Monopoly Game Used to Assist POWs Escape
Summary of the eRumor:
An eRumor of how the British Secret Service, MI-5, developed a plan to send specially packaged versions of the popular board game "Monopoly" by means of the International Red Cross to prisoners of war in Germany during World War II. Agents contacted the British company who made the Monopoly game, Waddington PLC, and requested that design and manufacture silk maps to be hidden inside the games. Specially marked games were not only equipped with the hidden silk map noting safe houses for food and shelter but also included secret devices like files and a compass disguised as game pieces to aid in an escape from the POW camp and behind enemy lines. Also hidden within the play money was real German, Italian, and French currency.
The Monopoly board game was created in 1933 by Charles Darrow who approached Parker Brothers regarding the marketing of the game. At first, Parker Brothers turned him down but two years later purchased the game from Darrow and today it is one the most popular board games in the world.
Silk maps of Germany, Italy, Norway and Sweden did exist during the Second World War, according to an article written by Debbie Hall for the Map Forum magazine in 1999. Debbie Hall has a special interest in silk maps and was the Map Curator at the British Library where some of these silk maps are displayed.
According to the article, The Waddington PLC company in England manufactured playing cards and game boards including the ones for Monopoly that were marketed in Great Britain. Monopoly games were sent to British prisoners of war in Germany by the International Red Cross. According to Hall, Silk maps of the area were hidden in the games along with special features as a file and a compass made to look like game pieces along with real currency hidden in the monopoly play money to aid the prisoners in escape.
This was not the plan of MI-5 , however, but an idea from another branch of the British secret service. Hall explained that in 1939, the British government had set up an agency designated as MI-9 whose primary mission was to assist resistance fighters behind enemy lines and recover Allied troops being held prisoner. MI-9 developed the military policy of escape and evasion and that it was the "duty of all those captured to try to escape if possible." Hall said, "One man who was behind many of M19's most ingenious plans, including the Waddington project, was Christopher Clayton-Hutton." This agency that assisted prisoners of war to return to England by sending advice and equipment found out that the Waddington company had the technology to print maps on on silk and made a special request of the company. Silk maps made no noise, took up very little space and could be folded into a garment or hidden in a package of cigarettes. A tiny compass was also hidden in uniform buttons and used as a tool for escape in case a pilot was shot down behind enemy lines.