Dazzle camouflaging the warships with psychedelic paint jobs, 1917-1918


Throughout world history, camouflage has been used to prevent an enemy from seeing a hidden object. A tank can camouflage itself in trees and surroundings, a submarine can lurk under the waves and it's hidden by default, but what about hiding a ship?

Dazzle camouflage (also known as razzle dazzle or dazzle painting) was a military camouflage paint scheme used on ships during World War I and to a lesser extent in World War II.

The idea is credited to British artist Norman Wilkinson, who came up with the idea in 1917, at a time when German U-boat attacks on British ships seemed unstoppable.

Norman Wilkinson recalls: "I suddenly had the idea that since it was impossible to paint a ship so that it could not be seen by a submarine, the extreme opposite was the answer—in other words to depict it, not to have low visibility. , but thus broke her form and thus confused a submarine officer as to which way she was going.”

Thus was born "dazzling" camouflage – bold stripes, curves and zig-zags in colors such as black, white, blue, fuchsia and green. The design consists of intricate patterns of geometric shapes in contrasting colors, which intersect and intersect.

Unlike other forms of camouflage, gazelle is not intended to be concealed, but rather difficult to predict the range, speed, and title of the target. Norman Wilkinson explained in 1919 that their intention was to dazzle primarily to mislead the enemy about a ship's course and therefore to put them in a poor firing position.

In other words, Wilkinson's idea was to "dazzle" the gunner so that he was either unable to take the shot with any confidence or to scuttle him if he did.

The shot only had to be 8 to 10 degrees away for the torpedo to be missed. And even though the ship was hot, if the torpedo didn't hit the most critical part, it would be better off being hit directly.

Curves depicted on the side of a ship can create a false bow wave, for example, making the ship seem smaller or indicating that it was heading in a different direction: a pattern interrupting the line of the bow or stern to convey that. made difficult as to which was ahead or behind, where the ship actually ended, or even whether it was a vessel or two; And the angled stripes on the smoke stack can make the ship appear as if it were facing in the opposite direction.

This system had its limitations – it could only be applied to ships that would be targeted by periscope, as it worked best when viewed from a U-boat gunner's bottom-up perspective.

The first ship to be dazzled was a small store ship called HMS Industries; When it was launched in May 1917, the Coast Guard and other ships sailing off the British coast were asked to report their observations on the ship's encounter.

Enough observers were confused enough that by early October 1917, the Admiralty asked Wilkinson to dazzle 50 soldiers.

Wilkinson went to work with a team of 19—five artists, three model makers, and 11 female art students—who hand-coloured the technical plans for the final design.

Each design not only had to be unique to prevent U-boat crews from getting used to them, but they also had to be tailored to individual ships. In all, 4000 British merchant ships became known as "dazzle camouflage"; Some 400 naval ships were also dazzled.

The effectiveness of the Dazzle was highly uncertain at the time of World War I, but it was nevertheless adopted in both the UK and North America. In 1918, the Admiralty conducted an analysis of shipping losses, but was unable to draw clear conclusions.

The blinded ships were attacked by 1.47% of sailors, compared to 1.12% for the unglazed ships, suggesting an increase in visibility, but as Wilkinson argued, the glare would make the ships harder to see. was not trying.

In short, of the ships killed by torpedoes, 43% of the ships were sunk, while 54% were without camouflage; And so on, 41% of dazzled ships were hit in the middle, compared to 52% without camouflage.

These comparisons can be construed to mean that submarine commanders had more difficulty deciding where the ship was going and where to aim.

In addition, ships painted in the glaze were larger than ships without camouflage, 38% of them exceeding 5000 tons compared to only 13% of ships without camouflage, making the comparison unreliable.

Abstract patterns in dazzling camouflage inspired artists including Picasso. With conspicuous exaggeration, he claimed credit for camouflage experiments, which seemed to him to be a quintessentially Cubist technique.

"Yes it is we who made it, that is Cubism", he remarked shortly after seeing the painted cannon for the first time through the streets of Paris in conversation with Gertrude Stein.

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