Official Secret

Title:                      Official Secret

Author:                 Clayton Hutton

Hutton, Clayton (1961). Official Secret: The Remarkable Story of Escape Aids—Their Invention, Production And The Sequel. New York: Crown [London: M. Parrish, 1960]

LCCN:    61010304

D805.A2 H8 1961


Date Updated:  June 20, 2016

Reviewed by George C. Constantinides[1]

Hutton was in British intelligence in World War II in charge of the production of escape aids. Though he does not mention his exact unit, it was MI9, since he names Brigadier Crockatt as his superior. A journalist and public relations man connected with films before the war, he worked to create an effective system of aids for escapers and evaders-maps, compasses, clothing, shoes, etc. He was described as the brains of this effort by some, while others saw him as “eccentric.”

This book should be basic reading in escape and evasion training. It describes how imaginative aids and equipment were developed, produced, and made available to servicemen prior to capture and gotten into the prisoner-of-war camps despite close enemy scrutiny. The equally imaginative disguises, used in conveying these aids to POWs were the other reason for success. Foot and Langley in MI 9[2] wrote that Hutton’s enthusiasm was as unlimited as his ingenuity and that he had a capacity for getting into trouble with civilian officials. His impatience with the bureaucracy, so well brought out in this book, continued after the war. The last two chapters are devoted to his legal problems stemming from his 1950 effort to publish a fictionalized version of his experiences. Hutton may have been flamboyant and unconventional, but he was also careful not to reveal everything. How communications were maintained between British intelligence in London and British POWs is not explained. It was revealed by Foot and Langley in their excellent work, published in 1979, which contains a number of references to Hutton.

Reviewed by Paul W. Blackstock and Frank L. Schaf[3]

The account of the research and development program in England to produce aids, devices, and equipment that could be hidden or disguised for the purpose of assisting in escape and evasion. Aids designed and made in quantity for general issue included compasses of all sizes—some disguised as uniform buttons—silk maps, dart guns, boots with hidden compartments, emergency rations, and many, many other items.

[1] Constantinides, George C. (1983). Intelligence and Espionage: An Analytical Bibliography. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, p. 247

[2] Foot, M. R. D. (1980) and J. M. Langley. MI 9: Escape And Evasion, 1939-1945. Boston: Little, Brown

[3] Blackstock, Paul W. (1978) and Frank L. Schaf, Jr. Intelligence, Espionage, Counterespionage, And Covert Operations: A Guide to Information Sources. Detroit: Gale Research Co., p. 132


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4 Responses to Official Secret

  1. Pingback: Escape From Germany | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

  2. Pingback: MI 9 | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

  3. Pingback: MI-9 Escape and Evasion | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

  4. Pingback: Escape and Evasion, Chapter 12 | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

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