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 Post subject: Victorious's camouflage
PostPosted: Wed Dec 06, 2017 10:21 am 

Joined: Sat Jul 05, 2014 1:27 pm
Posts: 70
Location: Caumont-sur-Durance, France
A short while ago I mistakenly started a discussion of Victorious’s camouflage colours in late 1941 on the general forum (perhaps the moderators should move it here). It answered most of my questions but it also brought up some new ones. Going through the hundred or more photographs I’ve accumulated of Victorious during World War II generated some interesting results and, of course, more questions.

Victorious wore the same camouflage, well-illustrated in Alan Raven’s book, from commissioning until after the Pedestal operation. It is possible it was a four-colour scheme for the first few months, but photographs clearly show that it was three colours only from late summer 1941 onwards. There also were minor variations in the pattern, no doubt due to periodic maintenance. The consensus seems to be that the colours were 507C, MS3, and 507A (I use the ‘normal’ designations because I don’t want to get into a discussion that has taken up plenty of space elsewhere), with the flight deck camouflaged in MS3 with a rather odd pattern in 507A that is, at least to my eye, reminiscent of the contemporary Army ‘Mickey Mouse ears’ scheme.

Victorious refitted from late September to mid-October 1942 and then provided cover for Operation Torch in November. The ship then was ‘lent’ to the US Navy for service in the South Pacific. To that end, the carrier was subject to a refit at Norfolk Navy Yard that primarily added a large number of light anti-aircraft weapons and squared off and flattened the stern round-down. Victorious then transitted the Panama Canal and proceeded to Pearl Harbor for further modifications: mainly adding more anti-aircraft weapons, heavier arresting gear, and a roughly triangular ‘ramp’ behind the aftermost 4.5” forward mounting on the port side.

US Navy photographs taken the day Victorious arrived at Pearl Harbor show the ship in a different three-colour pattern from that worn originally. Aerial photographs taken after the ship was repainted in Measure 21 (Navy Blue 5-N) show the flight deck wearing a completely different and bolder two-colour pattern (shades unknown, but possibly still MS3 and 507A).

After serving in the South Pacific, Victorious returned to the UK via Pearl Harbor, San Diego, and Norfolk. The images Rick E. Davis uncovered of Victorious at Argentia on September 20, 1943 show that somewhere along the way the ship was repainted into yet another British (probably) three-colour scheme. This pattern seems to be the same as that after the ship’s refit at Liverpool in late 1943/early 1944 as demonstrated by photographs of Victorious on passage during Operation Tungsten in April 1944.

In June, Victorious was deployed to the Eastern Fleet. There seems to be a remarkable dearth of images of Victorious’s service with the Eastern and British Pacific fleets but, at some point, the carrier was repainted into the ‘standard’ scheme of light grey overall with a darker panel amidships. I strongly suspect that a lot of the other suggested schemes of a blocky two-colour ‘dazzle’ pattern or a dark panel running the length of the ship below the main deck are misinterpretations of shadows created by bright sunlight on an essentially light-coloured vessel.

All of this material, however, raises a host of new questions:

When was the camouflage pattern the ship wore on arrival at Pearl Harbor applied - during the October 1942 refit or sometime later? What was the pattern on the port side? Was the deck pattern applied at the same time or was it done when the ship was given Measure 21? I have been unable to find any photographs of Victorious during Operation Torch (which would answer the first question), port side views during this period, or overhead shots in this camouflage.

When and where did Victorious acquire the scheme carried from at least September 1943 – Pearl Harbor, San Diego, Norfolk? I have not found any views of the port side or the flight deck for this period, either, so I need more information for both aspects, too. I’m also looking for more definitive information about Victorious’s colours during the year from August 1944.

Finally, there’s the very strange pattern on the ship’s flight deck in the oft-reproduced aerial view of Victorious replenishing under way in the South Pacific. This is part of a series and examination of the group leads me to suspect that the underlying pattern is the same as that visible in the shots of Victorious off Hawai’i in Measure 21. The major changes are (a) the addition of a very light (probably white) block abreast the after end of the island (usually considered to be a false elevator to confuse attackers), (b) a narrowing of the dark sweep of the original pattern towards the fore end of the island, and (c) an intermediate-tone applied rectangularly from the bow to amidships that leaves a strip down the middle back from the forward elevator (of the width of the elevator) of what was possibly the earlier pattern. This scheme is so strange that I suggest that it can be explained by saying that the deck was being repainted.

I apologise for the length of this post but I hope it will generate some answers to these questions.

Thank you,

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 06, 2017 3:08 pm 

Joined: Thu May 29, 2008 8:02 pm
Posts: 3198
I can not provide much info on HMS VICTORIOUS camouflage, but can answer one of your questions.

While researching the photo that showed what turned out to be HMS VICTORIOUS at Argentia, I found the following info.

Based on what is supplied on the ... ... website;

HMS VICTORIOUS ended USN operations and departed Noumea on 31 July 1943.

HMS VICTORIOUS arrived at Pearl Harbor on 9 August 1943, but only stayed for a short period and departed on 12 August 1943. Not likely she was repainted at this time.

HMS VICTORIOUS stopped briefly at San Diego to drop-off personnel, but since there were no major facilities at San Diego for working on a carrier, it is unlikely she was repainted here.

HMS VICTORIOUS arrived at Norfolk Navy Yard on 1 September 1943 and was there for two weeks (according to other records, she was in NorNY 3-15 September 1943) getting some US equipment (like SG radar) upgrades and having other USN equipment removed. I believe that this two week period would be the most likely place and period that she was repainted. Norfolk Navy Yard had and did continue to do work on ILLUSTRIOUS class carriers and quite likely had a supply of RN paints for painting them.

As an interesting aside, from 31 August 1943 through December HMS INDOMITABLE was also at Norfolk Navy Yard as seen in this close-crop view dated 20 October 1943. It appears that she is having some repainting done.


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