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Amazing Real Spy Equipment Used During WWII

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Amazing Real Spy Equipment Used During WWII
Making the iconic spy gadgets of James Bonds’ Q look like toddlers’ play apparatus, the spy equipment used during World War II portrays a terrifying illustration of life during the war.
Take a look at some of the most incredible devices spies used to spy on and defeat the enemy during the Second World War.

Types of Spy Equipment

Rodent Bombs
The Imperial War Museum in London has on display a cluster of WWII spy gadgets, which proved imperative in crippling the enemy and winning the war.

The next time you squeal when you see a rat, spare a thought to the men and women of the Second World War. One deceptively cunning way to blow up enemy bases would be to fill dead rats up with explosives. The rats would be placed in factories close to enemy camps. When factory workers discovered the dead rodents they would throw them into the fire, ignite the explosives and blow up everything and everyone in the vicinity.

However, according to the (3) Mirror UK, the Germans discovered the rodent bomb plan, consequently leaving dead rodents to rot and spread disease.

Washing Line messages

One spy technique displayed at the Imperial War Museum may look like an ordinary washing line. In reality, this simple, everyday item was used as an ingenious way for spies to communicate.

Various items would be placed on a washing line to spell out certain words. In the instance of the line at the top of this page, a handkerchief, eiderdown, lace and some pants were pinned to the line, which spelled out the word “HELP”.

A confidential catalog titled “OSS Weapons” belonging to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the precursor of the CIA during WWII, contains an incredible collection of spy weapons, letters signed by Himmier, Beria and Hari, escape devices and sabotage gadgets.

The Fog Signal

One of the most extraordinary devices featured in the OSS collection is the (1) Fog Signal. This tiny unit was deceptively clamped onto rail track and was made to look like it was part of the track. Unbeknownst to the enemy, the unit was laden with loose black powder and percussion caps.

When the wheels of trains rolled over the Fog Signal, a charge would be set off resulting in the demolition of the unsuspecting trains that went over its path.

biscuit tin

Biscuit Tin Radio

A (1) radio disguised as a biscuit tin – simple yet ingeniously effective!

During the war the Special Operatives Executive (SOE) had a team of spy gadget specialists dedicated solely to inventing radios that were made to look like everyday objects.

One of the most effective has to be the Biscuit Tin radio, an ingenious way of communicating crucial messages to fellow spies.



Footprints have long been amongst the most obvious methods for spies and detectives to discover someone’s presence.

In order to conceal their location, SOE agents would use these rubber soles.

These (3) Overshoes would be slipped over military boots to hide their tread and fool the enemy into believing they were the footprints of barefooted locals.


Bicycle Charger

Running out of mobile phone battery charge is irritating, but during the Second World War radios drained of battery life could cost lives.

Enter the (3) Bicycle Charger, a small generator device which spies attached to bikes and which charged their radio as they pedaled.

 bicycle charger

The Pipe Pistol

This is one gadget likely to make it into Q’s extraordinary barrage of gadgets designed to take out Bond’s enemies. What was particularly resourceful about the Pipe Pistol is that it could be used to smoke real tobacco, even when loaded. WWII spies could take a drag of tobacco smoke, then take out the enemy with a 22-caliber bullet.

However, as the (3) Mirror states, this deadly gadget never went farther than being a prototype in a lab.

SOE Model Type A Mark III

The Museum of World War II in Boston has one of the most comprehensive collections of WWII gadgets in the world. On display is a collection of artifacts used by spies to trick and defeat the enemy.

This fascinating collection includes a handful of radios which provided SOE operators with a vital means of communicating messages to other spies.

The (4) SOE Model Type A Mark III British suitcase radio is the smallest clandestine radio of its type. The device could fit snugly into a suitcase and was used for the transmission and reception of coded messages for up to 500 miles.

The Nachfeldpeiler P57N

pipe pistolHowever, as inventive as the SOE’s clandestine coded messages transmitters were, the Germans’ direction-finding devices were equally as ingenious.

The (4) Nachfeldpeiler P57N was a German direction-finding radio. This compact gadget was fitted inside a van and was used to locate the enemy’s hidden transmitters and receivers.

According to the World War II Museum, this unit was employed by the German Army in Italy as a means of locating resistance groups. A van with the device inside would slowly and menacingly traverse streets and pinpoint transmitters and receivers.

Explosive Coal

When the (4) lump-of-coal-come-bomb was thrown into the fire, it would explode, wiping out everything and anyone in its vicinity.

From dead rats being stuffed with explosives to bombs designed to look like lumps of coal – these WWII artifacts poignantly demonstrate the desperateness and urgency of those fighting in the Second World War.

References & Image Credits:
(1) War History Online
(2) KW Rendell
(3) Mirror
(4) Museum of World War II


Originally published on

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