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WW2 Home Guard Manual of Camouflage (1942) | Roland Penrose

WW2 Roland Penrose Manual of Camouflage (1942)

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Roland Penrose


'It is useless in warfare to be merely brave, if bravery means presenting oneself as a useless target to the enemy. It is far better to employ intelligence and concealment, so as to induce him to present a target. A man who is well concealed can bide his time, watch for the enemy to expose himself and hold his fire until his target is sufficiently close to make sure of it. In this way the Home Guard may be able to destroy the invader without even allowing him the chance to hit back. By good concealment it will greatly augment its value as a fighting force. Camouflage is no mystery and no joke. It is a matter of life and death-of victory or defeat.'

Home Guard Manual of Camouflage is a very rare original WW2 camouflage handbook written by the English surrealist Roland Penrose. Published in October 1941 and reprinted three times by March 1942, when this Fourth Impression was printed. Very well illustrated with line drawings, diagrams and photographs, it was intended to train the Home Guard in the crucial art of camouflage and concealment. The book provided accurate guidance on the use of texture and colour, especially for protection from aerial photography. Initially, this new concept of using deception was not universally accepted, being anathema to many of the old soldiers who were now serving in the Home Guard:

'To an old soldier, the idea of hiding from your enemy and the use of deception may possibly be repulsive. He may feel that it is not brave and not cricket. But that matters very little to our enemies, who are ruthlessly exploiting every means of deception at the present time to gain spectacular victories. They can only be stopped by new methods, however revolutionary these may appear to those who believe only in ancient traditions.'

When the Home Guard Manual of Camouflage was first published in October 1941 the prospect of a German invasion of mainland Britain was a very real threat. Concealment, deception and camouflage were seen as important weapons in the preparations for the possibility of invasion. The War Office set up a Camouflage Development and Training Centre (CDTC) at Farnham Castle, where painters, designers, architects and even zoologists, (many of the ideas on disguise and concealment came from the study of animals) trained with regular officers before being posted as staff officers to use their skills with camouflage in the field. Alongside Roland Penrose, this highly unusual creative community included painters such as Edward Seago, Frederick Gore and Julian Trevelyan. They helped develop new methods of concealment and deception, training troops in visual awareness and how to merge into their surroundings.

Roland Penrose (1900–1984) was an important English surrealist artist. He grew up in a strict Quaker family and in August 1918, as a conscientious objector he joined the Friends Ambulance Unit, serving from September 1918 with the British Red Cross in Italy. After studying architecture at Cambridge, Penrose switched to painting and moved to France, where he lived from 1922 and where he became friends with Pablo Picasso, Wolfgang Paalen, Max Ernst, and other leading surrealist artists. As a Quaker, Penrose had been a pacifist, but after the outbreak of WW2 he volunteered as an air raid warden and later taught military camouflage at the Home Guard Training Centre. This led to Penrose's commission as an officer in the Royal Engineers. Penrose was a senior lecturer at the Eastern Command Camouflage School, and at the Camouflage Development and Training Centre at Farnham. During his lectures, he famously used a colour photograph of his partner Lee Miller, lying on a lawn naked but for a camouflage net, arguing that "if camouflage can hide Lee's charms, it can hide anything".


In very good condition. The boards are in good condition, with some marks to the rear board. The original dust jacket is in very good condition, with a small booksellers stamp to the rear. The binding and hinges are very good and secure. The text and illustrations are in very good condition, with a small booksellers stamp to the title page.

Published: 1942
Illustrated with line drawings, diagrams and photographs
Orange boards with black titling
Dimensions: 125mm x 190mm
Pages: 102