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Maskelyne's crowning achievement came in 1942 with his involvement in Operation Bertram, prior to the battle of El Alamein, which turned the tide against the Germans in north Africa. The German forces under the legendary Erwin Rommel knew that a British counter-attack was coming; the task was to mislead them as to where and when it would take place. The Magic Gang rapidly became the nucleus of a small industry devoted to, in Maskelyne's words, 'the mass production of tricks, swindles and devices'.
The attack was to take place near the coast, at the northern end of the German line. Accordingly, at the north of the line 1,000 tanks were camouflaged as lorries, while 30 miles south 2,000 fake tanks were assembled, complete with explosive special effects. To support the illusion, a fake railway line was built; there were even fake radio broadcasts and sound effects to mimic the noise of construction.
Crucially, a fake water pipeline was built to supply the simulated armies. Its progress could easily be tracked from the air by German planes: the trick was to convince the Germans that it would not be ready, and therefore that no attack could begin, until November.
http://www.channel4.com/history/microsi ... asper.html
Tom Cruise plays him in his forthcoming film, The War Magician.
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Please continue the discussion on Maskelyne in that thread.