Spook or Artist?

by Fergus Durrant (researcher involved in Camouflage History Project funded by HLF in 2007/08…..

Captain Lancelot Glasson Chief Camouflage officer, Civil Defence Camouflage Establishment Leamington Spa, seated in middle.


Sept 1944 Front row left to right Gilbert Solomon, Captain Lancelot Glasson, Henry Hoyland, back row, left to right, L.J.Watson, G,Grayston, James Yunge-Bateman, Christopher Ironside, Coupland, Johnnie Walker. Property Virginia Ironside.

Captain Lancelot M Glasson 1894-1959, born Twickenham Middlsex, marlbrough college+ Royal Academy Schools. Saw service in the WW1 and lost a leg. Head of the camouflage unit based in Leamington Spa 1939-45

So how does a one legged ex solider get to become the head of CDCE?
Glasson was trained as an artist and exhibited during the 20’s and 30’s in London at the RA and knew many of the artists that would eventually turn up in Leamington Spa.
He was not that well know but did cause controversy with his painting ‘The Rower’ a study of a bare breasted girl in a locker room which seems to have little to do with rowing!

But did he lead another life? Using the title Captain even though he was a civilian, although not that unusual for the 1920’s and 30’s, records show him on a ship to Marseilles in 1939 under troop movements, military, and the job description in his inter war passport was Assistant Commercial Secretary, this screams military intelligence but I have seen no documented proof he was working or helping with British Secret Service at the time.

In 1938 he is approached to take charge of a civilian camouflage unit based at Adastral House in Holborn London, a military one had already been established at Farnborough the previous year and he may well have drawn these next lists at this time outlining the structure and personal of the unit

With war looming in 1939 Leamington Spa is chosen as the base for the Civilian Unit because of its close proximity to the large number of category A factories in the Midlands that were vital for the war effort and would need camouflaging. And by October 1939 most of the unit had been recruited and the various buildings in Leamington commandeered and in use, Regent Hotel, Ice Rink, North Hall, The Gables, and Old Art Gallery and Museum etc.

Glasson had been sent to Russia in 1939 and again in the early 40’s. He goes via the north sea in a flying boat, lands outside Moscow and even takes a quick photograph of the Kremlin from a car window before being given the red carpet treatment that was only spoilt by getting arrested by an over zealous commissioner on the famous Moscow tube after being taken on a tour to see its renowned architecture. It is here on his first visit he receives a telegram informing him his wife and first son are well.

At the time the Russians were specialists in winter camouflage and Glasson was sent to swap information about camouflage techniques.

Here are is another group shot with Glasson at the centre:Lancelot2

And a more relaxed shot of a group with Glasson:


And here a few cartoons showing Glasson in his pin strip suit along with other members of the unit, not sure who did the cartoons the initials look like R.J.B but they give a real feeling of the ad-hoc and slightly crazy world the artists found themselves in.





Next blog Love and death in Leaminton Spa……





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