Thursday, November 20, 2014

Cool piece of History - I thought this was fascinating!

Frank Hogg
Cool piece of History - I thought this was fascinating!

Starting in 1941, an increasing number of British
Airmen found themselves as the involuntary guests
of the Third Reich, and the Crown was casting about
for ways and means to facilitate their escape. Now
obviously, one of the most helpful aids to that end
is a useful and accurate map, one showing  not only
where stuff was, but also showing the  locations of
'safe houses' where a POW on-the-lam  could go for
food and shelter.

Paper maps had some real drawbacks -- they make
a lot of noise when you open and fold them, they
wear out rapidly, and if they get wet, they turn into

Someone in MI-5 (similar to America’s  OSS ) got
the idea of printing escape maps on silk.  It's
durable, can be scrunched-up into tiny wads,
and unfolded as many times as needed, and
makes no noise whatsoever.

At that time, there was only one  manufacturer
in Great Britain that had perfected the technology
of printing on silk, and that was John
Waddington, Ltd. When approached by the
government, the firm was only too happy to do
its bit for the war effort.

By pure coincidence, Waddington was also the
U.K. Licensee for the popular American board
game, Monopoly. As it happened, 'games and
pastimes' was a category of item  qualified for
insertion into 'CARE packages',  dispatched by
the International Red Cross to prisoners  of war.

Under the strictest of secrecy, in a securely
guarded and inaccessible old workshop on
the grounds of Waddington's, a group of
sworn-to-secrecy employees began mass
producing escape maps, keyed to each
region of Germany or Italy where Allied
POW camps were regional system).
When processed, these maps could be folded
into such tiny dots that they would actually
fit inside a Monopoly playing piece.

As long as they were at it, the clever workmen
at Waddington's also managed to add:

1. A playing token, containing a small magnetic
2. A two-part metal file that could easily be
screwed together
3. Useful amounts of genuine high-denomination
German, Italian, and
French currency, hidden within the piles of
Monopoly money!

British and American air crews were advised,
before taking off on their first mission, how
to identify a 'rigged' Monopoly set -- by  means
of a tiny red dot, one cleverly rigged to look
like an ordinary printing glitch, located in the
corner of the Free Parking square.

Of the estimated 35,000 Allied POWS who
successfully escaped, an estimated  one-third
were aided in their flight by the rigged Monopoly
sets... Everyone who did so was sworn to secrecy
Indefinitely, since the British Government might
want to use this highly successful ruse  in still
another, future war. The story wasn't declassified
until 2007, when the surviving craftsmen  from
Waddington's, as well as the firm itself, were
finally honoured in a public ceremony.
It's always nice when you can play that ’Get Out
of Jail' Free' card!

I realize many of you are (probably) too young
to have any personal connection to WWII
(Dec. '41 to Aug. '45), but this is still interesting.

HT:A via email

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