As a child I remember my grandfather, Ray Bean, telling me about his time during the War. He was unable to join the armed services because he only had one eye, the other was glass, so instead he stayed in Sydney. However, he then made the choice to serve in a way that worked best for him.

Ray Bean was a professional photographer and he had an artists eye for detail, even if it was only one of them. So like many artists of the day he helped with Camouflage. Stories that he told me included being aware that in the air to camouflage something like an aerial is not what you expect. You don’t just camouflage the aerial because that is already very hard to see in the air, what you have to camouflage is the shadow as that is very distinctive. So he described making what would look like trees from the air but on the ground were just a jumble of wire with green material stuck in it. This would be placed around the base of the aerial in a circle large enough to disrupt and distort the shadow as it went around on the ground.

Grandpa also talked about hiding things like tanks and aircraft by building fake buildings around them. In once particular case he was engaged in hiding the shadow of an aerial and he and the men he was working with were thirsty. So grandpa decided to go down to a farm house they could see a couple of kilometres away. However, as he walked closer and closer he realised that there was something wrong with the farm house. It turned out that it was a fake and that it was there to hide an aeroplane.

Recently there was a documentary on the ABC about camouflage in WW2. A group of Sydney artists got together and were lead by a person called Dupain who formed a Camouflage group to work with the Armed Forces to camouflage anything that the Armed Forces needed to Camouflage. This sounded very like what my grandfather may have done. However, on writing to Ann Elias from Sydney University who has published a book and a number of papers on this subject it appears unlikely that my Grandfather was part of that group. So back to the drawing board.

If you are interested in Ann Elias work there are some good articles;

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