An online database of camouflage used by 
United State Naval Warships during WWII

The Development of Naval Camouflage 1914 – 1945
Part III: British Camouflage in World War II

By Alan Raven



(Article reprinted courtesy of  Plastic Ship Modeler Magazine issue #97/1)


submarines the ships should be painted in light colors to blend in with the sky background. 

Being exclusively an ASW camouflage the Peter Scott type was only worn by ships up to destroyer size and by mid 1941 had been officially adopted by the camouflage section who produced a range of designs based directly on Peter Scott’s patterns. These official patterns were given the name “Western Approaches” because of the area in which escort vessels wearing this type usually operated.  The light grey was dispensed with and two new colors were introduced, a light green (Western Approaches Green), a very light blue (Western Approaches Blue), and white was retained.  By mid to late 1941 Western Approaches designs were produced that were used on a class or group basis, and were always identical port and starboard.  One f the features that these 1941 patterns had was an inclination panel in blue or green at the extreme bow.  So successful was this camouflage that the designs were refined and re-issued in a new and expanded range of patterns in early 1942.


The number of captains in the 1941 period believed that the Peter Scott scheme had some value and took from the design some of the light tones but decided to use a measure of dark gray or dark blue in the pattern.  These hybrid designs, unofficial in origin, were worn by several escort vessels including some of the old ex-US Navy flush deckers.  Reports of ships wearing these designs, named “Modified Peter Scott” are few and inconclusive; they were used in the 1941-42 period and were superceded by the 1942 Western Approaches patterns.


The general state of the navy as regards camouflage at the end of 1941 was a seemingly unfathomable mix of unofficial designs, Western Approaches ASW camouflage, official multi-colored disruptive types, and threaded throughout, the random use of overall one color designs using Mountbatten Pink, Dark Gray, or Medium Gray.  Some vessels wore dark grey hulls (507A) and light grey upperworks (507C), and then there was the rare use of camouflage for special operations, an example of which was the one used by the fast minelayer WELSHMAN.  She was disguised to look like a three funnel French destroyer of the LYNX class by the temporary addition of funnel caps and black side paintwork to give her a false forecastle break, the remainder of the ship in light grey (507C).


In addition to all of the above styles was the interest and influence of the individual ship captains, group Admirals, and area commanders.  Some took a great interest in anything to do with camouflage while some had a completely opposite view.  Some had very definite ideas as to what worked and what did not, while others had no opinion either way.  Then there were a few who were definitely anti-camouflage believing it to be a complete waste of time.


Admiral Vian is a good example of one with fixed views, insisting that all ships under his command in the Mediterranean in early 1942 be painted 507A for the hull and 507C for the upperworks, so that the two cruisers (CLEOPATRA and EURYALUS) arriving on station in the early months of 1942 wearing multi-colored disruptive camouflage were ordered to repaint as soon as opportunity allowed. Admiral Burnett held similar views and ordered all ships under his command to paint out their Western approaches patterns and revert back to overall dark grey (507A), this in order that HE, personally, could see them better when operating at sea in overcast weather.  Added to this was the oft times difficulty of keeping camouflage up to the correct patterns and colors due to prolonged operations in areas of heavy weather, brief periods in port, and a shortage of tinting materials, especially on foreign stations.  Shortages were often responsible for a pattern being altered to a simpler design in order to stretch out the supplies or to reduce the time needed to maintain the pattern.  The above practices were endemic in the Royal Navy and prevailed to the end of the war.


The early months of 1942 saw the widespread use of camouflage from battleships down to motor launches and although overall one color type were still common, patterned camouflage gradually prevailed so by late 1942 it was rare to see a major warship without it.  The unofficial types so prevalent during 1941-42 rapidly disappeared and even Mountbatten Pink, a type officially sanctioned but not adopted, had vanished by the autumn except for use on coastal forces vessels.


The latter half of 1941 saw the camouflage section really hitting its stride with a definitive publication of camouflage instructions along with a series of class designs for small ships.  In the latter part of 1941 the section had gained considerable knowledge as to what they believed worked and did not work and this was reflected in the simpler disruptive designs that were issued in 1942.  The range of colors was retained but the size of the panels was enlarged and the shapes made less complicated and no more than four colors were used in any one pattern.  In addition the designs were split into two main types, light disruptive and dark disruptive.  The light type was held to be more effective in a concealment mode in areas where dull and overcast conditions prevailed such as the Arctic, the North Atlantic, and the North Sea.  The dark type worked most effectively in areas where strong sunlight was prevalent.  For ships of cruiser size and upwards the problem of attaining concealment was one that the camouflage section felt was almost impossible to overcome.  Consequently almost every design produced for large ships emphasized the need to disguise their identity with concealment a secondary consideration.


By the middle of 1942 most small ships had adopted on of the Admiralty disruptive patterns or were wearing one of the Western Approaches designs.  Those without either usually had dark grey hull and light upperworks.  As for ships above the size of destroyers, almost every one could be seen wearing an official disruptive pattern.  Of the patterns issued in 1942 some are worthy of note; the cruisers KENYA and BERWICK were seen wearing very light toned camouflage during the latter half of 1942.  Conceived as an experimental Arctic type, no definitive results came forth but they maintained this type for many months.


In mid year the camouflage section produced an experimental “identity and inclination” type which was worn by only two vessels, the cruiser LONDON and the destroyer LOOKOUT.  Very distinctive in appearance, both ships were so painted for several months, the LONDON until she refitted in early 1943, and LOOKOUT until she changed to a 1943 design in the early months of that year.


The two toned dark hull and light upperworks scheme that had been around since early 1940 was officially adopted by the camouflage section and issued as a type that could be used where time was short or where tinting materials were in short supply.  Known as “Emergency Type” camouflage it merely gave official approval to long held practice and beyond that had no further effect.


So great was the consumption of tinting materials from early 1941 onwards that there arose a shortage of certain colors by mid 1942.  In order to allow patterned disruptives to continue to be used, a special

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