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SOE pencil dagger, silk escape maps and escape compasses

Article about: Another USAAF map (apoligies for the blurry photo) and a very unusual map!! I recently purchased the 'Sheet E' map, the seller stating that he got it from an elderly neighbour who use to wor

  1. #1

    Default SOE pencil dagger, silk escape maps and escape compasses

    Hello, I have been on forum a few months now and cannot find any threads relating to escape aids so I thougt I'd post a few from my collection. The 'Zones of France' escape maps (the first made of fine linen and the second silk) were issued to airborne troops (amongst others) on the run up to D-Day. Although referred to as silk escape maps the maps are made from a variety of materials and all of mine have a different 'feel' or texture. Two of the maps I own are made from mulberry leaf which have a tissue paper like feel, although they are meant to be relatively rip and water proof (I haven't tried to find out!).
    I have a variety of escape or button compasses. I have photographed the standard 'button' compass next to the very small escape compass that would have been secreted within a pen or pipe. Also shown are the lapel compass which would have been sewn into the clothing, razor blade compass (basically a magnatized razor blade where the war arrow points north) and a fly button compass (This is RAF issue as it is black, the fly button compass issued to airborne troops was grey - Leo HEAPS mentions using this sort of compass in his book 'The grey goose at Arnhem').
    Finally I have included some pictures of my SOE sticker, a metal stick which could be hidden inside pencils, amongst other things. There should be a fine cord (which I don't have) wrapped around the end to form a grip or allow it to be tied to the pencil as a handle. For such a small piece of metal it's a nasty looking thing and I wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of it.

    I would be interested in seeing other members escape items (and stories as to whether any of it was used!)

    (I apologise for the order of the pictures - my computer has a mind of its own)

  2. #2

    Default Re: SOE pencil dagger, silk escape maps and escape compasses

    Great stuff

  3. #3

    Default Re: SOE pencil dagger, silk escape maps and escape compasses

    Very interesting collection - thanks for posting the photos.



  4. #4

    Default Re: SOE pencil dagger, silk escape maps and escape compasses

    Very neat! I have only seen the pencil in books.

  5. #5

    Default Re: SOE pencil dagger, silk escape maps and escape compasses

    Great collection,thoses maps are not easy to find still trying to find a good deal on a sick map related to D-day.

  6. #6

    Default Re: SOE pencil dagger, silk escape maps and escape compasses

    Superb items, thanks for showing them.

    Cheers, Ade.

  7. #7

    Default Re: SOE pencil dagger, silk escape maps and escape compasses

    Hi, you are absolutely right concerning the maps' material. It's a very special paper. In his book "Official Secret" (printed 1961), Clayton Hutton (who designed most of these escape gadgets for the MI9) explains p. 32 how they got some Japanese mixture (pulp of mulberry leaves - "...extremely thin but incredibly strong kind of paper... ) that could replace silk. I recommend this book (see Amazon).
    Read also:

    I would like to display one of your compass pics in the Escape Compasses chapter in COMPASSIPEDIA (Compass Museum - HOME). Thanks in advance for subsequent authorization to copy & paste (pls. answer to

  8. #8

    Default Re: SOE pencil dagger, silk escape maps and escape compasses

    Many thanks for the link - very interesting! (and I'll have to buy 'Officical Secret') With regards to the use of the pictures I have sent you an email.

  9. #9

    Default Re: SOE pencil dagger, silk escape maps and escape compasses

    Hello all,
    I thought I'd post some close up images of the compasses and maps to show some better detail and the variations.
    Unfortunately my computer doesn't paste the pictures in the order that I want, but hopefully the images speak for themselves!
    I have shown the 'fly button compass' in compass mode. It is basically two special buttons that would be removed from the battledress when required. One button has a pin/pivot on the top and the second button, which is magnatised and has markings on it, balances on top. This compass came with the mulberry leaf map of Germany which I show below. Both belonged to a bomber pilot during the war.
    Also shown is a USAAF Survival compass, not really an escape compass as such, but a water proof container for matches with a compass in the lid.
    There is also a compass cufflink, although not the standard issue version, and a compass set into 'something' although I do not what it was part of!
    I have shown close up images of various escape compasses as well as some of the variations of the 'standard' pillbox/button compass.
    Finally I have tried to show the variation between just three of the escape maps. The image shows the fine cloth map on the bottom, silk in the middle and mulberry leaf on top. The other image is of two identical escape maps of Germany, although the one on the left is made from mulberry leaf and the one on the right from silk.
    (I have also included an image of the rare alloy hilted fighting knife which came with the fine cloth/linen 'Zones of France' escape map in case anybody has not seen my thread on this item)

  10. #10

    Default Re: SOE pencil dagger, silk escape maps and escape compasses

    To keep the thread alive I thought I'd post a few more of my recent acquisitions. Shown are a couple more compasses, another silk escape map and a pair of 1943 pattern RAF escape boots (bought an unbelievable price!)
    In case any of you are unaware, the escape boots were designed so that the upper suede part of the boot could be cut off leaving a pair of shoes (which were obviously a lot less suspicious when you were on the run). The right hand boot had a small pocket which held a concealed knife to remove the upper part of the boot. This, as with most boots, is missing from my pair of boots. Some of the escape boots also had laces which had magnatised metal ends which could be used as a compass and also sometimes the laces themselves had a thin wire concealed in them for use as a saw. Other boots had items such as compasses and maps hidden in the soles. (Unfortunatly I wasn't so lucky with the pair I bought and there was nothing hidden in them or the laces!)

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