Lozenge Camoflage Concept
In April of 1917 lozenge appeared in the skies over Germany and Austria-Hungary in an effort to better camoflage aircraft against their background and reduce the extra weight of colored dopes. If you are familiar with pointillist painting, a school of Impressionism fashionable at the turn of the century, you know that when small points of colors are viewed from afar they tend to merge together. The beauty of this optical illusion is that the dominant color of the background visually enhances a similar color in the lozenge, and fools the mind into seeing the two as the same. Ironically, the gaudy markings and prominent national insignia almost always nullified any effective camouflage offered by the lozenge pattern.
Lozenge Camoflage Types
There are several standard lozenge patterns. Most common are the 4- and 5-color patterns as seen commonly on most German aircraft. Naval aircraft usually carried a specialized hex pattern tailored for use over water , and many bombers sported specialized schemes found only on that particular aircraft type. Some Austrian/Hungarian aircraft carried unique lozenge patterns as well; although these were usually hand painted. Lozenge fabric of many varieties was usually printed in two distinct shades, one for upper sufarces and one for lower surfaces. Upper lozenge patterns were rich and bright, while lower surfaces recieved muted colors. Of course, exceptions are always expected- some schemes were intended to be used overall. There are many examples of aircraft that feature hand painted lozenge patterns on surfaces that are not covered with preprinted patterns.
Lozenge Camoflage Application
The vast majority of aircraft of the Great War were made largely of fabric and wood with steel cable bracing and some metal structural parts. Wings and control surfaces, and usually fuselages as well were normally covered in linen fabric then doped for tension, durability, and weatherfastness. On the wing, this fabric was literally stitched to the ribs. Actually, most of the fabric's attachment points and seams were stitched. Common practice on all such aircraft was the application of rib tapes, thin strips of the same or similar material literally doped down over the stitch to seal and secure it. Most noticeable on German aircraft because of the bright colors used over lozenge fabric, rib tapes were used in all nations and on virtually all types of aircraft.
Lozenge Camoflage Fabric
As for lozenge fabric itself, the distinctive geometric pattern was pre-printed and shipped as bolts of standard dimension. Coloring of the lozenge would bleed through from the printed side enough to give a faint pattern on the inner surface as well. These lozenge patterns were then applied as any fabric covering would be, doped and taped.
The three methods of wing coverage:
- Spanwise application utilized a long strip, full bolt width, to be attached from one wingtip across to the other. The remaining uncovered portion was again covered with another piece stretched spanwise, excess trimmed, and the two bolts of clothe were sewn together. Standard rib stitching and taping would the follow.
- Chordwise application took a number of standard widths of fabric and applied them side-by-side, perpendicular to the wing leading edge (along the ribs). Again, standard rib stitching and taping would the follow.
- Diagonal application was similar to Chordwise, but the bolts were applied diagonally, sometimes meeting symmetrically in the center.
Lozenge colors are hotly debated, and often many long accepted standard samples are proven fraudulent causing quite a problem for researchers. Basically, we know the general colors, the exact names and reference numbers within the Munsell system and Methuen system Similar to RLM system or FS system. The problem arises in the exactness of color, since the age of surviving color samples might render them slightly off.