THE World War II spymaster said to have inspired James Bond’s ‘Q’ character had a stockpile of ‘Monopoly money’ printed in case the Nazis flooded Britain with fake banknotes.
Games company Waddingtons was contacted in 1940 by Clayton Hutton, of the MI9 section of British Intelligence, long-lost files from the National Archive reveal.
Under the code name Operation Bernhard, Hitler planned to drop £134million of counterfeit notes by plane, sending inflation sky-high and sparking a monetary crisis.
The forgeries were perfect but SS mastermind Reinhard Heydrich was churning out £5, £10, £20 and £50 notes — at a time when the average weekly wage was a fiver.
The Bank of England was concerned Heydrich’s operation would switch to lower denominations — and asked Leeds-based Waddingtons to print five shilling (25p) and two-and-half shilling (12.5p) notes to replace coins instead of its usual Monopoly money.
‘This was an extremely high security operation with few people knowing about it,’ records state.
But the notes never entered circulation and were destroyed at the end of the war.
It wasn’t Waddingtons’ only contribution to the war effort. The company stepped in to help after banknote printer De La Rue’s London factory was bombed in 1940. Boss Victor Watson agreed to pay De La Rue staff to oversee printing at the firm’s plant in Leeds. Waddingtons also helped produce POW escape kits hidden in Monopoly sets.