Light shed on secret wartime camouflage work

Secret art used to camouflage ships and factories during the war will be the focus of a new project in Leamington.

Sez-U Community Theatre and the Leamington Studio Artists plan to spend a recent Heritage Lottery grant of 49,900 on celebrating the work of the Civilian Camouflage Directorate.

Based at the Regent Hotel during the Second World War, the directorate's 250 artists, designers and technicians worked in secret on aspects of military and civilian camouflage.

Surveying factories and installations from the ground and air, the unit created models and designs that could be viewed in all weather and light conditions.

The men and women used a large turntable with viewing platforms and giant water tanks constructed in the building that is now the old art gallery and museum in York Road.

Sez-U project leader Fergus Durrant said: "Can you imagine trying to camouflage a building on the scale of the Ford factory now? That was the enormity of their task.

"On top of that, resources were so tight - they just did not have the materials to spread the camouflage."

Big name artists - including Christopher Ironside, who later designed the decimal coinage, and Wilfred Shingleton, who later won a 1946 Oscar for his work on Great Expectations - worked at the Leamington directorate.

And Charles Darwin's grandson Robert Darwin was also involved.

Sez-U and Leamington Studio Artists are now preparing to stage a series of performances, exhibitions, workshops and displays based around the unit's history.

Mr Durrant said: "We have found the blueprints for the original design of the turntable, so we're going to reconstruct it as a theatre set and perform a production based around the work of the camouflage unit and the people involved."

A range of other activities are also in the pipeline, including a workshop programme during which visual artists will visit more than 70 schools and community venues.

The project is looking for anyone who may have memories or knowledge of the team to help with their research, as well as volunteers to get involved in all aspects. Call Mr Durrant on 421055.