World War II

t: 01252 721194

World War II

Camouflage Development and Training Centre

In 1940, an ill-equipped Britain faced invasion by Germany. There was a desperate need for concealment and deception, but ‘there was no one to preach the gospel’.

The War Office set up a Camouflage Development and Training Centre (CDTC) at Farnham Castle, an ideal site. Close to airfields and military bases with classrooms for lectures and grounds for demonstrations, the Castle accommodated thirty soldiers.

Painters, designers and architects trained with regular officers before being posted as staff officers, usually to the Royal Engineers. The creative community included:

• designers Steven Sykes and Ashley Havinden
• painters Blair Hughes-Stanton, Edward Seago, Frederick Gore and Julian Trevelyan.
• conjurer Jasper Maskelyne
• zoologist Hugh Cott

The CDTC

• developed new methods of concealment and deception
• trained troops in visual awareness and how to merge into their surroundings
• produced training pamphlets and posters

As the threat of invasion receded and Britain went to a more offensive war, the emphasis changed from concealment to deception. Courses run at Farnham ‘opened the eyes of the Army to the possibilities of surprise’.

Trevelyan later recalled ‘the feeling of returning to school induced by the outdoor exercise and stale classroom smell’. He shared an attic bedroom with a New Zealander who sat up in bed knitting socks until the lights were turned out.

But at Farnham there were some compensations of a ‘more civilised nature, including a well-stocked cellar’. Fred Mayor decorated the rooms with modern masters from his London gallery.

Sources
Hartcup, G., 1979. Camouflage: a History of Concealment and Deception in War. David & Charles, London