Friday 7 May 2021

Dazzling: Naval Camouflage Comeback!

 Hey, who'd have guessed this?


Yes, WW1-vintage 'dazzle' camouflage is back in the Royal Navy, just in time for war with the Traditional Enemy.

Dazzle dates from when artists were enlisted to assist with camouflage of big targets - starting with naval vessels but extending to many strategic onshore facilities in WW2, including factories and airfield runways.  The Navy is currently crediting Norman Wilkinson (as does Wiki), but there were several more individuals involved, most particularly the Futurist painters Nevinson and Wadsworth, whom some credit with the original ideas.   And not just here: the Italians were quite big on it, too.  Amusingly, the Italian Futurist movement made a cult of it, issuing one of their overblown "Manifestos" entitled Plastic Illusionism of War (FFS!)   I can bore for England on this stuff.

Not only did artists design the camouflage schemes, they painted them as well - illustration-wise, that is.  Here's a couple from the IWM's fine and extensive collection: you can see many more there.  The first is of a young lady experimenting with a model aircraft carrier in a water tank at the Directorate of Camouflage, painted by James Junge-Bateman.  (© IWM Art.IWM ART LD 2759)


And here's a power station cooling tower, artist Colin William Moss.  (© IWM Art.IWM ART LD 3025)




Hint to Admiralty from an old pongo: all yer dazzle paint won't do anything to keep those modern aircraft carriers afloat in the South China Sea ...



Anonymous said...

She can float my boat.

E-K said...

Is that why they put pictures of girls with big tits on the noses of B-17F bombers ?

Perhaps they should put pictures of girls with big tits on Daring class destroyers to distract the French.

Oooh la la !

Timbo614 said...

"Hint to Admiralty"...
So they still think there are people on hilltops and in the crow's nests with binoculars. Oh dear.

@E-K "big" - you are not visiting the right web sites!

BlokeInBrum said...

It was the first thing I noticed when I saw the news reports.Looks fab!
The Royal Navy Patrol vessels are surprisingly large at 2000t and 90m long.
How effective the camouflage is against modern weapons systems is something I hope we never have to find out first hand. I suspect that the Mark 1 eyeball is of little use nowadays.

johnd2008 said...

There is an interesting book , the title of which escapes me about camouflaging the preparations for the battle of El Alemain. It was carried out by Maskelyne the pre war stage magician. In addition to all the dummy tanks and aircraft, it involved appearing to move Cairo and the Nile several miles away.

E-K said...

Perhaps it should be Hip Hop graffiti on the sides of battleships - seeing as they want diversity in the RN these days.

Anonymous said...

@ I can bore for England on this stuff.

Please feel free to continue. Its interesting!

Nick Drew said...

OK: If you look closely at the cooling tower (click on pic) you'll see it has houses etc painted on the upward-facing slope, clearly designed to deceive a pilot flying over

Bill Quango MP said...

Graf Spee. Pocket battleship. Painted with that big bow wave to make it appear as it it were crashing through the waves at speed.

In reality she could only manage 28.5 knots. Pretty low for a commerce raider. Barely above the proper Battleship HMS Prince of Wales that would have smashed the Graf into pieces And well below the 32-35 knots of the average British cruiser, that could run or fight as they saw fit.
That’s why the Spee is at the bottom of the harbour.

As ND says, camouflage is immensely important and useful. But if you aren’t actually capable it won’t help much.

dearieme said...

"There is an interesting book": p'raps

I've got it somewhere; maybe in the bookcase on the half-landing? I must look.

dearieme said...

It was a bugger to find.

E-K said...

I assume that any pilot flying overhead seeing a circle of roof tops with a smoking crater in the middle would be fooled into thinking that it had once been a quaint little village that had already been bombed... or perhaps a remote cannabis farm after a visit by the drugs squad.

Nick Drew said...

hahah! the camouflage(d) book

yup Kev, a folorn hope indeed (- particularly if there were four of them in a neat row...)

E-K said...

Perhaps, instead of Dazzle, Border Farce could use Vajazzle so that they could signal better to the rubber boat loads of blokes meeting them in the Channel (with the odd token baby held aloft) where to rendezvous.

AKA TTCCFS (Tory Cross Channel Ferry Service) seeing as Tories are addicted to mass immigration, even during a pandemic that could kill us all (according to their 'experts')


- No EU to blame

- an 80 seat majority

- Labour destroyed

I rest my case. The Tories were 'H' all along !

Last week's election results ? The usual Red Team vs Blue Team shit.

Who cares who wins ? The country has never looked so communist as it does today after 11 years of Blue Team rule.

Anomalous Cowshed said...

Took a look at the statements given about the scheme, and there were two reasons given.

First, that they wanted to give the Overseas Patrol Squadron a distinct brand (uh-oh?) and went back to Dazzle - it is fairly distinctive as paint job, after all.

The second was that it may give some advantage in littoral theatres, when viewed from the shore.

Which is far more interesting.

If I remember correctly, Dazzle was not intended to disguise the presence of the vessel, but to make estimations of speed, heading and type more difficult for optical observers. Accurate targeting would harder.

Analysis after WWI seemed to show the idea was bit of a bust - it didn't produce the desired effect*, but was otherwise inconclusive.

Now, I also seem to remember that the Army tested the idea again for AFVs during the 70s/80s, when infantry anti-armour was optically sighted, and there was limited thermal sensing around. Again, inconclusive. And they tested it again, in Afghanistan I think, on Land Rovers. Inconclusive, but depending upon the quality of the opposition, it might be useful enough.

Curious, really.

Nick Drew said...

Very much as Mr(s) Cowshed suggests

In WW2, the explicit purpose behind use of Dazzle, and several other large-scale camouflage techniques (e.g. placing massive bales of wire wool alongside or on top of targets / landmarks / navigation features) was to add an element of real-time confusion for the mark-one eyeball of the pilot / navigator / observer of a fast-moving, low-altitude aircraft

there was no expectation that it would guarantee to fool the leisurely & measured gaze of an expert photo interpreter

but if the slightly-confused pilot hadn't turned the cameras on ... or dropped the bombs ...

same with careful night-timer use of flares to suggest targets were a bit of a distance away from where they really were. Germans did this a lot, too. Often fooled pilots, but never really fooled photo interpreters

(in fact, on our side, the PIs were actually finding the flare-sets in daylight, and using them to calibrate what the pilot would see at night. Luftwaffe never had enough air-freedom to be that good over the UK)

Anomalous Cowshed said...

Yeah, interesting.

I'm now going to be guilty of reading far too much into one, solitary example.

The River-class are fairly large boats, but lightly armed. 20/30mm cannon, machine guns and that's about it. So, they aren't combat vessels, but maritime security vessels. Frees up the Type 45/23s from drug busts and the like.

But they can carry 25/50 troops plus RHIBs. Against lightly armed, non-peer (no battlefield sensor networks) opponents that would be useful enough - a few of them supported by a couple of Type 23/26 could land 150-200 odd troops.

Which makes me wonder about the Albion class LPDs or equivalent. What if they could deploy something like the Swedish CB-90?

Anyway, there you go.

*The bit I forgot originally - difficult to remember now, but for surface engagements, Dazzle during WW1 might have been shown to be just about useful enough. Thing is, there weren't that many surface engagements, and the bigger threat turned out to be submarines, who could pretty much close to any range they liked, undetected, where Dazzle was useless.