Printing on paper was well known, but printing on cloth had special problems. The ink would run on the cloth, or the cloth would crease during the preparation or printing process, or the ink would smear. However, many board game companies were used to printing on linen and other cloth materials, which would then be glued to cardboard portfolios for their game sets. So the government turned to them for help.
The cloth maps were sometimes hidden in special editions of the Monopoly
board game sets sent to the prisoners of war camps. The marked game sets also included foreign currency (French and German, for example), compasses and other items needed for escaping Allied prisoners of war. "To develop that kit, MI9
, the British secret service unit responsible for escape and evasion, conspired with John Waddington Limited
, the U.K. manufacturer of Monopoly. "It was ingenious," Philip Orbanes, author of several books on Monopoly, told Heussner. "The Monopoly box was big enough to not only hold the game but hide everything else they needed to get to POWs."
, more commonly known as Colditz Castle
Hutton was also responsible for the delivery of escape kits to POWs. The Geneva Convention
allowed prisoners to receive parcels from families and relief organisations. These were dispatched through a number of fictitious charitable organisations, created to send parcels of games, warm clothing and other small comforts to the prisoners. One of the major problems of captivity was boredom, and games and entertainments were permitted, as the guards recognised that if the prisoners were allowed some diversions, they would be less troublesome. Games manufacturer Waddingtons
helped by supplying editions of its Monopoly board game
, and other games. Although to date, no examples of any such monopoly boards have surfaced, it is therefore doubtful if the operation to use monopoly as part of escaping tool for POW escapees ever took place. No samples were kept for record purposes in either Waddington or the War office archives and the pictures of such boards currently available are all modern reproductions. Snakes and ladders
, table tennis, chess
sets and playing cards were used to smuggle in escape kits with hidden maps and other equipment.
Escape maps were also printed on playing cards
distributed to Prisoners of War. Only two decks are known to survive from this period, and one is owned by the International Spy Museum
in Washington, DC
. "During World War II, the United States Playing Card Company
joined forces with American and British intelligence agencies to create a very special deck of cards. This deck was specifically created to help Allied prisoners of war escape from German POW camps. This deck of cards became known as the "map deck." It was made by hiding maps of top-secret escape routes between the two paper layers that make up all modern playing cards. These decks, when soaked in water, could be peeled apart to reveal hidden maps that allowed escaping prisoners to find their way to safety. Due to the nature of the war and the prosecution of war crimes thereafter, the map decks remained a closely guarded secret for many years after the war ended. The secrecy surrounding them was so high, that no one really knows how many were produced or how many have survived."
Red Cross parcels
were not used because of concerns the Germans would stop these reaching the prisoners if they discovered items hidden in them. The escape kits are credited with helping 316 escape attempts from Colditz Castle
, which saw 32 men make it back home.