Jasper Maskelyne
Magician
(b.1902–d.1973)

Born in London into a famous family of conjurers and stage magicians, Jasper Maskelyne belongs to a tradition of experts at both fakery and financial woes. In 1940, he joins the Royal Engineers with the Camouflage Development and Training Centre (CDTC). In the same year, his wife and children move to New Zealand. In 1941, Maskelyne arrives in Egypt and sets to work on a camouflage unit, making dummy tanks and a fire resisting cream. Maskelyne, who also works as a performer of revues during this time, finds himself in the vicinity of many strategic deception plans, such as sunshields for the Battle of El Alamein, dazzle lights to ‘disappear the Suez Canal’ and disguising the de Havilland works in Hatfield to cover Agent ZIGZAGs double agent activities. In his autobiography, Indigo Days, Julian Trevelyan writes that “disappearing was [Jasper Maskelyne's] profession and he was called in when anyone wished anything to become invisible. He entertained us with his tricks in the evenings, and tried, rather unsuccessfully, to apply his techniques to the disguise of the concrete pill-boxes that were then appearing everywhere overnight. He was at once innocent and urbane, and he ended up as an Entertainments officer in the Middle East.”

 

Dazzle lights

 

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