Once Leamington had been chosen as the site for Civilian Camouflage it was also joined by a Naval section headed by Lt Commander Yunge Bateman, they took over the old museum and gallery in Avenue road and a large water tank was installed.
Precise models of the naval vessels to be camouflaged were made by carpenters after exact drawings had been taken from Jane’s Fighting Ships. The models were then observed in the water tank under different design, lighting and sea conditions.
This is where Wilfred Shingleton’s skills as a film set designer and lighting technician may have helped.
The unit did not create the designs in a vacuum, other sections of naval camouflage stationed across the country did extensive research into colour and design, flying repeatedly over ships and naval bases in various light, weather and seasonal conditions, using photography and artists drawing in flight to find the correct palette and most effective camouflage design.
Once all this was agreed on, the colours would be applied to the original drawings and then, Victorine Foot says, she was sent on a bike with these top secret plans in a saddle bag, often cycling past prisoners of war working in the fields, she would muse, if only they knew what she carried.
Victorine would take the plans to Thornbury Brewery just outside Radford Semele which housed a RAF unit that worked on the top floor creating blue prints, once handed over they were in a secure dispatch system and they would be delivered to the Admiralty and then sent on to the relevant dockyard where the design would be applied to each ship.
There are excellent chapters by Henrietta Godden in her book Camouflage and Design that describes this process in more detail, the work in Leamington and the rest of the country.
Victorine Foot’s interview with the Imperial War Museum includes the actual painting of a ship at Southampton.
She poignantly tells how the models of ships sunk in action were placed on a top shelf as a visible memorial to their loss.
HMS King George V and HMS Furious, seen below thankfully never made it to that shelf.
And below, a selection of photographs from the National Archive at Kew showing the models, gallery, water tank, lighting and back grounds that were used to create the designs: