Jasper Maskelyne was one of an established family of stage magicians.
In January 1941, General Archibald Wavell created A Force for subterfuge and counterintelligence. Maskelyne was assigned to serve in it and gathered a group of 14 assistants, including an architect, art restorer, carpenter, chemist, electrical engineer, electrician, painter, and stage-set builder. It was nicknamed the Magic Gang.
The Magic Gang built a number of illusions. They used painted canvas and plywood to make jeeps look like tanks — with fake tank tracks — and tanks look like trucks. They created illusions of armies and battleships.
His largest illusion was to conceal Alexandria and the Suez Canal to misdirect German bombers. He built a mockup of the night-lights of Alexandria in a bay three miles away with fake buildings, lighthouse, and anti-aircraft batteries. To mask the Suez Canal he built a revolving cone of mirrors that created a wheel of spinning light nine miles wide, meant to dazzle and disorient enemy pilots so that their bombs would fall off-target.
He died in 1973 after having moved to Kenya.
My interest in Jasper comes on the heels of learning about HBO’s new series, Hobgoblin.
The potential series centers on a group of magicians and con men who use their skills at deception to battle Hitler and his forces during World War II.
The classic story of magicians fighting nazis. I’m guessing this is somewhat inspired by Jasper.
Supposedly, this show is to be written by Michael Chabon and directed by Darren Aronofsky.
I hope this sees the light of day.