(You'll never look at the game Monopoly the same way again!)
In 1941, increasing numbers of British Airmen became prisoners of the Third
Reich. The Crown was looking for ways and means to facilitate their escape...
Obviously, one of the most helpful aids would be a useful map, which showed locations of
'safe houses' where an escaped POW could go for food and shelter.
However, paper maps had 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 mush.
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, John Waddington, Ltd.
When approached by the government, the firm was 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.
'Games and pastimes' was a category of item qualified to be inserted into 'CARE
packages', sent by the International Red Cross to prisoners of war.
Under strict 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 located. When processed, these maps could be folded into
such tiny dots that they would actually fit inside a Monopoly playing piece.
The clever workmen at Waddington's also included:
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!
Before taking off on their first mission, British and American air crews were
advised, how to identify a 'rigged' Monopoly set -- by means of a tiny red dot,
cleverly disguised 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 those 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 honored in a public ceremony.
Some of you may be too young to have had any personal connection to WWII
(December of '41 to August '45), but this is an interesting
part of history.