Standard Royal Air Force brass button as worn on the Service Dress jacket, the upper half of which unscrews to reveal a concealed compass.
Clandestine escape compass, disguised as a standard RAF uniform button, procured by the Directorate of Clothing and Textiles (Section CT6c), Ministry of Supply, during the Second World War. Retained by Allan Hardy, who worked for Section CT6c during the war.
Allan Hardy, born 28 September 1909, worked for the Directorate of Clothing & Textiles (Section CT6c), Ministry of Supply, during the Second World War. Hardy, who was not passed as medically fit for military service, served as deputy to the Section's Assistant Director, Edward D Alston Esq, at its headquarters in Leeds (9 Park Place). He was likely chosen for the role due to his past experience as a buyer, gained through his pre-war ironmongery business, Allan Hardy Ltd, in Bridlington, Yorkshire.
Section CT6c was in reality a clandestine operation responsible for the procurement of material used by MI9 agents to aid escape and evasion, as well as for covert Special Operations Executive (SOE) activity on the continent. Alston and Hardy effectively served as intermediaries between commercial suppliers and these secret War Office organisations. The items they procured included silk and tissue paper escape maps, clandestine 'escape' compasses, European-style civilian clothing as well as counterfeit European and Asian clothing labels, counterfeit enemy clothing and insignia and a variety of other special devices. Among the Section CT6c's members was Charles Fraser-Smith, the likely influence for Ian Fleming's 'Q' in his James Bond novels (Fraser-Smith is listed in Hardy's phone and address book (Documents.27339).
The 'Blitz' – from the German term Blitzkrieg ('lightning war') – was the sustained campaign of aerial bombing attacks on British towns and cities carried out by the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) from September 1940 until May 1941.