Camoufleurs

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Cover of The Fortnightly Fluer magazine for Second World War camoufleurs.
The Fortnightly Fluer, the magazine for "Camou-Fluers" of Middle East Command, April 1942. Illustration by Brian Robb.

A camoufleur is a person who designed and implemented military camouflage in one of the world wars of the twentieth century. The term was originally a person serving in a First World War French military camouflage unit.[1] In the Second World War, the British camouflage officers of the Middle East Command Camouflage Directorate, led by Geoffrey Barkas in the Western Desert, called themselves camoufleurs, and edited a humorous newsletter called The Fortnightly Fluer.[2][3] Such men were often professional artists. The term is used by extension for all First and Second World War camouflage specialists. Some of these pioneered camouflage techniques. This list is restricted to such notable pioneers of military camouflage.

Surrealist artist Roland Penrose wrote that he and Julian Trevelyan were both "wondering how either of us could be of any use in an occupation so completely foreign to us both as fighting a war, we decided that perhaps our knowledge of painting should find some application in camouflage."[4] Trevelyan later admitted that their early efforts were amateurish.[5] Working in camouflage was not a guarantee of a safe passage through the war. Lucien-Victor Guirand de Scévola's Section de Camouflage, founded in September 1914 in the French army, developed many new techniques, some of them highly dangerous, such as putting up artificial, camouflaged trees at night to replace actual trees with cramped observation posts. The cubist painter André Mare was wounded while preparing one such observation tree. Fifteen of his camoufleur colleagues were killed during the First World War.[6]

Some camoufleurs such as Solomon J. Solomon, aged 54 at the start of the First World War, believed that artistic skill was necessary for the design or construction of effective camouflage. He wrote that "the camoufleur is, of course, an artist, preferably one who paints or sculpts imaginative subjects... He must leave no clues for the detective on the other side in what he designs or executes, and he must above all things be resourceful. But his imagination and inventiveness should have free play".[7]

Not all the camoufleurs were artists. John Graham Kerr and Hugh Cott were zoologists, though Cott was also a skilled illustrator. Both men believed passionately that effective disruptive camouflage was vital, especially in the face of aerial observation, but they had difficulty persuading authorities such as the British Air Ministry that their approach was the right one. At least one Royal Air Force officer felt that Cott's camouflage was highly effective, but, since it would demand the presence of a skilled artist for every installation, too costly to be practical.[8]

First World War[edit]

Self-portrait painting of Lucien-Victor Guirand de Scévola.
Lucien-Victor Guirand de Scévola (self-portrait), leader of the pioneering French First World War camouflage unit.
First World War camoufleurs
Name Dates Description
Lucien-Victor Guirand de Scévola 1871–1950

French symbolist pastel painter; leader of French Camouflage Department in First World War[9]

Jean-Louis Forain 1852–1931 French impressionist painter, member of de Scévola's team[10]
John Graham Kerr 1869–1957 Scottish embryologist, advocate of ship dazzle camouflage in First World War, influence on Hugh Cott (Second World War camoufleur)[11]
Paul Klee 1879–1940 German-Swiss painter using expressionism, cubism and surrealism. Camouflaged aircraft during the war.[12][13]
Loyd A. Jones 1884–1954 leader of scientific research section of U.S. Navy camouflage unit in First World War[14][15]
Franz Marc 1880–1916 German expressionist painter, printmaker; pioneered pointillist canvas tarpaulin camouflage[16]
André Mare 1885–1932 French cubist painter, camouflaging artillery guns and observation trees[17]
Solomon Joseph Solomon 1860–1927 British academic painter, pioneer of camouflage netting[18]
Abbott Handerson Thayer 1849–1921 American painter, discoverer of countershading[19]
Leon Underwood 1890–1975 British avant-garde sculptor, colleague of Solomon, made 'tree' observation posts[7]
Edward Wadsworth 1889–1949 English vorticist painter, designer of dazzle camouflage for ships[20]
Everett Warner 1877–1963 American impressionist painter, inventor of Warner System camouflage measure for ships[21]
Norman Wilkinson 1878–1971 British marine painter, pioneer of dazzle camouflage for the Royal Navy and the U.S. Navy[22]

Second World War[edit]

Photograph of Geoffrey Barkas.
Geoffrey Barkas, leader of the British Second World War Middle East Command Camouflage Directorate.
Second World War camoufleurs
Name Dates Description
Tony Ayrton 1909–43 British painter, right hand man to Geoffrey Barkas during Operation Bertram[23]
Geoffrey Barkas 1896–1979 British film maker, leader of British desert camouflage unit[24]
Hugh Casson 1910–99 British architect, worked on camouflage for Air Ministry 1939–1944[25]
John Codner 1913–2008 British painter, camouflage in Western Desert[26]
Edward Bainbridge Copnall 1903–73 British sculptor, born in Cape Town; camouflage in Western Desert 1942[26]
Hugh Cott 1900–87 British zoologist, author of textbook Adaptive Coloration in Animals, advisor to British Army during Battle of Britain, chief instructor at Middle East Command School of Camouflage at Helwan, Egypt[27]
Frederick Gore 1913–2009 British fauvist painter, camouflage officer for southeast England preparing for D-Day landings[28]
Stanley William Hayter 1901–88 British surrealist painter, printmaker; with Roland Penrose set up camouflage training unit[29]
Ivan Konev 1897–1973 Russian general, responsible for maskirovka including army-scale camouflage and dummy units in the Battle of Kursk, achieving tactical surprise[30]
Jasper Maskelyne 1902–73 British stage magician, camouflage in Western Desert 1942, exaggerating his role and effectiveness[31]
Oliver Messel 1904–78 English stage designer, pioneer of pillbox (concrete strongpoint) camouflage[32]
Roland Penrose 1900–84 English surrealist artist; teacher of camouflage, author of Home Guard Manual of Camouflage[33]
Peter Proud 1913–89 Scottish film art director, camouflage in Western Desert 1942 including Siege of Tobruk and dummy port at Ras el Hillal; invented "Net Gun Pit"[34]
Fred Pusey 1909–83 British film art director and production designer, camouflage in Western Desert 1942 including dummy railhead at Misheifa, dummy port at Ras el Hillal and Operation Crusader[35]
Brian Robb 1913–79 English painter, illustrator, Punch cartoonist; camouflage in Western Desert, Operation Bertram 1942[36][37]
Peter Scott 1909–89 British ornithologist, conservationist and painter of wildfowl, and naval officer exploring ship camouflage[38]
Edward Seago 1910–74 English post-impressionist painter, camouflage advisor to Field Marshal Auchinleck[39]
Alan Sorrell 1904–74 English neo-romanticist painter and illustrator; camouflaged Royal Air Force aerodromes[40]
Basil Spence 1907–76 Scottish architect (Art Deco style 1933); officer in British Army's Camouflage Training and Development Unit at Farnham[41][42]
Steven Sykes 1914–99 British stained glass designer, ceramist and painter; first Grade 2 Camouflage Staff Officer in British army; created dummy railhead at Misheifa, Egypt in 1941, dummy port at Ras al Hilal, Cyrenaica in 1942. Gethsemane Chapel, Coventry Cathedral, 1960.[43][44][45]
Ernest Townsend 1880–1944 British portrait painter; camouflaged rooves of Rolls-Royce aircraft engine factories in Derby as houses[46]
Julian Trevelyan 1910–88 British printmaker and teacher; pioneer of desert camouflage and deception[47][48]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Newark, T. p 56.
  2. ^ Forsyth, 2012. pp 250–251.
  3. ^ Sykes, 1990. pp 78–79.
  4. ^ Forbes, 2009. pp 137–138.
  5. ^ Forbes, 2009. pp 143–144.
  6. ^ Newark, T. pp 54–56.
  7. ^ a b Newark, T. p 60.
  8. ^ Forbes, 2009. pp 140, 145.
  9. ^ Forbes, 2009. p 104.
  10. ^ Behrens, R. False Colors || Art, Design and Modern Camouflage. Dysart, 2002.
  11. ^ Forbes, 2009. pp 84–88.
  12. ^ Partsch, Susanna (2007). Klee (reissue) (in German). Cologne: Benedikt Taschen. p. 35. ISBN 978-3-8228-6361-9. 
  13. ^ "Paul Klee". ArtHistory.net. 2013. Retrieved 16 October 2013. 
  14. ^ Van Buskirk, H. "Camouflage". Transactions of the Illuminating Engineering Society, Vol 14, 21 July 1919, pp 225–229.
  15. ^ Warner, Everett L. "Fooling the Iron Fish || The Inside Story of Marine Camouflage". Everybody’s Magazine, November 1919, pp 102–109.
  16. ^ Newark, T. p 68.
  17. ^ Forbes, 2009. p 105.
  18. ^ Forbes, 2009. pp 106–109.
  19. ^ Forbes, 2009. pp 102–103.
  20. ^ "Vorticism". Edward Wadsworth. Vorticism.co.uk. Retrieved 1 August 2012. 
  21. ^ Behrens, Roy R. (2009). "CAMOUPEDIA". Everett Warner. Bobolink Books. Retrieved 1 August 2012. 
  22. ^ Forbes, 2009. pp 90–100.
  23. ^ Stroud, R. 2012. pp 192–197.
  24. ^ "De Gruchy family sought by family of war hero". This is Jersey. Jersey Evening Post. 19 March 2010. Retrieved 17 October 2012. 
  25. ^ Esher, Lionel (17 August 1999). "Obituaries: Sir Hugh Casson". The first architect since Lutyens to become President of the Royal Academy, Casson emerged triumphant. The Independent. Retrieved 2 August 2012. 
  26. ^ a b Barkas, 1952. p 141.
  27. ^ Forbes, 2009. pp 139–157.
  28. ^ Foss, Brian. War paint || art, war, state and identity in Britain, 1939–1945, Yale University Press, 2007. p 16.
  29. ^ Roosevelt, Michael A. "Stanley William Hayter & Atelier 17". Atelier Contrepoint website. 
  30. ^ Glantz, 1989. pp 153–154.
  31. ^ Forbes, 2009. pp 158–159.
  32. ^ Hamilton, James; Robinson, William Heath. William Heath Robinson. Pavilion, 1995.
  33. ^ Forbes, 2009. pp 138, 143, 151–152.
  34. ^ Stroud 2012, pp 91–98, 100–108, 121–128, 137–143, 152–154.
  35. ^ Barkas, 1952. pp 159–161.
  36. ^ Rankin, 2008. pp 365–366.
  37. ^ Crowdy, 2008. pp 178–181.
  38. ^ Forbes, 2009. pp 172–173.
  39. ^ "The Papers of Edward Brian Seago". GBR/0014/ESEA. Janus (database). Retrieved 1 August 2012. 
  40. ^ Sorrell, Mark,Sorrell, Alan Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press.
  41. ^ "Edinburgh, Ravelston Dykes Road, Ravelston House, Garden". A set of oblique aerial photographs of Ravelston House garden with military vehicles, Edinburgh taken as a camouflage test. Sir Basil Spence Archive. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. 14 March 1944. pp. Canmore ID 273364. Retrieved 2 August 2012. 
  42. ^ Goodden, H. 2007.
  43. ^ Harrod, Tanya (24 February 1999). "Obituaries". Steven Sykes. The Independent. 
  44. ^ Stroud, 2012. pp 121–128, 138–143.
  45. ^ Forbes, P. pp 155, 161–163.
  46. ^ Allard, Sarah; Nicola Rippon (2003). Goodey's Derby: Paintings and drawings in the collection of Derby Museum and Art Gallery. Breedon Books. 
  47. ^ Forbes, P. pp 137–162.
  48. ^ Forbes, Peter (16 May 2011). "Butterfly Effect". How a fragile winged insect has transformed modern warfare and medicine. New Statesman. Retrieved 27 July 2012. 

Bibliography[edit]

  • Barkas, Geoffrey; Barkas, Natalie (1952). The Camouflage Story (from Aintree to Alamein). Cassell. 
  • Crowdy, Terry (2008). Deceiving Hitler: Double Cross and Deception in World War II. Osprey. ISBN 978-1-84603-135-9. 
  • Forbes, Peter (2009). Dazzled and Deceived: Mimicry and Camouflage. Yale. pp. 155–156. ISBN 978-0-300-12539-9. 
  • Forsyth, Isla McLean (2012). From dazzle to the desert: a cultural-historical geography of camouflage. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow. 
  • Glantz, David (1989). Military Deception in the Second World War. Cass Series on Soviet Military Theory & Practice. Routledge. ISBN 978-0=71463-347-3 Check |isbn= value (help). 
  • Goodden, Henrietta (2007). Camouflage and Art: Design for Deception in World War 2. Unicorn Press. ISBN 978-0-90629-087-3. 
  • Newark, Tim (2007). Camouflage. Thames & Hudson. ISBN 978-0-500-51347-7. 
  • Rankin, Nicholas (2008). Churchill's Wizards: The British Genius for Deception 1914–1945. Faber. ISBN 978-0-571-22195-0. 
  • Stroud, Rick (2012). The Phantom Army of Alamein: How the Camouflage Unit and Operation Bertram Hoodwinked Rommel. Bloomsbury. ISBN 978-1-4088-2910-3. 
  • Sykes, Steven (1990). Deceivers Ever: The Memoirs of a Camouflage Officer. Spellmount. ISBN 0-946771-54-5.