OK, so I have a bit of an obsession with rummaging around in junk shops. I love unearthing unloved stuff. Especially unloved stuff that has a map on it. Or a globe. I have been known to stare at a globe for a very long time...
Over the years, all this accumulated stuff had to compete for space in a small Victorian cottage with two large dogs and Mr Austerity who, although rather lovely, was starting to tut as yet another 1930s enamel biscuit tin in the shape of a globe obscured his view of Newsnight. In order to restore marital harmony, I started selling at a vintage fair in Kent.
Unfortunately, this was not the happy ending of an uninterrupted view of Jeremy Paxman that Mr Austerity had dreamt of. One danger of selling at vintage fairs is that your eye is often drawn to the myriad of interesting items on sale, and it was at such an event that I came across what I thought was a damaged silk scarf depicting a map.
It was only when I got home I realised what I’d bought. The piece of silk was an Escape and Evasion map from the Second World War. A pilot or member of the Special Forces would have carried one of these maps in case they found themselves behind enemy lines and needed to escape.
The maps were issued to the RAF and Special Forces in the Second World War and beyond. Troops sewed the maps inside the lining of their uniforms, or concealed them in the hollowed-out heel of their boot. They were even hidden inside monopoly board games and sent to prisoner of war camps under the guise of charitable donations. You can read more about the story on our ‘escape and evade’ page.
The more I learnt about this fascinating tale, the more I wanted to share it. Further research revealed that some army regiments and ex-military personnel still had stocks that were either damaged or simply unwanted. I started to collect as many as I could, with no real plan of what I might do with them (the irony of which was not lost on Mr Austerity when I arrived home with three boxes containing over 1,000 of these maps).
And so Home Front Vintage was born.
We now remake the damaged maps into gifts and accessories for people who value British heritage and provenance. Each item we make comes with information on the history and provenance of the maps, preserving the integrity of the maps and ensuring the story survives.
And the best bit? We recently received an email from a 93-year-old ex-RAF officer who was carrying one of the maps when his plane was shot down in 1944. He’d seen our products at the RAF Museum and wrote to tell us how pleased he was that the story was being re-told. He also sent us a copy of his unpublished memoirs which, we think, is one of the greatest stories never told.
Thanks for visiting our page.