The markings carried by RA vehicles and equipment are as follows:
Formation Signs – these show the higher formation to which the unit is under command and control.
Tactical Signs – these are signs carried by individual vehicles to indicate the vehicle’s function.
Arm of Service markings – these show the unit’s function and position within the formation.
All other markings such as vehicle names, non standard markings, recognition signs and placement of signs will be found on the individual unit pages.
These signs were introduced in October 1939. Regulations stated that they were only to be used in the UK or by the BEF in France. They were not authorised for use in other theatres until 1941. As some RA units changed formations on an almost monthly basis, formation signs were not always carried. These signs can be found on Wikipedia.
Tactical Signs (Tac Signs)
Little is known of this early system and research is ongoing. The system consisted of a number of geometrical shapes divided into Red and Blue with a third colour to indicate the Battery. Based on the units positively identified, there seems to be no pattern by either type or formation as to the shape used or the colour split. The whole system appears totally random and not universally used. What has been discovered so far, along with some informed guesswork, can be found on the Early Tac Signs page.
Tac signs, in white, were carried on an 8 inch square in red and blue (except as detailed below).
This was usually carried on the front of the vehicle and sometimes on cab doors as well. The pattern indicated the Battery.
The white tac sign was placed centrally except for AA units who used only the blue portion of the sign.
Many units eventually changed to the AA style.
Survey Regiments used yellow in place of the red square and a yellow corner for RHQ.
Royal Signals and REME attached to a unit often used the RA colour tac signs although Royal Signals could also use their White over Blue sign with Red lettering instead.
As with any marking system there were always exceptions to the rules. Where non standard markings are known, they will be shown on the units individual page.
The letter or letter and number system used on these signs stayed fairly standard throughout the war and across the different types of unit. There were some adjustments due to the different roles and a few changes later in the war as some units received extra vehicles. The Tac Signs are shown in full in the Organisation section for a variety of unit types.
Arm of Service markings
These were introduced in October 1939 and consisted of a coloured patch in Regiment or Corps colours (red over blue for the RA) with a unit serial number in white. These numbers were issued in blocks to formations and indicated the type of regiment e.g. Infantry Division Anti-Tank Regiment rather than the specific unit.
Prior to 1943 the AoS sign was supposed to be carried on a reversible plate with PASS in white on khaki on the reverse. These plates were phased out by 1943 and the AoS sign painted directly on the vehicle in most cases.
Shortly after introduction, a system of 2 inch white bars was authorised to indicate formations above Divisional level. These were a horizontal bar above the sign for Corps and below it for GHQ troops. Two white bars separated by a black line above the sign indicated Line of Communications troops.
In September 1943 diagonal bars were introduced. Home Forces continued using the upper bar for Corps and the lower bar for GHQ and Command troops while overseas Commands used the system shown below.
Home Forces units not part of the field army used a different system. They carried the appropriate Command, District or Area formation sign and the Arm of Service sign with a white bar at the top. This bar carried an abbreviated unit title in black letters.
4 Field Training Regiment
Units in Anti Aircraft Command used an elliptical AoS patch. After Nov 1943 standard format serial numbers were used by AA Command Mobile Reserve and AA Command Overseas Defence units.
Field formation Anti-Aircraft units used an Arm of Service sign divided vertically until 1941 when they changed to the standard horizontal split.