Monday, May 12, 2014

Hen House Camouflage | World War 1

Fox and hounds—and chickens (1917)
Above (top) The US entered World War 1 in 1917. In advance of that, a group of American artists organized a group they called the New York Camouflage Corps. Later, when the Army officially formed a camouflage corps, various publicity photos were sent to news agencies throughout the country, for the public's amusement and morale. This was one of them. It documents a silly attempt by a misguided amateur camoufleur to soften the visual distinction between a hen house and a farmyard. (bottom) When news of this absurdity reached the UK, Irish cartoonist and Olympic medalist Jack B. Yeats (the younger brother of poet William Butler Yeats), who signed his drawings as "W. Bird," suggested that the same device might scare off the fox from the hen house. It was published in Punch (August 22, 1917, p. 127) with the caption: A poultry-fancier, hearing that defenses at the Front are sometimes disguised as hen houses, determined to reverse the process. Being a bit of an artist he disguised his hen house by giving it a warlike appearance. The enemy was stricken with panic.

• Our thanks to Richard Hawkins for supplying additional info.


Anon in CAMOUFLAGE in the Braidwood Dispatch and Mining Journal (New South Wales AU), July 31, 1942, p. 2—

Camouflage is the art of making the other chap think he sees something that isn't there by making the thing he imagines is there to be the thing he assumes isn't there. This principle holds good for all branches of camouflage, like the wife conjuring a new hat out of the household bills, or her mother disguising herself as a welcome guest.

However, not till one joins the army does one realize what real camouflage means. A complete division once camouflaged itself so successfully in a 10-acre paddock that two other divisions camped on the spot without suspecting anything amiss till their beer and tobacco began to vanish.

Other examples of perfect camouflage are making restful ease look like hard yakks, tossing the brown as air-spotting, and using tram tickets as 14-day passes. If a "shrewd head" is sufficiently adept he can camouflage himself as a neatly folded blanket and spend a peaceful day in the tent. Our sergeant cook is an adept at camouflaging old boots as beefsteak.

There appears to be a great future for camouflage. The man who discovered a satisfactory way of camouflaging water as beer and vice versa for after hours will die honored by millions. And perhaps some genius may arise who can even camouflage Eddie Ward [Australian politician] to look like something useful.