The Dazzle-Ships of WWI

“Dazzle camouflage was a paint scheme used on ships extensively during World War I and to a lesser extent in World War II. It consisted of a complex pattern of geometric shapes in contrasting colours, interrupting and intersecting each other.

Dazzle did not conceal the ship but made it difficult for the enemy to estimate its type, size, speed and heading. The idea was to disrupt the visual rangefinders used for naval artillery. Its purpose was confusion rather than concealment.”

- Wikipedia

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7 comments to The Dazzle-Ships of WWI

  • Alan

    The artists Edward Wadsworth (of the cubist/vorticism school) and Norman Wilkinson were involved in developing dazzle,or razzle dazzle, as a way to spook U-boat attacks. Wilkinson was also involved in developing camouflage schemes during WWII, especially for camouflaging airfields and factories from the air. I think that Wilkinson may also have given lectures to the Home Guard on tactical camouflage.

  • Alan

    Sorry it was actually Roland Penrose who lectured the Home Guard on the subject of camouflage. Illustrating his lectures with photos of his Lover, the War Photographer Lee Miller dressed in nought but wisps of netting and leaves:

  • Buzz

    We also in the US tried several variants of the Razzle camoflauge. Just before we entered the war, apparently the US Navy and Army Air Corps tried it becuase it causes your pupils to dialate. Therefore your range estimation is temporarily ineffective. There were some nice color photos of the aircraft in “Air Classics” Magazine a few years ago from the Northrup Grumman archives. I think someone should do an autombile colour scheme this way on something other than a BMW

  • CharlesH.

    One can only wish for an Autochrome of one of these to turn up somewhere.

  • I would LOVE to see an autochrome of a Dazzle-Ship…

  • excavation by spoonfuls » Blog Archive » dazzle camouflage

    [...] pattern of geometric shapes in contrasting colours, interrupting and intersecting each other. via Posted in design No Comments [...]

  • Catherine Moriarty

    See the excellent essay by Jonathan Black ‘”A few broad stripes”: Perception, deception and the ‘Dazzle Ship’ phenomenon of the First World War’ in N. Saunders and P. Cornish ‘Contested Objects: Material Memories of the Great War’, Routledge (2009), pp. 190-202

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