Roland Penrose is remembered first and foremost as an artist, but he also played a fundamental role in World War Two as a teacher of camouflage.
Born on 14 October 1900, Penrose was raised a Quaker. However, he put his pacifism to one side during the Spanish Civil War, when he was so moved by the cause to fight alongside the Republicans. Penrose joined the Air Raid Precautions (ARP) at the beginning of World War Two, After a short while, he began teaching the Home Guard about military camouflage at Osterley Park. He wrote the advice booklet “Home Guard Manual of Camouflage”.
As an artist, Penrose was fascinated by camouflage and the idea that soldiers could be made to ‘disappear’ into the background. Khaki uniforms were used through World War One, but Penrose felt that this design could be improved. His uniforms allowed soldiers to blend into any environment, including open fields and forests.
During the war, Roland served as an ARP warden, and then became involved with the Home Guard Camouflage unit at Osterley Park as a teacher, eventually becoming commissioned as a Captain and placed in the post of senior lecturer at the Eastern Command Camouflage School (ECCS) in the city of Norwich. He later moved to Farnham Castle where he worked at the Camouflage Development and Training Centre.
Roland Penrose died on 23 April 1978.
See also: Tom Wintringham
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