Razor blade compass

This "compass" consists of a magnetised razor blade pivoted on a pin in a roughly executed wooden bowl. It was one of several which were constructed by German prisoners of war confined at Bridgend, Glamorgan, during the earlier part of 1945, and were included in carefully planned preparations for an organised mass escape. These icluded the excavation of a tunnel from inside a living hut close to the camp perimeter, with a concealed entrance, and extending beneath the perimeter wire entanglements and sentry patrols, to beyond the compound limits. On the night 10/11 march, 1945, over a period of afew hours, 67 prisoners broke out of the camp, 56 of them escaping through the tunnel. All were subsequently recaptured and items of improvised equipment, such as the compass, in their possession confiscated. After recapture, one of the officer prisoners disclosed that in civilian life he was an engineering student, and was apparently one of the attempt's ringleaders. It was he who directed the work of the tunnel and had devised and constructed compasses by using ordinary razor blades as compass needles. When asked how the razor blades had been magnetised he stated that with "simple physical means or apparatus, it is a very easy job", but he refused to give any further information on the subject. It is thought probable that the blade was one which became magnetised during manufacture.

Object Details

ID: ACO0786
Type: Razor blade compass
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Unknown
Date made: 1945
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Admiralty Compass Observatory
Measurements: Overall: 35 mm x 75 mm x 68 mm
Parts: Razor blade compass

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