Revealed: The True Colours Of World War One - How A Discovery On Board HMS Caroline Is Helping Redraw History

Discoveries made by archaeologists on board the last remaining floating survivor of World War One’s Battle of Jutland will have a global impact on our understanding of paint colours used by navies one hundred years ago. 
 
A survey conducted by the restoration team on the Belfast-based HMS Caroline can now reveal its original colour the day it was launched in October 1914. It also shows the colour the ship was painted at the Battle of Jutland and subsequent moments in its history.
 
Revealed here for the first time are depictions of the ship in some of the colours it was painted throughout its 100 year history.
 
Captain John Rees OBE who leads the £14.1m conservation and interpretation project for the ship, dock, pump house and surrounding land at Alexandra Dock says the paint findings provide a unique time line for the ship .
 
“Because photography was black and white during much of the first half of the 20th century, it has been more or less impossible to determine the colours in which ships, vehicles and equipment were painted during World War One,” he says.
 
“Thanks to what we have found on HMS Caroline, we are able to review the entire colour history of the ship  and accurately depict the paint schemes Caroline was painted in over 100 years ,” he says.
 
“What is very reassuring is that the paint analysis and historical research work included  the ship’s hull and confirms that no anti-fouling paint has been applied.  Two paint sample reports confirm that the ship is free of organotin compounds, such as  TBT is present, an environmental hazard  associated with  ships, to  threaten the ecology of Alexandra Dock or indeed Belfast Harbour,” he adds.
 
Jef Maytom, the historic vessels expert who discovered the paint samples close to the bridge says the excitement generated by the finding cannot be understated.
 
“This finding rewrites the rule book for historians specialising in naval and maritime history and its representation,” he says. “It is the equivalent of a palaeontologist being able to finally prove that dinosaurs were a specific colour or had feathers.”
 

HMS Hermes returning from the Falklands