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"Never in the field of human conflict...": a magician is one of the few

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"Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few..." By mid-1940, German forces had occupied much of Eastern Europe, Denmark, Norway, France and the Low Countries, leaving Britain and her empire standing alone to defeat the Nazi menace.  In July, Hitler ordered the preparation of Operation Sea Lion, the invasion of Great Britain.  The period that followed, through to October 1940, became known as the Battle of Britain. It was fought in the skies, as the Luftwaffe (German air force) launched a stream of deadly raids, day and night, to compel Britain to agree to a negotiated peace settlement. The Luftwaffe first aimed to destroy Britain's airfields. As the battle progressed, it also targeted factories involved in aircraft production and strategic infrastructure. The Nazis wanted to gain air superiority over the Channel, to allow an amphibious and airborne assault. Leading the defence of the United Kingdom, were the airmen and aircraft of the

Tommy Cooper: comedy magic legend

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"I went to buy some camouflage trousers the other day but I couldn't find any." This blog article, published on 19th March 2021, celebrates the 100th anniversary of the birth of British comedy magic legend, Tommy Cooper.   As you might expect, I'm going to focus on Tommy's wartime experiences, including the story of how he picked up his trademark fez. Early years Thomas Frederick Cooper (1921-1984)  was born in Caerphilly, Wales. His family moved to Exeter,  Devon  when he was three. A t the age of eight, an aunt bought Tommy a magic set and he would spend hours perfecting all the tricks.  After finishing school, Cooper left the family home to become an apprentice shipwright at Southampton. "This country is at war with Germany" On 3 September 1939, two days after German forces invaded Poland, Britain declared war on Germany. World War Two had begun. Despite being in a reserved occupation, Cooper managed to enlist into the military to serve his country. I

Sol Stone: In memorium

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Celebrated New York magician and World War Two veteran, Sol Stone, sadly passed away in early March 2021, aged 98.  In his honour, this special blog recounts Stone's wartime service, including his narrow escape from becoming a prisoner-of-war and the moment - in the midst of war - when he discovered the power of magic to bring wonder to people's lives. Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1922, Stone first became hooked on magic when he was seven years old. His father took him to see  master illusionist Howard Thurston. The show made a strong impression on Stone. After, he would spend hours in Brooklyn libraries looking for books on magic. He built up a small act and took part in magic contests and school shows. Growing up during the Great Depression, performing magic helped Stone fund his college studies. Sol Stone with a dove production (c1930s) (Source: Sol Stone) In 1942, aged nineteen, Stone enlisted into the US Army Air Corps. He joined  the 739th Squadron, 454th Bombardment Gro

Good Magic Awards: 2021 Winner!

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I am delighted to announce that I am this year's winner of The Good Magic Awards, for my work researching and writing about how magicians helped fight World War Two. Read  The Good Thinking Society's press release here . The Good Magic Awards have been set up by psychologist and magician Professor Richard Wiseman in collaboration with The Good Thinking Society . Professor Richard Wiseman This year, the award was to provide funding to support a new and innovative project that promotes the art of magic.  The award was open to performers and other individuals who aim to promote the art of magic to fellow magicians and/or to the public. A judging panel selected the winner on the basis of potential impact, innovation, and ability to deliver the proposed activity.  I am thrilled to win this year's award and pass on my sincere to The Good Thinking Society for backing this project and for seeking to promote the art of magic. The Good Magic Award will allow me to expand my work, an

"Don't be fright!": radio magician's catchphrase helps reassure the nation

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Sirdani was the most popular magician to entertain on British radio during World War Two.  Over the airwaves, he entertained millions of people, bringing  light   relief  to dark times. Although he played the role of an Egyptian gilly-gilly man, Sirdani's real name was Sid Daniels. He was born in Mile End, London in 1899. World War One broke out when Daniels was 16 years old.  Like many others, he enlisted by falsifying his age. He went on to serve in three campaigns, in West Africa, German East Africa and France.  A keen amateur magician, Daniels used to mystify his fellow soldiers in the trenches with his tricks. It was when shells came whining over just as he was in the middle of a particularly interesting bit of magic that he originated his famous phrase, "Don't be fright" . After his discharge from the army, Daniels took up magic full-time. He adopted the name Sirdani and the persona of an Egyptian gilly-gilly man.   Early in his career he performed Yogi type eff

The Magician of Stalag Luft III (Part 3)

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Part 3 of a three-part blog telling the compelling story of John Casson, magician, navy pilot, and Stalag Luft III prisoner-of-war. His part in The Great Escape and how magic and performing helped him and others survive captivity. In this part, Casson's arrives at Stalag Luft III, where he becomes a leading producer of camp entertainment, continues sending coded messages to M.I.9 and supports The Great Escape. The Stalag Luft III commandant provides an additional introduction to this blog, with this quote: “The [POWs] were always pitting their brains against our camp systems, more or less on the lines of each man being an individual magician working out a trick to escape. This meant that in the camps we were faced with a lot of brainy young conjurors who had plenty of time in which to work out their various tricks against us…”  Showtime   In April 1942, Lieutenant Commander John Casson was transferred to Stalag Luft III, a newly built  Luftwaffe -sponsored prisoner-of-war (POW) ca