Sunday, November 22, 2015

Ship Camouflage | Why Sailors Hate Paint

WWI camouflaged British merchant ship
Above (top) Port and (bottom) starboard views of the SS Hunnie, a dazzle-camouflaged World War I British merchant ship (c1918). The original photographs, made by Allan C. Green, are in the collection of the Victoria State Library AU.


Day Russell, SAILORS HATE PAINT (short story) in The Sydney Morning Herald (April 23, 1946), p. 10—

“It’s like this,” began the sailor, “The old tub, she’s one of these passenger ships in peace time and they converts her to a troopship. Have you ever stopped to think how much paint it takes to cover the sides of one of them ships? No, you ‘aven’t. Well, some blokes had to fight their way through the war, and it seems that my pal Nobby and me had to paint our way through it. We did nothink but hang like flies on the side of a skyscraper, sitting on a bit of a plank with a bucket of paint and brush staring at them great walls of old iron; iron to the right of you, iron to the left of you, iron all round you, till if you’re a soft-skinned bloke like Nobby, it gets into your soul, if you understand me.

We gets aboard ‘er, Nobby and me, and the first thing that ‘appens is all ‘ands paint ship. That seems to take fifty years and then there comes an order which says there’s to be a new kind of camouflage and so it’s paint ship again, and by the time we gets that done we don’t know whether it’s us or the ship that’s cross-eyed, or whether we’re coming or going…

[Later, in another port] there comes along some admiral who doesn’t like the look of our camouflage and ‘e wants a few touches here and there to make us look like we was three ships and not one, so Nobby and me ‘as to go over the side again for a couple of weeks.…