His hands trembled as he split the box cardboard in the
dim light from the tiny barred window above his head. He had already
ravenously eaten the food that was left in the Red Cross Package and
now found the strength to consider another escape attempt. A previous
attempt had led to failure and severe punishment. Getting through the
barbed wire had been relatively easy but finding his way through the
snow and forests of Eastern Germany was not, nor was finding help or
purchasing food or train tickets. He simply got lost until the patrols
with dogs ran him down.
image for larger view
As he gently spread the layers of cardboard
of the package, he found two slivers of metal which screwed together
to form a file. He broke the little wooden red hotel to find a
tiny silk map of his region folded very tightly. Under the packaged
Monopoly money was real German Reich marks ready to spend and,
finally, inside the Scotty dog was a tiny compass. Here was what
he needed to be among the estimated 35,000 Allied POWs who escaped
from German and Italian camps during WWII. The contraband in the
Monopoly games is credited with at least one third of them
During WWII, it is estimated that there were
135,000 British (50,000 from Dunkirk alone) and 95,532 US Prisoners
of War held by Germany. By 1945 American and British POWs were
mostly concentrated in about a dozen camps of several thousand
each. Hitler, earlier, had decreed that all American and British
prisoners were to be held at least 1000 miles from the English
Channel. In order to make successful escapes as difficult as possible,
Germans located the camps as far east as possible.
As luck would have it, 'games and pastimes'
was a category allowed into packages sent by the International
Red Cross to prisoners of war. To help prisoners escape, in 1941,
Secret Service asked John Waddington Ltd. (The Monopoly manufacturer in
UK) to add a few little secret goodies to some sets. The most valuable
aid was considered to be the maps showing the specific area of the POW
camp with places marked where an escapee could expect help.
image for larger view
There were several problems here. Maps were fragile and noisy
when opened or closed. MI-5 came up with the idea of printing
escape maps on silk. It is durable, can be folded-up into tiny
spaces, and unfolded as many times as needed all silently.
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. They were already printing silk maps
for British and American air crews. They now started printing
silk maps to be hidden inside Monopoly games. When processed,
these maps were folded small enough to fit inside a Monopoly playing
piece. Also, under the fake money was real French, German and
Italian currency. Secret devices like files and compasses were
also disguised as game pieces. Waddington's also managed to add
a playing token containing a small magnetic compass and a two-part
metal file that could easily be screwed together.
In absolute secrecy in a guarded,
inaccessible workshop at Waddington's, a group sworn-to-secrecy
was producing the sets. After the war any remaining sets were
quietly destroyed. Everyone involved, even the escaped prisoners,
were sworn to secrecy. The Cold War was now beginning so Allied
officials wanted to ensure the innocent looking board game could
go back to war if required. This secrecy continued with the
help of The British Official Secrets Act until 2007. The story
was then declassified and surviving craftsmen and the Waddington
firm itself was honored in a public ceremony.
image for larger view
Waddington's no longer makes Monopoly either as an innocent board game
or as the "special" versions. On Nov. 30, 1994, Hasbro acquired
the games division from John Waddington for 50 million British pounds
($78.22 million US.) The acquisition was approved by the Department for
Trade and Industry. Alacra, The Premium Business
Since Monopoly was invented in 1934, an estimated more than 500 million
people have played the game!
* More than 200 million MONOPOLY games have been sold worldwide.
* More than five billion little green houses have been "built"
* A MONOPOLY game made at Alfred Dunhill, with gold houses and silver
hotels, sold for $25,000.
* The longest MONOPOLY game in history lasted 70 straight days.
* The longest MONOPOLY game in a bathtub lasted 99 hours!
The game of MONOPOLY is so much a part of today's popular culture that
the game's graphic elements have been trademarked. The MONOPOLY tokens,
Railroad, COMMUNITY CHEST, CHANCE, and Title Deed designs, as well as
BOARDWALK and all four game board corners are legally protected.
Bob Moore,& Kent Fedorowich eds., Prisoners of War and their Captors
in World War II, Berg Press, Oxford, UK, 1997.
David Rolf, Prisoners of the Reich, Germany's Captives, 1939-1945,
Winton, Andrew, Open Road to Faraway: Escapes from Nazi POW Camps 1941-1945.
2001. Cualann Press Ltd.
Nichol, John The Last Escape: The Untold Story of Allied Prisoners
of War in Germany 1944-1945
Henry Chancellor - Colditz: The Definitive History
Arthur A. Durand - Stalag Luft III: The Secret Story
Anton Gill - The Great Escape: The Full Dramatic Story With Contributions
from Survivors and Their Families
The National Archives ADM 103 Prisoners of War 1755-1831
Special thanks for the images to "MR FOMOCO MOTORCRAFT"
who had the 1941 version on sale on eBay
* The Rest of the Story is made famous by Paul Harvey who's stories
have intrigued and inspired me for years.