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Dazzle painting

From The Great War 1914-1918

Dazzle painting: The system of painting ships invented in the War as a protective device by Commander Norman Wilkinson, RNVR, the well-known Marine Artist, to baffle submarine attacks. The effect was produced by means of strongly-contrasted colours, usually in variegated patterns and combinations of stripes, breaking up in appearance the accepted form of a ship; the governing idea being to mislead the captain of an enemy submarine as to the course and speed of the vessel, and make it difficult to take up an attacking position.

The striped style of design adopted used mostly black, white, blue and green colours, which were decided on as the most effective for the purpose after numerous studio experiments on small ship models, made to scale. "It made a ship look," described an officer, "like a cross between a zebra and sea-serpent off for a weekend." One of the first dazzle-painted Motor-Launches (ML's), arriving at Southampton, so startled a burley stoker on board a merchant ship who happened to be taking the air on deck that he hastily shouted down to the engine room to call up a mate: "Bill! Bill! Come up quick, 'ere's a bloody rainbow coming alongside!" [1]

See also Camouflage.

References / notes

  1. Edward Fraser and John Gibbons (1925). Soldier and Sailor Words and Phrases. Routledge, London p.72-73.

Glossary of words and phrases

The above term is listed in our glossary of words and phrases of the Armed Forces of Great Britain during the Great War. Included are trench slang, service terms, expressions in everyday use, nicknames, the titles and origins of British and Commonwealth Regiments, and warfare in general. These words and phrases are contemporary to the war, which is reflected in the language used. They have been transcribed from three primary sources (see Contents). Feel free to expand upon and improve this content.
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