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Friday, April 20, 2007

The A Force and the "The Magic Gang"

In January 1941, General Wavell, commander of British forces in north Africa, created a unit called A Force, which was dedicated to counter-intelligence and deception. By this stage, deception was playing a major part in the war effort, following Prime Minister Winston Churchill's maxim that 'in war, truth should be accompanied by a bodyguard of lies'. In some cases there would be a concerted effort to mislead the enemy with a single convincing deception; in others, the aim would be to create confusion by suggesting a range of plausible alternatives.

Jasper Maskelyne was posted to A Force, where he was able to apply his skills to the task of concealing British forces from German aerial reconnaissance. He assembled a 14-strong group, known informally as the Magic Gang, whose members had had careers in analytical chemistry, electrical engineering and stage set construction. Maskelyne picked his team both for their skills and for qualities of initiative and imagination – unconventional criteria in the military context. He himself was a hard taskmaster – a dedicated perfectionist to some, an irascible egotist to others.

Applying Maskelyne's professional knowledge of cheap and lightweight construction techniques, the group produced dummy tanks made of plywood and painted canvas; Maskelyne even devised a means of faking tank tracks after the dummies had been moved into position. Similar techniques were used to disguise real tanks as innocuous lorries.

In 1941, Maskelyne was involved in an elaborate operation which diverted German bombers from the port of Alexandria by setting up a fake harbour in a nearby bay; this involved constructing dummy buildings, a dummy lighthouse and even dummy anti-aircraft batteries which fired thunderflashes. He also made it hard for German bombers to locate the Suez Canal by fitting searchlights with a revolving cone of mirrors, producing a dazzling wheel of spinning light beams nine miles across. - Text above is from the link below.

We all know the story of the Trojan Horse. Magic and deception can win battles. The terrorists have been using deception effectively against its so called enemies. I look forward to the time when the allied forces will again use magic, illusions, and deception more effectively and on a large scale. - Ian Bach

Note: Mr. Jasper Maskelyne also helped Lawrence of Arabia!!!