War Magicians

"Masters of wizardry and illusion, they hid the Suez Canal.
They moved Alexandria Harbour."


"The War Magician".

"I think that camouflage men must be among the few otherwise
sane beings who yearn to be bombed."

Geoffrey Barkas , The Camouflage Story

"…after facing initial
scepticism from the British authorities in Cairo, Jasper Maskelyne and other
newly arrived desert camoufleurs were able to gain credibility by introducing ,
on a shoestring budget , clever improvisations that had military value.

Eventually , they would be given their own base — a ‘magic’
valley near Helwan — from where they could offer their unusual services to the
Eighth Army. The camouflage war would then enter a more ambitious phase, with
greater resources committed, not only to manufacturing authentic looking fakes,
but also to devising means of disguising the real military hardware.

The latest challenge from Geoffrey Barkas ,i.e. to conceal the
vast port of Alexandria, seemed impossible. A problem of this magnitude required
a rare combination of creative and pragmatic thinking. The kind that a
successful stage illusionist might possess? Maskelyne’s dream , after all, was
to transfer the principles of stage illusion to the combat world.

Jasper Maskelyne
Master of Make-Believe

We salute all soldiers who served. Veterans Day 2004.