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)


      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.

         6. 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.

      7.  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.

      8. 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 surface”.

      9. 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.

      10. This aspect is of importance during the long twilight of summer nights in the North Atlantic.

      11. 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.

      12. 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.

      13. 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.

14.  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.

15.  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.

16.  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 his way.


To 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.


      A.    Long nights in winter
B.  Short Nights in Summer.

      C.    Fog. – area to west 40 degrees latitude is foggiest in the world.

      1. 5% in December, January, February.
2. 5 to 20% in March, April, May.
3. 5 to 30% in June, July, August.
4. 5 to 10% in September, October, November.

      D.     Mist – average 5% over entire router throughout the year.

      E.     Haze – average 5% over the entire route from March to September.

      F.     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.
Note: Very few cumulonimbus and nimbus clouds.

H.  Rain, snow, drizzle in percentage of time over entire route.

1. 10 to 20% December, January February.
2. 10 to 15% March through September.
3. 10 to 25% September, October, November.  

I.  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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