The phantom army of Alamein: the men who hoodwinked Rommel

Rick Stroud

In 1940 a motley crew of artists, sculptors, film-makers, theatre designers and set painters came together to form the Camouflage Unit. Led by Major Geoffrey Barkas and including among their number the internationally renowned stage magician Jasper Maskelyne, the unit's projects became a crucial battlefield weapon. At the siege of Tobruk the unit made a vital desalination plant appear to have been destroyed by enemy bombers; from then on they used their storytelling skills to weave intricate webs of deception, making things appear that weren't actually there, and things that were, disappear, to deceive the enemy. Their stage was the enormous, flat and almost featureless Western Desert.

The unit's schemes were so successful that in August 1942 the Unit was ordered by General Montgomery to come up with a way to hide the preparations for the Battle of Alamein, the biggest battle the 8th Army had ever fought. 'Operation Bertram' was born. In six short weeks two divisions, with armour, field guns and supporting vehicles, were conjured from the sand, while real tanks and lethal twenty-five pound field guns vanished from sight.

Soft cover, photographs, illustations, 288 pages.