Michael Haag, an expert on Alexandria, tipped me off that ‘Maryut Bay,’ as such, does not exist.
Magic–Top Secret misleadingly states that “a mile along the coast is Mariut Bay. It is sufficiently alike in shape to attract a bomber pilot… .” and Fisher repeated this claim, but Maryut is an inland salt-water lake, not a bay along the Mediterranean coast.
Why does Magic–Top Secret commit such a basic geographical error? Does the composer of Magic–Top Secret really have direct knowledge of this decoy site? Why is he so vague about its whereabouts? Which side of the coastline is the decoy site supposed to be? On the east side of the city sloping northeast? Or on the west side sloping southwest? Or is the decoy situated away from the coastline, somewhere along the vast shoreline of Lake Maryut? For example, south or southwest of the city? If so, is the decoy site on the north side or south side of Lake Maryut? How far is the site from the main Western Harbour?
Fisher also mistakenly claimed that “nothing of the magnitude proposed by Maskelyne had ever been considered.”
In fact, as far back as 1916, the British had thought about using replica lighting schemes to draw off Zeppelin attacks. In the Second World War, from July 1940 onwards, they began installing decoy fire sites (QF) and decoy lighting sites (QL) around the United Kingdom. More sophisticated fire decoys, known as Starfish, were developed around British industrial centres in late 1940 and early 1941. The details of these pyrotechnic wonders can be found in Colin Dobinson’s book Fields of Deception.
Starfish installations thwarted German raids against Bristol in March 1941 and Portsmouth in April 1941. These sites clearly predate Maskelyne’s Maryut Lake deception. Film studio technicians, not magicians, deserve credit for their implementation.
Furthermore, Magic–Top Secret makes no mention of the use of anti-aircraft guns or the construction of a simulated lighthouse, and claims the fake Alexandria was subjected to bombardment for only two or three nights not eight nights.
Has Fisher embellished material that was already semi-fictional?
Why was the Maryut decoy closed down after eight (or three) days? This aspect of the story makes no sense. QF, QL and Starfish sites were long-term projects. A successful decoy site near Alexandria would have kept going for two years or more.