Wartime colours - Ships Nostalgia
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Wartime colours

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  #1  
Old 5th September 2009, 12:03
John Tremelling John Tremelling is offline  
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Wartime colours

Following a query of mine on another thread about a particular ships colours during WWII, my mind wandered off at a tangent as it so often does, to wondering at what stage Merchant ships were painted drab colours during the war? Was this mandatory, did any remain in company colours?

The absence of colour photos makes this difficult to detect, although most seem to be a uniform shade, and funnels also seem uniform.

Can some knowledgeable member tell me, or direct me to a thread or publication dealing with this?

Thanks,

John T
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  #2  
Old 5th September 2009, 17:19
sidsal sidsal is offline  
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As far as I know all ships were painted grey. There were no company colours shown.
I was in Calcutta when the Jap war ended and we sailed to Colombo where we painted the ship in company colours ready to sail home. Brocklebank ships had a blackhumm with a 21" white band around the hull. Looked good after the drab years.
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  #3  
Old 5th September 2009, 21:13
John Tremelling John Tremelling is offline  
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Thats what I need Sid, first hand knowledge, thanks.

John T
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  #4  
Old 5th September 2009, 22:34
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John,
Neutral ships of course kept their ships painted in company colours and many of them sailed in convoys for protection
-they were so obvious when among other ships which were painted in crabfat grey.
All Allied ships were grey but some painted the tops of funnels and top half of masts off white so they would blend with the horizon when in tropical latitudes.
I was in British Merit when the war with Japan ended and we painted her in her peacetime colours -it was a very pleasant job after nearly six years of grey.
Regards
Stan
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  #5  
Old 5th September 2009, 22:51
John Tremelling John Tremelling is offline  
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Thanks for more first hand knowledge Stan, that seems to answer part of my query. Some paint job. Do you know if this was mandatory, or just common sense? If it was mandatory, was there some directive, when? Must have been a sudden rush on grey paint. Are there any senior members who were at sea when they were painted?

Thanks again,

John T

PS, just looked up British Merit, interesting history, lucky survivor.

Last edited by John Tremelling : 5th September 2009 at 22:57.
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  #6  
Old 5th September 2009, 23:16
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Its common sense and natural to use camouflage John.
All ships use more black and white paint than any other colour so a mixture of these would soon produce grey in an emergency.
I was at sea from 1936 to 1956.
Benjidog has a website in Shipsnostalgia 'Recollections' - you will find much interest there.
Stan
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  #7  
Old 6th September 2009, 10:01
John Tremelling John Tremelling is offline  
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Were you signed on a ship when it was painted Stan? If so when, at the outbreak of the war or when things started getting bad for shipping? I know that ships were sunk from the begining, but were they painted crabfat immediately, or even before the declaration of hostilities in anticipation? Was it done at the instigation of the Master, a company, Board of Trade or Admiralty directive?

Also, when you repainted British Merit in 1945, what colour were the decks?

I was at sea in the 60's, and sailed with many who had served during the War, but as a young Apprentice I had little interest in their anecdotes, and I imagine they would have had little interest in talking about it at that stage. I often wonder how much I missed, but such is the way with young men.

Regarding Benjidog's website in Shipsnostalgia 'Recollections', I have searched for it, but as something of a technocretin I have been unable to find it, will you direct me please?

John T
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  #8  
Old 6th September 2009, 12:25
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Prudence Prudence is offline  
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ships colours in War time

I was a baby then but my Father's ship M.V. Tulagi was mentioned in the final chapter of the Royal commission into the Sinking of the Sydney 11. The M.V. Tulagi was sighted on 1st January 1941 all painted white and i think the Burns Philip thistle on the funnel and proper recognition given...later that month the Sydney sighted her all painter grey and the Tulagi was not recognised and had to go through the recognition protocols again. These changes caused a few problems for warship Captains.
For ships in war time camoflage google "PICTURE AUSTRALIA" and use some inventive search terms...They have 40,000 pictures of merchant ships. Terms such as WW 11 Merchant ships will bring up a lot. Ships camoflage will bring up some very interesting experiments in hiding ships. The site can be cranky but keep trying. many of the photographs are now copy right free for downloading.
Prudence

Last edited by Prudence : 6th September 2009 at 12:27.
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  #9  
Old 6th September 2009, 14:54
John Tremelling John Tremelling is offline  
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Thanks for your experiences Prudence, and I am sure that you were a lovely baby. Thanks also for the advice re where to look for more photos.

John T

PS, What were the 'recognition protocols' Prudence?

Last edited by John Tremelling : 6th September 2009 at 15:02.
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  #10  
Old 7th September 2009, 03:55
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Recognition Protocols

Hi, or is is Ahoy, permission to come on board.
Re. recognition protocols these are fully gone into in the Final Report of the Royal Commission into the Sinking of the Sydney 11.
basically as I understand it there was a BIG book of the outline of ships, their name, their open call sign and a 'secret" calls sign known only to the Navy and of course the flag one flew. If these did not line up in agreement the protocol was changed for 'friendly' to "hostile' and the war ship stood off...out of range but then the flag signals could not be read if the Q ship raider pretended her radio was out.
I recommend the Report which can be found by a google search for the report or M.V. Tulagi will bring it up on about the fifth page.
The other book, now out of print is "The Raider Kormoran" Captain Theodor Demters, the exploits of a German 'mystery ship' in World War 11 where the Captain explains how he brought the Sydney 11 undone by playing tricks with the signals and recognition protocols.
Dear John, always wanted to write that... THE RAIDER KORMORAN was translated by Edward Fitzgerald and my copy is a Tandem Publishing Co. Ltd. paper back reprinted in 1979 . The book was first published in Great Britain by William Kimber and Co. Ltd, 1959.
Both documents are quite a read. Prudence

Last edited by Prudence : 7th September 2009 at 10:12. Reason: forgot publication details
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  #11  
Old 7th September 2009, 12:01
John Tremelling John Tremelling is offline  
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Thanks Prudence, very interesting and useful information, I shall seek out the referrences.

John T
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  #12  
Old 9th September 2009, 22:21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Tremelling View Post
most seem to be a uniform shade, and funnels also seem uniform.

Can some knowledgeable member tell me, or direct me to a thread or publication dealing with this?

Thanks,

John T


John,

I have a photo of H.M.S QUEEN OF BERMUDA on patrol in the South Atlantic in 1940. Grey hull and upperworks, white ensign, several large guns and all three funneels proudly weaaring Furness Withy's red and black livery.

Most vessels were painted grey. QUEEN MARY was daubed grey in New York. QUEEN ELIZABETH came out all grey but later her hull was painted black... with grey upperworks and funnels. Some troop transports sported black hulls and funnels and ochre or buff upperworks.

All this is very evident in several excellent WWII colour films.

What was definitely not used in the second war was dazzle painting.... not on merchant ships at least.

Stephen
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  #13  
Old 10th September 2009, 10:10
John Tremelling John Tremelling is offline  
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Thanks Stephen,

I had thought that some black and white photos showed that some hulls were black, but the referrence to Furness Withy funnels on an armed Merchantman suggests a very determined Master. Have you posted that photo?

Troopers with black hulls and buff (stone) upperworks, P & O working colour.

I have not seen any colour footage of merchantmen, can you recommend any.

John T
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  #14  
Old 10th September 2009, 12:44
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephen J. Card View Post
John,

I have a photo of H.M.S QUEEN OF BERMUDA on patrol in the South Atlantic in 1940. Grey hull and upperworks, white ensign, several large guns and all three funneels proudly weaaring Furness Withy's red and black livery.

Most vessels were painted grey. QUEEN MARY was daubed grey in New York. QUEEN ELIZABETH came out all grey but later her hull was painted black... with grey upperworks and funnels. Some troop transports sported black hulls and funnels and ochre or buff upperworks.

All this is very evident in several excellent WWII colour films.

What was definitely not used in the second war was dazzle painting.... not on merchant ships at least.

Stephen
Stephen ,
I am mystified by your description of Queen of Bermuda as an Armed Merchant Cruiser.
She was converted for this service in 1939 and one of her three funnels was removed to disguise her..if her funnels were painted in company colours it would defeat the object of disguise.
Of troopships with black hulls and funnels and buff upperworks you are describing P&O liners in their 'peacetime' colours.
I was a seaman all through the war and sailed in many convoys.Convoy Commodores were very strict and would reprimand any masters of ships who had bright colours visible,as occasionally some ships had red lead showing.
Emitting smoke from funnels was also taboo.
Ships names were not shown on the hulls -the name was in white on a black board on the bridge.
Regards
Stan
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  #15  
Old 10th September 2009, 13:08
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ssr481 ssr481 is offline  
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Liberty Ships were pretty much all painted gray, although I've seen photos of some given a dazzle type camouflage scheme. The SS JOHN W BROWN was gray all through her sailing career, but had a white superstructure (boat house) and black hull when she was a maritime high school in New York City. The BROWN is back to gray now.
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  #16  
Old 10th September 2009, 20:43
John Tremelling John Tremelling is offline  
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Stephen, will you please post your photo, if it is as you say I am sure that Stan would wish to see it. Thanks for your comments Stan. I recognised the black and stone colours as P & O as I sailed on them, not however until the 60's.

John T

PS

I have a photo of the Liberty Ship William M Meredith dazzle painted, apparently 1945. The exception to prove the rule?
I do not know where online I found it thus feel unable to post it, I shall try to find the source and post the link.

Last edited by John Tremelling : 10th September 2009 at 20:57.
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