Bryn provided evidence from 1915; Ammon Shea provided evidence in an earlier sense from 1885.
The development of aerial warfare and accurate long-range artillery in the First World War meant that weapons, vehicles, and troops needed to be concealed from enemy view; hence the need for camouflage (a word borrowed from French; it had been used in French to mean ‘disguise’ since the 19th century). The earliest evidence we have for camouflage in English is from 1916:
The shells, which a simple camouflage of white tarpaulins effectually hid from the enemy.
1916 Cornhill Mag. July, p. 54
Was camouflage used in English earlier in the war, perhaps in military records or by soldiers at the front?
* * *
To commemorate the centenary of the start of the First World War (1914–18), the OED is revising a set of vocabulary related to or coined during the war. Part of the revision process involves searching for earlier or additional evidence, and for this we need your help. Our first quotations are often from newspapers and magazines, and we know that there may well be earlier evidence in less-easily-accessible sources such as letters, diaries, and government records, many of which are now being made available in digital form for the first time.
Posted by OED_Editor on 27 January 2014 15.08