A model tank that was built in the First World War for experts to paint with new camouflage designs is to go on display in Dorset.

The model will be part of the Tank Museum’s new exhibition opening on April 1 called ‘Tanks for the memories: The tank in popular culture’.

It offers a fascinating insight to into early camouflage painting.

The military wanted to help protect its soldiers and felt it would benefit them if tanks were harder for the enemy to see, so various designs were considered.

Canadian colour-theorist Percyval Tudor-Hart was teaching in London at the outbreak of the war and offered his services to Britain.

He felt that his talents could be utilised ‘in the realm of scientific camouflage, based on reflection, absorption, and refraction of light.’

Ultimately Lord Montagu of Beaulieu set him up in a workshop on his Hampshire estate and with some of his former students he began experimenting.

He was given this model tank to paint in order to demonstrate the effect of his colour scheme.

Despite his skills none of his designs would ultimately be used, with the Army, Royal Navy and Air Force rejecting his efforts.

A design of his for sniper camouflage did pass muster, but another design had already been accepted.

David Willey, curator of The Tank Museum, said: “The word camouflage wasn’t in use in Britain before the First World War and the science, if not the idea, was new.

“Tudor-Hart was something of a visionary with many of his camouflage theories being looked at again in later years.

“Unfortunately none of his designs were adopted for the military although his paintings with their emphasis on colour tones can be seen in some museums.

“He used zig-zags and herringbone patterns to deceive the eye and we are extremely fortunate that this wooden model tank has survived.

“It is thanks to Lord Montagu who donated it to us after the last war that we have it – and it is some years since it was last on public display.

“It is a quarter-size model of a ‘female’ Mark I tank and it’s lovely to be able to see this original design that Tudor-Hart created.

“Ultimately, camouflage on tanks proved pointless on the Western Front because the mud was so abundant all tanks were covered in it, rendering any camouflage useless. Therefore all tanks ended up being painted brown with no camouflage scheme.

“In the exhibition we have a section on model tanks and this example is the oldest, having been made months after the tank was invented.”

The museum is looking for two people dressed as Tank Girl and Oddball from Kelly’s Heroes to open the exhibition.