An Introduction to Nose Art

During World War II, the personalization of an aircraft by giving it a name, painting an image on it, and in many cases doing both began in the early months of the war, increased in frequency as the war progressed, and reached its peak in 1945. In the case of bombers, a bomb tally was often added as well and this provided a powerful visual record of the success and longevity of the aircraft. In some cases, additional information such as whether an operation was a day raid or a night raid and the type of weapons carried were also noted. The destruction of enemy fighters was sometimes indicated and often other details such as awards received by aircrew while flying the aircraft.

If a bomber crew was assigned a particular aircraft, they were sometimes able to choose the name and artwork and this enabled a powerful bond to develop between the men and the machine. Often, but not always, the name and the artwork were directly related to the letter designation for the particular aircraft within the squadron. The markings on fuselages of Royal Air Force and Royal Canadian Air Force aircraft were made up of a two letter squadron code, such as “EQ,” that in combination with a single letter designator for the aircraft, such as “N,” produced a unique identifier, in this case “EQ-N.” So, for example, if a crew were assigned the squadron’s “D” aircraft, names such as “D for Daisy,” “Devastating Dog,” or “Dipsy Doodle” were possibilities.

The vast majority of World War II aircrew were in their very early twenties and many even flew wartime operations while in their teens. So it is not surprising that the majority of the nose art reflects their interest in “pin-up” girls of the day and other images related to their interest in the opposite sex. However cartoon characters were popular subjects as well, many of them created by Walt Disney.

There were likely several hundred different nose arts painted on aircraft operated by Canadian aircrew. The presence of cameras on wartime bases was actively discouraged so in many cases, nose art was painted on an aircraft and the aircraft was lost before even an “unofficial” photograph could be taken. In other cases only poor quality, distant shots of a nose art adorned bomber were taken and, of course, during the early 1940’s colour photos were very rare. At war’s end, there was little interest and thousands of aircraft were scrapped with little note being taken of any artwork.

Nose Art Database

The collection includes over 850 nose arts that were placed on Bomber Command aircraft.

There is a number following each nose art name in the list. This is because there were examples of more than one aircraft with the same nose art name but different images. (So, for example, we have ‘Bambi-1’ and ‘Bambi-2’.)

This collection is a ‘work-in-progress’. Please help us to add to and improve this collection if you can.

If you have information or additional photos regarding a particular nose art that we can add, please let us know. If you have a photo and information regarding a nose art that is not in the collection please forward it to us. Remember though, this collection is limited to nose art of Bomber Command aircraft.

Photos and information may be forwarded to:

We gratefully acknowledge the contributions of Clarence Simonsen and others to this collection.