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Bet You Didn’t Know This About Monopoly

monopoly

monopoly (Photo credit: rustybrick)

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…

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  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 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. 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 regional. 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:

1. A playing token, containing a small magnetic compass
2. A two-part metal file that could easily be screwed together
3. 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 declassified until 2007, when the surviving craftsmen from  Waddington’s, as well as the firm itself, were finally honored in a public ceremony.
It’s always nice when you can play that ‘Get Out of Jail’ Free’ card!

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3 comments on “Bet You Didn’t Know This About Monopoly

  1. raehering
    December 19, 2013

    I’ll surely be telling my family this great little piece of history as we’re all sitting around the Monopoly board when I see them for Christmas!

    Like

    • Judy
      December 19, 2013

      I had never heard the story before but next time I play Monopoly I will certainly have more respect for the game. Happy Christmas cheers Judy 🙂

      Like

  2. donnajeanmcdunn
    December 20, 2013

    I have never heard this before. I don’t usually like war stories, but this one captured me (no pun intended) from the very beginning. Loved it! Thank you!

    Like

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