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Nov 06, 2017 at 19:41

Jasper Maskelyne, The Magician Who Defeated Hitler’s Armies During World War II

by Akarsh Mehrotra

Jasper Maskelyne was never thought to be much of a soldier. His prime occupation before the war had been carrying forward his family's legacy. They were all magicians. On the stage, their name commanded respect. But in uniform, no one really cared about him.

He spent most of his time entertaining the troops. But he wanted to make a difference. Jasper realised that his mastery of illusions can help with camouflage. 

And thus, he became the War Magician.

Source: icollector

 

Soon he collected a group of like-minded people viz a carpenter, an electrician, an architect, a chemist, a stage-scenery maker, a painter and a picture restorer. They were tagged as the Magic Gang

But before he could take on the likes of Hitler's generals, he had to impress his seniors, so he readied himself for the 1st assignment he was ever given - protecting Alexandria harbour from bombardment at night by the German air force.

Source: modernnotion

 

The harbour was too huge. Hiding it and so many ships was not possible. So he decided to move it instead.

He used a nearby harbour, lit it up and created dummy ships & houses using mud and cardboard. 

He randomly blew up those ships & building during raids. The pilots thinking that their lead had dropped the missiles, would drop more. Alexandria harbour remained without lights during the raids. And the Germans rained havoc on the decoy harbour, keeping Alexandria in tact.

Alexandria Harbour (Source: greg.org)

 

The Magic Gang was now being talked about. They were then asked to protect the Suez Canal by somehow increasing the range of anti-aircraft lights to help British gunmen spot Nazi planes in the dark. But Jasper had a different idea.

He used those very lights to blind the pilots. He came up with a device that would convert the lights into strobe lights. The impact was phenomenal. Using mirrors and lights along the Suez Canal, not only did he hide it from enemy eyes, he disoriented enemy pilots resulting in crashes.

The lights device created by Jasper (Source: greg.org)

 

But his greatest illusion was still to come. Adolf Hitler's main man, Field Marshall Erwin Rommel AKA the Desert Fox, was conquering parts of Africa like nobody's business. The British were desperate for a win. The Battle of El Alamein (Egypt) was to be the turning point and the gang was called upon.

British Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery wanted to attack El Alamein from the north and claim it back from Rommel. It was essential for gaining control of Western Africa. Jasper and his men created, in his own words, - "dummy men, dummy steel helmets, dummy guns by the ten thousand, dummy tanks, dummy shell flashes by the million, dummy aircraft..." It was the perfect replica of a large regiment.

A tank that could turn into a truck with the framework to avert enemy eyes (Source: tanks-encyclopedia)

 

They even started building a dummy pipeline which made the Germans think that a battle is a long time away. Using sound effects and other illusions, Jasper and his men diverted a majority of the German to the south. Soon, Montgomery penetrated the north and won the battle. It was their first real victory against the Axis. 

Hitler's main man had been tricked by a master of illusions. Jasper did not fire a single bullet, but he did make Rommel disappear. 

As brilliant as Rommel was, this wasn't a miracle. It was magic!

Jasper with his fiancee and stage assistant (Source: ozy)

 

Jasper went to work his magic in 16 different countries after that. The Magic Gang had disbanded, but he never revealed the secret behind their illusions. Under the British Official Secrets Act, they can only be made public in 2046.

When Jasper performed for small audiences, they all applauded in awe. The sad part is that when he performed on the biggest stage of them all, the Great War, he was never appreciated. He was never formally recognised. The magician, just like his illusions, disappeared in the pages of history.

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