YOU’VE heard of MI5, MI6 and MI7, but who knew there was a real-life MI9?
Fortunately, historian Barbara Bond will be uncovering the secrets of this wartime British department in the George Square Theatre next Wednesday, and explaining its role in producing escape maps for allied Prisoners of War between 1939 and 1945.
In this talk, Bond will describe the various types of maps secretly produced by MI9, most of which were printed on cloth, silk or rayon.
She’ll then explain the Scottish link to this covert production operation and shine a bright light on the commercial support provided by Edinburgh-based map publisher, John Bartholomew and Son.
The last of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society’s Inspiring People talk of the 2018/19 season, Bond spent her career as a map researcher in the MOD where she was ultimately appointed Deputy Chief Executive of the UK Hydrographic Office.
Her talk will also reveal the many ingenious ways in which cloth maps were smuggled into the Prisoner of War camps of Europe, stealthily concealed in official clothing or secreted in compartments in items such as pencils.
Their role in facilitating some of history’s most remarkable escapes, particularly that of Airey Neave from Colditz will then be highlighted, as will the system of coded correspondence which took place between MI9 and the camps.
Throughout her research career, Bond has received special access to some of the actual materials used during WWII by allied servicemen and government officers working at MI9. And in this talk, she will be using a raft of beautifully illustrated slides to reveal the marvels of these real-life maps, escape aids, coded letters and smuggling techniques and, of course, to applaud the bravery and ingenuity of some of the key characters involved.
Mike Robinson of the RSGS says, “The secret history of MI9’s mapping programme is absolutely fascinating, and a stunning example of how geographic skills have been used to successfully solve real-world issues.”
Barbara Bond: George Square Theatre, George Square, 21 March, 2.15pm, £10 on the door