Ever puzzled who influenced James Bond’s bizarre gadgets? New e book reveals genius who was Genuine ‘Q’

Whether it is bagpipe flame-throwers, spear-wielding umbrellas or sports cars that transform into submarines, everyone has a favorite James Bond spy gadget, courtesy of the at any time-resourceful ‘Q’ Department.

Whilst it has extended been assumed that novelist Ian Fleming made use of an MI6 department as the inspiration for 007’s brilliantly bonkers gadgets — exploding shark capsule, everyone? — credit score need to in fact go to MI9, or ‘Military Intelligence 9’, as discovered in a new reserve, MI9: A Background Of The Secret Assistance For Escape And Evasion In World War Two, by Helen Fry.

A department so top key that most people today have never even listened to of it, it relied greatly on the inventions of a prematurely balding maverick identified as Christopher Clayton Hutton.

‘Clutty’, as he was recognised, was a previous soldier, airman and journalist, who experienced been obsessed with escapology and illusions considering the fact that boyhood.

Christopher Clayton Hutton, the genius inventor behind gadgets that helped British and Allied troops escape during the war

Christopher Clayton Hutton, the genius inventor behind gadgets that helped British and Allied troops escape during the war

He was at the time described as ‘mad and brilliant’, and would have given today’s Q a operate for his dollars when it came to inventiveness.  

Set up in 1939 and run by Important Norman Crockatt (later on Brigadier) and Clutty and Charles Fraser-Smith, an equally brillant inventor and close pal of Ian Fleming, MI9 was dependable for supporting airmen and prisoners come across their way dwelling from guiding enemy lines.

To this close, it supported resistance networks and inspired a philosophy of ‘escape-mindedness’, drumming into each soldier that it was their obligation to try to escape.

A one airman took 3 months to teach at a price tag of £15,000, so the War Workplace needed them back.

In change, the boffins at MI9 did every little thing they could to support them, coming up with and supplying innumerable gadgets together with pencil cameras, daggers concealed in pens, wire saws concealed in shoe laces and actively playing cards containing maps of Europe.

Clutty, in certain, was relentless in his task. He employed a magician to assist devise hidden compartments and crafted himself an underground bunker in the middle of a industry — in the grounds of the MI9 headquarters in Wilton Park, Beaconsfield — so he could function undisturbed.

'Q' the ever-resourceful fictional character was portrayed by actor Desmond Llewelyn (pictured) and appeared in the James Bond film series from 1963 to 1999

‘Q’ the ever-resourceful fictional character was portrayed by actor Desmond Llewelyn (pictured) and appeared in the James Bond movie sequence from 1963 to 1999

A British bakelite shaving brush, dated 1945, fitted with a hidden escape & evade compass. One of the remarkable collection of 'secret weapons' sent to British soldiers behind enemy lines in World War Two

A British bakelite shaving brush, dated 1945, equipped with a hidden escape & evade compass. A single of the extraordinary assortment of ‘secret weapons’ sent to British soldiers behind enemy lines in Planet War Two

Far better than Bond 

  • Versatile wire saws, acknowledged as Gigli saws and able of slicing by inch-thick steel bars have been hidden in shoelaces
  • Exploding coal – hollowed and crammed with explosives – was well-known in an crisis.
  • Pencils were utilised to conceal tightly rolled maps on extremely-fine silk that neither rustled nor wore out.
  • Innocuous-on the lookout fountain pens unscrewed to expose 3-inch, double-edged leaf-shaped blades.

These kinds of was his disregard for protocol that he was routinely in trouble with the law enforcement and authorities for aiding himself to Military shares without authorization, and would have presented today’s Wellbeing and Basic safety executives multiple coronaries.

But he was a genius.

It was he who persuaded Waddington to adapt their Monopoly sets into escape kits, full with maps of Europe and compasses. He also assisted style the conventional challenge maps, virtually fifty percent a million of which have been printed on non-rustling silk with non-functioning ink, which could be concealed inside of a chess piece.

Naturally, it was also Clutty who arrived up with a compass hid in a jacket button with reverse screw threads, on the foundation that it would under no circumstances happen to the at any time-orderly German intellect that some thing could unscrew the improper way. 

He was correct.

And in 1942, each and every creation was carefully recorded in a huge pink leather-sure catalogue entitled For each Ardua Libertas — Liberty by Adversity — for the profit of going to American intelligence officers. 

Steel-cutting laces: A Gigli, a flexible saw made of interlaced cutting wire, and strong enough to cut through barbed wire fences and metal bars, could be concealed in an ordinary boot or shoelace

Metal-slicing laces: A Gigli, a flexible observed made of interlaced chopping wire, and strong plenty of to cut by way of barbed wire fences and steel bars, could be concealed in an regular boot or shoelace

Of course, unlike 007’s flaming bagpipes and killer umbrella, almost everything MI9 established was smaller more than enough to be concealed inside of some thing else.

Clutty’s gizmos may well not have been quite as flamboyant as Bond’s bullet-proof Aston Martin or ski pole gun, but they truly worked. 

Of the 35,000 British and Allied troops who escaped and manufactured it to safety all through the war, additional than 50 percent have been carrying one of his silk maps, and most were being aided by at the very least 1 of the subsequent inventions.

Miniature spy camera: A Houghton Ticka watch camera with accessory viewfinder

Miniature spy camera: A Houghton Ticka enjoy digital camera with accent viewfinder


Hacksaws, silk maps and compasses ended up hidden in Monopoly boards, containers and pieces.

Miniature cameras and receivers were disguised in dartboards, ping-pong sets and snakes and ladders games. Shove-ha’penny boards contained radio components, chess pieces concealed foragers’ ink and dominoes concealed a map of France. 

Chess set maker Jaques of London was commissioned to attract up strategies for a box with concealed compartments, and knights ended up tailored to incorporate a watertight compartment for specific ink for doc forgery.

Waddington also produced unique packs of cards developed to slide apart when dropped in water, to reveal 48 overlapping sections of a map of Europe. The four aces presented a separate map of roadways, railways and rivers.

Concealed Assassination Pipe Dagger: A James Bond style concealed weapon which British spies had at their disposal in the Second World War

Hid Assassination Pipe Dagger: A James Bond model hid weapon which British spies had at their disposal in the 2nd World War


The Geneva Conference permitted prisoners to acquire parcels —including food stuff, apparel and games (to relieve boredom) — from people and relief organisations. 

So Clutty invented a slew of fictitious charities and shortly each and every sixth foodstuff parcel and ration pack sent to prisoners of war contained some of his inventions. 

Clutty’s kits are credited with encouraging 316 escape tries from Colditz Castle in Saxony, Germany, with 32 males producing it home.


Compasses ended up hidden in all the things from match bins to razor blades. Hutton invented a specially successful model from a magnetised razor blade — when the blade was hung on a thread, the ‘G’ in Gillette pointed north. 

Yet another achievement was an invisible ink produced for basic linen handkerchiefs which, when soaked in urine, revealed a map. 

But it was only a fleeting map — a fast dip in drinking water brought about the map to disappear once again.

Escape Razor Compass Set: Compasses were hidden in everything from match boxes to razor blades

Escape Razor Compass Set: Compasses were hidden in every thing from match packing containers to razor blades


Grey woollen blankets despatched to prisoners of war would arrive with maps or apparel styles printed with invisible ink. 

Soon after a fast dip in water combined with chemical compounds smuggled independently in jam pots, hey presto, the style and design became noticeable and the prisoners could tailor an outfit for their escape.


RAF males obtained particular ‘escape boots’ with hollow heels made up of silk maps, a compass, a file and a compact knife, so that they could lower absent the ankle segment, building black shoes which could go as civilian footwear.

A good notion, but a scarce Clutty failure. They had been not heat more than enough throughout wintertime flights, vulnerable to waterlogging in major rain and had been afterwards abandoned by MI9.

MI9: A History Of The Mystery Assistance For Escape And Evasion In Environment War Two by Helen Fry. Revealed by Yale, £20.