Tag Archives: World War I

Dazzle-painted warships of World War I

Dazzle-ships-in-Drydock-at-Liverpool-Edward-Wadsworth-1919

From the wonderful Retronaut – these fantastic geometric paint schemes used during World War I were not designed to hide the ships as to make range-finding difficult and make it more difficult for enemy gunners to find their target.

Read about dazzle-painted warships here. Google finds a many examples here.

My thanks to Malcolm Woods for spotting this one!

PS – Inspired by his discoveries, Malcolm went on to find more examples of dazzle in art and elsewhere, including this painting of the Olympic, paintings by John  Everett, and examples of a very demure 1919 fashion for dazzle swimsuits published by the weblog Camoupedia.

There are still more here, including an article headed ‘Camouflage Sylphs on Coney Island an Optical Illusion: Stripes of Bathing Costumes Used by Plump Persons to Conceal Full Extent of Their Plumpness’ – this concludes thus:

‘Following the service yesterday of fourteen summons upon persons who appeared in the streets in uncovered bathing suits the suggestion was made that camouflage might be perfected to the point where it would hide offenders from the eagle-eyed Coney Island police.’

Elsewhere, a fashion writer puts it this way:

‘If you see coming toward you a woman who in some unaccountable way seems to melt into a sort of rainbow mass above the shoulders, don’t be alarmed; try to find her hat.’

Gosh. Swimming costumes are a bit of a departure for this weblog. If you need more images of dazzle-painted ships to return things to their usual calm order, there are many more examples on the Google Image search.

1917 distance control boat restoration under way at Avonmouth

There are restorations – and then there are restorations so challenging and rarified that the very thought of them makes my teeth rattle and the fluid surrounding my brain boil. this is one of those…

Here’s what my correspondent Helen Aldom has to say about it…

‘One of 12 40ft fast torpedo boats built in 1917, CMB9 was discovered by marine surveyor [and my correspondent's brother] Robert Morley, who found her lying in a boatyard where she had been neglected for 40 years and was due to be broken up.

‘A crude attempt had been made at some stage to convert her into a cabin cruiser.

‘It is remarkable that she survived so long in those circumstances, and fortunate that Mr Morley was able to recoginise the hull shape straight away having worked on the restoration of a 55ft torpedo boat of the same era.

‘He had the boat transported to his yard at Avonnmouth, and while he feared she could break her back in the process, the boat had been so well made by the original builders, Thorneycroft, that she didnt even creak or groan.

‘This strength is partly due to the remarkable number of ribs placed close together.

‘She has a stepped hydroplane hull and is of double diagonal mahogany construction. Boats of this type were capable of 40 knots propelled by a single screw, and carried one 18 inch torpedo.

‘At present power is provided by two Leyland 400 diesels dating back to the 50s.  Subsequent research has confirmed the identity of the boat. The records show she served with the Navy during WW1 and was based at Osea Island and at the Dover Patrol’s advance base at Dunkirk.

‘What adds to the historical importance of this boat is that in 1918 she was converted into a top-secret distance control boat and designated DCB1. In this role she was fitted with twin screws, bilge keels, radio masts and a small bridge with wireless controls – unfortunately, details of the tests remain classified.

‘She is the only surviving example of this type of boat. The unusual square super-structure that CMB9/DCB1 now has was added with the purpose of protecting the radio control equipment.

‘During the war she saw action at Zeebrugge and escaped unharmed from a German torpedo attack – CMB1 took a direct hit and blew up.

‘She is now registered with National Historic Ships and recently received an award from the Transport Trust.

‘Mr Morley hopes to get her back on water by next year in order to take part in events marking the centenary of the outbreak of World War I.’

The National Historic Ships page describing the vessel explains that distance control boats were under radio control from an aircraft some distance away – the vessels’ speed made them difficult targets to hit. The single torpedo was fired from the stern.

I don’t have access to classified records, but I’d suggest that DCBs would be unmanned and that they would have to be regarded as a kind of early drone.

DCB1 remained in service with the Royal Navy until the early 1950s and it is believed that it is the only surviving boat of its type. It would be interesting to know what role the boats may have played during World War II.

There is a Facebook page showing the restoration and recording interesting facts – see and ‘like’ it here.

Thanks Helen!

Ship of the Day from Conway Books

The last photo of the Lusitania before she was sunk by a U boat torpedo in 1915

This is said to be the last known photograph of the Lusitania taken in 1915 before she was sunk by a German U-boat during World War I, and it comes from Conway Books’ splendid Ship of the Day series.

As its name suggests, Conway’s series presents an image of a ship each day, accompanied by a genuinely informative potted history. For example, I’d forgotten that the sinking of civilian ships including the Lusitania is said to have been among the reasons the United States entered WWI. Among the 1,198 lives lost when the Lusitania went down were some 124 US citizens.

The Ship of the Day series is all good. Lusitania was yesterday’s ship: today’s is the Hunley.

Latest issue of Troze describes maritime life in Falmouth during World War I

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kronprinzessen-cecilie-c-charles-fox-archive

The captured Kronprinzessen Cecilie at Falmouth, courtesy of the Charles Fox Archive

The latest issue of the NMMC journal Troze presents A Quaker Record of Maritime Falmouth in World War One by Pamela Richardson.

The paper presents the  story of the leading Falmouth ship agents the Fox family  during World War I, focusing on the internal struggles of families with differing views of war and their duties as citizens of a nation at war, the way the town as a whole coped with an influx of strangers, both friend and now foe, and finally its return to peace.

Pamela Richardson is University of Exeter Honorary Fellow, and writes and speaks on a variety of Quaker-related subjects.

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