Hutton is one of the great unsung heroes who helped save lives of servicemen in world War II and since. He was a pilot in WW1 so was well aware of the dangers of being shot down over enemy territory. He wrote a book called Per Ardua Libertas. Apparently his interest in escapology began when he wrote to Houdini, challenging hm to escape from a nailed wooden box, but the great man agreed on condition he met the carpenter who he bribed to make tone side easy to kick out, which could be nailed back on whilst the curtain concealed him from the audience.
He apparently obtained journals of escapees and got students at Rugby School to read them and highlight the main problems encountered. The most important tool for a safe return from behind enemy lines was seen to be a map. But maps were often bulky, noisy to fold when hiding, and easily torn or damaged by water.
He became an army officer with M19 in WWII and became interested in magic and escapology, but also contacted Bathrolomews Maps and got permission to print maps for servicemen. He experimented with what to print them on – he tried paper made of mulberry leaves, which looked like onion skin, was durable, and could be compressed to a very small size; silk was moe commonly used, and produced 400,000 of them. That’s a lot of silkworms. They were produced by Waddingtons, maker of Monopoly who had developed their skill printing playbills presented to the royal family at command performances.
Other pre-Bond tools he developed were compasses so small they were inside uniform buttons, which had counter clockwise screws to prevent them being found by German searchers. They also developed magnetic razor blades to act as compasses. The heels of flying boots held compasses,knives,maps files. A cigarette holder concealed a telescope.
Blankets were printed with patterns for civilian clothing which became visible when soaked; in turn, uniforms were redesigned to resemble civilian clothes. Flying boots were also redesigned to resemble civilian clothes, with stitched on leggings which held a knife; the leggings could be made into a waistcoat.
By 1941 all pilots carried a cigarette tin full of survival kit such as local currency, water purifying tablets, a water bottle, razor blades and a water bottle.
POWs were allowed parcels from charities, especially games to reduce boredom, so the War Office set up fake charities to send board games with escape kits including maps inside the boards and Monopoly and real money was hidden within the fake notes. This proved to be the perfect all in one escape kit, and the only one the Germans never discovered. They included quotes such as ‘seek and ye shall find’ to tell recipients to investigate their gifts. The boards concealed – incredibly – 2 files, silk map, and a compass. They sent a batch of normal kits to test if they got to their destinations. When eventually the included confirmation cards were returned, Hutton knew the route was safe so sent off the loaded sets. Cribbage boards included radio parts but the Germans discovered them. The Americans made similar efforts: it took 4 baseballs to provide one radio. Table tennis, Snakes & Ladders, and playing cards were also concealment tools. These are credited with helping 316 escapes from Colditz Castle, of whom 32 got home safely.
None of the boards survive, and few accounts of escapes are known, so this story has been one of he best kept secrets. After the war there was a shortage of virtually everything, so a lot of the silk maps were made into women’s dresses.
If anyone was a model for Flaming’s Q, it has to be this man.