Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


YESTERDAY, WE LEFT THE Pharos of Alexandria in ruins, thanks largely to earthquakes abetted by the cost of a crumbling building’s upkeep, even if regarded as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Today in Part 2, we do a quick calendar change to 1968, with a hiatus in World War II camouflage. 

The Pharos’ Rediscovery. In 1968, marine archeologists suggested the existence of its ruins beneath the Mediterranean. Further research revealed scattered bits of collapsed columns, statues, and other finds.

The Lighthouse of Alexandria, as depicted on coins minted in the second century A.D. On the left, the reverse of a coin of Antoninus Pius; on the right, the reverse of a coin of Commodus. Image from Wikipedia.

Wikipedia says, “In 2016 the Ministry of State of Antiquities in Egypt had plans to turn submerged ruins of ancient Alexandria, including those of the Pharos, into an underwater museum.” 

Pharos remains in Alexandria’s Harbour. Image by Roland Unger from Wikipedia. 

“In June 2022,” Wikipedia reports, “archeologists from The Cairo Ministry of Antiquities announced the discovery of an alabaster bust of Alexander the Great as well as molds and other materials for creating amulets for warriors and for statues of Alexander the Great.” 

Do I sense a real business opportunity here?

Maskelyne’s Masquerades. Jasper Maskelyne came from good stock: Both his father Nevil and grandfather John Nevil were renowned stage magicians. Wikipedia notes, “His 1936 Maskelyne’s Book of Magic describes a range of stage tricks, including sleight of hand, card and rope tricks, and illusions of ‘mind-reading.’ In 1937, Maskelyne appeared in a Pathé film, The Famous Illusionist, in which he performed his well-known trick of appearing to swallow razor blades.”

Don’t try this at home, kids. He’s a professional. 

Jasper Maskelyne, 1902–1973, British stage magician, perhaps World War II camouflager extraordinaire? This and following images from Wikipedia.

During World War II, Maskelyne joined the Royal Engineers and was trained at the Camouflage Development and Training Centre. He was a natural, and soon formed his Magic Gang. 

Above, Maskelyne during wartime. Below, an inflatable Sherman Tank, one of many deceptions Maskelyne claimed to have created. 

Wo zum Teufel ist Alexandria? As detailed in “How to Make a Harbor Vanish,” at Wargaming.Net, “British warships had been sailing across the Mediterranean to Alexandria Harbor and came under fire from the German Luftwaffe. The Magic Gang’s task was simple: make Alexandria harbor disappear.”

The genuine Alexandria Harbor, as seen from a spy photograph. Image from Wargaming.

The Wargaming website continues the tale: “Hundreds of soldiers were employed to help build the dummy harbor a few miles away at Maryut Bay. The faux harbor was not designed at full size, but to appear as if it were from aircraft high in the sky. This form of trickery was created to harness the perspective of the pilots, utilizing shadows, ground lights, and explosive charges to appear as if the location was under siege.”

“When the next convoy of ships arrived,” Wargaming describes, “all the lights were turned off in Alexandria and turned on in Maryut. The decoy ships and lights were illuminated and the bombs were detonated to appear to other Luftwaffe pilots that the attack had begun…. The illusion was a success, drawing the pilots’ fire on the first night, and then two more successive nights after that.”

“This victory for Maskelyne’s gang and the man himself,” Wargaming suggests, “cemented his ability and earned him a promotion. His technique demonstrated the use of decoy installations in the war effort. Utilizing light shadow and dummy structures were used to disguise other naval bases, too.”

But Who Was Actually Fooled? Wargaming notes, “…. there is no definitive evidence to corroborate any of these claims…. So, we have to ask ourselves if Maskelyne’s greatest trick was convincing the world that he did anything at all. What do you think?”

Wikipedia raises doubts. 

A Yank Corroboration? On the other hand, Maskelyne’s Magic Gang’s alleged activity reminds me of a similar ruse described here at SimanaitisSays: Lockheed’s entire Burbank, California, facility was covered in camouflage that transformed it into a rural subdivision.

Image from

Not that Burbank experienced any attacks, however…. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2023 


  1. Andrew G.
    March 9, 2023

    Another British ruse: I recall from watching a Lancaster bomber documentary, that the giant Avro factory that built them was also elaborately disguised as rural countryside. (scroll to “Yeadon”)

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