For the new Tiger Collection, The Tank Museum’s Jagdtiger and Tiger II with pre-production turret were repainted to show how they looked when they were captured in 1945. Both tanks are now painted in RAL 7028, known as Dunkelgelb.
RAL (or Reichsausschuss für Lieferbedingungen und Gütesicherung) codes were a way of standardising the paint shades used by the German government. The system was introduced in 1927 and each colour was identified with a numerical code. From 1941 onwards this had four digits.
The colours were created using materials available in Germany, and as they used natural earth pigments they would not oxidise or fade. As a result wartime colour samples are still useable references.
In 1944, when the Tiger II and Jagdtiger were built, German tanks were painted in Dunkelgelb at the factory. Frontline units were issued with tins of RAL 6003 (Olive Green) and RAL 8017 (Red Brown) paint in the form of concentrated paste. They would thin this with water or petrol and paint over the Dunkelgelb themselves, creating a three colour pattern. This meant that while the colours on German armoured vehicles were standardised the camouflage pattern was not.
It is sometimes assumed that units would use any available paint, so German tanks could have been painted in a range of different colours. This did happen, especially whitewashing in snowy conditions, but the German system and mentality frowned upon this sort of improvisation, so it is unlikely to have been widespread.
It’s also worth remembering that in isolated areas of Russia, Europe or North Africa what was issued usually was the only available paint.
The Museum’s Tiger II and Jagdtiger both spent the war with trials units at Sennelager Training Area. As they were never used by a frontline unit their Dunkelgelb was never painted over.
Museum staff used documents from our Archive and original paint samples on objects in the collection to determine the correct shade for the two vehicles. This was then recreated by Colour Right Paints Ltd of Bere Regis.
One of the aims of the Tiger Collection is to highlight the differences between the legend and the reality of the Tiger tank. The Tiger II and Jagdtiger’s previous colour schemes were applied decades ago based on information we now know was inaccurate. Repainted, their new colour may seem less interesting, but it reflects the true history of both vehicles.