Patrol Vessel Receives WWI Paint Scheme

FRIDAY, APRIL 19, 2024

After months of maintenance and coating work, the River Class Patrol vessel HMS Mersey is now stationed at the Falmouth drydock in Cornwall, England, with a new “Western Approaches” color scheme from World War I.

According to reports, the ship’s recent modernization refit also included a complete strip down of its engines and interior work to the accommodation and other areas.

Previous Work

In November of last year, Sea Waves Magazine reported that the vessel would be ending the year with maintenance work after having been available for duties on four out of every five days in 2023.  

The vessel reportedly conducted a variety of missions, including monitoring Russian warships passing the United Kingdom, supporting NATO and Joint Expeditionary Force allies in the Baltic, exercising with the RAF and leading the U.K.’s government efforts to stop illegal people trafficking in the Solent shipping lane.

While under operation in 2023, the Mersey visited 16 ports in eight countries and spent 3,331 hours operating, sailing 31,590 nautical miles. The Mersey also received a commendation from the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society for “meritorious actions in rescuing others” while doing humanitarian work.

“The tasking was constant and due to the size of the crew involved everybody to be called on day or night,” said Lieutenant Alex Collins.

“Due to the improvised nature of the craft used by the migrants, density of shipping in the Dover Strait and often unfavourable weather conditions, recovery serials were inherently dangerous. Despite the challenges faced many on board found the tasking to be rewarding as, unlike some of our other duties, the human impact of the operation was immediately evident.”

Additionally, the Mersey was occasionally asked to step in her for its sister, the HMS Severn, in delivering specialist navigational training to officers looking to safely guide capital ships through challenging waters.

In frequent sub-zero temperatures and snowstorms, the ship also operated alongside military forces from Sweden, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, and trained with locally-based RAF assets during a month-long mission to the Baltic

After a busy year in action, the ship’s engines were set to be overhauled, its accommodations upgraded, its systems renewed and the Western Approaches dazzle paint scheme to be added to the hull (the last of the original Rivers to receive it) before Mersey resumed patrols.

Latest Update

A report from the Falmouth Packet states that the new scheme, which is a combination of blue-grey and green grey on a background of white and light grey, was first applied to destroyer HMS Broke in 1940.

Afterwards, it was reportedly used by ships operating in the namesake approaches to make it more difficult for German U-boat commanders to spot them, mainly in heavy seas.

The paint scheme was originally devised in World War One to confuse enemy submarine commanders who were trying to find a vessel’s speed and orientation before attacking. The use of the “dazzle” paint scheme was removed in World War II, however, due to the improvement of radar and optical equipment.

According to reports, HMS Mersey is the last of the current patrol ships in its fleet to get the paint job since then. While radar can make maritime camouflage largely irrelevant, it is reportedly meant to serve as a tribute to sailors involved in the Battle of the Atlantic, who operated in the same waters as these ships.

To create the new paint scheme painters used 700 liters of paint on Mersey’s hull, explained Matt Weetch, director of defense at commercial ship repair and conversion specialist A&P Group Limited.

"First of all, there's a high-pressure washing for the whole vessel. The ship is then primed, undercoated, and then painted with a full topcoat of grey,” he said.

"With regards to the Western Approaches scheme, the specialist painters do it all by hand, so first they'll do a chalk line to get the pattern correct, then use masking tape to put a detailed line for the paint, then they'll use brushes and rollers to actually paint the vessel the different colours – your normal hand rollers and paint brushes you'd paint your house with."

Another report from Forces adds that the ship is now undergoing final maintenance in partnership with BAE Systems and A&P Group, leading to the vessel's journey back to operational readiness. Additionally, the vessel’s crew was given the chance to pick the new decor for the ship's recreation space.


Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; Coating Application; Coating Materials; Coatings; Coatings Technology; Color + Design; Completed projects; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Latin America; Maintenance coating work; Marine; Marine Coatings; North America; Ongoing projects; Paint application; Program/Project Management; Rehabilitation/Repair; Ships and vessels; Z-Continents

Join the Conversation:

Sign in to our community to add your comments.