Monday, July 25, 2011

Jasper Maskelyne, War Magician?

Happy Monday! I've written about old Jasper before, because he fascinates me.

Who, you ask, is Jasper Maskelyne?

Jasper Maskelyne
 He was one of an established family of stage magicians, the son of Nevil Maskelyne and a grandson of John Nevil Maskelyne. He could also trace his ancestry to the royal astronomer Nevil Maskelyne. He is most remembered, however, for the accounts of his work for British military intelligence during the Second World War, creating large-scale ruses, deception, and camouflage. Very little verifiable evidence of Maskelyne's work during this period is documented, leading some researchers to believe that Maskelyne's claims are exaggerated or fabricated.

An inflatable dummy tank, modeled after the M4 Sherman

 I read "The War Magician" book by David Fisher some years ago when there was a rumor that Tom Cruz would play the part as the lead in the movie, which never came to be. That's too bad because truth of fiction, this is a great story that would make for a great movie.

"colorized" photo of T.L. Lawrence

I haven't been as fascinated by a character since TL Lawrence, of "Lawrence of Arabia" fame (read sometime his, "Seven Pillars of Wisdom" book).

The Maskelyne's  were a family of magicians. Jasper, his Father and Grandfather before him, were Britain's greatest stage magicians and all worked against the Crown's enemies in three separate wars.

Jasper did such things as build fake soldiers and war machines for the German's to gather intelligence upon, attack or bomb, leading them to waste time and resources in useless efforts.

According to, in his memoirs, Indigo Days, Julian Trevelyan paints a more mundane picture of Maskelyne’s abilities: “The course included others who had espoused camouflage for one reason or another. Jasper Maskelyne’s connection with it was obvious, since disappearing was his 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.”

Maskelyne saw things differently. What the truth is we may never know unless someone can examine the British Army's records and find exactly what he did do.

Still, it makes for a Hell of a story.

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