts are to be painted the standard colour for the vehicle.

Heraldic formation signs
The use of heraldic formation signs generally ceased in 1977-78, except in a few locations. At the discretion of the senior Army commander the use of these signs may continue, or other systems adopted to suit local conditions in Gibraltar, Cyprus, Berlin, Northern Ireland, and Belize.

Tactical markings
Tactical markings are identification markings within units for battlefield recognition; they consist of numbers, letters, or geometric figures or combinations thereof. The field commander has discretion as to their design and use, and is even permitted to use colours.

Call-signs and sub-unit symbols
Call-signs superimposed on sub-unit symbols should be matt BLACK on a matt OLIVE GREEN background. The call-sign numbers should be not normally be more than 10 inches high. They should be positioned:
On turreted vehicles, on the rear of the turret only.
On ‘A’ vehicles with a rear door, on both sides of the vehicle and on the rear door.
On all other ‘A’ vehicles, on both sides of the vehicle.
On all ‘B’ vehicles, on both front doors.
On WHITE convoy light panels, superimposed in BLACK to fit the size of the panel.

Examples: Headquarters & administrative vehicles
(Diamond) First sub-unit
(Triangle) Second sub-unit
(Square) Third sub-unit
(Circle) Fourth/support sub-unit
(Broken rectangle) Fifth sub-unit
(Lazy D)

Royal Air Force markings

RAF roundels are to be displayed directly on all vehicles, without the use of special plates or brackets. At the front of the vehicle on the right side, which is the opposite side to the Union Flag sticker. At the rear of the vehicle on the left side, but this is the same side as the Union Flag sticker. On a Land Rover this area is fairly crowded with the number plate and its light, so the roundel should be applied to the far left side of the rear door, some vehicles in service incorrectly display the roundel on the more inviting space on the right side.

RAF insignia
Vehicles likely to be seen by the public at civil airports or on the public highway are to display RAF insignia panels in BLUE writing on a GOLDEN YELLOW background near the waistline on both sides of vehicles and trailers.

Safety markings
Where these are required for airfield use GOLDEN YELLOW vinyl safety panels 150mm high are applied. The strips are supplied in 1-metre lengths and are adapted to fit the vehicle or trailer around the waistline. Where RAF insignia are used the strips are applied level to and either side of the insignia; with intermittent strips of film the same width as for the insignia panels. Front and rear bumpers are to be marked with the same width as the side safety markings. The leading edges of bonnets, or on bluff fronted vehicles, the areas around each headlamp are to be marked with 75mm strip. Rear markings are not required on ambulances or vehicles having statutory reflective markings for heavy or long loads. Otherwise vans panel trucks, coaches and trailers, the side safety markings are continued across the rear. Car boot lids or an adjacent vertical surface of similar width is to be marked with 75mm strip.

Unit/Squadron markings
Officially approved unit badges should be no more than 300mm high and may be applied in the centre of the nearside door.

RAF Regiment tactical signs
These consist of 200mm squares, on detachable metal plates mounted front and rear. Divided into equal portions of AZURE BLUE and SIGNAL RED. Horizontal, vertical, or diagonal lines or two diagonal converging lines define the coloured divisions. The blue portion occupies the left or the upper parts of the sign. On motorcycles the sign is 100mm square. The wing or squadron identification is superimposed at the top left-hand corner. The sub-unit and vehicle identification at the opposite corner at the bottom. The characters are WHITE 50mm high on 200mm signs, and 25mm high on 100mm signs

Examples of RAF Regiment tactical signs

Vehicle Marking Requirements as defined in 1990

Unit identification

No doubt for security reasons vehicles of the Regular and TA forces are NOT to display unit identification marks, except overseas at the discretion of the senior Army commander.

And finally
It can be a fascinating experience to gradually rub down layers of paintwork to uncover hidden markings that reveal something of the true history of your vehicle. Certain units are renowned for the liberal use of the paintbrush especially at the time of inspections or parades, but these unofficial embellishments are often quite contrary to prescribed painting regulations. The temptation is to present the restoration with all the markings that are found, I hope these notes will give some clues as to the era that the various official markings appeared. It does take considerable restraint not to put all the markings on the vehicle again, but some would even say that it could be chic to understate a restoration. I know of a restored Pig, which despite having had many markings during its service career now has no markings at all! Because the vehicle is restored to depict a specific point in history, all that can be seen are Union Flag stickers that have been painted over!

Further reading:

AESP 2610-A-409-301 Chapter 3. Painting wheel rims.
AESP 2320-D-100-811 Mod Instr No 37 Mountain rescue & ambulance signs.
Aircraft & Equipment. Army Code No 60503. 1975 & 1980.
BAOR Publication B7 Standing Instructions for Exercises. Section 611. Distinguishing marks & passes.
Catalogue of Ordnance Stores & Ammunition (COSA). Section H1 Part 1. Paints, Dopes & Varnishes. Army Code No 13447.
Commander Royal Army Ordnance Corps. Annex E Bulletin 8/77. Vehicles, Unit Identification Signs.
Concealment in the Field. WO Code No 9459. 1957
Defence Standard. 05-34/2. Marking of Service Materiel.
Defence Standard. 23-4. Marking of Service Vehicles.
EMER General J 300. Waterproofing Regulations. Vehicles and Equipment.
EMER Workshops G 500. Preparation & Painting of Service Equipments.
EMER Workshops N 251. Painting of Vehicles, Equipments & Stores.
EMER Workshops N 255, 256, 257. Re-painting fuel tanks, fuel tankers, water tankers & trailers.
EMER Wheeled Vehicles A 017 Misc Instr No 7. Rear markings ‘B’ vehicles.
EMER Wheeled Vehicles A 017 Misc Instr No 9. Triangular rear reflectors for trailers.
EMER Wheeled Vehicles A 017 Misc Instr No 12. Fitting ‘MOD POLICE’ signs.
EMER Wheeled Vehicles A 017 Misc Instr No 14. Fitting ‘POLICE’ signs for Military & RAF Police.
EMER Wheeled Vehicles A 019 Mod Instr No 13. Undersealing of vehicles
EMER Wheeled Vehicles A 019 Mod Instr No 19. Fitting identification signs on Military Police vehicles.
EMER Wheeled Vehicles A 027 Misc Instr No 10. Fitting blue & amber warning lights to aerodrome vehicles
EMER Wheeled Vehicles A 029 Mod Instr No 1. Painting of winch ropes.
EMER Wheeled Vehicles A 079 Misc Instr No 1. ‘MILITARY POLICE’ signs on motorcycles
EMER Wheeled Vehicles A 046 Painting wheel rims.
EMER Wheeled Vehicles Q 029/2 Mod Instr No 3. Rover Ambulance removal of red cross & blue lights.
EMER Wheeled Vehicles U 047 Misc Instr No 1. Trailers. Fitting convoy light & plates suspended.
Equipment Regulations. Pamphlet No.9.Marking & Painting Vehicles, Army Aircraft & Eqpt 1959. Army Code No 12473.
Equipment Regulations. Pamphlet No.9.Marking & Painting Vehicles, Army Aircraft & Eqpt 1969. Army Code No 12473-17.
FVDD Specification 2012. Painting of Fighting & Mechanical Transport Vehicles, Tracked & Wheeled. 1948.
FVRDE Specification 1289. Underfloor Protection of Vehicles. 1964.
Infantry Training. Vol IV. Training for night operations. 1965
Inspectorate of Fighting Vehicles Report M368. Painting of Service Vehicles. 1957.
Joint Service Diagrams for Vehicle & Equipment Transportation. JSP 71. Vol 1 & 2. 1974
Joint Service Road Transport Regulations. JSP 341. Chapter 12. Vehicle Identification & Marking. 1984 + Amendments 2 & 7
Material Regulations for the Army. Vol 2.Vehicles & Technical Eqpt. Pamphlet No 3. Painting of Army Vehicles. 1975 & 1980.
MVEE Specification 666. Pre-treatment and painting of vehicles, engineer equipment & components.
Notes on MT Administration. Section 12.Vehicle Marking & Painting, Bridge Classification. Army Code No 11060. 1954.
Regulations for the Equipment of the Army. Marking of Vehicles. Pamphlet No.5. Army Code No 3812. 1956.
REME Synthetic Data Book 2. Cleaning & Painting, Joinery, Welding, Sheet Metal Work & Misc. Amended to 1972.
Road Movement. Army Code No 71268. 1980.
UK Land Forces Standing Instruction No 79. Signing of vehicles. 1977.
Unit Battlefield Counter Surveillance. Army Code No 70753. 1974
Vehicle Depots. Vol.1. Pamphlet No.6. Manual of Army Ordnance Services. Army Code No 14572. 1983.
Wheels & Tracks. No 53. Tabby Night-driving Equipment. 1995
Windscreen. Issue 83. 1950’s British Airborne Equipment Markings. Summer 1999.

© Clive Elliott 2000