Shorts S.30 Empire colour schemes - an appraisal

This is the place to discuss particular Shorts Flying Boat types and post documents, photographs and other relevant information appertaining to these craft.

Shorts S.30 Empire colour schemes - an appraisal

Postby seawings » Thu Jul 23, 2009 9:00 pm

Hello everyone,

Tonight, I received an e-mail from long-time US world-class aviation photographer William (Bill) Larkins, a good friend of SEAWINGS. It was sent to him by a real flying boat enthusiast Jim Lund. This is the chap who has just put on a display of flying boat models in San Fransisco, due to be featured on SEAWINGS shortly, but trust me when I say that this guy is one real flying boat modeler, historian and all-round superb enthusiast! The pics are stunning.............!

However, the content of the e-mail is flying boat dynamite! Read this:

Dear Bill,

I'm thinking that since you have taken the time to introduce me to Bryan Ribbans ...Britain's number one flying boat enthusiast.

In any case, he operates an impressive web site.

For some strange reason, I feel compelled let the establishment know that all S.23 and particularly S.30's were not all done in alclad with silver painted fabric covered control surfaces. That opinion that came from the pages of Brian Cassidy's definitive book "Flying Empires".

PROFILE PUBLICATIONS "The Short Empire Boats" number 84 featured four pages of color profiles showing some with the hull below the water line in cream. All boats were shown over-all aluminum. I have seen, on the internet, color photos of dull aluminum colored Imperial Airways ships. So I conclude that some Imperial Airways boats were that color.

Now consider the Qantas and Tasman boats. Bill, is the crux of the thing - Petr Buchar, the C.E.O. of CMR (Czech Master Resin) is coming out with a kit of the Short S.30 that will feature the Tasman Empire boat ‘Aotearoa’. The builders of these kits should be made aware of the actual colours.

For your information, the main difference between the S.23 and S.30 are the engines: S.23 had Bristol Pegasus X and the S.30 had smaller diameter Bristol Perseus XII, which helped increase their range.

Now, it gets complicated. Evidently WWII really screwed up the system. Britain went to war with Germany in 1939. The colony 'down under' was not as deeply embroiled. Pearl Harbor upped the ante.

The records show that the ‘Aotearoa’ started life 12th May 1939 as AWARUA ZK-AMA, then became Imperial Airways G-AFDA . It was then briefly registered as ZK-AMC before becoming ZK-AMA as the ‘Aotearoa’. Still more confusing is that I have a photo captioned as ‘Ao-tea-roa’, a Cabot class boat. used on the New Zealand - Australia run with the registration ZK-AMA,

However the photo shows G-AFCY…I discovered this is so because it was launched as ZK-AMA, then became AWARUA G-AFCY .

OK, enough jibberish! Let's cut to the chase.

Question: What was the color of the ‘Aotearoa’ ?.

I have a color photo, published on page 378 of "Pan American's Pacific Pioneers - the rest of the story by Jon Krupnick. It shows a Boeing 314 moored alongside ZK-AMA ‘Aotearoa’. The caption reads "This rare color aerial photo of Pan Am's New Zealand base at Mechanic's Bay, Auckland, taken July 18, 1940. The author, Mr Krupnick was very interested my comments and contacted his graphics man Mr.Cal Deal, of The Graphic Witness Inc. Mr. Deal sent me an email photo with this message: Here is a screen capture showing the area in question at 200%. You can clearly see that the blue water was painted around the gangway and around the tail of the Boeing. Sorry this didn't provide the evidence you're seeking! Best, Cal.
So it was a colorized photo. Not digitally on some idiot's photo shop computer. Colorized by a professional in 1940 given the right colors for the Boeing (as we have many Kodak color photos of this airplane taken in 1940). I think that it’s safe to assume that the colors on the Short are also correct. Cream overall with international orange panels on the wing outboard above the ailerons, cowl flaps aluminum, collector ring rust and steel props.

More recently, I discovered the book "...From the Dawn of Aviation - THE QANTAS STORY - 1920 -1995" by John Stackhouse. Published 1005 ISBN 1-875-359-23-0 Page 80 has a Kodachrome 35 mm photo of VH-ABA ‘Carpenteria’ taken in 1941. The colors are the same as the Krupnick photo, with the addition of red, white and blue war-time identity stripes horizontally along the lower rear of the hull and vertical in the fin. I am convinced that these boats sported the colors described in the above text.

I must give credit to R.E.G. Davies, for his publication "BRITISH AIRWAYS - an airline and its aircraft Volume 1: 1919-1939 - The Imperial Years" Mr. Davies told of the "C" class boats painted with cream colored protective sealant. Davies had conferred with John Stroud. Stroud, an airline and air transport historian, author of many books and the technical editor of Putnam books. Stroud was also an aviation artist as well. Davies took a lot of flak from the flying boat historical establishment, refusing to accept "Cream Coloured Empire boats". Well, I must say that Davies and Stroud sent me on a mission, and I believe that I have found ample proof that they got it right.

I hope that now you better understand what this color thing is all about. Also I plan to email a copy of this letter to Petr Buchar, Bryan Ribbans, and Ron Davies.

I thank you for your continuing support, Jim.

Well, there you have it.

Why do I get the feeling that I have just opened a real 'can of worms'??

Ok, does anyone/everyone - agree/disagree - with Jim's 'findings...............It does, at face value, appear to be a 'done deal'.....or is it??

Has anyone got any further PROOF of the colours? Supposition, speculation and random thoughts could take a subject such as this well beyond the 'real world' so I would ask that we keep our responses qualified with historically accurate, proveable, replies.

What we need is a chap who stood on the quayside in WWII with a 35mm camera, a copy of FS595A, and a sketch book, a witness and a copy of the Methuen Book of Colour!!!

If anyone has access to any of the pics mentioned above, I would love to see scans to see for myself (wouldn't we all)??

Failing that, what can YOU come up with?? ;)

Bill Larkins, Jim Lund, thank you so much for sharing this with us; let's see what we can add to it - to prove or disprove; that is the question......................

I'm off to put a tin helmet on and dive into the SEAWINGS bunker! ;)
Best Regards,

Bryan Ribbans
Owner of:

The Flying Boat Forum
SEAWINGS - The Website

"I put the sweat of my life into this project, and if it's a failure, I'll leave the country and never come back".
Howard Hughes, re: the HK-1 Hughes Flying Boat, aka the 'Spruce Goose,' 1946.
User avatar
Site Admin
Posts: 751
Joined: Sat Mar 21, 2009 5:51 pm

Re: Shorts S.30 Empire colour schemes - an appraisal

Postby Pondskater » Thu Jul 23, 2009 11:22 pm

Bryan, et al

Always good to open a can of worms.

The pics were posted on Dave Homewood's New Zealand forum: ... 164&page=6

An interesting point for discussion is whether that photo of 'AMA shows it really white or silver? But the orange wing panels are clear, even if hand coloured.

Interesting that John Stroud felt confident that there were cream coloured British Empire Boats around. Sadly John is no longer with us and his archive was recently sold off at auction. It would be good to get some definitive answers. I do know that the Air Ministry had supplies of Lanolin paint available with different colour pigments for use on RAF flying boats. I would imagine that the "cream colored protective sealant" is pigmented Lanolin.

Last edited by Pondskater on Mon Mar 12, 2012 12:49 am, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
Posts: 220
Joined: Sun Mar 29, 2009 1:28 am
Location: UK - Deep south west

Re: Shorts S.30 Empire colour schemes - an appraisal

Postby TASSE » Fri Jul 24, 2009 12:27 am

According to an article by Ken Wixey in an old copy of Wingspan G-AFCY / ZK-AMA was (c/n 884)..G-AFDA/ZK-AMC was (c/n 886). I think that this confuses the issue a bit.
But there was an article in Aeroplane Monthly for August 1981 but i cant find my copy.

Thought that this may be a little help.

User avatar
Posts: 1143
Joined: Fri Jul 03, 2009 7:08 pm

Re: Shorts S.30 Empire colour schemes - an appraisal

Postby MrWidgeon » Fri Jul 24, 2009 3:45 am

You're all a little late to the party.
This can was opened on the "Wings of Peace" Yahoo ( ) group a week or two back.
After around 40 or so messages there was still some debate as to the real colors used.
Check it out.
In water flying attitude is everything
User avatar
Posts: 937
Joined: Sat Apr 04, 2009 8:48 am
Location: Idaho, USA

Re: Shorts S.30 Empire colour schemes - an appraisal

Postby Aotearoa » Fri Jan 29, 2021 1:53 am

Yesterday I was doing some research on the delivery flight to NZ of ZK-AMA Aotearoa.
I found a newspaper report from the Nelson Evening Mail newspaper (NZ) that gave an account of the arrival of the aircraft at Auckland on 28 August 1939. The parts of the account that I wish to make known here are first from Paragraph 2 of the report which reads: "Banking at an angle which enabled the red paint on the upper surface to be seen"

The fourth paragraph reads: "Lower she came, skimming along with her shadow spreading beneath her and touched the water in the fairway at a comfortable distance from the end of the mole. As her hull sank deeper she quickly lost way in a welter of foam, and, with very slowly turning propellers, taxied into the basin, while spouts of water rose on either side of her SILVER hull"

Then I found a report from a Sydney newspaper from the departure of Aotearoa from that city on the morning of 28 August 1939 which reads:
"as the aircraft rose and turned towards Sydney Heads, the reflection of the water twinkled on her SILVER hull.

Just writing this for what it's worth!!
Posts: 26
Joined: Mon Aug 12, 2013 4:00 am

Re: Shorts S.30 Empire colour schemes - an appraisal

Postby dogsbody » Fri Jan 29, 2021 5:26 pm

Good find!

Thanks for posting.

"What young man could possibly be bored
with a uniform to wear,
a fast aeroplane to fly,
and something to shoot at?"
User avatar
Posts: 630
Joined: Sun Mar 29, 2009 3:58 pm
Location: Northern Alberta, Canada

Return to Shorts Flying Boats Reference Archive

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

Help keep this forum ad-free - please Donate

This free, ad-free forum is hosted by ForumLaunch