Saturday, April 17, 2010

Dazzle Camouflage Battleships

Stumbled upon this little gem of naval camouflage while reading about U-boats in WWI. When the Allied fleet came under constant submarine attacks Dazzle Camouflage was developed early during WWI by Norman Wilkinson when it was found that traditional camouflage failed to conceal ships in all weather conditions. Since at the time most ships were spotted with optical rangefinders, through which the viewer artillery and torpedoes can be targeted, the primary objectives of Dazzle was to visually disrupt and confuse the viewer as to the size, heading and speed of the ship. By using bold clashing patterns that intersected the lines of the ship it became hard to determine what type of ship you were looking at, how fast it was going and even if it was heading towards or away from you.

Because the widespread adoption Dazzle Camouflage also coincided with adoption of convoy grouping tactics there is some debate as to how effective the painting scheme ultimately was as a single variable, with that said it was a huge morale booster for the crews of the ship and also for the civilian population at the time in port and dock cities.

During WWII, with the invention of radar and dive bombers Dazzle became less effective but was still utilized to a certain extent against submarines that still relied on rangefinders.

The images below are from RISD's fleet archives of Dazzle paint schemes, you can view more of the collection here.