An Illustrated History of Unbelievably Camouflaged ShipsS

It's difficult to hide from an enemy when you're inside an enormous ship, or part of a vast Naval fleet. And yet many ships in history have been well-camouflaged, despite a distinct lack of cloaking devices. Here are some of the most amazing examples.

USS West Mahomet (a steel-hulled cargo ship of the U.S. Navy, 1918-1919, but used as a merchant vessel under the name SS West Mahomet between 1919 and 1930. Scrapped in 1938.)

An Illustrated History of Unbelievably Camouflaged ShipsS

(via U.S. Navy)

The beginnings

An Illustrated History of Unbelievably Camouflaged ShipsS

Between the 16th and the late-19th centuries some ships might had cannon ports hidden by painted canvas, or extra cannon ports painted. In the Civil War and later the German and French ships were being painted gray.

(Pictured: CSS Atlanta, 1862, via U.S. Naval Historic Center)

The USS Narkeeta (a Wahneta Class District Harbor Tug, launched in 1892 and decommissioned in 1923.)

An Illustrated History of Unbelievably Camouflaged ShipsS

It had an experimental "brickwork" camouflage scheme in 1892.

(via Navsource)

HMS Adventure (a scout cruiser of Royal Navy, 1904-1919, scrapped in 1920)

An Illustrated History of Unbelievably Camouflaged ShipsS

(via The Imperial War Museums)

USS Nebraska (Virginia-class pre-dreadnought battleship of the U.S. Navy, launched in 1904, scrapped in 1920)

An Illustrated History of Unbelievably Camouflaged ShipsS

An Illustrated History of Unbelievably Camouflaged ShipsS

(via National Archives and Records Administration and Naval Historical Center)

RMS Mauretania (originally an ocean liner, launched in 1906, but during WWI it transported troops and used as a hospital ship. Retired in 1934, scrapped in 1935.)

An Illustrated History of Unbelievably Camouflaged Ships

An Illustrated History of Unbelievably Camouflaged ShipsS

An Illustrated History of Unbelievably Camouflaged Ships

(via Toshism, Merseyside Maritime Museum and Military Photos)

The transatlantic Olympic-class ocean liner RMS Olympic, the brother of the Titanic and Britannic (launched in 1910, used as a troopship between 1915 and 1919. Retired in 1935.)

An Illustrated History of Unbelievably Camouflaged ShipsS

In 1917 the British Navy added a multi-coloured camouflage to make the ship more difficult to identify and target.

An Illustrated History of Unbelievably Camouflaged ShipsS

The RMS Olympic was known as "Old Reliable", it would carry over 200,000 troops to and from the fighting fronts during WWI.

(via Wikimedia Commons and the Canadian War Museum, a painting of Arthur Lismer)

SS Empress Of Russia (built as an ocean liner in 1912-1913, refitted as an Armed Merchant Cruiser of the British Army during the WWI, but after the World War it was used as an ocean liner again. Scrapped in 1945.)

An Illustrated History of Unbelievably Camouflaged ShipsS

(via The University Of British Columbia)

USS Leviathan (originally built in 1913 as an ocean liner named Vaterland. In 1917, it was renamed Leviathan, and used as a troopship. After World War I it was used by the American shipping company United States Lines until 1934. It was sold for scrapping in 1938.)

An Illustrated History of Unbelievably Camouflaged ShipsS

An Illustrated History of Unbelievably Camouflaged ShipsS

(via Naval Historical Center)

USS K-5 (a K-class submarine of the U.S. Navy, launched in 1914, sold for scrap in 1931.)

An Illustrated History of Unbelievably Camouflaged ShipsS

It had a zebra camouflage in 1916 for a short time.

(via Navsource)

HMS Polyanthus (an Aubretia class sloop of the Royal Navy, launched in 1917 and sold in 1921 to a shipping company)

An Illustrated History of Unbelievably Camouflaged ShipsS

(via Imperial War Museums)

HMS Rocksand (a minesweeping sloop of the Royal Navy, used between 1918 and 1922.)

An Illustrated History of Unbelievably Camouflaged ShipsS

(via Public Domain Review)

HMS Argus (an aircraft carrier of the Royal Navy between 1918 and 1944. After the WWII it became an accommodation ship and sold in late 1946 for scrap.)

An Illustrated History of Unbelievably Camouflaged Ships

An Illustrated History of Unbelievably Camouflaged ShipsS

(via Naval Historical Center)

USS Alloway (a cargo ship of U.S. Navy, 1918-1919)

An Illustrated History of Unbelievably Camouflaged ShipsS

(via Public Domain Review)

HMS Adventure (a minelaying cruiser of the Royal Navy, launched in 1924, sold for scrapping in 1947)

An Illustrated History of Unbelievably Camouflaged Ships

It was the first ship built for service as a minelayer and the first warship to use diesel engines.

(via Imperial War Museums)

USS Northampton (a heavy cruiser of the U.S. Navy, commissioned in 1930, sunk in November 1942)

An Illustrated History of Unbelievably Camouflaged ShipsS

It had a false bow wave camouflage.

(via U.S. Navy)

Gloire (means Glory, a light cruiser of the French Navy, launched in 1935, scrapped in 1958)

An Illustrated History of Unbelievably Camouflaged ShipsS

An Illustrated History of Unbelievably Camouflaged ShipsS

(via Imperial War Museums)

HMAS Yarra (a Grimsby class sloop of the Royal Australian Navy, launched in 1935 and sunk by Japanese cruisers in 1942)

An Illustrated History of Unbelievably Camouflaged ShipsS

(via Australian Navy)

Tirpitz (a Bismarck-class battleship of the German War Navy Kriegsmarine, commissioned in 1941, sunk by Royal Air Force bombers in November 1944)

An Illustrated History of Unbelievably Camouflaged ShipsS

(via Wikimedia Commons)

USS Hancock (an Essex-class aircraft carrier of the U.S. Navy, used between 1944-1947, but modernized and recommissioned in 1954. Sold for scrap in 1976)

An Illustrated History of Unbelievably Camouflaged ShipsS

(via Naval Historical Center)

Bonus: HSwMS Helsingborg (a Visby-class corvette of the Swedish Navy, launched in 2003, in service from 2009)

An Illustrated History of Unbelievably Camouflaged ShipsS

(via Jesper Olsson)