Occasionally you come across a story that goes to absolute heart of what it means to be a collector. One such is that of the late Arthur Muggeridge, a Royal Artillery veteran who accumulated a fascinating a collection of items linked to spying, counter-espionage and daring POW escapes during the Second World War.
Packed with the sort of items that would have inspired Ian Fleming as he wrote about the ingenious Q, the collection includes concealed weapons, map fragments hidden in dominoes, a string vest that could be unravelled to reveal a single piece of string to be made into an escape rope and even exploding coal.
These all sprang from the imaginations of the boffins of MI9, the British Directorate of Military Intelligence, a department of the War Office between 1939 and 1945 charged with supporting European Resistance networks.
MI9’s Q was Christopher Hutton, who built himself a secret underground bunker in a field so that he could work undisturbed. One of my favourite of his inventions were maps printed on silk (so they wouldn’t rustle) that could be disguised as handkerchiefs. Famously Hutton developed uniforms that could be adapted quickly to look like civilian clothing, and he even supplied a floorplan of Colditz Castle to the officers held there.
Muggeridge’s collection is a real rarity, and although worth close to £20,000, it is the history, brilliance and sheer audacity of those who dreamed all of this up, together with the dramatic wartime stories in which they featured, that make it a dream for any auctioneer.