The Regent Hotel in Leamington played a big part in hiding some of Scotland’s most strategically important targets from air attack during the Second World War.
Roger Cleal of Warwick spotted this information while looking at the National Collection of Aerial Photography after seeing a reference to it on a D-Day programme.
He said: “I was aware the Camouflage unit was in Leamington but wasn’t aware it was at the Regent Hotel.”
It is recorded that over 650 aerial photographs of locations in Scotland were taken between 1940 and 1943 for No.1 Camouflage Unit, a specialist military unit set up to check and assess the effectiveness of camouflage schemes on industrial buildings and airfields.
The aircrews of No.1 Camouflage Unit were drawn from the survey arm of the Aircraft Operating Company and reported to the Camouflage Directorate, based in the Regent Hotel, Leamington.
It was here that new camouflage schemes for buildings, ships and aircraft were designed by teams of artists, designers, draughtsmen, photographers and technicians.
Since the locations of most major industries were well known before the war, however, elaborate paint schemes designed to hide a factory from enemy aircraft could be counter-productive.
While they may have fooled a low-flying raider long enough for him to overshoot the target, they rarely eluded the photographic interpreter. Once photographed by the enemy, camouflage could call attention to a place and mark it out as something worth hiding, and therefore valuable.
An example of the aerial photographs was the Blackburn aircraft factory buildings in Dumbarton (pictured) whose walls and roofs were painted with a disruptive pattern in an attempt to hide their distinctive regular shapes. One of the 260 Sunderland flying boats built there can be seen on the apron to the right of the factory.
The back of a No.1 Camouflage Unit aerial photograph (pictured) was once so important to national security that it was graded ‘Top Secret’. The stamp of the RAF Photographic Section, Regent Hotel is visible.