The camouflage pattern isn’t really new to anybody who’s served in the military. Heck, even ordinary people know what camouflage is for, whether that be on a soldier’s uniform, military vehicles, aircraft, and military vessels.

In layman’s terms, the usage of the camouflage pattern draws from the need to blend in with the environment to avoid detection by the enemies. This is done by evaluating the type of terrain and the commonly found plants and shrubbery that exist in said environments. Camouflages typically have different colors, patterns, and materials so that they can effectively move without being compromised – this is true for all personnel, vehicles, aircraft, and vessels on active duty.

So, in World War I, why would military naval experts and artists opt to do the opposite by standing out?

Remember those vividly colored patterns they used to paint on ships and, to a lesser extent, on aircraft too? Wasn’t it counterproductive to razzle-dazzle a ship when the enemy can easily spot you in open waters?

Solving A Colorful Camouflage Problem

During the first World War, naval forces had the problem of disguising their fleet in the open waters as they were simply too vulnerable to enemy ships. The notorious German U-boats, at that time, were innovative and strong additions to the Imperial German Navy’s naval arsenal that sunk thousands of allied navy warships.

Before the idea of using the dazzled camouflage pattern for ships, the allied forces simply painted their fleets in varying shades of blue and blue-gray to mimic the colors of the waters. However, as all people in the Navy know, water from different oceans, densities, and at different times of day widely change. So much so, water is highly unpredictable as its colors can change whenever it is sunset, sunrise, or whenever there is a change in weather.

With hundreds of allied naval ships destroyed by the central powers, changes had to be made with their navigation systems and, of course, the paint of their fleets. Luckily, the allies were not just brilliant military strategists. They were also equipped with talented painters, one being Norman Wilkinson.

Master of the Camouflage, Mr. Norman Wilkinson

Norman Wilkinson painting a nautical-themed piece (Robert Perera Fine Art)

Mr. Wilkinson, a native of Cambridge, was a painter at heart and by profession. His illustration career started as a youngster when he had attended the Southsea School of Art. During this time, he also pursued his interests to know more about the oceans and anything maritime.