Wednesday, August 08, 2007

January 26, 2006

I'm struggling with the grey.

Of course at sea it became the standard colour for the dreadnought era.

And people might compare the success of the Wehrmacht during the "Feldgrau" era with the defeats of the "Camouflage" era.

I can lift some experience from more recent sporting events. Both Manchester United and the English national team experimented with a pale grey "second strip", and both are agreed to have played consistently poorly in the outfit. Sports Psychologists at the time quoted the lack of inspiration of a neutral colour, coming up with quotes like "Club teams play best in red" - ignoring the obvious fact that Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United (who have pretty much dominated the British league for the last 30 years) all wear red. Perhaps more interesting were reports from players who reported difficulty in picking their teammates out from the crowd background.

Whatever the cause, I'm not sure the results map to a battlefield.

Consider the Rebs in the ACW. Their movement in mass would nullify some of the camouflage effects of the uniform,but It must have still had its uses on night patrol or on skirmish screens on a foggy morning. The ability to see your friends might be less important than in a game of football. You need to know where they are to avoid shooting them, and it helps if commanders know where their men are - but there is no suggestion that grey would grant this kind of invisibility.

Grey does seem to have been at the root of a number of friendly fire incidents during the first world war. Grey was pretty much the colour of choice among the armies on the Eastern front, and the only thing that appears to have prevented them from shooting their comrades appears to have been ammunition shortages, or the fact that the enemy sometimes got in the way. The problem appears to have been particularly acute in the forces of the Austrian empire - who were not best mates to start off with anyway.

On the western front the Portuguese were shot up a few times by the British since their grey was very similar to the Germans.

The only winners I can really think of are a subset of the 1813-15 Prussians. Their reserve infantry (initially recalled reservists, but after a year, better considered the junior regiments of the line) dressed in a simple grey uniform. Even the Landwehr looked finer in a blue equivalent - though the Reservists had boots and bayonets - so some sense of priority was preserved. This sounds like a vote for success in grey. Until you consider that the first choice for the reservist uniform was the varied supply of uniforms provided by the British. So some Prussian reservists turned out in the Scarlet of the British fusiliers, some wore the blue of the Portuguese regular army, one battalion were equipped in the dark green of the riflemen. And only those without supplies went into action in the grey issue.


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