Prisoner of war map, 1944

These maps were created in secret by British prisoners of war,  in a camp at Querum near Brunswick in Germany in 1944. The maps are evidence of great courage and resourcefulness in the most trying of circumstances.

Thousands of the maps produced by the British during WWII were made on silk and rayon. These fabrics were stronger than paper, and more easily concealed. The games company Waddington possessed the technology to print on cloth, and printed many silk maps for supply to Allied servicemen. The company also concealed maps and tiny compasses inside Monopoly games and packs of cards; these were sent into the prison camps disguised as parcels from charities.

But these smuggled maps were too few in number to be of much use to the thousands of men inside the camps. Philip Evans, who created this map, was a printer by trade. Evans devised a method of printing maps while he was interned in a German prison camp during the war. The idea was to create enough maps for each of the British soldiers in the camp. That way, each man would be provided with some chance of finding his way to safety if the war ended in anarchy.

The idea of making the maps came to Evans when he realised that tiles from a bombed building in the camp could be used as printing plates. All the information on the maps was drawn by hand on to the plates. The ink was made from melted margarine mixed with pitch scraped from the pavement. The printing press was made of floorboards, and the ink roller was constructed from a window bar covered with leather. The resulting maps are an astonishing example of human skill and creativity.

Taken from: The Prisoner's Press Archive
Author / Creator: Evans, Philip
Date: 1944
Copyright: By permission of the British Library Board
Shelfmark: Maps C.25.a.23