This morning the dazzled Mersey ferry Snowdrop, painted with an amazing dazzle inspired design by Sir Peter Blake, sailed across the river for the first time. From the fantastic reaction of the commuters, tourists and press on board today it looks set to become a popular attraction on the river.
There’s more to the dazzle ferry than the colourful exterior though, as Merseyside Maritime Museum curator Ben Whittaker has co-curated an on board exhibition with Tate Liverpool. The displays explore the history of dazzle in the First World War and Liverpool’s war at sea, linking with the museum’s own Lusitania exhibition and featuring a number of photos of wartime dazzle ships from the Maritime Archives. This project continues National Museums Liverpool’s collaboration with Liverpool Biennial, Tate Liverpool and 14-18Now, after the dazzle inspired design was applied to the Edmund Gardner ship last year.
The ferry exhibition features two models made specially by our ship and historic models conservators Chris Moseley and David Parsons. Each model is a reproduction of a dazzled model made by Norman Wilkinson in 1917, held in the Imperial War Museum collections. Wilkinson developed the dazzle program operated by the Admiralty, and the original models were used by Wilkinson’s team to test the effectiveness of the dazzle design in confusing enemy U-boats on the speed and course of a ship. Approved designs were transferred to a scaled plan, and used by teams across the country (including in Liverpool) to dazzle paint Merchant and Royal Navy vessels.
Chris and David built these models from scratch with only a few reference photos to go off – sourcing scale plans to replicate the hull shapes and deck features, and painstakingly recreating the dazzle designs. The results are, well, dazzling! Keep a look out for a forthcoming blog post that will look at the models in more depth.
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