World War II Secret Weapon: the Prune Tue Apr 11, 9:09 PM ET
LONDON - The humble prune is set to be recognized as one of the secret weapons of World War II. A London auction house, Spink, is selling two grizzled prunes that it says were destined to be stuffed with maps or other documents and smuggled to prisoners of war. The prunes are part of a collection of World War II memorabilia collected by a British woman, the late Doreen Mulot, a former member of Britain's Special Operations Executive, which was set up to carry out operations behind enemy lines. "They are very dry and hard and it's amazing that they have survived," Spink spokeswoman Emily Johnston said Tuesday.
(Sixty some year old prunes and they are dry and hard. Now who'da thunk it?)
Sometimes referred to as "the Baker Street Irregulars" after Sherlock Holmes' fictional group of spies, the executive was set up by Winston Churchill and Hugh Dalton to conduct warfare by means other than direct military engagement.
(Aren't prunes and prune juice supposed to help prevent the irregulars?)
Interviewed by telephone by The Associated Press, Marshall said his great-aunt had lived in a large house in the north London neighborhood of Hampstead "with a large bathroom where they prepared the prunes." The dried fruit were softened in water, then de-pitted to allow carefully rolled documents covered in waxed paper to be inserted. The fruit was then re-dried and packed into food parcels for the prisoners, who used the information to escape and find their way home. "It was quite ingenious, but not the sort of thing you usually associate with fighting a war." Mulot was one of as many as a million operatives. Marshall said the maps contained details of railway lines in Europe.
(A million old ladies soaking prunes in their bathtubs after the brainstorming over which fruit to use...'Hhhmm, well currants and raisins are too small. Bananas get a bit squishy. Now a nice melon would be good, we could hide the enigma machine in a big watermelon but well, they are a bit cumbersome. Gladys, what do you think of prunes?' 'Oh Ethel, you know prunes give me the skitters.' 'Gladys you silly ninny, I don't mean to eat. I mean to smuggle maps!')
Mulot, who was British, married a Frenchman before the war and moved with him to France. She returned home in 1940 when she discovered he was having an affair.
(A Frenchman with a mistress?? I'm shocked!)
Her collection also includes accurate forgeries of official German rubber document stamps and elaborate plates used to counterfeit "camp money," which was used by prisoners of war to buy a limited range of goods inside the camps.
(German rubber document stamps? You mean the Nazis were smuggling things in condoms?? My word, prunes and condoms as military weapons, what next?)
Is anyone else thinking of a very Monty Pythonesque comedy sketch here?