TO SEE THROUGH A SOLDIER
Magic–Top Secret and The War Magician are contaminated works. How then can we properly assess Maskelyne’s contribution to camouflage and deception operations in World War Two?
Firstly, an obvious preliminary approach is to compare the two accounts side by side. This technique has been surprisingly overlooked by experts. The authenticity of key episodes can be judged against the pattern of discrepancies, omissions and contradictions found in the two sources.
A second approach is to track down the writings of significant characters such as camouflage experts Geoffrey Barkas, Steven Sykes, Julian Trevelyan and escape gadgets pioneer Clayton Hutton.
A third related method is to analyse recent works on tactical and strategic deception. These provide valuable clues, even though their references to Maskelyne are patchy and prone to error.
Finally, Alistair Maskelyne’s direct comments and responses to my queries have been extremely useful. Where possible, independent confirmation will be sought.
In the past few years, based in London, I have chased up further important leads:
In the British Library, I pieced together the literary clues and finally unmasked the identity of the ghost writer behind Magic–Top Secret.
In the National Archives, I came across declassified documents, drawings and photographs, which shed more light on Maskelyne’s involvement in camouflage and escape & evasion training.
Alistair Maskelyne has now acquired a copy of his father’s army record. The handwritten entries provide an objective chronology of transfers and promotions.
Jasper Maskelyne’s intriguing correspondence with Twentieth Century Fox in the mid-1960s has also emerged.
At last, the motherlode of Maskelyne material—the fabled wartime album— has resurfaced at Paramount Studios.
By combining these old and new sources, we can construct a more accurate picture of Jasper Maskelyne’s wartime activities.