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Monopoly board

Kenny Andrew

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Got this emailed to me, not sure if it's true or not, anybody know?


Get out of jail free


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 mush.


Someone in MI-5 (similar to America's CIA) 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 what-so-ever. 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 located (Red Cross packages were

delivered to prisoners in accordance with that same 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:


A playing token, containing a small magnetic compass,

A two-part metal file that could easily be screwed together.

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 de-classified until 2007, when the surviving craftsmen from

Waddington's, as well as the firm itself, were finally honored in a public

ceremony. Anyway, it's always nice when you can play that "Get Out of Jail

Free" card.

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The story made it through syndicate onto CNN as well:



However, another website discounts it:



I go with the more fiction than fact. Maps made of silk did exist, as did maps that only would show when wet or urinated upon. I have NEVER seen a WWII silk monopoly game board. If so many airmen did use them the secret would have been outed by them in memoirs and chatter after the war despite the secrecy thing. further, telling the airmen beforehand that secret maps would be shipped to them is a massive breach of security that the Germans certainly would have found out through informants or interrogation.


If the germans found out it also would be a breach of international red cross law and piss off both germany and the red cross and risk having all shipments stopped.


Wall Street Journal has it and suggests in comments that a false agency that was not the Red Cross did it:



Real money in the packs seems too obvious and having a map of regional safehouses denotes the red cross would know what packages would go to what camps, which seems a bit difficult to ensure.


Chindits in China hid maps inside the leather lining of their flight jackets. However I think the monopoly concept goes a bit far.

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I could'nt work out how they would get a silk map inside a monopoly piece, unless it was a very small silk map, seems a bit unlikely to me, the metal file sounds a bit unlikely too :huh:

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