Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
MI9, the British Military Intelligence section 9 (now defunct), was a department of the British War Office during World War II. It was charged with aiding resistance fighters in Nazi-controlled Europe and recovering Allied troops who found themselves behind enemy lines (e.g., pilots who had been shot down). It also communicated with British prisoners of war and sent them advice and equipment.
MI9 was under command of Colonel Norman Crockatt , who had been head of the London Stock Exchange. Staff included Christopher Clayton Hutton , World War I pilot and movie PR man, and Johnny Evans , who had fled from various POW camps during WWI. A later addition was Airey Neave, who joined the staff after his escape from Colditz Castle in 1942 and added his experience to the repertoire.
MI9 manufactured various escape aids that they sent to POW camps. Many of them were based on the ideas of Christopher Hutton. Hutton proved so popular that he built himself a secret underground bunker in a middle of a field where he could work in peace.
Hutton made compasses that were hidden inside pens or tunic buttons; he reversed the thread so that, if the Germans discovered them and the searcher tried to screw them open, they would just screw tighter. He printed maps on silk so they would not rustle, disguised them as handkerchiefs and hid them inside canned goods. For airmen he designed special boots with detachable leggings so they could be quickly converted to look like civilian shoes. Their hollow heels also contained packets of dried food. Some of the spare uniforms that were sent to prisoners could be easily converted into civilian suits. Officer prisoners inside Colditz Castle requested and received a complete floor plan of the castle.
Hutton also designed an escaper's knife: a strong blade, a screwdriver, three saws, a lockpick, a forcing tool and a wire cutter.
MI9 sent the tools in parcels in the name of various, usually nonexistent, charity organizations. They dared not to use Red Cross parcels lest they violate the Geneva Conventions and also to avoid the chance that guards would restrict access to them.
MI9 used the advice of master stage magician Jasper Maskelyne to design hiding places for escape aids; tools disguised in a cricket bat, a saw blade inside a comb, maps on the backs of books and playing cards and inside gramophone records, board game sets that concealed money.
In time, German guards learned to expect and find the escape aids. They destroyed all the gramophone records to find concealed maps. MI9 had to find new methods. Sometimes they sent a coded message to the camp and told the prisoners that a "naughty parcel" was coming; the prisoners then had to steal it before it was investigated.
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