Wednesday, 5 November 2014

British and Commonwealth Camouflage of WWII by Malcolm Wright - a review

Mals Book British and Commonwealth Camouflage of WWII by Malcolm WrightSeaforth Publishing ISBN 978 1 84832 205 9 2014

I first heard of Mal Wright over 30 years ago when I joined the Naval Wargames Society. To say Mal is a fountain of knowledge is an understatement, from his personal collection of reference books and hundreds of hours spent interviewing veterans and noting down their memories he managed to accumulate an almost unique library of information. Being a wargamer himself he often commented about the poor information available to other gamers when doing research so decided to put pen and paint to paper and put down into a single set of books what aims to become the go to single reference source for British camouflage patterns on ships used during WW2 by the Royal Naval and its allied Imperial and Commonwealth Fleets.

The first volume covers the Destroyers, Frigates, Escorts and other minor vessels mainly used on convoy and coastal duties. The book contains around 160 pages in A4 Landscape format arranged into 14 chapters each of which concentrates on a particular class of vessel. There is a fairly comprehensive bibliography and page 12 contains the Naval Standard Paint Scheme Colour Chart. Each colour has its Official Description and due to limitations of modern printing techniques must be taken as representative of the colours as the original paints are mostly no longer available and will have faded and weathered in the intervening 60-70 years.

The introduction goes into the history of the Royal Naval camouflage designs and how they evolved up to the end of the war.

There are 740 full colour illustrations covering almost all the vessels your could want to find, each class has at least one deck view unless there were major variations in layout which are made clear by additional deck views. The drawings are clear and done in such a way that the wargamer or modeller should be able to reproduce the camouflage scheme quite easily in any scale. The book only shows the starboard side because as Mal points out for some reason this tended to be the side most ships were photographed from and that most standard camouflage scheme patterns were designed to be the same on both sides of the ship. There were some exceptions to this instruction and Mal makes it clear that a lot of his research involved looking at black and white photographs and comparing the patterns carried along with the Admiralty Instructions to come up with what can only be reasonably presumed to be the scheme the ship was painted in at the time of the photograph.

There is a full index of ships names to enable you to find a particular vessel without the need to flick through the book.

I have seen part of the next volume in this series which will cover the larger ships of the Royal Navy such as Battleships, Aircraft Carriers and Cruisers and am looking forward with anticipation to this being published.

All in all I cannot recommend this book highly enough for the wargamer and modelmaker as the primary source for WW2 British and their allied ships.

Drew Jarman

London Oct 2014

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