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Monopoly Sets Made Into Wartime Prison-Escape Kits

January 15, 1985

LONDON (AP) _ Maps, files and compasses were hidden in Monopoly sets and smuggled into World War II German prison camps to help British prisoners of war escape, the game’s British manufacturer said Tuesday.

Marking the 50th year of the board game, the Leeds-based John Waddington company told of an unusual adaptation that it said was sponsored by MI5, Britain’s counter-intelligence agency.

″The job was to make Monopoly sets into whose boards were inserted maps showing escape routes from the particular prison to which each game was sent,″ Waddington’s chairman, Victor Watson, said. ″Into the other side of the board was inserted a tiny compass and several fine-quality files.″

The map was hidden under the piece of paper on which Monopoly’s real estate was printed. A pack that appeared to be Monopoly money would be real money to be used by escapers, with one piece of Monopoly money on the top and bottom of the pack.

″We are not sure how many prisoners were able to escape by this method,″ Watson said, ″but it was quite a twist to the game’s instruction: ’Go to Jail.‴

Researcher Mark Seaman at the Imperial War Museum in London confirmed that escape kits were built into games and sports equipment smuggled into prison camps during World War II. Asked whether anyone was able to escape using the aids hidden in recreational gear, Seaman replied, ″It’s difficult to say.″