Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Warehouse Wednesday: Camouflage


It's a little known fact that moch of the design and development of military camouflage was developed in Leamington Spa. A new exhibition in the art gallery Concealment and Deception: The Art of the Camoufleurs of Leamington Spa 1939 - 1945 celebraites this as well as providing behind-the-scenes pictures of the artists at work. 

I'd assumed that camo was randomly painted but according to the exhibition, there was a lot of planning involved. Scale models were built of major projects and then fitted to a rotating table in the requisitioned roller skating rink. They could then be viewed in different light conditions at all angles to see what worked. 

A similar set-up was created in the town museum with a water tank for ships. 

Those developing the schemes were artists and so they naturally painted scenes from the job. Above we can see a factory being disguised. The original belongs to the Imperial War Museum and is on load, along with several others, to the exhibition. You can see the full listing here

Building camouflage isn't something I've seen modelled very often. Presumably the paint hung around for many years after the end of the conflict so those models set in the popular steam/diesel transition era could justify some interesting roof colour, albeit very weathered.

2 comments:

neil whitehead said...

Very interesting painting. For ships it was called Dazzle camouflage; from Wikipedia: Dazzle camouflage, also known as razzle dazzle (USA) or dazzle painting, was a family of ship camouflage used extensively in World War I, and to a lesser extent in World War II and afterwards. Credited to the British marine artist Norman Wilkinson, though with a rejected prior claim by the zoologist John Graham Kerr, it consisted of complex patterns of geometric shapes in contrasting colours, interrupting and intersecting each other.

Unlike other forms of camouflage, the intention of dazzle is not to conceal but to make it difficult to estimate a target's range, speed, and heading. Norman Wilkinson explained in 1919 that he had intended dazzle more to mislead the enemy about a ship's course and so to take up a poor firing position, than actually to cause the enemy to miss his shot when firing.[a]

Dazzle was adopted by the Admiralty in Britain, and then by the United States Navy, with little evaluation. Each ship's dazzle pattern was unique to avoid making classes of ships instantly recognisable to the enemy. The result was that a profusion of dazzle schemes was tried, and the evidence for their success was at best mixed. So many factors were involved that it was impossible to determine which were important, and whether any of the colour schemes were effective.

Dazzle attracted the notice of artists such as Picasso, who claimed that Cubists like himself had invented it.[2] Edward Wadsworth, who supervised the camouflaging of over 2,000 ships during the First World War, painted a series of canvases of dazzle ships after the war, based on his wartime work. Arthur Lismer similarly painted a series of dazzle ship canvases.

Recently Sir Peter Blake gave his interpretation on the ferry across the Mersey.

Nicholas Quinn said...

Very interesting Phil, I remember the camouflage on the Player's bonded warehouses in Nottingham was still (just) visible in the late 1980s.

Nick