There is a Curtiss Kittyhawk 1V undergoing restoration in the RAF Museum in London, with an unusual squadron marking. A comprehensive history of the aircraft can be found here, which says:

The aircraft is painted in the markings of No 112 Squadron Kittyhawk FX760 / GA-? Which operated in Italy with the Squadron between 3 and 22 June 1944, being flown in that brief period by Squadron Leader Attearne [sic] DFC and F/Lt Reg Wild DFC RAAF

("Attearne" is actually S/Ldr Lance Ahern DSO DFC RAAF.)

Curtiss Kittyhawk

Initially I thought it might be a placeholder, but there is at least one photo that shows it operationally with the question mark:

Curtiss Kittyhawk source

This same plane was also flown by Group Captain Billy Drake DSO DFC & Bar and is famous enough to be available in model form. It might be that it started life as a P and the squadron leader was having some fun, but the contemporary photo implies a measure of forethought. Under what circumstances would an RAF aircraft have a question mark as part of its squadron code?


1 Answer 1


It was fairly common to use “?” if there were more than 26 aircraft in the squadron. (only 26 letters in the alphabet)

Camouflage and markings of No.112 Squadron RAF,

“The second thing is the use of the query punctuation mark as an individual aircraft ident marking; the use of such symbols and shapes (such as, eg, colons, semi-colons, and diamonds) was not unusual in Italy when a squadron had more than 26 aircraft on strength, and the use of ”?” was the most common, even at times in the UK itself. Indeed, the ”?” mark was often used to indicate the aircraft of the squadron commander, though not always so as in the case of this aircraft. Once again this is painted over the top of the serial number, FX740.”

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If the aircraft was shot down, or went missing, the “?” could be used on another aircraft.


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    $\begingroup$ So would the 27th aircraft get the question mark, and then the 28th a colon, etc.? $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 6, 2023 at 11:15
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    $\begingroup$ I don’t think it worked that way. The question mark was used more often than the other options, but I doubt it was the official mark of the 27th aircraft. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 6, 2023 at 11:35
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks Mike. If you find more details, I'm curious. But it's just curiosity, so no need to waste any time unless it piques your interest too. On second thought, I don't want to reduce the importance of curiosity, I just don't want to impose my curiosity on you! $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 7, 2023 at 10:49

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