Why ships used this camouflage in World War I

  • 🎬 Video
  • ℹ️ Description
Dazzle camouflage was fantastically weird. It was also surprisingly smart.

Dazzle camouflage was a surprisingly effective defense against torpedoes. In this episode of Vox Almanac, Phil Edwards explains why.

World War I ships faced a unique problem. The u-boat was a new threat at the time, and its torpedoes were deadly. That led artist Norman Wilkinson to come up with dazzle camouflage (sometimes called “razzle dazzle camouflage”). The idea was to confuse u-boats about a ship’s course, rather than try to conceal its presence. In doing so, dazzle camouflage could keep torpedoes from hitting the boat — and that and other strategies proved a boon in World War I.

This camouflage is unusual, but its striking appearance influenced the culture, inspired cubist painters’ riffs, and even entered into the world of fashion. Though dazzle camouflage lost its utility once radar and other detection techniques took over from u-boat periscopes, for a brief period in time it was an effective and unusual way to help ships stay safe.

💬 Comments on the video

How they know what color to paint the boat if they could only see black and white back then

Author — Matt


3:19 True, the number of zebras killed by torpedoes is 0.

Author — Penny Lane


Dazzle camouflage is actively used on car prototypes driving around in the wild, to make it harder for rivaling car producers to copy prototypes.

Author — mneonew87


Vox teaching me more history than my school does

Author — Alicia Mn


Imagine you are just there being a cubist painter and then suddenly a man comes at the door yelling

Author — oriana garrido


They knew the unorderly patterns would anger the structered and systematic germans so much that they couldn't aim properly anymore. Genious!

Author — computername


I have seen so many world war 1 and world war 2 documentaries. Why have I not yet heard about this? This is so quirky and fantastic. Thanks for the great video!

Author — mike csany


4:34 damn, the guy who T-posed was ahead of his time.

Author — CheesecakeLasagna


As a video editor, I love the edits here on Vox.

Author — BanditRants


"It's not a phase mom, it's life or death!"

Author — Dr John Zoidberg


Titanic's sister ships Brittanic and Olympic were used in the war, and Olympic had one of these "disruptive" camouflages. Just another fun fact from an enthusiast.

Author — Michael Miller


So world of warships weren't all absurd in their caloflague design. Nice!

Author — Nikhil Sekhar


Dazzle schools so shooters won’t know where to shoot

Author — losl


Why do Norwegian Ships have Bar Code Stripes?


Author — Diamond Jub


This is awesome
I love how creative people can be even in the harshest of situations

Author — Kyle Wasierski


Dazzle camp is very interesting, you guys should’ve mentioned how the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society uses it.

Author — Ryan M


0:37 Jumbo!!! Hey Vox you should make a short on Jumbo! I saw a very touching documentary narrated by the great David Attenborough and it is one great sad story about the world’s “largest” elephant from Victorian times.

Author — Yhorm The Jolly Giant


Thank you for making this video guys 😀Norman Wilkinson is my great great Uncle and I’m glad that to made this video :)

Author — Charlie Parry


i’m miss when vocals wasn’t popular. i liked when i was one of the few people that knew them. but it is crazy how fast they have grown.

Author — Alex Blanchard


God Vox Almanac videos are so cozy. I feel like I am in a 11 am lecture that I actually care about.

Author — Bonesaws