Schnellboot Colors and Markings Schnellboot Archive

Colors and Markings

Prewar experiments with the Schnellboot camouflage indicated that the ideal color for North Sea night time operations was white or very light grey. Disruptive schemes which were effective in daylight increased visibility of the boats at night. Although it seems counterintuitive, the light shade tended to blend the boat into the sea's phosphorescent surface better than darker colors. The horizontal surfaces were painted grey to camouflage it from the air, as well as hide scuffmarks on the deck. The horizontal surfaces of deck houses were often the same light color as the rest of the superstructure. The wooden gratings on the decks were painted the same color as the decks.

The official shade adopted for the Schnellboot was "Schnellbootweiss" a neutral pearl grey. This color matches the modern FS paint chip # 17875 and the German RAL paint chip #9002 "Grauweiss".

On the early boats, the hull below the waterline was painted anti-fouling black. There was no boot topping. Evidence shows later boats were painted with red-brown anti fouling paint below the water line.

Boatyards delivered the boats in white. Camouflage schemes were determined on a Flotille level, though the actual application was left to individual crews, resulting in some variation. As the war progressed, and as daylight operations became less frequent, pattern camouflage was less often applied to S-boats and probably phased out completely in favor of the white night-fighting scheme. As yet, no photo of an S-100 class boat in a camouflage pattern has come to light. Anyone with further information is urged to contact me.

A few camouflage variations were used during wartime. Several boats used in the invasion of Norway were painted overall dark grey. They returned to their white/grey scheme after the operation. Boats transported by canal and rivers were temporarily painted a dark color, probably grey. At least some boats used in the Mediterranean or Black sea had pea-green colored horizontal surfaces, instead of grey as used in northern theaters. Some Black Sea boats sported air recognition stripes similar to that used by the Italian Navy, or swastikas.

In 1941, a number of Boats were painted with a distinctive "long blotch" style camouflage. Boats of the 5th S-Boat Flotilla in Finland had "blotches" of two shades of grey and very a light brown. Horizontal surfaces were painted light grey. Other flotillas recieved a "tiger stripe" camouflage which might have been shades of blue and grey. One variation of the tiger stripe camouflage attempted to mimic waves. Some boats in French ports had the decks and superstructure painted with splotches of light grey on their dark grey decks. This splotch pattern was not continued to the hull.

Photographic evidence of armored bridge S-Boats painted in camouflage patterns is scarce with only one "splotch" pattern identified to date. It was a temporary measure used for a risky daylight transfer of boats to a different operational area.

S-Boats were often given personalized insignia. Some are shown here. The tiger was a popular motif. The 3rd S-Boat flotilla (English Channel and Mediterranean) individualized their boats with different sea creatures. Boats of the 8th flotilla (English Channel) were marked with the first name of their Kommandant.

Click thumbnail image to view full size picture!

Ferdinand Urban's pre-war color view of white painted S-boats on manouvers.
Detail of the same photo.

Boats of the 5th Schnellboot Flotilla in Finland, 1941. (From Burger Schnellboote Vor)

Excellent color view showing insignia and colors. Notice the canvas railing covers are also painted.(From Burger Schnellboote Vor)

Some Mediterranian based boats had pea-green decks.

Mid war "tiger stripe" camouflage worn in the Eastern Baltic.

Another view of this distinctive pattern.

Stern view of this scheme (From Hummelchen, Profile Warship #31).

S-114 wears a somewhat hard edged variation (from Hummelchen Warship Profile #31).

This seemingly unremarkable photo is interesting since it shows that the "splotch" pattern (seen on previous pages) was not painted on the hull. It was simply painted using the standard Schnellbootweiss hull paint over the dark gray decks.

National insignia painted on the bridge roof as an air recognition measure.

These S-Boats operated from the Ivan Baba base on the Krim Peninsula in the black sea Note the air recognition stripes (From Hummelchen Die Deutschen Schnellboote im Zweiten Weltkrieg).

The forecastle of a mid war boat in the Black Sea painted with air recognition stripes. Probably red and white, possibly white on deck grey.

The 3rd Flotilla's menagerie of sea creatures included this mermaid on S-61 (From Kemnade Die Afrika Flotille)

This insignia was painted on a mid war boat of the 5th Flotilla (From Burger Schnellboote vor ).

This squirrel painted on a Baltic based boat reminded its crew of victories in the English channel.

S-195 of the 8th Flotilla is marked "Walter" for Kommandant Walter Knapp.

7th Flotilla unit insignia on salvaged S-boat. (USNA Courtesy of Chip Marshall)

S-Boat in the Baltic 1941, the boat on the right has a unique camouflage scheme (From Jung, Abendroth & Kelling Anstriche und Tarnanstriche der deutschen Kriegsmarine).

S-13 in Norway 1942, attached to the 5th Minesweeper flotilla, it bears the unit's Tiger insignia (see above). From Hummelchen Die Deutschen Schnellboote im Zweiten Weltkrieg).

Flottentender Tsingtau attached to the 5th S-Boat flotilla near Riga, 1941. (From Burger Schnellboote vor ).

Bogus? Probably! This camo scheme first emerged in the February 1999 Modellist Konstruktor magazine from Russia. Thus far, there is no credible documentation to support its actual use. Anyone with further information on this scheme, or any camouflage worn by the armored bridge boats, is invited to share.