Camouflage and concealment during WW1

Concealment is the most common camouflage technique. It is achieved by altering the physical characteristics that make an object visible to an observer – shape, outline, shading and colour – to make it ‘disappear’ into its surroundings. Camouflage artists created designs of irregular, coloured shapes that made it difficult to determine the outline and form of the camouflaged object, most commonly guns or vehicles. This technique is known as ‘disruptive pattern’. Tanks,  were camouflaged when they were first introduced in 1916, but the practice was abandoned when it was realised that the mud from the battlefield covered the paint.
The German helmet was issued from 1917 to many artillery crew or elite stormtroopers, is painted in a disruptive pattern. The technology to print camouflage designs onto fabric did not exist until the 1920s, although British snipers often painted their uniform robes to help them blend with local terrain.
Visual deception is the other main camouflage technique. Unlike concealment, its effectiveness relies on an object being visible. The aim is to disguise something significant or valuable as something which is of little importance or obvious interest, or to trick an enemy into making flawed decisions based on inaccurate judgements of the position or strength of opposing forces. Camouflage units during the First World War made papier-mâché dummy heads to draw out enemy snipers. Any sniper firing at one of them would reveal his position.
Camouflage trees’ concealed an observation post from which troops could watch enemy movements without being seen. The trees were replicas of battle-damaged trees in no-man’s land. They were made behind the lines using sketches drawn by a camouflage artist on the battlefield. A camouflage team would then cut down the real tree at night and replace it with the replica. They were often situated in flat, exposed areas in no-man’s land, where there were no natural surveillance points and the need for observation posts was greatest. Producing the sketches and positioning the camouflage trees were both highly dangerous tasks.
‘Dazzle’ was the name for the distinctive patterns painted on ships during the First World War for camouflage.

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