Dazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusion by Chris Barton

Cover image for Dazzle ships : World War I and the art of confusionHow do you camouflage a huge cargo ship, traveling in the middle of the ocean? You can find out in Chris Barton’s new book, which explains how Britain used an unusual and colorful idea to help them win a war. Dazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusion begins by setting the scene. It was 1917 amid World War I and people on the island of Britain were starving. They relied on ships to bring food and supplies, but Germany’s U-boats kept sneaking up and torpedoing the ships. Then Lieutenant-commander Norman Wilkinson presented a wild idea. Because ships could not be painted in a way that would make them invisible to submarines, he proposed the extreme opposite: paint them with colorful patterns. This would break up the form and confuse the submarine as to which direction the ship is heading and at what speed, making the ships more difficult targets. Amazingly, it worked! Britain went on to paint over 2,000 dazzle ships during World War I, with many different patterns. This book brings the dazzle ships to life in a way that even photographs can’t, since photos of the time were in black and white. You will enjoy the vibrant illustrations while learning a piece of fascinating history.

Book reviewed by Erin E., Youth Services Programming Coordinator