During the Second World War it became clear that airmen who were shot down over enemy territory needed maps to help them evade capture and allow them to escape to neutral or friendly territory. These maps needed to meet a number of requirements- they needed to be lightweight, easy to read and use, detailed enough to allow easy travel, but large enough to cover a large area and they needed to be silent when opened at night- the tell-tale rustle of paper needed to be avoided.
After experimenting with tissue paper, silk was finally chosen as a suitable material to make the maps from and once difficulties in the printing process had been overcome, over 400,000 maps were printed. The silk used to make the maps was originally from rejected parachutes, but this was not easy to come by in the quantities needed so was replaced by acetate rayon in 1944. I have been lucky enough to be given an escape and evasion map of Malaya and Sumatra, my thanks therefore go to Edward Corry for tonight’s object.
The maps were held in a rubberised fabric pouch, small enough to easily fit in an airman’s pocket:The top of the pouch was rolled over and secured by a Newey stud that helped keep out moisture and ensured the map stayed in good condition:This is pretty much impervious to moisture as witnessed by the fact that any air trapped inside the pouch when the top is sealed is impossible to squeeze out. The map inside is part of the so called ‘44’ series, produced for the MI9 unit in India who had seen European maps and were impressed with the design, this map is double sided with one side showing Malaya and Sumatra:The other showing Siam and Sumatra:The scale of these maps is quite large to cover a large area of territory and having seen the terrain indicated on the maps I do wonder how easy it would be to navigate with them as the land is covered in thick forests and plantations with few settlements and identifying features!
For those interested in learning more about escape and evasion maps, I can thoroughly recommend the excellent Escape Maps website.