Escape "pill-box" Compass

RAF-Escape-CompassEscape Compass:

If you read my write-up on my father, T/4 Sgt. Robert Haldeman, you may remember that he brought home a small compass we believe he used while behind enemy lines on a reconnaissance mission.  You can see a photo of an identical compass on the left.  As you can see, the compass is quite small and could hidden or swallowed if necessary.

It was my hope that I could purchase one to display (my brother has the original) but also to find out more about the compass.  During my research, I found a reference to this type of compass in a M.I.9. booklet called - Per Ardua Libertas (to Freedom through difficulties).  M.I.9. was a British intelligence arm of the War Office specifically responsible for aiding British POW's to escape.  In the book it provides a full page of instruction as to the manufacture of the compass plus images of its components from raw material to finished product.  Although this design was of British origin, it was used by both British and Americans alike.  Information about the book identifies that as early as November 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.  I have copied the compass page from the book, which you can see by clicking here.

Jonathan Gawne's book, 1944 Americans in Brittany-The Battle for Brest, identifies that because Task Force "A", which included the 6th TD Group, was going to be operating behind enemy lines, each of the officers was issued escape kits, containing a silk map, a small compass and a small hack saw.  That same kit can be seen in a very nice article on the various escape compasses done by Wouter Has, on his site  He is a Begium collector of WWII U.S. militaria.  The article includes detailed descriptions and precise measurements for the compasses as well as many photos.  I have copied the image of the kit below but you can read his entire article by clicking here. 

It was some time before I realized that finding one of these compasses for a reasonable price was going to be difficult.  After basically giving up, I got a hit on an almost forgotten Ebay saved search.  I probably had it going for two years before something came up.  I ultimately was able to purchase an original and identical 8-point compass like my father's but also a couple of other examples of the same basic design.  All from the Island of Cyprus in the Eastern Mediterranean.  Oh, the wonders of Ebay!




distinguished-service HISTORY


silver-star RESEARCH