History – Monopoly – how it helped POW’s escape in WWII

By Neil Wilson


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Tags: Monopoly. Board Games. History. Trivia. War. WWII. Prisoners of war.

I thought you might like to know

(In More Ways Than One)

Out of all the board games that have been made, both in the past and in current times there are very few people in the world that can honestly say that they have never heard of, and more than likely played at some point, the somewhat old-fashioned game, Monopoly. Initially mass marketed in America in 1934, the game can be said to hold fond memories for many families who spent quality time of an evening attempting to send each other broke and most of us remember the tokens like the little dog, the horse, the hat and the shoe that were used to track each player’s movements around the board.

Sadly, the manufacturers have recently that some of these iconic tokens are to be replaced with what they believe are symbols that more accurately represent modern times Included in the new pieces will be a cat, a helicopter, a guitar and a robot with a moustache. When thinking about those who hold fond memories associated with Monopoly, there are a very select number of people whose memories about the game could possibly be regarded as being more special than most and that is all those who were unfortunate enough to find themselves involuntary guests if the Third Reich during World War II.

When an Allied soldier or airman found themselves in this less than desirable situation, they were always endeavouring to make their escape and, as a way of assisting with this, the Crown was always looking for ways to help them. One of the most useful items for an escaping POW to have was, of course, an accurate map which not only provided information on their location but also marked the position of “safe houses” where an escapee could find assistance. Other useful items included currency from various countries, a compass and a two-part metal file.

A very difficult factor to overcome in the successful supply of all this was not only the difficulty associated with smuggling the items in but the problem of both paper maps and banknotes getting wet and unusable so someone at MI-5 came up with the idea of printing the maps on silk which is durable, can be scrunched up into very tiny wads, and can be unfolded as many times as needed without any noise being made. Only one manufacturer in Britain had the necessary technology to print on silk and that was John Waddington Ltd who, as luck would have it, was also the U.K. Licensee for the board game Monopoly.

As a part of the conditions allowed for prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention, Games and pastimes were permitted to be included in the “Care” packages which were regularly sent by The Red Cross to those who were interned and of course, among the games was Monopoly.


The Waddington company was only too keen to be of help and, under the strictest of secrecy, in a guarded compound within the company’s premises, a specialized group of employees began to manufacture the necessary maps which, along with the other useful items, were then included in a number of the Monopoly sets and these were marked with a tiny red dot in the corner of the “Free Parking “ square.

British and American aircrews were advised about how to recognise the rigged board games before taking off on their first mission. Statistics have been revealed that out of the estimated 35,000 Prisoners of War who successfully escaped, about one third were aided by the special board games.

Auschwitz - Nazi Concentration Camp - Poland

Auschwitz – Nazi Concentration Camp – Poland

All of them were consequently sworn to secrecy indefinitely in case the British Government might have to use the same strategy in a future war As we approach the one hundredth anniversary of the World War one ceasefire, we, as proud Australians, should take the time to remember not only those who paid the supreme sacrifice for their country but those who suffered as prisoners of our enemies.

Lest We Forget

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A highly successful sales and leadership career working in a number of different and very competitive industries. Engaging with decision makers at all levels in business and government. Three decades employed by corporations, SME businesses in senior roles and almost twelve years operating as a freelance contractor has equipped me well for all aspects of business. Whether leading and mentoring sales teams, or in a direct sales role I enjoy the challenge to meet and exceed expectations. Making a real and tangible difference in either a team environment or as an individual is an important personal goal I have consistently achieved throughout my career. In all of my business and personal dealings over the years there is one issue that stands out above all others - communication. Excellent communication skills creates trust, helps with mutually beneficial outcomes and above all cements long lasting positive relationships. I strive everyday to communicate effectively with the people I encounter.