[First World War submarines and dazzle camouflage.] Autograph Memorandum by Commander C. S. Benning of Royal Navy submarine HMS K1, on ideas 'to produce an optical effect, which will mislead the submarine captain' and make 'the torpedo miss'.

Charles Stuart Benning (1884-1924), Commander of Royal Navy submarine HMS K1 [William Lionel Wyllie (1851-1931) and Norman Wilkinson (1878-1971), marine artists; dazzle camouflage]
Publication details: 
Undated, but between the launch of HMS K1 in November 1916 and her scuttling in November of 1917. On government paper [Admiralty, Whitehall].
SKU: 20964

Signed at end 'C S Benning | Commdr K1'. HMS K1 was launched 14 November 1916. Following a court martial in August 1917, Benning was reprimanded for stranding her; at another court martial at the beginning of the following year he was cleared of any blame for her loss following a collision with HMS K4 off the Danish coast on 18 November 1917. An interesting letter, from the papers of marine artist W. L. Wyllie, in which the commander of a Royal Navy submarine gives his opinion on ideas 'to produce an optical effect, which will mislead the submarine captain' and succeed in 'making the torpedo miss'. (Norman Wilkinson's dazzle camouflage began to be employed on Royal Navy ships in August 1917, having previously been adopted for merchant shipping, and following the rejection of a similar proposal by the zoologist John Graham Kerr.) 2pp., foolscap 8vo, numbered by Benning 1 and 2. On two leaves, both embossed with government crest. In fair condition, lightly aged and worn. Without title or preamble, the memorandum begins: 'It may be assumed that nearly all merchant ships are torpedoed without seeing the submarine periscope. The captain of the submarine uses a certain deflection to allow for the course & speed of the ship he fires at & this is estimated from what he sees through [last word underined] a periscope. | The more difficult it is to estimate the course & speed the less chance there is of that ship being hit with a torpedo. | Before deciding if any idea, to produce an optical effect, which will mislead the submarine captain in either of the two essentials, course & speed, is practical or useless, it should be looked at through a periscope. It is not easy to hit with a torpedo & the whole idea, is to produce effects that will give cause of doubt to the captain of the submarine, & if I may say so, nothing is too stupid to be dismissed without trial. | To produce these effects, I consider paint might be used with very great success & bow waves & other methods of painting are good & should be used. I would go as far as putting funnels with a rake forwards, painting the bow where the stern is & vice versa fitting the bridge at any angle of 30° or 40° across the ship. | Putting the masts out of line or doing away with them. | Also the optical effect due to painted right angle plates might be used (the old advertisement of soap one a good example)'. He thinks that the same idea 'might be used on funnel, bridge or deck house'. He points out that in order to mount a successful attack, a submarine 'must be under about 5 points on the bow when he sights the vessel'. He estimates that on firing the submarine is 'probably between 5 & 8 pts, where the appearance of the ship would change, at the moment he was deciding what deflection to use'. In his view, 'The assistance of a good painter, or even a marine artist in conjunction with these ideas would I am quite sure be useful in obtaining the end required, namely, making the torpedo miss.' He ends by stating that he is enclosing 'a very rough idea of what I mean by right angle plates' (not present).