Battenburg markings
Battenburg refers to a pattern of high-visibility markings used to maximise conspicuity, primarily used on vehicles of the emergency service
Emergency service
Emergency services are organizations which ensure public safety and health by addressing different emergencies. Some agencies exist solely for addressing certain types of emergencies whilst others deal with ad hoc emergencies as part of their normal responsibilities...

s, but also in other applications such as uniforms. The name comes from the similarity in appearance to the cross-section of a Battenberg cake.


Battenburg markings were originally developed in the mid-1990s by the Police Scientific Development Branch (PSDB) (now the Home Office Scientific Development Branch (HOSDB)) at the request of the national motorway policing sub-committee of the Association of Chief Police Officers
Association of Chief Police Officers
The Association of Chief Police Officers , established in 1948, is a private limited company that leads the development of policing practice in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.ACPO provides a forum for chief police officers to share ideas and coordinates the strategic...

. They were first developed for the United Kingdom police forces to use on traffic patrol cars, although other private organisations and civil emergency services have since started to use the pattern on their vehicles.

The brief was to create a livery for motorway and trunk road police
Highway patrol
A highway patrol is either a police unit created primarily for the purpose of overseeing and enforcing traffic safety compliance on roads and highways, or a detail within an existing local or regional police agency that is primarily concerned with such duties.Duties of highway patrols or traffic...

 vehicles which would maximise the visibility of the vehicles when stopped on scene, both in daylight, and under headlights from a minimum distance of 500 m, and which would distinctively mark it as a police car.

The key research objectives included:
  • "Enhance officer and public safety by reducing the likelihood of road accidents where conspicuity of the police vehicle is a factor"
  • "Be recognisable as a police vehicle up to a distance of 500 metres in normal daylight"
  • "Assist in high visibility policing so as to reassure the public and enhance the potential deterrent benefits of proactive traffic patrol activity"

The research showed the human eye is most sensitive to blue/green shades at night and yellow/green in daylight. The battenburg design typically comprises 2 or more rows of alternating retroreflective
A retroreflector is a device or surface that reflects light back to its source with a minimum scattering of light. An electromagnetic wave front is reflected back along a vector that is parallel to but opposite in direction from the wave's source. The device or surface's angle of incidence is...

 squares or blocks, usually starting with yellow at the top, then the alternating colour, along the sides of a vehicle. The battenburg livery is not used on the rear of vehicles, with the majority of users using upward facing chevrons in yellow and red to the rear, in line with the markings used by other road users. While most cars use only two rows in the design, larger vehicles can be marked with more rows.

Sillitoe Tartan

During the development of battenburg markings, one of the key functions was to clearly identify a vehicle as being linked to the police. In addition to the advantages in effectiveness tests, the pattern was also reminiscent of the Sillitoe Tartan
Sillitoe Tartan
The Sillitoe Tartan is the name given to the distinctive black and white chequered pattern which was originally associated with the police in Scotland, but which later spread to Australia, New Zealand, and the rest of the United Kingdom, as well as to some other places such as Chicago...

 pattern of black-and-white or blue-and-white chequered markings, first introduced by City of Glasgow Police
City of Glasgow Police
The City of Glasgow Police was the police of the City of Glasgow, Scotland. In the 17th century, Scottish cities used to hire watchmen to guard the streets at night, augmenting a force of unpaid citizen constables. On June 30, 1800, the authorities of Glasgow, successfully petitioned the British...

 in the 1930s, and subsequently adopted as a symbol of police services as far away as Chicago
Chicago Police Department
The Chicago Police Department, also known as the CPD, is the principal law enforcement agency of Chicago, Illinois, in the United States, under the jurisdiction of the Mayor of Chicago. It is the largest police department in the Midwest and the second largest local law enforcement agency in the...

 and Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...


Subsequent to the launch of the markings of the vehicles, the police introduced retro-reflective Sillitoe tartan markings to their uniforms, usually in blue and white.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, the majority of the emergency services have adopted the battenburg style of markings, with nearly half of all police forces adopting the markings within three years of its introduction, and over three quarters using it by 2003.

In 2004, following the widespread adoption and recognition of the battenburg markings on police vehicles, the Home Office subsequently recommended that all police vehicles, not just those on traffic duty, be marked up with a "half-battenburg" livery which formalised a position which had already been undertaken by a number of forces.

In the United Kingdom, the emergency services have chosen or been given certain colours which identify them, with the police continuing to use the blue, whereas ambulances tend to use green and the fire service use red.

The use of these colours in retro-reflective material is controlled by the Road Vehicle Lighting Regulations 1989, with vehicles only legally allowed the use of yellow retro-reflective material, although the emergency services operate under temporary special orders under section 44 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 to use their own colours, with moves currently underway to formalise this in legislation and extend the use of other colours to civilian operators. However, a number of civilian organisations have adopted the pattern, which is not legally protected, and a number of these also use other retro-reflective colours.

An alternative to the use of retro-reflective materials is the use of fluorescent markings, or other non-reflective markings, which at least in the United Kingdom can be used by any vehicle, regardless of ownership or purpose.
Common battenburg markings
used in the United Kingdom
Police Yellow / Blue
Ambulance and doctors Yellow / Green
Fire and Rescue
Fire service in the United Kingdom
The fire services in the United Kingdom operate under separate legislative and administrative arrangements in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales...

Yellow / Red
National Blood Service
National Blood Service
The National Blood Service is the organisation for England and North Wales which collects blood and other tissues, tests, processes, and supplies all the hospitals in England and North Wales...

Yellow / Orange
Highways Agency
Highways Agency
The Highways Agency is an executive agency, part of the Department for Transport in England. It has responsibility for managing the core road network in England...

 and VOSA
Yellow / Black
Rail response
Network Rail
Network Rail is the government-created owner and operator of most of the rail infrastructure in Great Britain .; it is not responsible for railway infrastructure in Northern Ireland...

Blue / Orange
Mountain rescue
Mountain rescue in England and Wales
Mountain rescue services in England and Wales operate under the umbrella association of the MREW - Mountain Rescue...

White / Orange
HM Coastguard Yellow / Navy Blue

Hong Kong

Some emergency vehicles and special vehicles in the Hong Kong Police Force
Hong Kong Police Force
The Hong Kong Police Force is the largest disciplined service under the Security Bureau of Hong Kong. It is the world's second, and Asia's first, police agency to operate with a modern policing system. It was formed on 1 May 1844, with a strength of 32 officers...

  and Hong Kong Fire Services Department used Battenburg markings.
Common battenburg markings
used in Hong Kong
Police Force, Traffic Branch Headquarters Yellow / Blue
Fire Services Department, Mobile Casualty Treatment Centre Yellow / Green
Fire Services Department, Hazmat Tender Yellow / Red
Fire Services Department, Mobile Publicity Unit Yellow / Red
Fire Services Department, Ambulances White / Red
Fire Services Department, Emergency Medical Assistant Motor Cycle White / Red


In the Republic of Ireland
Republic of Ireland
Ireland , described as the Republic of Ireland , is a sovereign state in Europe occupying approximately five-sixths of the island of the same name. Its capital is Dublin. Ireland, which had a population of 4.58 million in 2011, is a constitutional republic governed as a parliamentary democracy,...

, the UK system is generally adopted with some variations.
Common battenburg markings
used in Ireland
Garda Síochána
Garda Síochána
, more commonly referred to as the Gardaí , is the police force of Ireland. The service is headed by the Commissioner who is appointed by the Irish Government. Its headquarters are located in the Phoenix Park in Dublin.- Terminology :...

Yellow / Blue
HSE National Ambulance Service
HSE National Ambulance Service
The HSE National Ambulance Service is the statutory public ambulance service in the Republic of Ireland. The service is operated by the National Hospitals Office of the Health Service Executive, the Irish national healthcare authority.- History :...

Yellow / Green
Fire Brigade & Fire EMS Ambulance
Dublin Fire Brigade
The Dublin Fire Brigade is the local authority fire and rescue service for Dublin City and the majority of the Greater Dublin Area. It is a branch of Dublin City Council. There are currently 14 fire stations manned by DFB, 12 of which are full-time, the other 2 are part-time or "retained"....

Yellow / Red
Civil Defence
Civil Defence Ireland
Civil Defence Ireland is the national civil defence organisation of the Republic of Ireland. It is operated at local authority level in conjunction with the Department of Defence....

Blue / Orange

New Zealand

The New Zealand Police
New Zealand Police
The New Zealand Police is the national police force of New Zealand, responsible for enforcing criminal law, enhancing public safety, maintaining order and keeping the peace throughout New Zealand...

 currently use yellow/blue Battenburg markings, as well as cars in standard factory colours. Prior to October 2008, orange and blue were for general duties vehicles while yellow and blue was reserved for highway patrol units. The orange and blue colour scheme will be phased out by 2014, and all vehicles will use the yellow and blue colour scheme.


Originally Swedish Police vehicles were painted with black roofs and doors or black roofs, bonnet and boot. This was a necessity due to the heavy snows Sweden experiences. During the 1980s the cars became white with the word "Polis" written on the side in a semi-futuristic typeface. Later the livery became simply blue and white, then in 2005 was changed to a light blue and fluorescent yellow Battenburg livery. Most Swedish police cars are either Volvo
AB Volvo is a Swedish builder of commercial vehicles, including trucks, buses and construction equipment. Volvo also supplies marine and industrial drive systems, aerospace components and financial services...

s or Saab
Saab AB is a Swedish aerospace and defence company, founded in 1937. From 1947 to 1990 it was the parent company of automobile manufacturer Saab Automobile, and between 1968 and 1995 the company was in a merger with commercial vehicle manufacturer Scania, known as Saab-Scania.-History:"Svenska...

s, with the same livery all over Sweden. A recent Swedish trend is to also use Battenburg markings on road maintenance vehicles. These are then marked with orange/blue, as in the UK rail response type showed above. A study by the Swedish Road Administration show a significant traffic calming effect when using orange/blue Battenburg marking to improve the visibility of road maintenance vehicles.


The first Swiss Ambulance Service with battenburg markings is the Emergency medical services
Emergency medical services
Emergency medical services are a type of emergency service dedicated to providing out-of-hospital acute medical care and/or transport to definitive care, to patients with illnesses and injuries which the patient, or the medical practitioner, believes constitutes a medical emergency...

 in Zofingen
Zofingen is a city in the canton of Aargau in Switzerland. It is the capital of the district of Zofingen. Zofingen is a walled city and home of an ancient monastic settlement.-Geography:...

. Since 2008 they have battenburg markings on a Volkswagen Crafter
Volkswagen Crafter
The Volkswagen Crafter, introduced in 2006, is the largest 3 to 5 tonne van sold by Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles. It is the third generation of the Volkswagen LT truck, which has been in production since 1975....

 and a Mercedes Sprinter
Mercedes-Benz Sprinter
The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is a light and heavy commercial vehicle, built by Daimler AG of Stuttgart, Germany as a van, chassis cab and minibus, and sold as a Mercedes model, except in the U.S. where it is built from complete knock down kits and was sold by Freightliner until 2010 when Mercedes...

. They use white/red coloured markings on their ALS
Advanced Life Support
Advanced Life Support is a set of life-saving protocols and skills that extend Basic Life Support to further support the circulation and provide an open airway and adequate ventilation .-Components of ALS:These include:...

 units. Another service with a kind of battenburg markings is the Swiss Border Patrol. They use lemon on blue markings.

See also

  • Aerial roof markings
    Aerial roof markings
    Aerial roof markings are symbols, letters or numbers on the roof of emergency vehicles, such as police cars, fire engines and ambulances to enable aircraft to identify them. These markings can be used to identify a specific vehicle, vehicle type or agency...

  • Emergency medical services in the United Kingdom
  • Fire service in the United Kingdom
    Fire service in the United Kingdom
    The fire services in the United Kingdom operate under separate legislative and administrative arrangements in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales...

  • List of police forces in the United Kingdom
  • Blues and twos
    Blues and twos
    Blues and twos is a colloquial British term that refers to the emergency vehicle equipment of combined flashing lights as well as sirens that the emergency services in the UK and Ireland use when responding to an incident...

  • Panda car
    Panda car
    The phrase panda car refers to a small or medium-sized police car operated by British police forces. They are used for ordinary patrol work, with larger and more powerful vehicles being used for emergency response, Road Policing Unit duties and as Armed Response Vehicles-History of the term:Panda...

  • Jam sandwich (slang)

External links

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