The Truth About Early WWII RN Dazzle Schemes
By now it's fairly well known that by 1943 the Royal Navy had settled on shades of grey and blue-greys as their favoured palette to most effectively conceal a ship against the majority of backgrounds and lighting conditions against which paint could aid camouflage.
It's also fairly well known that in the early war years from 1939 through 1941 RN cruisers in particular were painting "dazzle" type schemes using only shades of grey. Until very recently we mistakenly believed that this was because these were the shades of paint most readily available at scale within the naval logistics and supply chain network, but the latest research has revealed the truth...
Our latest trip to The National Archives at Kew turned up some fascinating documentation new to myself and our esteemed associates. In 1937 with rising concern of war with Europe, the country was rearming in preparation but already was turning to the task of developing effective camouflage. The British Army was experimenting, as was the Royal Air Force with much input from the Royal Aircraft Establishment. The Admiralty ordered a task group established and responsibility fell to one Commander Blackan-Whyte, who embarked on a data-gathering exercise first to better understand the requirements of concealment across the Royal Navy's vast area of responsibility. To expedite this orders were issued to ships on Station throughout the world to gather evidence of typical sky and sea colours up-sun, down-sun and across-sun in various weather conditions and at different times of day. In the Mediterranean and on Home Stations this remit was expanded somewhat to cover the seasons across the remainder of 1937 and into 1938.
The gathered evidence was collated through summer and autumn of 1938 with initial findings presented to their Lordships at the Admiralty in the beginning of 1939. These suggested that shades of grey would be most effective to use, and from the latter part of 1939 some ships began painting in disruptive schemes using grey shades.
Further reading however reveals in the correspondence between Commander Blackan-Whyte and Rear Admiral Canbey-Sireas that budget constraints limited the surveying exercise to panchromatic film only with which to gather the evidence of the atmospherics required. It is noted that the former acknowledges in one response to the Admiralty that "With the benefit of hindsight, the recommended camouflage shades for some Stations may perhaps have been different had we enhanced the funding to permit the new Kodachrome film be carried upon which to capture a better impression of prevailing background colours".
In light of this, Sovereign Hobbies reserves the right to re-evaluate our Royal Navy range once again to better fit the majority of surviving photographic evidence on monochrome film as follows.