Commemorative silk escape map scarves from the IWM

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If you read my recent review of the Taktonik messenger bag, you’ll have noticed that the inside of the lid was lined with a silk escape map. This was a type of map provided during WW2 to servicemen that risked being stranded behind enemy lines and might need guidance to find their way home. The history of the silk escape maps is quite fascinating, yet largely unknown, but to recap, there were various ways in which maps were printed and delivered. They were printed not on silk, as the name implies, but mainly rayon acetate, which was like silk, but more available. The maps could be sewn into clothes so they could be brought as part of the kit, but a lot of maps were also distributed to POW camps to aid in escape attempts. In this case, they could be hidden in things like Monopoly sets or sewing kits. To read more about this the Wikipedia entry is a good starting point, as is the Escape Maps website.

IWM Lovarti silk escape map scarves

IWM Lovarti silk escape map scarves

With a newfound appreciation for these maps, and an awareness that they are still possible to find, imagine my surprise when I discovered the IWM Shop has made available a couple of variants for sale. Unlike the originals, these are printed on actual real silk and intended for use as scarves, though the designs are accurate and historical, and even though European infrastructure may have changed a great deal, should still prove valuable if an escape route is necessary. The size is also 80x80cm, making them larger than the original maps.

The first is a reprint of an actual European Theatre WW2 map covering much of Germany, parts of France, Holland and Belgium. The maps are surprisingly detailed, though a little detail has been lost when blown up to fill a scarf size area. The vivid colours and amount of detail make it a great talking piece though.

The second version is a D-Day commemorative release that reproduces a D-Day map issued to a British naval officer by the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force. It shows the Western sector of the landing point known as Omaha Beach, complete with annotations of obstacles placed by the Germans, depth of water,  sandbanks and many other details, including a photo of the beach as would be seen from landing boats. A truly remarkable piece that shows how much preparation was done before D-day.

The details are great and fascinating to study. Here are some from the D-day map:

While silk escape maps are a fascinating topic for talk though, these are clearly intended to be used as scarves (something that has also been indicated by my dear wife, subtle accentuated by an outstretched hand and vigourous pointing to her neck), so I located a vaguely remembered book in the bookshelf and had a look for ways in which a man might wear a silk scarf. This is the book and the styles that were relevant to menwear:

And this is my interpretation of those styles. Would you wear a silk scarf, and if so, how?

 

Available from the IWM Shop now, 55 pounds apiece. Or from Lovarzi, the maker of them, at 45 pounds apiece.

 

2 Comments

  • Roland Novak 07/07/2019 at 12:57

    That’s some great review! Have 50’s dated escape map scarf from the Baltic and love then as an alternative to the classic bandanna!

    Reply
  • Shaun Brown 07/07/2019 at 20:40

    They are fantastic. I think I’d wear it tucked under the neck of a crew neck jumper. It’s just the right length

    Reply

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