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 
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 
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, 
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 
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 
began mass-producing escape maps, keyed to each region of Germany or Italy 
where Allied POW camps were regional system).. When processed, these maps 
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 compass
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 
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 
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 
It's always nice when you can play that 'Get Out of Jail' Free' card!

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

In God we trust.
Gamers mailing list __
If you want to leave the list, send E-mail to
You can make changes or update your subscription via the web, at
All messages are archived and can be searched and read at
If you have any questions or concerns regarding the management of the list,
please send E-mail to

Reply via email to