MI9's escape and evasion mapping programme 1939-1945
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This thesis examines the programme of mapping produced on silk, and other fabric, by MI9 to facilitate the escape and evasion of British military personnel during World War II. It considers the creation of MI9 in December 1939, the rationale for the new military intelligence branch and the context of the history of military mapping on silk. The map production programme is described, together with its progress and the challenges faced. The various groups of maps are identified and described, together with the source maps on which they were based. This description is developed in nine appendices produced as an integral part of the research to provide a comprehensive carto-bibliography of the 234 individual maps which have been identified. Location details of extant copies in British map collections are also provided. The ingenious methods of smuggling the maps into the camps, with other escape aids, in apparently innocuous leisure items are described. The maps were then copied and reproduced to support the escapes. Coded correspondence with the camps is discussed, and a successful deciphering of some of that correspondence is provided. The implications for the escape and evasion programme were considerable, but so too were the implications of the passage of intelligence from the camps to aid the war effort, a factor apparently largely overlooked in previous studies of the wartime role of the intelligence branches. Three case studies are provided to demonstrate the role and importance of the contribution made by the maps to the escape and evasion programme. The conclusion assesses the significance of this little known episode in British historical cartography of the twentieth century which essentially provides the latest chapter in the story of military mapping on silk, and other fabric, through the ages.
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