Collection of WWII escape items to go under the hammer in Bristol

A collection of ‘secret’ items sent to British soldiers trapped in France during the Second World War will be auctioned in Bristol.

The lot, collected over forty years by a WW2 soldier, is set to sell for thousands of pounds.

The late Arthur Muggeridge served with the Royal Artillery during the war and was present during the Dunkirk evacuations where he was injured and forced to leave the military.

Auctioneer Andrew Stowe said: "It’s a unique collection – I’ve never seen another like it. These items are really rare, near impossible to find, so to have an entire collection of them is certainly very special indeed."

Arthur Muggeridge served with the Royal Artillery during the war Credit: East Bristol Auctions

Less than a year after war broke out, the British Government set up the ‘MI9’ – to help ‘escape and evade’.

Its purpose was to conduct espionage, sabotage and escape assistance to British troops stranded in occupied Europe, distributing secret items hidden in everyday objects.

Among the highlights of the sale include two dominos which, once pulled apart, reveal a small section of a map.

German prison camp officials wouldn’t think twice that an innocent set of dominos could do harm, but how wrong they were. You can almost picture some RAF officers in their hut pulling apart these dominos and planning their escape. It’s incredible stuff, both frightening and exhilarating at the same time.

Andrew Stowe, auctioneer
Once the dominos are pulled apart they reveal a small section of a map Credit: East Bristol Auctions

Also featuring in the sale are two taxidermy studies of War Pigeons, both complete with secret message capsules.

During World War Two the British Army used around 250,000 carrier pigeons for various purposes, including for carrying important and secret messages.

An official Air Ministry ‘Pigeon Section’ was maintained throughout the war. A small capsule was affixed to the foot of a willing pigeon and then set free to fly back to England.

Pigeons were used to carry important and secret messages Credit: East Bristol Auctions

Other 'ordinary' items which were used to hide secret tools or weapons were fountain pens with hidden daggers, a box of matches which hide a secret compass in the base, a piece of explosive coal, a miniature ‘spy’ camera, miniature radio listening device, and even a specially magnetised razor blade compass.

Can you imagine being trapped in the middle of France during the war, and the only tools you have to aid you getting home safely are a map on the back of a domino, and a compass from your razor blade. Terrifying. But it worked. People successfully made it back to Britain because of these items. These objects saved lives.

Andrew Stowe, auctioneer
A piece of explosive coal Credit: East Bristol Auctions

The collection is being sold by relatives at East Bristol Auctions’ specialist ‘Military, History & Transportation’ auction on May 22.

It will be broadcast online due to the coronavirus lockdown, but the catalogue is available for viewing on their website two weeks prior.