Once Clayton Hutton had the maps he required, he turned to compasses. Although it is generally thought that MI9 developed the miniature compass, this is not the case. For many years they had been available, but were manufactured individually by craftsmen for low volume sales, or for personal use. Clayton Hutton’s challenge was that he needed tens of thousands of these devices – immediately.
Having approached the Blunt Brothers (Pre-war theodolite manufacturers) on the Old Kent road, Clayton Hutton explained his needs and the particular application for these compasses. As a result, Blunts came up with a revolutionary ‘compass’ which became known as the ‘Swinger’, since it was simply a compass needle with a hole at its centre, suspended from a length of cotton. Once it settled, the Swinger would faithfully indicate north. Clayton Hutton had thousands produced and began to ship them to RAF Stations, and Special Forces bases for issue.
From this point on, Clayton Hutton worked closely with Blunts and with other manufacturers such as E R Watts to produce ever more compact compasses. Perhaps the most frequently encountered is the “half-inch escape compass”, which was widely manufactured and as well as being issued in its standard form, was also incorporated in numerous other escape devices, such as buttons, cigarette lighters, shaving, and various other brushes, etc. And, eventually, these manufacturers were able to produce ever smaller compasses, eventually producing a compass just 4mm in diameter, small enough to secrete inside a cigarette.
Compasses were also openly concealed. Everyday metal objects were cleverly converted and magnetised to form swinging compasses.