Waddington PLC, the printing company best known for its games including Monopoly, was involved in a most unusual venture during the Second World War: printing maps on silk, rayon and tissue paper for military use and smuggling some of them to prisoners of war.
The maps themselves were mainly small scale, covering large areas; many were copied from maps then available from Bartholomew’s in traditional paper form. (Bartholomew’s generously waived all royalties, for the privilege of helping the war effort). In addition tiny compasses were concealed in buttons, pens and the like; with these two items the escaper had some chance of finding his way to safety. Other useful items such as small supplies of food and water, and foreign currency, were usually included as well in ‘escape packs’. Some of the maps gave more than general information. The one shown here, designed for sending to prisoners, shows a route from Salzburg in Austria to Mojstrana in Yugoslavia (held by forces sympathetic to the Allies). The red route avoids the easy mountain passes and shows a harder but less populated way over the hills, and gives matter of fact advice on throwing stones at pursuers.
Waddington already possessed the technology to print on cloth and made a variety of board games, packs of cards and so forth that could sent to the camps. They began by printing silk maps for supply to air crews, both British and American, and went on to conceal maps inside Monopoly boards, chess sets and packs of cards which could be sent into the prison camps. The whole business of making the maps was shrouded in secrecy and the letters do not tell the whole story. The references to different coloured playing cards, for example, made in one of the letters, are not explained at all in the correspondence; many communications were by word of mouth and never written down for security reasons. A special code, which is described in another of the letters, was used to indicate to the Ministry which map was concealed inside a particular game so that it would be sent to a prisoner of war camp in the appropriate area. A full stop after Marylebone Station, for instance, meant Italy, a stop after Mayfair meant Norway, Sweden and Germany, and one after Free Parking meant Northern France, Germany and its frontiers. “Straight” boards were marked “Patent applied for” with a full stop.