Hank Jordan's Blog
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A Monopoly Secret

January 16th, 2011 by Hank

Starting in 1941, an increasing number of British Airmen found themselves as the involuntary guests of the Third Reich, and the British Crown was casting about for ways and means to facilitate their escape……

Obviously, one of the most helpful aids to that end is a useful and accurate map.

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 OSS) got the idea of printing escape maps on silk. Its 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, 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, made and marketed by Parker Brothers.

As it happened, “games and pastimes” was a category of items qualified for insertion into ‘CARE packages’, dispatched by various organizations to the POWs. The Red Cross was not one of the groups because they did not want Red Cross kits to be denied to other camps if the enemy discovered the secret.

The prisoners destroyed the Monopoly boards after retrieving the maps and items, so that the enemy guards could not discover the scheme.

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 with Allied POW camps. When processed, these maps could be folded into tiny pieces which could be hidden beneath indentations on the Monopoly board.

Also hidden inside the indentations on the board were a small magnetic compass and a
two-part metal file that could easily be screwed together.

Useful amounts of genuine German, Italian, and French currency were hidden within the piles of Monopoly money.

British and American air crews were advised, before taking off on their missions, 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.

No one knows for sure how many POWs were aided in their flight by the rigged Monopoly sets, but everyone who did so was sworn to secrecy. The British Government might want to use this highly successful ruse in still another, future war, but he story was finally revealed in the mid-80s.

It’s always nice when you can play that ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card!

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