British WW2 Mulberry Leaf Tissue Map: Spain, Portugal, Sardinia
Original Item: WW2 came expectantly upon Great Britain; years of appeasing Hitler had only put off the inevitable war. The disaster of the British Expeditionary Force defeated and evacuated at Dunkirk left England standing alone. Little did anyone know that by the end of 1941, more than a year away, both the USSR and the USA would have joined the war. In this interim period Britain, an island nation, made plans to combat Hitler and his Allies in the World Arena. This included Covert Operations and the fascinating inventions and adaptations to aid in these clandestine ventures.
A special Office of MI5 was established headed by the legendary Spy Master Christopher Layton-Hutton where "gadgets" for espionage and escape were developed. These included the "compass in heel or button" and the renowned "Silk" maps for concealment in clothing, etc; available for viewing in a permanent exhibition at Dover Castle Museum in Kent, England.
However the first covert maps were printed on tissue paper, but not just ordinary tissue paper. This special paper was made from Mulberry Leaves, which is claimed to be unaffected by water, and were eminently concealable and durable. Initially given to Secret Agents but also later smuggled to P.O.W. camps within Board Games, books and other "innocent" paraphernalia. Generally these Maps covered a large area and were of vital importance for use in Occupied Territories.
Now a very small quantity of two examples of these "Mulberry Leaf Maps" has been discovered mixed in amongst a British Government Release of obsolete paperwork. Both maps date from the earliest days of WW2 and cover areas of possible Enemy interest or occupation.
The first is of Spain, Portugal, Sardinia and parts of Algeria. Possibly among the very first tissue maps to be produced, Spain with its Fascist Government under Generalissimo Franco was considered ripe for joining Hitler's Axis Powers. Fortunately this did not materialize and hence these few examples survived WW2.
The second, actually dated 1940, is of the small country of Eritrea on the Red Sea which had been overrun by Mussolini and his Italian War Machine together with Ethiopia in Rome's new "African Empire". Again an area which sat on the sidelines in WW2 since the principal arena between Britain and Italy turned out to be the Libyan Dessert on the Mediterranean.
Of course both areas were continually under British Surveillance with no doubt countless covert operations being mounted in each. The fact remains that these Tissue "Mulberry Leaf" Maps are possibly the very last remaining examples of these exceptionally rare and early Covert Maps of WW2. Extremely delicate!
This is the Mulberry Leaf Tissue Map of Spain, Portugal, Sardinia only.
23.5 x 16 inches.
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