|From The 'Ideal Camp Organisation' Flowchart|
|German Officers at Stalag Luft 111 - IWM|
Compasses being made in the camp
Compasses entering the camp concealed in welfare packages from the various fictitious prisoner of war welfare organisations.* (*Next week’s post)
|Flight Lieutenant Arnost ‘Wally’ Valenta - cshq-czechs.wz.cz|
Manufacture of Compasses in a Camp
The best recorded examples of this are arguably in Stalag Luft 111 where Valenta oversaw the manufacture of compasses by Australian Flight Lieutenant Albert Hake who headed the British, Commonwealth and European Allies effort from Block 103. In effect, he let Hake get on with the job as the Australian was a master of his craft.
|Flight Lieutenant Albert Hake|
Captain John M Bennett led the US equivalent. He had learned his trade from Hake before the two were split up when the Americans were housed in a separate compound and Bennett went on to adopt certain variations of his own in the ‘manufacturing’ process. The details of how the two men made up the compasses are a testament to their skills in craft, ingenuity and improvisation.
Bennett’s Compasses – A Step by Step Guide
Heat up a section of a broken phonograph record (made from Bakelite) until soft and moulded.
Put the soft Bakelite over a moulded hole in a bed board about one and a quarter inches in diameter and push a section of the Bakelite into the hole to form a ‘cup’ about one and half inches deep.
With the ‘cup’ still in the hole, press it on to an ‘engraved’ metal disc below which has the imprinted words on it ‘made in Stalag Luft 111. (This would show on the bottom of the ‘cup’ of every compass made.)
Glue a bunch of old razor blades into a double line on a board in such a way that two legs of a child’s horseshoe magnet could be drawn across each line of blades simultaneously.
Stroke the blades in the same direction for three to four hours. At the end of that time, the blades would have been permanently magnetised.
Use a window hinge as a precision vice and break the blades into precisely sized magnets.
From a piece of cardboard cut some compass cards of an equivalent size to the Bakelite cup and make a hole exactly in the centre. Cards will already have had the key compass points drawn on them.
Push some warm Bakelite through the hole of the card so as to extend out of the top of it. Create a tiny cavity in the point with a lead pencil, so that the compass card could be suspended on a phonographic needle.
Using broken window glass; cut a top for each compass under water with a pair of scissors, so that the glass does not chip or break.
Cut a short strip of cardboard to serve as a spacer for the glass to sit on, and position.
Hake’s original design was similar to Bennett’s adaptation except:
A gramophone needle was sunk in the centre of the ‘cup’ base for the needle pivot.
The direction needle itself was part of a sewing needle which had been rubbed against a magnet.
A tiny pivot socket was soldered to the centre of the magnetised direction needle. (Solder came from the melted joints of bully-beef tins and resin for the soldering out of pine trees, and when they were cut down out of the resinous wood of the huts)
Artists painted the points of the compass accurately in white on a little circle of paper and it fitted neatly into the base of the casing. The ends of the needle were painted with luminous paint.
After the glass for the compass tops had been cut in the same way as Bennett outlined, it was fitted on to the ‘cup’ or casing by an interesting method. Hake made a small blow lamp out of a fat-lamp and some thin tubing rolled out of old food tins. Through the tube he blew a gentle jet of air against the flame playing it around the rim of the Bakelite compass ‘cup’. When it was melting soft he pressed in the glass and it set tight and waterproof.
Hake was able to produce one compass a day with this method.
Once the compasses were made, X assumed responsibility for hiding them along with other aids. In Stalag Luft 111, Roger Bushell directed they were hidden behind various false walls in huts and cupboards, down tunnel ‘Dick’ and outside at the earth latrines.
Both Hake and Valenta escaped from Stalag Luft 111 in The Great Escape but were tragically two of the fifty executed by the Germans.
|More rudimentary compass used by Oliver Philpott who escaped from Stalag 111 via 'The Wooden Horse in Oct 43 - IWM|
Next Week - Compasses smuggled into the camps via MI9 & MIS - X
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