Development of Naval Camouflage 1914 – 1945
Part III: British Camouflage in World War II
reprinted courtesy of Plastic Ship
Modeler Magazine issue #97/1)
but invisibility at night is the objective.
Only such details as in no way interfere with this objective must be
allowed to creep in for other considerations, such as serviceability at night.
5. To make a ship less visible at night it must be pained almost
white, that is to say a very pale tone. The
color is immaterial as colors cannot be distinguished at night.
From a camouflage point of view, light conditions are divided into
direct and indirect lighting. White
paint absorbs less and reflects more light than a dark paint, but it cannot
reflect more light than shines on it, therefore it cannot look whiter than the
main source of light.
If that source of light is the general paleness of the sky, which is about the
same paleness all over on cloudy days or nights and on clear starlit nights, the
light of very pale paint will reflect a light of about the same intensity as the
background of the sky behind it, and a certain amount of invisibility is
achieved. If, on the other hand,
the source of light is direct, the moon, or a searchlight, or the light of dawn
or dusk – the paint will reflect a light which may be brighter than the sky
behind it and the ship will show up white.
So this pale scheme is effective on all dark nights, and all
overcast moonlit nights, as well as on grey days. But on bright moonlit nights it will show in the “down
moon” half of the sky (when however an enemy would be silhouetted).
It will be better than a dark ship against the “up moon” side of the
sky, which will be paler than any ship can show, however white it may be
painted. Fifty percent of the dark
overcast moonlit hour weigh the scale in favor of the pale camouflage scheme as
most suitable for the majority of conditions.
When under direct bright moonlight, the pale scheme makes the ship
snow white, it still has a slight advantage over the ship that shows black, as
nearly all ships do. This advantage
is the psycological one that all lookouts are expecting to see a ship as a dark
mass. Recently a lookout reported a
TOWN-class destroyer (painted with a form of the pale scheme) under a bright
moon, about five miles away as “something making white smoke on the
It has been found that the pale scheme is also very effective under
certain day conditions and at dawn and dusk.
At night they are the same as pale grey – because colors are
indistinguishable by moon or starlight – and by day they tend to blend more
successfully with the sea than a plain “Mediterranean” grey, especially in
sunlight, which is the time when colors really show up best.
This aspect is of importance during the long twilight of summer
nights in the North Atlantic.
Dividing the ship into patches of blue and green, while in no way
altering the night effect, is believed to have some disruptive value and is
better than a uniform blue-green.
Since the camouflage is mainly for night effect, however, the blue
and green are not essential to the pale scheme and need not be included.
This is of some importance as many officers and men are adverse to
anything so “un-service” as a brightly colored ship and this consideration
may well be thought to have some effect on morale.
Pale grey, quite as good at night and not much less as good by day, makes
a perfectly smart coat for the most self respecting destroyers.
One of the most important points is the cancellation of all shadows.
Any surface that is in shadow from a top light (and the average light
will be from above in the average conditions for which the scheme is designed)
should be painted white. This
includes screens under flag decks and gundecks, the underside of the blast
shields, etc. If painted white these will match in tone the pale
blue or green of the ship at that point.
There will however always be parts where shadows existent cannot be
completely killed by merely painting the surfaces in the shadows.
It has been found that they can be substantially reduced by painting
white in front of the shadow (guard rail stanchions, davits, supports, carley
rafts, etc.). They can also be
reduced by painting with white certain horizontal surfaces such as locker lids,
etc. below a shadow, which may be throwing light up into it, and even by
painting ship’s sides or superstructure adjacent to the shadows.
It is surprising how effective the latter can be.
A destroyer’s darkest bulk shows at the bridge and the after
superstructure. Areas of the
ship’s side in way of these shadows are painted white to minimize the bulk.
It is important to remember that the ship will not be seen from the beam
and that the optical effect is in fact required from a view somewhere ahead of
the ship. The white on the ship’s
side would therefore be a little ahead of the bulk to be reduced.
For the same reasons, slanting lines, which pass across the ship’s side
and up onto the superstructure, have been avoided.
They look very nice in drawings but don’t work in practice.
In conclusion, the scheme is intended to make it more possible to
surprise a U-Boat on the surface. One
might, for example, select what he thought was a gap in the screen and find to
his mortification that there was in fact an escort that he had not seen, bearing
help the reader appreciate the conditions in which the Peter Scott scheme
worked, the following as a general description of weather conditions along the
North Atlantic route.
Long nights in winter
B. Short Nights in Summer.
Fog. – area to west 40 degrees latitude is foggiest in the world.
1. 5% in December, January,
2. 5 to 20% in March, April, May.
3. 5 to 30% in June, July, August.
4. 5 to 10% in September, October, November.
Mist – average 5% over entire router throughout the year.
Haze – average 5% over the entire route from March to September.
Exceptional visibility (horizon) 0 to 5% over entire route
throughout the year.
G. Average cloud cover in percentage of sky obscured over entire route.
1. 70% January, February, March.
2. 60% to 70% remainder of year.
Rain, snow, drizzle in percentage of time over entire route.
Note: Very few cumulonimbus and nimbus clouds.
1. 10 to 20% December, January February.
2. 10 to 15% March through September.
3. 10 to 25% September, October, November.
Frequency of gales – Beufort 7 or higher (varying over entire route).
1. 15 to 40% December, January, February.
2. 5% to 25% March, April, May.
3. 5% to 10% June, July, August.
4. 5% to 35 September, October, November.
The prominent state of weather is an overcast sky
with fog, mist and haze throughout the year. The cloud formations are not of the heavy, dark, nimbus type.
All of the above indicates that for low visibility to
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