Sunday, 6 March 2011

World War Two Pencils and Compasses for POWs

Palimpsest was fascinated last year to discover in the Cumberland Pencil Museum the ingenious pencils which have been manufactured during the Second World War with the aim to aid prisoners of war in their Great Escape. These writing instruments concealed inside their barrel a tightly-rolled map while a tiny compass was fitted on top in the metal ferrule. The pencils were issued to aircrew or sent to POW camps.

This Sunday during a visit to the famous Bletchley Park, home of World War II code-breaking and famous for breaking Enigma, Palimpsest was scanning the lovingly collected and exhibited relics of the 1940s – for evidence of pencils. And lo! Two tiny compasses – escape compasses – of which the smallest one was concealed in a pencil. I am guessing that it was concealed in a Cumberland 

The delight was not over: Under another glass cabinet a bunch of war pencils.


  1. How very fascinating, thanks for bringing it to attention!

  2. I'm glad you find it interesting. I'm always fascinated by how objects in different places seem to reference each other.

  3. Interesting! You really have an eye for these things! :)

  4. I spy with my little eye... :)