Lozenge notes

C.P. Hart (hartc@spot.colorado.edu)
Tue, 22 Aug 1995 01:27:53 +0000

Notes on Lozenge Camouflage

Perhaps one of the most intriguing aspects of World War One aircraft
colors is the use of printed "lozenge" fabrics by the German Air service.
Our knowledge of this topic has taken years to evolve to its current state.
Here I want to present a few relevant notes on the topic as a baseline
for the current discussion thread and show how knowledge of this topic has
evolved. This is not meant to be an exhaustive essay on this topic. Notes
on additional references are welcomed.

There are two sources of primary reference material used in sorting
out this puzzle, pieces of airframe or fabric itself and photos of lozenge
covered aircraft. Both have offered relevant information to this
investigation, and indicate that there were three types of printed
camouflage fabrics used, 4-color lozenge, 5-color lozenge and Naval Hexagon
fabric. Both the 4 and 5-color patterns were produced with different
suites of colors for use on upper or lower surfaces of an airframe. In
addition a third version of the 5-color pattern was produced for night
operated aircraft and was much darker than the 'standard' upper surface
scheme. Our knowledge of these materials remains incomplete, particularly
with respect to 4-Color and Naval Hex fabrics.

The earliest work in determining the colors used in lozenge printed
fabrics was conducted by H.D. Hastings in the 1950's. These early results
were published in a couple of places, perhaps the most (in)famous being a
1959 issue of "Cavalier" magazine (an old Playboy imitator). This article
actually included a color plate of a Fokker D-VII with lozenge fabric on
its wings. Another piece was published in the April 1959 issue of
"Aeromodeller" and was the first to reproduce drawings of the patterns for
both 4 and 5 color lozenge schemes.

Peter Gray took up the early work of Hastings and published a
subsequent piece in the December 1969 issue fo "Scale Models". In this
short article drawings of both patterns are presented along with Munsell
and Methuen references for the colors taken from surviving original fabric.
The 4-color pattern is recorded as being 4' 3.25" (=1.30 meters) wide.
The 5-color pattern is recorded as being 4' 6" (=1.37 meters) wide.

This same information has been published later in other places. A
chart apparently drafted by Ian Stair and using Peter Gray's data was
published in the Wingspan publication on Fokker Fighters of WW I. The same
pattern dimensions from the Scale Models piece are used in this chart.
This chart has also been reproduced many times in Albatros Publications
Datafiles on German aircraft that used these fabrics.

I have an undated copy of an Ian Huntley "Colour Spot" column,
published either in "Scale Models" or "Scale Aircraft Modeling" (help
needed here for reference). This short piece lists the width of the
4-color pattern as 4' 3" (=1.29 m) and the 5-color pattern width as 4' 4"
(=1.32 m). He also lists in a table Methuen and FS595a color references
for both fabrics. Beware ! this piece, while in agreement with other
reports of color values, has mistakes on the positions (i.e. specific
lozenges) of the colors in both patterns.

The restoration of the Albatros D-Va by the Smithsonian Institution in
the early 1980's provided something of a breakthrough for research on
lozenge fabrics. Since the aircraft was originally covered with 5-color
fabric, new material was required for the restoration. Robert Mikesh, in
his book on the restoration, provides details on how the museum obtained
replica lozenge fabric that was screen printed on cotton material. In
order to produce this fabric the pattern was carefully drafted for use in
screen printing and that pattern is reproduced in the book. The total
pattern width was 4' 6" (=1.37 m).

The fabric used in the Smithsonian restoration is a 'replica" of the
original camouflage fabric. It has the appearance of the original material
and is faithful to the colors found in original samples, however it was not
manufactured in the same manner as the original and therefore lacks the
true appearance of the original. The Smithsonian material was screen
printed, not a technique suited for mass production of colored fabric. The
original lozenge was printed on machines using rollers, much like
newspapers were in any classic black and white Hollywood film you might
recall. That is long lengths of fabric were passed around rollers and
sequentially had colors applied to them. This printing method produced a
blend of the two colors on overlaps between adjacent lozenges, making for a
darker border on some lozenge edges. This technique was employed to
produce a true replica of 5-color lozenge fabric in 1991.

The Museum fur Verkehr und Technik (MVT) in Berlin undertook the
restoration of four Halberstadt Cl-IV airframes (not all of which were
complete) in the late 1980's. These aircraft had at one time belonged to
Ken Hyde of Virginia and included a substantial quantity of original,
unused lozenge fabric. Without going into the details of transactions
involved the MVT undertook the restoration of these airframes with one of
the aircraft currently on display at the US Air Force Museum in Dayton,
Ohio. Unfortunately, its present situation in the gallery (on a pedestal 8
feet above the floor) is such that it is difficult to admire the fine work
on this aircraft's camouflage and markings.

In their efforts to obtain replica fabric, the group at the MVT drew
upon the research of Manfred Thiemeyer on lozenge fabric printing
technology. This work uncovered the original firm and machinery used in
this process. Sadly, no publication of this work has appeared, so the rest
of us are left in the dark as to what has been learned. We only have the
results which were produced and used on the restored airframes. The
replica fabric was printed on linen cloth 59" (=1.5 m) wide. The pattern
is 57.25" (=1.45 m) wide. This is slightly wider than the pattern
published in the Smithsonian book. The basic pattern is in close agreement
from both sources, the wider MVT pattern extends the shapes of the polygons
found at the edges of the pattern. Overrun samples of this fabric were
sold by the MVT. I have never received confirmation that there was a US
distibutor for this material.

To my knowlege, there is only one existing, genuine piece of the Naval
Hexagon cmouflage fabric. This is a 0.58 by 0.56 meter piece in the
possession of Peter Grosz. This fabric was examined and described by Dan
San-Abott in World War One Aeroplanes #134. In his article, Dan makes
reference to photos of a Fokker D-VII (w/n 2268, illustrated on page 5 of
Windsock Datafile #9) covered with this fabric. since the application on
the wings was spanwise a total pattern width of 4' 4" (=1.32 m) was
determined. This fabric also displays the characteristic blending of
adjacent hex colors found in the printed lozenge fabrics. In an earlier
post on this topic it was suggested that some Naval Hex camouflage was
painted. It has been speculated in articles in Scale Models and Windsock
that some aircraft with ply covered fuselages or floats had pieces of the
printed fabric varnished to their surfaces in order to produce the
camouflage seen in photos. I have not seen evidence to confirm this

At the 1992 meeting of the League of WW I Aviation Historians in San
Diego, Peter Grosz showed a short motion picture taken of German float
planes in action. Some scenes in this footage suggests that there may have
been more than one set of colors used in the Naval hexagonal scheme. The
current issue of Naval Hex camouflage decals produced by Americal/Gryphon
attempt to reproduce these two schemes. Unfortunately, more material will
be needed to confirm the exact colors employed.

Notes on fabric application:

Some articles that have addressed specific lozenge fabric use on
Fokker D-VIIs are:
Tripp, Wally, 1984, That Fokkers an Albatros ! World War One Aeroplanes #102.

San-Abott, Dan, 1985, Fokker D-VII marking schemes on Fokker-built
aircraft. World War One Aeroplanes #107, pages 3-15. This piece notes that
only the last delivered batch of Fokker-built aircraft employed 5-color
lozenge fabric.

Both of these articles note that wing fabric was applied chord-wise to
these aircraft.

Some additional notes on WW I a/c camouflage were written by Wally
Batter and published in Worl War One Aeroplanes issues #84 and 88. These
include additional Methuen and Munsel references from original fabric
samples. These also includes color references to the night 5-color

The USAFM Halberstadt Cl-IV has its lozenge applied at 45 degree
angles to wing chord.

The Albatros D-Va in the Australian War Memorial has replica 5-color
fabric applied in a spanwise manner. On the upper wing, a splice was
necessary since the chord was greater than printed fabric width.

The Pfalz D-XII in the Australian War Memorial has poor quality
replica 5-color fabric applied in a chordwise manner. There are
indications this aircraft may be recovered with better (MVT?) replica
fabric in the near future.

Examination of photos in the Windock Datafile on the Siemens Schuckert
D-III/IV indicate that at least some of these aircraft had spanwise
application of 5-color lozenge to stabilizer, ailerons, and wings. The
lower wing had narrow enough chord not to require the seam found on the
Albatros D-Va upper wing, hence an advantage to this mode of application.

These notes are not intended to be an exhaustive study of this topic
but a presentation of a few published data on the use of lozenge material.
I have no doubt that readers of this list will find errors here. If so,
please cite your sources of information, I would like to make these
corrections to my own notes or search out your reference.