How a popular board game helped flood escape tools into POW camps around Europe during World War II:
“The Deluxe set looks very much like the set you would have found in stores maybe ten years ago,” Orbanes tells me. “The box would have been the same size as the game board. The board fit into the box, and the box was maybe an inch in depth. It was black in colour and it had a two-colour label that adhered to the middle of the top surface. That’s what would have been shipped into the German POW camps.”
And what would have been inside it? “There’s an organisation here in the US called the Army Air Force Historical Association,” Orbanes says. “They made contact with me about three years ago after looking at my book on Monopoly, and one of their members, a graphic artist, took it upon himself not only to do a lot of research through whatever his channels would be, but also to recreate one of these sets, which he’s done for display at their headquarters.
“What he found out along the way is that the tools that most likely would have been used in this set would have been a very small compass, maybe an inch in diameter, and they also would have had files – two different types to get you through fencing material, and probably a folding pair of shears, a very small set of shears that would collapse on a pivot, and then of course a silk escape map that would have been appropriate for whatever camp the delivery was for.”