Military Deceptions

As promised, some pictures from a great book called ‘Masquerade, The Amazing Camouflage Deceptions of World War II’ by Seymour Reit.

Here, an stylistically accurate addition to the boudary wall of the Houses of Parliament disguses a machine gun emplacement.




A US army HQ disguised as a rubbish pile.

Along side these great photos (and many more) is the story of Basil Spences role in Hitler’s downfall.

The Quicksilver plan was developed as the planning of D-Day took place and was intended to ‘conceal the real date of the invention, to indicate a false invasion area, and finally to convince the enemy (after the blow fell) that another and greater attack would come elsewhere.

The Dover ‘pipeline’, part of this intricate hoax, was designed by one of England’s leading architects, Professor Basil Spence, whose sketches and blueprints were followed by the set builders of Shepperton.

Spence’s counterfeit docks proved to be good box office. German planes came over periodically to photograph them, but fighter patrols and antiaircraft kept the intruders at altitudes of thirty thousand feet, and at that height it was virtually impossible for enemy cameras to pick up any remaining flaws. On German prints, the Docks looked authentic. Now and then, Nazi long range artillery on Cape Gris-Nez would even lob a few inaccurate shells at the terminus – and whenever these landed the camouflage crews would create suitable ‘fire damage’ using sodium flares and mobile smoke generators’

[Of course, after the war, Spence was involved in many reconstruction projects. Coventry Cathedral explicitly combines the bombed-out ruins of the old cathedral with the new post-war building]

The book is full of stories such as this – grand Q-from-James-Bond type schemes and devices. What’s amazing is the scale: whole towns disguised, canals made invisible, lakes turning instantly into fields, phantom armies, trick train tracks and so on. As though the landscape itself turns into a shifting hallucination.

The sophistication of these tactics was borne out of desperation. They also shame our current response to international terrorism where concrete blocks have been roughly manoeuvred into seemingly temporary positions around important locations.

On this point, Mark Field MP is quoted in Hansard remarking upon the security measures in place around the American Embassy in London:

“Following the 9/11 bombings in New York, the US Government understandably increased security at American embassies throughout the world. In November of that year–more than five years ago, following the invasion of Afghanistan–roads east and west of the square were closed to traffic by cement bollards. To paraphrase one of my constituents, chicken wire was erected, which made visitors and everyone living in the area feel that they had stumbled upon some low-grade prison or military camp.”

As seen in the photos above, the measures described in Masquerade hide military presence amongst nature or historical sites or everyday human life. Today’s War on Terror measures ramp up the sensation of barricading. Maybe it is a way of visually manifesting the fear of attack amongst everyday urbanism – propaganda of fear.


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