During the Second World War, cloth map invention
is credited to Christopher Clayton Hutton. Hutton worked for MI9, a subsection
of British Military Intelligence.
MI9 was established on 23 Dec 1939. At the time, it was run by Norman Crockatt. MI9 was part of the War Office. MI9 had five functions: 1) facilitate escapes, 2) facilitate the return of escapers and evaders to England, 3) collect and distribute information about escape and evasion, 4) deny such information to the Enemy, and 5) maintain the morale of British prisoners of war.
Hutton was hired by the War Office to create the escape gear necessary for Britons to escape to fight another day. This site is dedicated to the men and women who served during the Second World War, who were invovled in the: Intelligence Services, Photo- Interpretation, and most importantly Mapping. They worked for: MI9, MIS-X, Army Map Service, Coast and Geodetic Survey, and “D” Survey.
Field Marshall Sir Gerald Templar, King’s Guards, said, “it is at best difficult and at worst impossible to escape and evade without a map, and it was this simple fact that caused Hutton to turn his attention initially to maps, the escapers most important accessory.”
Is MI9 all there is to British Military Intelligence? No. Within MI there are these sub-sections: Ia-Special Interogation of German prisoners in British camps and any information from British prisoners in German camps; R-research; 5-Security; 6-Intelligence and 6d; 9b-liaison with other branches/services and interogation of returned escapers and evaders; 9d-training (Highgate School in North London) also know as IS9; 9x-planning and organization of escapes; 9y- codes, 9z-tools, I4-German Army, and I9 refugees and prisoners. Each subsection would be noted as MI 9 or MI I4 as needed.
MI 9 was headquartered in Rm 424 of the Metropole Hotel in London.
So where did the map data come from? Hutton was an inventor, not a Geographer. He did the next best thing, he secretly met with John Bartholomew in 1940. Bartholomew supplied maps to Hutton over: Germany, France, Poland, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Holland and the Balkans. John waived all copyrights to the map data in support of the war effort.
Not being Geographers or Cartographers by trade, MI 9 printed maps based on an arbitrary system. They not follow known latitudes and longitudes. This pratice was continued after MI 9 stopped printing its maps. From Dec 1939 to 10 Aug 1944, MI 9 printed its own maps. After 10 Aug 1944, “D” Survey took over printing.
After Hutton got the cartographic source, he needed a medium on to which he could printed the maps, such that they were quiet to unfold, would not disintegrate when wet, and maintained their integrity when folded at the crease line and could be concealed in very small places.
After many attempts to print on silk squares, he was about to give up. Then he thought of adding Pectin, a form of wax, to the ink such that it does not run or wash out when put in water, or even sea water.
Clayton Hutton printed escape maps on silk, man-made fiber and tissue paper. The Tissue paper was very special, in that it was not made from wood pulp like conventional paper, but from Mulberry leaves. This hybrid paper had the texture of onion skin and extreme durability. You could ball of this tissue paper, put it in water and soak it, and then flatten it out without creases. All the integrity of a new map was there, no data faded or disintegrated and you could fold it up in such a fashion that it would occupy a very small space, such as inside a chess piece or inside a record.
In Nov of 1942, a small contingent of American Intelligence officers went to England to learn of British efforts in the Escape and Evasion arena. Each officer received a leather bound copy of a book called Per Ardua Libertas. In this book, there were examples of each cloth escape and tissue escape map that they had produced to date. After this meeting with the British, the United States began to produce its own escape maps.