Artist and illustrator Norman Wilkinson was a marine painter who had previously been commissioned to create paintings for the elegant smoking rooms of RMS Titanic and Olympic. Prior to signing up for the navy in 1915, Wilkinson had built his career working for the illustrated London News. He also produced landscape art for the The London & North Western Railway and London Midland & Scottish Railway to advertise their routes. He served on submarine patrol in the waters of Gallipolli before returning to Britain in 1917 and it was whilst serving on a mine-sweeping ship that his idea of dazzle camouflage was born.
Wilkinson realised the huge threat that was posed by the German U-Boats. It was deemed impossible to camouflage the fleet, however, Wilkinson came up with the idea of hiding the ships in plain sight by using a series of cleverly contrived shapes and bold colours. The Admiralty were intrigued by this idea and asked Wilkinson to oversee the painting of a ship using this new technique of Dazzle camouflage. The idea was hugely successful and was used for both large and small ships. One of the largest ships to be 'dazzled' was RMS Olympic, sister ship to the ill-fated Titanic.
The camouflage worked by breaking up the ships form thereby making it impossible for a submarine to properly locate the vessel. Wilkinson assembled a group of artists and model makers at the Royal Academy of Art to come up with hundreds of unique designs and colours
|© IWM (MOD 2474)|
Model 1/600 full-hull scale plastic kit model ((L 40cm x W 4.5cm x H 7.7cm) of RMS Mauretania dazzle painted to represent her appearance during the First World War.
You can find out more about Norman Wilkinson's art work by clicking here
More about the Dazzle ships can be found by clicking here
As part of 14-18 NOW, the official cultural programme to commemorate the centenary of the First World War leading German artist, Tobias Rehberger, transformed HMS President (1918) by covering it entirely in ‘dazzle camouflage'.
Find out more by clicking here
This photograph of HMS President, was taken by my husband, on the River Thames in 2014
© Digital Images