Collection: British Denison CAMO
The Denison camouflage parachutist smock (or, as it is most commonly known, the "Denison smock)" was developed by the British Army in late 1941 to provide airborne troops with a camouflaged jacket that would aid their deployments behind enemy lines. The origin of the name "Denison" is shrouded in mystery. Although many publications attribute the name to a Major Denison (reputedly attached to a military camouflage unit under the command of stage designer Olive Messel), there appears to be no concrete documentation establishing this fact from wartime sources, nor made available to academic researchers like the British Airborne Assault Museum. The original smocks were primarily made of medium weight windproof khaki colored cotton drill cloth and painted with non-colorfast dyes in broad green and brown colored stripes or "brushstrokes." The camouflage design on these original smocks was widely believed to have been hand-painted using large, mop-like brushes, thus accounting for broad variation among early smocks. Yet despite lack of pattern repetition commonly found on roller-applied, mass-produced camouflage fabrics, the sophistication of the wartime brushstroke design suggests a higher degree of complexity was utilized during the application of the camouflage design, much more than could be achieved by simple manual labor. Initially worn by members of the Special Operations Executive (SOE), the "Smock, Denison" became standard issue to all European Allied airborne and air-landing personnel, and was also worn by some Commandos, Royal Marines and Special Air Service operatives as well. Early model Denison smocks generally incorporated pea green and dark brown stripes, whilst the later pattern smocks varied from a sand to a light yellowish-olive combination, with overlapping brushstrokes of reddish brown and dark olive green.